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Prince Valiant, Vol. 1: 1937-1938
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53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
Hal Foster was forty four years old when he lauched his first Prince Valiant comic strip in February 1937. Little could Foster know that he would still working on the strip until February of 1980. Nearly three decades have passed since Hal Foster's retirement and new Prince Valiant stories continue to be produced. How does one account for a seventy two year old weekly adventure strip that is still going strong?

I think the secret to the longevity of Prince Valiant can be found in the strong foundation Hal Foster built in the first two years of the strip. From the very beginning, the strip showcased Foster's extraordinary skills as an illustrator. As a young man, Hal Foster was deeply influenced by the great artists of the Golden Age of American Illustration. By the late 1930's, Golden Age had come to a close but Hal Foster was able to keep the heroic sensibilities of Howard Pyle and N.C. Wyeth alive. Looking back at these seventy year old illustrations, I am struck by their vitality and continued relevence.

From 1984 until 2004, Fantagraphics Books joined the Danish Publisher Interpresse in publishing a fifty volume run of all of Hal Foster's Prince Valiant strips. I have collected most of the volumes but some are difficult to find and when they are located, the volumes are often times very expensive. So it was with great pleasure that I learned Fantagraphics Books was going to start republishing the series. This first volume is hard bound and includes a short biographical essay and an insightful 1969 Hal Foster interview. But what really makes this volume so enjoyable is the high quality production values that were used to produce this volume. The paper is of very high quality and the color digital reproductions are true to Foster's own pristine color engraver proofs. The second volume of the series is promised for the Spring of 2010. It is going to be difficult to wait. My only fear is that at two volumes a year, it is going to take way too many years to cover Foster's forty three year career. Highly recommended.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on September 3, 2009
This book is astounding. For years I have waited for a decent collection of Prince Valiant. Previous editions were either printed too small or recolored, or were just cheaply reprinted. Fantagraphics, after publishing the whole collection in a smaller (and re-colored) size, have finally gone back and re-printed the series the way it should have been done the first time around.

It took me some time to actually read Prince Valiant when I was a kid. I liked the artwork, but hated the way the character looked (what with the Louise Brooks haircut, Val didn't look masculine enough!). I finally read the series as an adult, and boy, was I in for a surprise. Not only is the art gorgeous, the stories are just as good. Really! The first year is just an experimentation, but from the second year onwards (included also in this new edition), it just keeps getting better. And if you have never read PV, you are in for a surprise. The characters actually evolve with the years, they age, Val marries and has kids of his own who also grow up, etc. I mean, there's all you can want in a story: romance, battles, friendship, love, more fighting, etc., plus Foster's glorious artwork. It took him a whole week to complete just a page of art, but it was worthwhile! And he never used models!!!

The color for this new reprint was taken from the engraver's proofs kept in the University of Syracuse, so now we are finally seeing PV the way it should have always been seen and printed.

My only complaints (all right, here I go again, but had Fantagraphics gone the extra mile, there would have been no need for complaints) are:

- The size. Alright, it's printed larger than the average comic-book or magazine, but if they had the engraver's proofs, why not print it at the original size, as it appeared in the newspapers? My guess is that this version is reduced to at least a quarter. This however, is a minor detail, but still, man...

- So not all the color proofs were found. Fantagraphics used some from German publisher Bocola, and by Odin, they are not really good (muddy and/or faded colors). And it's a pity because you can really tell the difference between the engraver's proofs and Bocola's restored versions. Oddly enough, the first six volumes by Bocola are all muddy but the most recent ones are just marvelous. Anyway, I find that the re-colored copies provided by Rick Norwood are better than those provided by Bocola.

- Concerning the color proofs: while most are really gorgeous, there are some dents and creases on some pages that could have easily been retouched with Photoshop. Shame! The black outlines sometimes come out gray or faded when they have the color underneath. And some of the color in the proofs didn't come out right. Some color areas should have been of a uniform color, and come out striped instead.

- Lastly, the cover. Like, WTH?!'s going on here? Who was the moron who came up with this disastrous idea? It looks murky, muddy, ghastly! It's not by darkening and/or adding shadows that you are making a better cover. Please delete the shadow layer from your Photoshop file and leave the cover without any fancy-pants effects!!!

Now, if only a million copies of this book were sold right now so that Fantagraphics keeps reprinting them at a higher speed. The way they are going, the collection won't be complete for the next 20 years and I can't wait that long!!!

So I guess the solution would be to do as I did, which is to buy 3 copies of each book (one to be read, the other to put on your bookshelf and a last one to keep unopened, as it will triple its value in a couple of years).

So please, do yourself a favor (and you won't regret it, I assure you) and buy this book (or buy 3 or more copies)!!! It is really that good. Story and art-wise! THE. BEST. COMIC. STRIP. EVER!!!!
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
This huge book is the perfect way to showcase the great art of Foster. There was one panel where Val crests a hill and views a castle. I stared at the panel for a couple minutes. The level of detail was amazing. The writing makes this a page turner and something to savor
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on August 5, 2009
Foster's brilliant Prince Valiant creation starts very strongly in this outstanding new reprint series from Fantagraphics ... none of your "early days" struggles to get it right, although Foster certainly improved with time and experience. Color corrected and sized like the originals, these classic masterpieces of the illustrator's and storyteller's art are still fresh and vibrant today. What a wonder this must have appeared to those opening their newspapers during the Great Depression!

PV can be enjoyed on multiple levels: for the addictive narrative, for the magnificent art and inventive layouts, for graphic storytelling par excellence ... it really doesn't get any better than this. My only quibble is the dark, somewhat lifeless cover. But, only a quibble. This is supreme -- enjoy.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
What is the appeal of Prince Valiant? It seems so uncool, so dorky, with its stories of noble knights and that weird narration-under-the-art that I doubt we'll ever see it rebooted as its contemporaries, such as Batman (premiered two years after Prince Valiant) and Star Trek, which saw two series and two movies before Foster handed off to John Cullen Murphy.

And yet, here it is. Twenty years after Fantagraphics reprinted the entire series, the company's gone back to the well to launch another reprinting.
So it's natural to ask: is it worth it?

It would be no surprise to say that it is. For Prince Valiant's fans, even those who managed to buy all 50 volumes the first time around, it would be worth acquiring them again (you can always sell the old books off on eBay and use them to fund this reprinting).

There are several reasons.

First is that Fantagraphics has reprinted two years in each book, which means this will probably come out to 17 hardcover volumes which will look absolutely bitching on the shelves compared to the 40 soft covers that need to be propped up.

Second, the production values are fabulous. Sturdy hard covers, a few essays to sweeten the mix (not essential, except to note that Foster, like many geniuses, was neither not interested nor able to articulate his working processes), so those of us who enjoy well-made books will be overjoyed to have this edition.

But most of all, all but 17 pages were reshot from Foster's pristine color engraver's proof sheets housed at Syracuse University. The European edition that Fantagraphics used had been recolored, but this time, we get Foster's choices, printed correctly.

The differences are not just impressive, but shocking. Solid blocks of blacks fade to reveal the delicate line work underneath. A tapestry of squares and circles of orange, yellows and browns are replaced with a softer brown and a green tinted with yellow and reveal a knight on horseback. Details are revealed in night scenes impossible to see before. To support the claim that Foster was an expert draftsman with a keen eye for human expression, you need this edition.

Of course, Val's story still retains its narrative power. This edition follows Val as he grows the exiled prince in the fens of eastern England, his learning of sword craft, his journey to Camelot and befriending by the knights, his competition for the hand of Ilene, and ends with his return to Camelot to warn the king of the Saxon invasion. It's knights of bold, all right, but leavened with amusing minor characters and astute observations about human relations, especially between married couples.

In fact, the only complaint I have is that we'll have to wait until spring 2010 for volume 2.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 24, 2009
...and my last, I suspect.

I think this is about as good as the Prince Valiant comic strip is going to look, which is very good indeed. It's possible that in the future someone may want to do a full scale, top to bottom, "restoration", but such is Foster's reputation I think that would be ill advised.

What we have here, in any event, will satisfy even the most demanding reproduction critic. Foster was probably the most meticulous comic strip artist and his considerable skill and obsession with authenticity make this strip a real joy to look at.

If that wasn't enough Foster was one of the very best plotters in the comic strip field. He eventually uses all of the medieval world as the setting for his adventures although in this volume the setting is restricted to England for the most part.

This volume reprints all the strips in 1937 and 1938 as the title indicates. Since the strip started on Feb. 13, 1937 the book has 98 strips reproduced. Presumably future volumes will produce 104 or 105 strips.

The future is the only reservation I have about this series. How many are planned and how often will they come out? I've heard only 5 at a release rate of one per year. I would recommend hanging on to previous series until one has a book in hand. I started with the Nostalgia books and moved to the last Fantagraphics series in the '80s. I hope the present series completely replaces the earlier 50 volume one.

All in all, highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 18, 2011
My apologies to all the artists and writers at the time this strip came out but Hal Foster was simply the best artist and writer for his times. EVERYONE was influenced by what was happening on this strip. Marvel and DC owes alot to this guy. His influence was staggering to modern comics and cartoons. It is a simply monumental endevor. I'm a new fan and will get the rest of the volumes and enjoy this timeless strip. Highly recommended to one and all!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I cannot adequately tell you how delighted I am with this publication. Prince Valiant, the comic strip that appeared each and ever Sunday in our newspaper is one of the first such strips I have a conscious remembrance of. This strip actually had a rather large impact on my life. First, it was read to me each Sunday before I was able to read and then I was required to repeat the story to my mother; in my own words. Secondly, I have been a history fanatic literally all my life and I lay this fact at the feet of this author and illustrator. Thirdly, I actually began actually reading for myself using this strip as when I became just a bit older, my mother would have me follow her reading word for word and slow but surly had be reading it myself way before I started school. Beginning shortly after its first appearance, I followed this story through well into adulthood.

Now all that being said, this is a wonderful edition of the early strip (1937 - 1938). Even in these early years, before Hal Foster perfected the illustrations and improved (it that were possible) the story line, this was and is one of the most detailed strips ever to be published. Foster knew his stuff; not only his graphic arts, but also his history. Now this of course is pure fantasy, but it is fantasy with a touch of realism, i.e. culturally Foster was dead on with medieval facts. He has mixed history with the feeling of the true epic. Stories such as this were told around the fire and in the Mead Halls of old. Sword play, interesting plot lines, emotions, details, details, details...all in all, a rather amazing work!

Foster did a wonderful job on his shot at the Tarzan strip, another of my favorites, but he hit his height with this one.

This reproduction being offered here is of the highest quality. The details, as others have pointed out, are absolutely stunning. The stories are exciting, epic, bold and wholesome. Foster was able to pack more story in one frame than most authors can stuff into an entire chapter. But still and all, it is the illustrations that make this work stand out from so many others of this genre. They are simply good!

This is a must purchase for the collector and student of this genre and a must for old dudes like myself that grew up with and on Prince Valliant and the characters surrounding him. It is a true trip down memory lane. There have been many other comics I have followed, collected and indeed treasured, but I fear that none, for me, will be able to replace this one.

Any other words of praise I have for the publications would be rather redundant in lieu of the other reviews printed here; suffice to say I agree with them all.

Don Blankenship
The Ozarks
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 12, 2009
This has to be the best edition ever of this comic classic. I first became a fan of Prince Valiant as a little kid, when my parents gave me a small black and white paperback edition of the first four years. Foster's beautiful drawings (even in that miniature format) spoiled me for any other comic book, because nothing else could compare. I subsequently got some of the re-colored albums, but I was always missing a large chunk of the story from the early years. Somehow I always assumed the original was black and white and therefore was hoping for a new black and white edition. But I realized that Hal Foster himself used to color his pages when I discovered the German language edition from Bocola, which started in 2006 and uses digitally restored scans of original newspaper pages. After I had resigned to collecting the German edition, this one from Fantagraphics was announced, and it's even better. It's based on color engraver's proofs and looks as crisp and clear as it could be (pages 28/29 could have used some minor touch-ups). Hopefully Fantagraphics will keep up the great work for the entire Foster run. And maybe they'll be able to speed up the release schedule a little as they're going along. (The German edition is already up to volume 9...)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 7, 2013
All my children, two boys and two girls, but in particular my adult son, love these volumes. I purchase these volumes for my oldest son. I have purchased volumes 1-6 or whatever volume has presently been released. My son's friends and siblings grab his new volume to read when my son offers them up - for which he readily shares. We love Prince Valiant written by Hal Foster.

I used to buy Prince Valiant books by the single issue from Fantagraphics [paperback] for my son's birthday and Christmas presents throughout his childhood. He loved them and always looked forward to getting a volume or volumes as presents...but the paperbacks would tend to fall apart over time - they were read often. When these new volumes which span years of Hal Foster's comic strips of Prince Valiant became available, I eagerly purchased them. They replaced his paperbacks.

Great books for boys - young, teenager or adult. These hold up excellently and are heirloom quality. Highly recommended.
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