A Tribute to the of

Itís hard to believe Joe Kubert has already been gone for over a year. Fortunately he left an incredible body of work as a lasting legacy.

Joe was probably known best for his work on Sgt. Rock and Hawkman, but the list is so voluminous as you consider Ragman, Enemy Ace, Tor, Tarzan andÖwell, you could just go on an on. Weíve showcased Joeís work frequently here, but one character Iíd never presented is yet another Bob Kanigher/Joe Kubert collaboration: The Viking Prince. Letís just remedy that, shall we?

DC Special #12 from May/June of 1971 headlined the Viking Prince. Itís a collection of old Brave and the Bold reprints from when the mag was centered on a healthy dose of medieval adventure. The story Iíve selected is titled ďThe Viking and the Mermaid!Ē originally seen in B&B #16 from Feb/Mar 1958. The marvelous splash page depicts Jon, the Viking Prince, decked out in duds that would make Thor jealous with his winged helmet and cape. Heís on a rocky shoreline, enduring a rainstorm and his thoughts are occupied with a ďstrange visionĒ of a lovely woman in a treasure chest beneath the sea. This image is superimposed over his visage and the inset panel has Jon asking somewhat rhetorically, as his companion is mute, why the gods torment him. Jon states that he is driven by the north wind, but he knows not where. Worse, he has no memory of who he is of where he came from or even why his voiceless companion is with him. Still, on they travel.

The next encounter for the pair is a crack in the earth revealing lava. They carefully venture toward it, to cross to the other side when the heat begins to overcome the Viking Prince and he feels himself falling, but his ultimate destination appears to be his past as he finds himself in another place and time.

He is in a sort of kingís court where the monarch asks how he can expect to perform the twelve tasks of Thor if he cannot even defeat Sven the Giant. Details begin to form in Jonís brain as he recognizes Torgunn, the Claw, who occupies the throne of Jonís father, at least until he can prove his worthiness of succession by performing the aforementioned twelve tasks. Alas, his sword is broken and all seems lost when an unknown benefactor from the crowd tosses him a blade. Soon the fierce battle is renewed, with gleaming sword against shield and battle axe, but the Viking Princeís nimble moves make him the master and the giant yields.

In a seeming show of congratulations, the queen, Ulrica, offers Jon a beverage, instructing him that heíll need his strength for the second task, which is to capture fire and send it in an ice demonís helmet. Jon has no idea how to accomplish this and as he ponders the task, the contents of the cup do their dirty work, scrubbing his memory clean and making him lose consciousness. It is then that Torgunn summons the courtís mute minstrel, stating that he provided Jon the sword and therefore is now obligated to accompany the victorious prince on his journey.

The flashback ends as Jon regains his wits, stopping his fall with the aid of a rope provided by his mute companion. Iíd like to note that Joe used an interesting technique on these two pages, showing outlined figures falling down the left hand side of the panels to give the impression of what the Viking Prince is experiencing.

As Jon pulls himself to safety he remarks to the minstrel that the heat cleared his head and he now knows what he must do as he seeks out the fire and the ice demonsí helmet. Onward they push, toward yon glacierÖ

At a crevasse, Jon says it is the place where the ice demons dwell. Availing himself of the rope once again, Jon swings down among them and rescues a fair maiden from the clutches of the ice demons. Using his sword to cleave through the menacing stalactites, he simultaneously manages to remove a helmet from one of the ice demons (who look a lot like your garden variety period warriors) and uses it to scoop up some handy nearby fire. I canít tell for certain, but it looks a little like magma.

After climbing out of the crevasse with the maiden and passing off the helmet to the minstrel, Jon learns that he has rescued Ylla, daughter of King Harold of Skane. Jon sends the mute man back to the king with the evidence of his tasks completion and Torgunn is surprised, but confident that the Viking Prince will fail at the next task, which is to rescue a mermaid.

The trio now set sail, but soon spy another vessel flying Torgunnís colors. Jon bids Ylla to take refuge in a sea chest, but when the dragon ship catches Jonís small boat, it knocks the chest into the depths. Without hesitation, the Viking Prince dives after the plunging chest and as it finally comes to rest, he is confronted with a vicious shark. After a titanic struggle, the victorious prince plunges his dagger into the predator and releases his damsel from the chest. They manage to break the surface into the aiding arms of their companion and an enraged Torgunn has witnessed it all from the deck of his dragon ship. Jon has fulfilled the next task.

Fortuitously, King Haroldís vessel has arrived, causing Torgunn to flee, but Jon, awakening from his icy dive has again lost his memory. He and his silent companion then leave Ylla and King Harold to continue their journey, ending the 13-page story.

I can see now why the Viking Prince was a solid, recurring feature. Great storytelling by Kanigher and Kubert that successfully transports the reader directly into classic Nordic adventure. While Iím a dyed-in-the-wool superhero fan, I can find some enjoyable fare here as well. I donít think Iíll rate this one as itís in a category all its own, but by all means, take your own tour of a classic character, the Viking Prince.

We again extend our standing invitation to you, faithful readers, to stay for our own journey among the four color wonders of DCís Silver Age. Comments and questions are always welcome at: professor_the@hotmail.com.

Join us again on the 1st of October for the latest installment and as alwaysÖ

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2013 by B.D.S.

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