And Then I Read: THE VIKING PRINCE

© DC Comics, Inc.

I decided to read this collection of stories from the 1950s because, while I liked the idea of the series, I’d only read one or two Viking Prince adventures. The concept is similar to Prince Valiant, and covers some of the same territory, but with the focus on Vikings rather than King Arthur’s court. The writing by Kanigher, Haney and Finger is a mixed bag; some good moments, some silly ones. Vikings vying for power with each other fueled the early stories, with the hero suffering from amnesia and unsure of his own background. Pretty good stuff. At some point, the writers ran out of steam on that and began inserting things that don’t make so much sense: dinosaurs, water-skiing, native Americans, mermaids, and so on. The original cast was largely abandoned after the early run of stories in favor of a wandering hero with a mute bard companion, which seems an odd pairing. Lots of the Prince talking and the bard thinking about how he’d like to reply, but can’t. Viking Prince shared THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD with Silent Knight for a while, then had a few issues all his own, which apparently didn’t sell well enough to warrant a solo series. They tried a team-up with Sergeant Rock a few years later in one of the war comics, and that’s where this collection ends.

The art by Joe Kubert is great throughout, he seems to have enjoyed drawing these characters, and puts lots of swordplay and swashbuckling action into them. About two-thirds of the stories also have early and excellent lettering by my favorite letterer Gaspar Saladino, as on this page. Look at that handsome initial cap A in the first caption, and I love that ZIINNG! The book has been recolored in the style of the original, but using the much finer dot-screens of today’s comics, and the paper stock has a soft quality that suggests newsprint, but is of higher quality I think, making the reading experience quite close to that of reading the original comics, I bet. The color credit is Tell-A-Graphics with Joe Kubert. That’s the Kubert School, I believe.

The one visual thing I don’t like about this volume is the wretched design work, in the same style as other DC reprint hardcovers in this series I’ve looked at. They’ve picked some awful fonts and a design style using greatly enlarged pieces of art from the original comics that almost parodies the form in the spirit of Roy Lichtenstein (but not as well done), and they just stick with it. If I were Joe, I would have protested, but I imagine he didn’t see the design work until the book was printed. If you can ignore that you might well enjoy this volume, more for the art, lettering and coloring than for the writing. Recommended on that basis.

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