The Brave and The Bold Index Part 3
Blazing Adventures Part 3
Continuing my index/history of the greatest comic magazine… 😉 Since writing this index, legendary comic book icon Joe Kubert passed away. Perhaps second only to Jack Kirby in influence and standing. I hope my undying admiration for his work shows…
The Viking Prince was the best feature in Brave & Bold and it’s most popular. Other than the first issue, he appeared on the cover of issue #2 and was not seen on the cover until #16. After that he was on every cover until #25, with the exception of #s 18 and 20, the Silent Knight’s last gasp.
Viking Prince did not appear at all in issue #6, being replaced by the Golden Gladiator (although the cover of #8 advertised a Golden Gladiator story, there was no such tale, but an unadvertised Viking Prince story replaced it). Viking Prince appeared in 23 issues, more than any save Batman (who appeared 138 times in B&B, including the JLA issues). Flash is third with 13 appearances, followed by Hawkman with 11 (including team-ups and try-outs), Green Arrow and Wonder Woman tie with 10 appearances each, and the Metal Men, Aquaman and Green Lantern are next with 9 appearances each (either as a team-up or in the Justice League).
Viking Prince was so popular the Silent Knight was dropped entirely after issue #22. The next two issues featured the Viking Prince solely, even giving him a logo under the Brave & Bold banner. He was the first solo “try-out” feature in B&B!
Premise: In 964 AD, a young Viking warrior is found afloat and adopted by a fishing village, which is constantly being attacked. Why? It seems the warrior, named Jon, is actually a prince in exile. He is being attacked by the man who overthrew his father and is trying to eliminate the competition. Jon finds a home with the poor fisher folk and falls in love with the village leader’s daughter Gunnda. Jon eventually meets up with his father’s advisor, a mute bard, and must complete the 12 Tasks of Thor to regain his thrown.
In the last two issues of his appearances (#23 and 24), the continuity of the last twenty or so issues was ignored. Jon the Viking Prince (not to be confused with Robin Hood’s nemesis John, the Saxon Prince!) lives with his father and his cortège in their kingdom and is betrothed to Princess Asa from a neighboring kingdom. Supposedly in issue #23, Jon prevented his exile by avoiding a prophecy told to his father in a vision. National would more viciously adopt this “let’s pretend that never happened” style throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
Some of the storylines are:
1. Jon had to win two out of three challenges against a redheaded opponent to win the first dance with the Winter Queen.
2. A Viking commander from Jon’s forgotten past attacks Jon and his village.
3. Thorvald kidnaps Captain Olaf, but will exchange him for Jon. Jon counters – Olaf for the mystic Hammer of Thor Jon just discovered. Thorvald tricks Jon, but that’s okay, it was a fake Hammer of Thor, too.
4. (In artwork that looks amazingly like Wally Wood) A “ghost ship” attacks Jon’s village, which ends up being a trick (again) by Thorvald.
5. An ice dragon torments the fishing village (which is actually an iceberg carved into a dragon and manned by evil Lord Thorvald’s men).
6. Giant eagles attack Jon’s village.
7. A volcano thaws out a hibernating herd of mastodons that stampede toward Jon’s adopted village.
8. A deadly fire troll (which is really a volcano rock uncannily shaped like a human head), traps and kills fishermen from Jon’s village.
9. Jon’s boat is blown in a storm to America where be befriends a native village. Just in time – it’s then attacked by a rival tribe! Very respectfully of Native Americans, despite it being published in 1957 (compared to the very un-PC Brave & Bold #71).
10. A magnetic meteorite makes all metal weapons useless! What a time for Thorvald to attack!
11. Jon fights a dinosaur that has come to life and attacks the village.
12. Jon & his beloved Gunnda are captured by pirates and must foil their plot to seize the fishing village alone!
13. Jon escapes pirates and pretends to be a ghost to win back the village.
14. Sealed in a cask and thrown overboard, Jon lands ashore in … Baghdad! Of course, back then Baghdad was on the ocean! Yeah, that’s it! Anyway, Jon recovers a helm, shield and sword stolen by the evil tyrant Saddam Husse … er … El Kazim to help rebels overthrow him!
15. A maelstrom hurls Jon into an undersea kingdom ruled by the monstrous Trukka. Jon helps Merla, the Princess of the Lakeregain her rightful throne.
16. In a continuing storyline, Jon regains his memory and must complete the 12 Tasks of Thor to regain his throne. He completes three in one story: defeat a giant, bring back fire in an ice demon’s helmet and rescue a maid from the sea. This maid is Ylla, daughter of the King of Skane. In later stories Jon is betrothed to Asa, daughter of the King of Skane.
17. Jon and the mute bard battle the sorcerer Ice King.
18. Another Task of Thor requires Jon to obtain another feather, this one from a great hawk on the top of a sheer cliff. The hawk ends up being a winged horse! Capturing it, the Viking Prince is carried to Valhalla, where he fights the valkyrie, only to ally with them to defeat the Moon Vikings!
19. Jon rescues a maiden from the underworld kingdom of Wotan.
20. Jon continues his quest to complete the Twelve Tasks of Thor to win back his kingdom, accompanied by his friend, a mute bard. Trying to find a feather in the Arctic, Jon drops through a crevasse into the ocean, where he rescues a mermaid from a killer whale. The mermaid whisks Jon to a tropical island – where he rescues the villagers from an erupting volcano and an attacking Fire Bird! He gets his feather!
21. With apologies to Jonathan Swift, when the Viking Prince and the mute bard crash into an unknown island, Jon is tied up by a village of tiny islanders. Gaining their trust, he helps them thwart a giant spider, a giant squid and a boatload of “giant” (normal sized) bandits!
22. When the Viking Prince took over as the sole feature of Brave and Bold with issue #23, the Twelve Tasks of Thor (indeed, the entire plot of Jon living in exile in a fishing village) is scrapped when we are shown his “origin”. The Viking Prince’s father, King Rikk, has a vision of his defeat and Jon’s banishment. So he trains his young son to fight and to master his physical prowess. At this time Jon meets his bride-to-be, Princess Asa. When the Dragon King appears and attacks, Jon defeats the prophecy by beating the Dragon King in hand-to-hand combat.
23. The Dragon King’s brother turns Asa to wood and uses her as a figurehead on his Viking ship! Jon rescues her and brings her back to life when he uses the last of his water to protect her from fire (love conquering all). Jon and Asa ride off in their Viking ship into the sunset. But whatever happened to Gunnda!!?
24. Klagg the Red challenges Jon for his title and for his fiancé Asa.
25. Jon’s father is captured by pirates; Jon, Asa and Reya the black falcon to the rescue!
Robert Kanigher authored these stories as well, vastly outshining his other B&B features: certainly superior to Silent Knight, even though both premises are equally limited. Robin Hood had room to maneuver plot-wise (as all the movies and televisions programs over the last half-century will attest), but Viking Prince always had much better stories. Whether opposing swashbuckling pirates or fighting dragons and valkyre, Viking Prince’s readability never wavered. The sameness of plot from which Silent Knight suffered never materialized in Viking Prince. Perhaps the writer and editors were inspired by the art. …ah the art!
If the Viking Prince were a newspaper comic strip in the 1920 and 1930s, Joe Kubert’s name would be mentioned in the same breath as Alex Raymond and Hal Foster. War comic fans would argue Kubert’s best work was with Sgt. Rock and DC’s other war heroes. Superhero fans would argue Kubert’s best work was with Hawkman. Kubert became a legend in both these genres and also what would now be called “sword and sorcery” with Viking Prince. His pencilling would probably even work with Archie and Casper the Friendly Ghost!
Kubert’s style is very stylized and yet very accessible. His characters were realistically lean and muscular. His women were curvy and beautiful. When Jon looked weary, his shoulders sagged and his arms hung limp at this side. His action scenes were straight out of “Flash Gordon” and “Tarzan”. He was the perfect choice for this strip and it showed.
He had his off moments though, issue #16’s Viking Prince story showed Kubert’s rushed and sketchy style for which he is the most criticized. #16 was the first issue to feature only two stories, so the Viking Prince and Silent Knight tales were longer than in previous issues. Perhaps Kubert was rushed to complete the thirteen-page tale.
Kanigher and Kubert would thrill us with their war comics for the next twenty years. Sgt. Rock and the Unknown Soldier may be more familiar to readers than the Viking Prince stories, but they equally survive the test of time as comic book classics. And not just comic books: it’s just as thrilling to reread Viking Prince as it is to reread the aforementioned Tarzan and Flash Gordon strips at their prime. If B&B stopped publication at this point, it would still be a classic among collectors.
Reprints of the Viking Prince are scattered throughout the DC Universe. He was a back feature in one of the aforementioned DC Super Stars with the 3 Musketeers and Robin Hood. Jon even had his own issue of Super Stars dedicated to his early adventures. The 100-page giant issues of B&B featured Jon several times, as did the 52-page 25-cent issues in the late 1960s.
And Jon did have some new adventures since Brave & Bold, proving his durability; whereas (rare cameos aside) Silent Knight and Golden Gladiator have not been heard from in forty years. Robin Hood will always have an audience, but it’s not fair to compare him to National’s original creations.
We next meet Jon some six years later in the comic “Our Army at War” in which he is encased in ice and is rescued by… Sgt. Rock!! In this two-parter, the Viking Prince and Easy Company battle Nazis!
Jon next appears in two issues of Justice League of America in a JLA-JSA meeting along with other heroes through time (Enemy Ace, the Black Pirate and Jonah Hex among them).
Robert Kanigher wrote a four-part adventure as a back-up feature for Roy Thomas’ Arak comic in 1982.
A hardback book of new material was also published in the early 1990s. Jon appeared again in the 1990s in an issue of “Time Master” teaming up with fellow B&B alum Cave Carson!
Index by Issue: (stories are listed in order)
Brave & Bold #1: Viking Prince: Battle for the Dragon Ship
Silent Knight: Duel in ForestPerilous
Golden Gladiator: Thunder of the Chariots
Brave & Bold #2: Golden Gladiator: Sword of Attila
Viking Prince: Threat of the Phantom Vikings
Silent Knight: Knight for a Day
Brave & Bold #3: Golden Gladiator: Invisible Wall
Viking Prince: The Hammer of Thor
Silent Knight: Challenge of the Black Lance
Brave & Bold #4: Silent Knight: Robber Baron of the ForestPerilous
Viking Prince: Whirling Warriors
Golden Gladiator: Captive Champion
Brave & Bold #5: Robin Hood: The Blind Bowman
Viking Prince: Battle with the Ice Dragon
Silent Knight: Shield of Terror
Brave & Bold #6: Robin Hood: Battle of the Kites
Golden Gladiator: Battle of the Pyramids
Silent Knight: The Hooded Terror
Brave & Bold #7: Silent Knight: Duel of the Double Identities
Robin Hood: Forest of Traps
Viking Prince: Invasion of the Sea Eagles
Brave & Bold #8: Robin Hood: Challenge of the Grim Jester
Viking Prince: The Outcast Viking
Silent Knight: The Secret of the Arabian Horse
Brave & Bold #9: Robin Hood: Three Arrows against Doom
Viking Prince: Peril of the Burning Sea
Silent Knight: Tale of the Falcon and the Stallion
Brave & Bold #10: Robin Hood: King of the Sea
Viking Prince: Secret of the Feather-Men’s Ship
Silent Knight: Challenge of the Round Table
Brave & Bold #11: Robin Hood: Versus the Merrie Men
Viking Prince: The Terror Stone
Silent Knight: Forestof Fearful Traps
Brave & Bold #12: Robin Hood: Apple of Peril
Viking Prince: Monster of the VikingSea
Silent Knight: Shadow of the Silent Knight
Brave & Bold #13: Silent Knight: Versus the Sleeping Knights
Viking Prince: The Fighting Figurehead
Robin Hood: King Robin the First
Brave & Bold #14: Silent Knight: The Armor of Doom
Viking Prince: The Ghost Ship
Robin Hood: The Secret of Sherwood Forest
Brave & Bold #15: Robin Hood: The Bow that Couldn’t Be Bent
Silent Knight: Three Flaming Dooms
Viking Prince: The Viking Genie
Brave & Bold #16: Viking Prince: The Viking and the Mermaid
Silent Knight: The Trap of Sir Hawk
Brave & Bold #17: Viking Prince: The Lady of the Lake
Silent Knight: The Triple Tournament
Brave & Bold #18: Viking Prince: Threat of the Ice King
Silent Knight: The Double Decoy
Brave & Bold #19: Viking Prince: Challenge of the Flying Horse
Silent Knight: The End of the Silent Knight
Brave & Bold #20: Silent Knight: The Haunted Castle
Viking Prince: Secret of Odin’s Cup
Brave & Bold #21: Silent Knight: The Sword in the Lake
Viking Prince: The Viking and the Firebird
Brave & Bold #22: Viking Prince: The Invisible Viking
Silent Knight: Challenge of the Sinister Queens
Brave & Bold #23: Viking Prince: Origin of the Viking Prince
Viking Prince: Figurehead of the VikingSea
Brave & Bold #24: Viking Prince: Trail of the Black Falcon
Viking Prince: Curse of the Dragon’s Moon
It was a fun four years, but the times and audiences were changing. Errol Flynn and Victor Mature were giving way to bug-eyed monsters and cold war paranoia. No one was reading Hal Foster-esque tales. They were reading comics like the “Challengers of the Unknown”, “Sea Devils” and other hard, gripping modern tales of science fiction and horror! Even the superheroes were coming back – who would have expected that four years ago?
To survive, Brave & Bold must move on, and bid adieu to our heroes of aulden days.
Too bad though, some of those tales were real classics.
There would be more classics to come.
Next: The Brave & the Bold – Showcase, Of Strange Suicide Squad Stories Inside Earth
copyright (c) 2012 Michael G. Curry