One of the most famous Prince Valiant comic strips by the legendary Hal Foster was auctioned at Nate D. Sanders Auctions this week, and sold for a staggering $70,461. While interest in the strip is high in its 80th anniversary year, the final sale amount is an indication, yet again, of how collectible some comic art is.
Published 28th May 1939, this episode is considered one of the greatest pieces of artwork by Hal Foster in his career, the original artwork for the 120th ‘Prince Valiant‘ Sunday comic strip. In this instantly recognisable piece – featured on the cover of Fantagraphics‘ Prince Valiant Volume 2: 1939-1940 and in numerous ”Prince Valiant” publications, the panel of Andelkrag Castle often used to demonstrate Foster’s superb technique from the early years of the strip – Val sees the foreboding castle of Andelkrag in person, surrounded by Huns as they prepare to attack it.
The six panel strip measures 26” x 34.5”, (the large Andelkrag panel measures 17” x 21” by itself), with incredible detail showing the seemingly impregnable fortress, the mountains behind it, the flames roiling up aside it and Prince Valiant standing upon a hillside, gazing at its beauty and enormity. In this strip, Val makes his approach and plunges into the river moat at darkness, to find a fire-raft built by the Huns in order to destroy Andelkrag’s bridge.
As Prince Valiant destroys their handiwork, the Huns vow revenge in return…
The artwork is signed by Hal Foster on the second panel, inscribed to ”Edward W. Larson / with friendly greetings / Hal Foster” and the lot was accompanied by the colour newsprint of this artwork and two ”Prince Valiant” books featuring this strip.
Hal Foster created epic adventure and romantic fantasy in his legendary Sunday strip, Prince Valiant, for 35 years. Realistic in its visual execution and noble in its subject, depicting a time in which the fabled warriors of history and legends fought together for the greater good, it remains one of the great masterpieces of the medium.
Despite the high figure for this art, other items of comic strip illustration went unsold. The items that failed to gain a buyer included and Robert Crumb original illustration art from the ill-fated Whiteman Meets Bigfoot, a never-produced film based on Crumb’s comic Home Grown Funnies and an early Sunday Peanuts comic strip by Charles Schulz, dated 21st June 1953. Neither did a page of X-Men comic art by Jim Lee, a page from #2 from the 1991 series relaunch.
Also going unsold was one of Sir John Tenniel‘s original illustration from the first edition of Through the Looking Glass, the sequel to the enormously successful Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Tenniel at first rejected Carroll’s offer to illustrate ”Looking Glass”, but ultimately relented as Carroll could find no other illustrator that matched Tenniel’s ”grotesque” interpretation of the fantasy creatures he envisioned.
But other Hal Foster art featured sold for what some might consider “reasonable” amounts (in the thousands!) and James Montgomery Flagg’s iconic art for the famous World War One “I Want You for the US Army poster sold for just over $10,000; and
• The hardcover edition of Prince Valiant Volume 2, published in 2010, is still available from all good bookshops and amazon.co.uk (using this link helps support downthetubes, thank you).
In this second volume, Prince Valiant helps his father reclaim his throne in kingdom of Thule; fights alongside King Arthur; is made a knight of the Round Table; battles the Huns; sets off with Sir Gawain and Tristam of Arthurian legend fame; and is thrown off-course from Sicily; adventure follows him everywhere. Fantagraphics used original proof sheets for this collection, giving Foster’s work, painterly and sweeping, the grand depiction it deserves. Also recommended: the Definitive Prince Valiant Companion, showcasing the careers of Hal Foster, John Cullen Murphy, and Gary Gianni
The collection was named one of The Best Comics Published in the US in 2010 Alternatives and Classics by Ambrosia (Brazil) and listed as a favourite comic of 2010 by Evan Dorkin in a survey of comics creators at Robot 6
Prince Valiant © King Features Syndicate, Inc.