Tuesday, October 25, 2016

In The Days Of The Viking Prince!


The Viking Prince is a creation by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert. The majority of the stories in this terrific little run were written though by Bob Haney and Bill Finger. Kubert is the artist throughout, though Irv Novick supplies many of the covers featuring the character. The feature debuted in the pages of The Brave and the Bold as part of a trio of features starring heroes from sundry historical eras. We have the Golden Gladiator from Rome, the Shining Knight from Medieval times and the Prince likewise from Medieval era but a bit further north.


The premise of the Viking Prince stories is pretty straightforward and originally quite formulaic, at least at first. Prince Jon is found by a village of Vikings and is suffering from amnesia. (They named him "Jon" but it turns out that was his real name anyway.) He stays with them and helps them out of one terrific jam after another and battles against an old rogue named Thorvald who apparently knows the secret of his birth but seems threatened by it. This goes on for a while with a lovely damsel named Gunnda. The early stories are adventurous but largely magic free with seemingly supernatural threats like a giant ice dragon having more prosaic explanations. I almost got the sense that Jon was rather like Adam Strange, a visitor from a distant land who arrived and helped the locals with his wits and skills to deal with threats which bewildered them.


Then the abruptly the story changes and we have Prince Jon and a mute companion named Bard traveling around while Jon performs the "Twelve Tasks of Thor". The stories pick up some length and some verve as real magic abounds. Jon goes to lands below the waves, beneath the Earth and even ends up shrunken in a Lilliput Viking kingdom. Always he reunites with Bard and they travel on. These are my favorites of the series, and it's a shame more of them weren't created. These stories fully qualify the series as a legit sword and sorcery series as there is no doubt that magical lands abound and that all sorts of demons and gods are out and about.


Then the premise changes again as we get the "origin" of Prince Jon and meet his dad King Rikk. There's another love named Asa, a blonde beauty who is betrothed to Jon for future benefit of two kingdoms. He though is obliged to rescue her and his father a few times while he battles all sort of threats to the kingdom. He is the loyal son now and must fight more than a few times to keep his rank as heir to the throne. Once again magic seems a bit more real as he gets a strange dragon-shaped mark in the final story which appears to have been a means to give him a specific weakness by deadening his arm in specific moonlight, not unlike Kryptonite or a Green Lantern's deficiency around yellow.


If the characters were clearly all the same "Viking Prince" these reboots would be clearly set ups for different series, but in the wacked out world of DC at the time, they were just all about the same character, continuity be damned.


Eventually Prince Jon ends up in the pages of a Kubert war book and battles alongside the World War II icon Sgt.Rock and his Easy Company. Here he gets silver hair not the blonde he's sported since the beginning and we find him trapped in ice in a cave. (Steve Rogers ring a bell?) He gets out and we learn he has been imprisoned by Odin himself and cast down from Valhalla because he was putting the moves on a Valkyrie. Lost in the WWII setting, he join Rock on a suicide mission, Jon himself eager to die fighting so that he can return to Valhalla. There is intrigue but eventually he gets his wish and yet a fourth premise is established for the series, but one which is never followed through upon. Stranger and stranger.












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4 comments:

  1. I'm pretty sure the Viking Prince appeared as a back-up in Arak in the 1980's, written by Kanigher, drawn by Kubert School graduate Jan Duursema, but I don't think there was any continuity with the Rock story, as these were set back in the past.

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    1. A quick check tells me it was a four-issue run. Didn't know about that one thanks. I almost included his guest appearance in the Justice League as part of one of the JLA-JSA crossovers when historical heroes (Enemy Ace, Jonah Hex, and others) showed up.

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  2. So, the fishnet stockings the damsel is wearing on Brave & the Bold #17 – probably came from one of Viking Princes sojourns in WWII? I wonder if he brought back chocolate bars and chewing gum as well?

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    1. Nice catch (ahem), I didn't notice. She's utterly magical so maybe they are magical fishnets. I know they weave a spell on me.

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