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First, let me warn my readers of two things: 1) This blog may contain some spoiler alerts if you have not seen the film, and 2) I seriously thought about titling this blog “Why Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur Sucks” so be forewarned I have little good to say about it. That said, there were a few good surprises. Also note, I may have forgotten some of the bad and ugly points since I only saw the film once, but I am not inclined to view it again.

So here are the good, the bad, and the ugly points about why Guy Ritchie’s new film King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is a terrible rendition of the Arthurian legend.

The Good

  1. The Starring Actors: Four of them deserve mention. Eric Bana and Jude Law are both great actors and I have enjoyed their performances in almost every film I’ve ever seen them in, even if I haven’t always liked the films. That said, they could do little with the script and characters they had to play. Eric Bana’s part is far too small to give him room to do much of anything as an actor. Jude Law’s role is that of a stereotypical villain, but he’s convincing and does what he can with it. Also worth mentioning is Charlie Hunnam. Apparently he’s already quite a star though I don’t believe I ever saw him in anything before. And I could tell he is a good actor. He had a crappy script to work with, but he still comes off as likeable and brave in the film, if not as your typical King Arthur. One last actor worth mentioning is Katie McGrath—she’s only on screen for a minute, but because she played Morgana in the BBC Merlin series, which I loved, it was nice to include her as a nod to past Arthurian shows.
  2. The Scenery: The film was shot in Wales—one of the few things it got right.
  3. The Sets: Camelot was over the top but not completely unattractive. Both the throne room and the subterranean chamber were visually attractive. What I was most impressed by, however, was the depiction of London, complete with a coliseum falling into ruin—it showed that the filmmakers at least new the Arthurian legend takes place in the period right after the Romans left.

    Jude Law is a convincing villain, whatever the faults of his character role.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bad

  1. England: Continually, England was referenced. It should be Britain. There was no England until the Anglo-Saxons conquered the island. At this point, it was still Britain.
  2. Vortigern: Vortigern’s story and place in the legend was messed up. He was not Uther’s brother, nor did he kill him. In truth, Vortigern killed Arthur’s uncle Constans. Constans’s brothers, Ambrosius, and Uther then fled to the continent but later returned and killed Vortigern. Vortigern was dead long before Arthur was even born.
  3. The Mage: Who the heck was she? We are never even told her name. She’s the only female character in the film who is even recognizable as a character and yet she’s nameless. I kept waiting to hear that she was Morgana or Nimue or Viviane or someone recognizable. Nor did she have much of a role other than to make weird googly eye faces. Maybe her identity was kept secret so it could be revealed in a sequel, but fat chance there’ll be a sequel.
  4. The Sword in the Stone: Seriously, the sword flies up in the air, lodges in Uther’s back, and then he sinks into the water and turns to stone. Stupid.
  5. Mordred: This one really irritated me. The film begins with Mordred, the evil mage, waging war on Camelot and Uther. Traditionally, Mordred is Arthur’s son or nephew. He has no magic powers. He did not live before Arthur. Couldn’t they have come up with some other villain? Rumor has it that Guy Ritchie is talking about a three or six film series (which won’t happen since the film has flopped at the box office), but if it were going to happen, wouldn’t you want to save Mordred for the end of the series? Poor planning.
  6. Interracial Casting: Now I know some will disagree with me on this one. I am absolutely all for letting actors who are not white have more roles in films, but not at the expense of historical accuracy. There were way too many people in the film who looked like they were of Asian or African descent to make this a believable circa 500 A.D. Britain story.
  7. Minor Characters: I think this includes everyone but the three main characters I mentioned above. None of the men with Arthur are distinguishable. I didn’t even know their names, other than Bedivere (who is the Lancelot equivalent of the Welsh legends; who no way in hell was African), until the final scene when they were knighted. Worse, there are several female characters in the film who are just there—no clue who they are. I didn’t even realize Vortigern had a daughter until he decided to kill her. The cast list even has Merlin included. I don’t remember seeing him at all. And why do we need characters with names like Goosefat Bill and Backlack? And what’s up with an Asian character named George. Speaking of which….
  8. Kung Fu: There were no Asians in Arthurian Britain with who were teaching people martial arts, and King Arthur certainly didn’t know Kung Fu. Please.

    King Arthur learns kung fu fighting.

  9. Vikings: Technically, the Vikings lived in a later period. These people should have been called Saxons. The Saxons were the enemies of King Arthur. It’s true Vortigern did make deals with them and let them into Britain. So why not stick with a more accurate story here if they are to be included?
  10. The Boredom: Frankly, most of the middle of the film was boring. At one point, after a battle scene, we’re subjected to a full minute of just listening to Arthur breathe hard while everyone else stands around looking like they haven’t broken a sweat. The pacing in the middle was slow. The action scenes at the end just made me want the movie to end.
  11. Other Movie Feels: Historically, Vortigern had a tower but it wasn’t like this one—this tower reminded me too much of Lord of the Rings, as did the giant elephants and other creatures. And in one scene there’s a bunch of hooded/masked warriors with glowing eyes who look like Jawas from Star Wars. And yes, a lot of it reminds me of Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes films (see the Ugly section).
  12. No Merlin: He’s mentioned, but he has no role to play. Poor baby Arthur has to be set adrift in a boat like he was Moses. He should have been rescued by Merlin and taken into hiding. Why would you write Merlin right out of the movie?
  13. Bad Background Music: At one point someone is singing but the song can’t seem to decide whether it’s a Scottish ballad or hip hop. I just don’t get the music used in modern films. Ever since A Knight’s Tale we have been subjected to music that doesn’t fit a film’s period and ruins the suspension of disbelief. Medieval movies shouldn’t have rock ‘n roll in them any more than The Great Gatsby needed hip hop. Some nice Celtic background music would have been more appropriate.
  14. Vortigern as Skeletor: Or whatever he’s supposed to be. Do we really need Vortigern to turn into some sort of demon from hell to battle Arthur? Couldn’t he have just been given a magic sword too? Just more over-the-top unnecessary nonsense.

 

The Ugly

  1. Giant Elephants: No one would have brought elephants to Britain, and not these monster-sized elephants that can carry giant house-like structures on their backs. Granted, these are the mage Mordred’s elephants so maybe they are magical, but to see them in the opening scene of the film just made it clear right from the start that the whole film was going to suck.
  2. The Cinematography and Landscape: I apologize if I don’t know the proper terminology but the desolate landscape around Camelot was also over the top and the whole film had that nasty gray look that has become so common in so many films to give a stark depressing view of the film. I’ve seen it in Immortals, Prince of Persia, etc. It’s ugly, Hollywood. Quit using this look.
  3. The Giant Snake: I think the giant snake is thrown in just to balance off the giant elephants so the film could come full circle with over-the-top unbelievable animals. Why do we need a giant magical snake the size of Camelot’s front gate to come slithering through the castle? Let King Arthur do something instead to show he’s the man. Granted, later he gets to kill Vortigern, but this scene was just over the top stupid and unnecessary.
  4. The One–or Was It Three–Creepy Octupussy Women: Just ick. Just make me puke. Ick. Ick. Ick. I don’t care what kind of evil deal with the devil type scenario you need, don’t ever put something that disgusting on the screen again—these women made Jabba the Hut look like a piece of chocolate. Honestly, the way women were treated and depicted in this film, one wonders what kind of misogynist wrote this crap.
  5. The Nod to Detective Shows: We are stuck in the middle of the film with a detective interrogation of King Arthur that feels completely irrelevant and boring. It has a purpose, but the flashing camera angles and everything else made me feel like I was watching Sherlock Holmes, not King Arthur. Guy Ritchie, did you forget which movie you were making at this point?
  6. The Lack of All Things King Arthur: Half of the film I sat there thinking, “What does this have to do with King Arthur?” Basically nothing. This film had about as many true Arthurian elements in it as the TV Show Riverdale has from the original Archie Comic books. The difference is Riverdale is entertaining. This film is not. It’s basically a ridiculous plot with a few Arthurian names and a sword tossed in to pass it off as Arthurian to try to sell tickets. This is what is most disgusting about it. Ritchie is trying to capitalize on a time-honored, much-loved legend that has so much power over us—that is beautiful, heart-wrenching, inspiring, exciting, and magical—none of that comes across in this film. That’s why it is a flop more than anything else. The film doesn’t have the slightest concept of what its source material is.

    Filming in Wales is one of the few things Guy Ritchie did right with this film. Here is King Arthur and the unnamed mage in a pleasant Welsh setting.

 

I’m sure there’s a lot more I could complain about, but it’s not worth wasting more of my time. Bottom line, don’t waste your money on this film. If you’re a huge King Arthur fan like me, you’ll see it anyway, but wait for the DVD/video release. If you’re not very familiar with the Arthurian legend and want to see a good Arthurian film, watch:

  1. Camelot
  2. Excalibur
  3. Knights of the Round Table
  4. The Sword in the Stone
  5. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
  6. A Kid in King Arthur’s Court
  7. Sword of Lancelot
  8. King Arthur (2004)

They’re all much better. If books are your thing, read the novels of:

  1. Tyler Tichelaar (have to give myself a plug of course)
  2. Nicole Evelina
  3. Marion Zimmer Bradley
  4. Mary Stewart
  5. Nancy Mackenzie
  6. Helen Hollick
  7. Sharan Newman
  8. Jack Whyte
  9. Stephen Lawhead
  10. Bernard Cornwell
  11. T.H. White
  12. Mark Twain
  13. Parke Godwin
  14. Joan Wolf
  15. Vera Chapman
  16. Susan Cooper
  17. Rosemary Sutcliff
  18. And many more including the wonderful medieval works by Sir Thomas Malory and so many others—they’re all better.

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Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D., is the author of The Children of Arthur series, which includes the novels Arthur’s Legacy, Melusine’s Gift, Ogier’s Prayer, Lilith’s Love, and the upcoming Arthur’s Bosom. He has also written the nonfiction scholarly works King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition and The Gothic Wanderer: From Transgression to Redemption, plus numerous other historical novels. You can learn more about Tyler at www.ChildrenofArthur.com.

 

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The Ring of Morgana by Donna Hosie is the first volume in The Children of Camelot Series. As most of my readers of this blog know, in my book King Arthur’s Children (2010) I predicted that the trend to continue to create children for King Arthur to carry the Arthurian story forward would continue and this novel is further indication I was correct. In fact, it was published in 2014, the same year I began publishing my five-volume The Children of Arthur historical fantasy series, detailing King Arthur’s descendants from the sixth to twenty-first centuries.

The Ring of Morgana is the first book in Donna Hosie’s The Children of Camelot series and a sequel to her The Return to Camelot Trilogy.

Hosie’s novel is in some ways similar but in others very different to my own series. It also begins in the twenty-first century. We are introduced to sixteen-year-old Mila Roth and her ten-year-old sister, Lilly. They live in Wales in a house called Avalon Cottage, which is rumored to be haunted. The truth, though, is that Mila and Lilly’s parents have some secrets they’ve been keeping from their daughters, including that they possess a mysterious sapphire ring. I won’t go into the full details of the plot (spoiler alert though that I will give quite a bit away), but basically, Lilly gets ahold of the ring, puts it on her finger, and it begins to make her deadly sick. This situation results in numerous secrets coming out, including that Mila and Lilly’s dad is King Arthur and their mother, although she goes by the name Sam, or Lady Samantha, is apparently really Morgana, a Gorian priestess.

So yes, we have another novel with King Arthur having daughters. What is interesting from here on is that Morgana is the mother of two girls. As the novel progresses, there is no indication that Morgana is the mother of Mordred, as is more typical in Arthurian fiction. Mordred is referenced in the novel (he’s already dead), but it is never stated that he is in any way related to Arthur or Morgana. (Here I should point out that this novel was written after Hosie wrote her The Return to Camelot Trilogy, which I have not read, but which seems to be a prelude to this novel. Consequently, certain details of this book’s plot I may have not understood as thoroughly as if I had read that series first—I was unaware at the time I bought this book that it was linked to Hosie’s earlier series.)

In order to save Lilly, it is necessary for the Roth family (why did Hosie choose that name? It’s not Welsh) to travel back in time to Camelot. Here I think is the only real fault of the novel. Hosie has her characters travel back in time one thousand years—this date is preposterous to me because it would suggest they go back to the year 1014 A.D., give or take a few years. They arrive in the kingdom of Logres at Glastonbury and then travel to Camelot. This year is about 500 years too late. In 1014, Ethelred the Unready was King of all of England and a Saxon king. The novel states that Mila was born during the Battle of Mount Badon, the traditional date of which is 516 and when King Arthur and his Welsh/Celtic contemporaries would have likely lived. A few other historical oddities exist in the novel in terms of some of the name choices—Mila’s aunt is named Natasha and she’s married to Bedivere—Natasha is a Russian name. No one in medieval Britain would have had that name. (Plus, Bedivere is an English version of the Welsh Bedwyr, which I used in my own novels.) Some of the other name choices are equally odd.

In any case, the family arrives back in medieval Logres. Along with them comes Mila’s best friend, Rustin. I mention him, although he’s not related to Arthur, because he plays a significant role in the plot and the sequel book Quest of the Artisan will apparently focus on Rustin, who enjoys woodworking and becomes known as the Artisan in this novel.

The plot now revolves around Merlin trying to heal Lilly while the family reside at Camelot—ruled by Guinevere, who is in love with Lancelot. (The romance dynamics of the novel seem to assume the reader read the earlier series since I never figured out how Arthur and Guinevere must be married, yet he lives in the twenty-first century with Sam/Morgana). Guinevere is childless as usual, but she is very gracious to Arthur and his daughters, who until now have lived in the twenty-first century since it’s apparently safer for them there.

It turns out that Mila must do battle with Nimue in order to save Lilly—this also relates back to themes in the earlier novels—apparently Nimue had some sort of romantic crush on Arthur that caused trouble.

In the end, Mila succeeds and Lilly is healed, and then everyone returns to the twenty-first century, but Rustin is unhappy and decides to figure out how to return to Camelot.

One final point of interest in terms of treatments of King Arthur and his children should be mentioned here. Mordred is dead at the time of the novel. However, he has a son, Melehan, who is about Rustin and Mila’s age and is under the care of Sir Gareth (presumably his uncle). Melehan is traditionally the name of Mordred’s son, which usually would make him King Arthur’s grandson (in my own Children of Arthur series, I used the alternative spelling Meleon; there he is the son of Mordred and grandson of Arthur and Morgana). Mordred does not seem to be related to Arthur in this novel so that means Melehan is not one of Arthur’s descendants.

The novel closes with Melehan traveling to the twenty-first century to meet Mila and tell her he has much to tell her about Rustin and the others back in Camelot, leaving the ending open for a sequel.

I’ll conclude by saying that I thought The Ring of Morgana a very readable and interesting novel. I especially enjoyed the realistic depiction of Mila and her teenage friends in Wales. The build-up of Mila learning the truth about her family and background were all well-done. I admit I was less interested in Mila’s battle with Nimue to save her sister than in the other parts of the novel, but overall, it is one of the better Arthurian novels I have read in recent years and should appeal to young adults as well as anyone who enjoys a more science fiction/time-travel type of Arthurian novel. Those who are diehard fans of historical fiction and a more traditional Arthurian storyline will find it less appealing.

Stay tuned for a future blog about the novel’s sequel, Quest of the Artisan, and perhaps more blogs about The Return to Camelot trilogy.

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Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D., is the author of The Children of Arthur series, which includes the novels Arthur’s Legacy, Melusine’s Gift, Ogier’s Prayer, Lilith’s Love, and the upcoming Arthur’s Bosom. He has also written the nonfiction scholarly works King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition and The Gothic Wanderer: From Transgression to Redemption, plus numerous other historical novels. You can learn more about Tyler at www.ChildrenofArthur.com.

The Prince Valiant strip’s subtitle is “In the Days of King Arthur,” but I have to admit the scenes that take place at Camelot are often less inspired than those that take place elsewhere in Foster’s strip, and I felt that was the case with this volume, though there are still notable moments.

This volume opens with Val, Aleta, and their family on their way back to Camelot, and other than a little subplot in which Arn gets kidnapped and is rescued, they arrive there safely.

Prince Valiant, Vol. 14 includes King Arthur’s famous Battle of Mount Badon.

In the two years of work presented in this volume, Foster seems to be wanting to push his storyline closer to the catastrophe that brings about the end of Arthur’s reign, but at the same time, he holds back, making it happen very gradually. Once Valiant is back in Camelot, there are two key Arthurian moments in the book. The first concerns Modred (Foster’s spelling). Modred is complaining about how he and the other knights do all the work but Arthur gets all the glory and money. He has enlisted his four brothers of the Orkney clan, along with several younger knights, in his cause. When Gawain brings Valiant to one of Modred’s meetings, Valiant quickly makes the other knights see the treachery and lack of validity in Modred’s words so that soon all of the knights abandon him other than the Orkney clan. Valiant notes also that none of the established Knights of the Round Table are at the meeting other than those of Orkney.

The Orkney clan still wishes to plot with Modred. Modred wants to catch Lancelot and Guinevere in a trap and include Aleta in it. At this point, Gawain is torn between his friendship for Valiant and Aleta and his loyalty to his brothers. He warns Aleta to be careful, but she doesn’t understand the warning. The plot Modred ends up hatching is to distract and lead Valiant’s twin daughters away from the court just long enough so everyone will go looking for them. Both Aleta and Lancelot go looking in Guinevere’s private garden. The Orkneys lock them in the private garden for the night, thinking in the morning they will be found and it will look like they’ve committed adultery. (This plot doesn’t hurt Guinevere directly, but, of course, she’ll be heartbroken if Lancelot has to leave Camelot, and it will hurt Valiant also. If two of Arthur’s chief knights leave Camelot, Modred will have better opportunity for overthrowing the king.)

Of course, Modred’s plans come to naught. Valiant and Arn realize where Aleta is and climb over the garden wall. When the garden is later unlocked, Modred sees Lancelot and Aleta together and starts to accuse them, only to have Valiant and Arn then step out to show there is no dishonor because the four of them have all been together. Valiant then tells Modred he does not appreciate his insinuations. Modred, fearing Valiant will challenge him to a duel, flees Camelot, planning to continue to plot against King Arthur from a distance.

The other major Arthurian moment in this volume is the Battle of Mount Badon. I admit I found the battle a bit dull, but what is wonderful is the lead-up to it, involving Valiant’s son Arn. We have watched Arn grow up throughout the strip, and now he is old enough to go out as a scout, only to be captured by the Saxons. He gives them information about Arthur’s plans, then fakes his death when he escapes from them so they cannot know that he lives and has returned to Camelot to warn Arthur. The result is that Arthur knows exactly what to expect from the Saxons, so he takes them by surprise and soundly defeats them.

I’m not a fan of battle scenes, though Foster draws them well. What I love is the cleverness that Valiant and Aleta always display in getting out of sticky situations, and now it’s clear they’ve passed that cleverness on to their son.

It’s important to note that, according to most versions of the legend, Mount Badon was Arthur’s last great victory against the Saxons, followed by twenty or so years of peace before Camelot’s fall. One wonders whether Foster was starting to consider moving toward the fall of Camelot in the strip. By this point, Foster was in his early seventies, so he must have realized he could not draw the strip many more years, although it wouldn’t be until 1970 that he started looking for a successor and 1975 before he retired completely from the strip. In the end, I assume he couldn’t bear to see the strip end with his retirement, and so the fall of Camelot was put off indefinitely.

Valiant and Aleta’s twin girls are also growing up in this volume—they end up having their first crush on the same boy, and they employ a bit of trickery themselves to try to get him interested in them; however, they’re still too young to succeed, as is their victim, a twelve-year-old king. Nevertheless, I imagine they will be quite able to manipulate men with their feminine wiles just like their mother before too many more volumes have passed.

Two other passages worth noting in this volume are examples of Foster’s postmodern intrusion into the strip. I believe these are the first times he breaks the spell, reminding readers they are reading a story. The first is when he mentions that two characters ride out of the story. The second is when he claims the manuscripts he is basing the story on were damaged at one point, and so he can’t complete a specific episode and has to guess what happened. He then picks up the story with Valiant and Aleta traveling to Thule. The volume ends here with Valiant’s arrival in Thule where he has to trick some raiders to protect his father’s kingdom.

I wouldn’t say this is one of the stronger volumes in the series, but it still has its moments. Of added interest is the introduction by Roger Stern about other cartoon artists who engaged in “swiping” Foster’s work. “Swiping” is a term meaning copying or even plagiarizing. Numerous frames are presented as examples of Foster’s Tarzan and Prince Valiant strips beside frames of other cartoonists who have figures in similar poses—most notably a comparison between Tarzan and Batman’s poses—and also backgrounds that are so similar the artists obviously copied from Foster—one of an interior banquet hall in the Valiant strip is compared to one by Don Rosa for a Clan McDuck strip. Also interesting is the essay at the end of the book about Foster’s desire to be a fine art painter before he became a famous cartoonist. Several of Foster’s landscape paintings are presented—some are not overly impressive but some are quite exquisite. While he never saw his dream realized of being a famous painter, I’m sure Foster delighted far more people with his Tarzan and Prince Valiant strips than he ever would have with landscape paintings.

Volume 15 of the Prince Valiant reprints by Fantagraphics will be released in June. In it, there will be a return to the New World. Watch for the review later this year.

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Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D., is the author of The Children of Arthur series, which includes the novels Arthur’s Legacy, Melusine’s Gift, Ogier’s Prayer, Lilith’s Love, and the upcoming Arthur’s Bosom. He has also written the nonfiction scholarly works King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition and The Gothic Wanderer: From Transgression to Redemption. You can learn more about him at www.ChildrenofArthur.com.

 

I finally got a chance to read Volume 13 of the Prince Valiant strip put out by Fantagraphics, and I don’t know why I waited so long. This volume is one of the best in the series.

princevaliantvol13It begins with a foreword by Charles Vess, who was offered the opportunity to take over the strip in 2003 but declined because he felt the strip had become crammed in its smaller format in modern newspapers compared to its previous full page, and that it would limit him, although he thinks those who have drawn the strip since then have done excellent jobs. But what I really liked about the foreword most of all was how Vess pointed out the morality of the principal players in the strip. He argues that the world would be a better place if more people read the strip and learned from it. I couldn’t agree with him more. I could definitely see how young readers of the strip would be won over by the sense of fair play and ideas of right and wrong in it.

As I read this volume, that point stuck with me, and it made me look for examples of how Foster presents moral values to his readers. I discovered that those values also made me realize he was ahead of his time. When we look back at many of the books and comic strips of the early and mid-twentieth century, it can sometimes be disarming to discover racism in them. However, at least in the strips from 1961-1962, that is not the case. Yes, there are the occasional evil Arab characters but there are just as many evil European characters. Foster had no problem in handing out the good and bad characters in equal proportion regardless of race or creed.

One place political correctness and acknowledgment of equality amidst diversity is apparent is when Val journeys to the Holy Land in this volume. In the May 14, 1961 strip, Foster writes: “To some of the pilgrims has come humility but to others the hardships of the long journey have changed faith to fanaticism, and to these Val pleaded: ‘Respect the beliefs and customs of others that future pilgrims be not endangered.’ Had this advice been heeded there would have been no Crusades.” Not only is this statement true, but it is criticizing Christianity more than the Islam or Judaism of those living in the Holy Land.

Later in the book, a Christian preacher, Wojan, begins drawing crowds of poor people to him, which threatens the stability of England. Wojan is innocent, Christ-like, and a bit of a simpleton, so he doesn’t realize his advisors are collecting money from his followers to make themselves rich. This episode in the strip speaks out against religious fanaticism. At the same time, earlier volumes have depicted Valiant seeking the Holy Grail and actively working for the spread of Christianity in Thule and England. In other words, Foster is preaching Christianity but in moderation rather than fanaticism.

Another notable part of this volume is that Valiant purchases a slave, Ohmed, whom he then frees once he hears how Ohmed was taken captive from his home where his loved ones were slaughtered. Foster not only repeatedly has Valiant travel to places all over the globe, but he also has Valiant befriend people from other cultures and make them part of his circle. Tillicum, a Native American woman who was introduced into the strip in Vol 6 (1947-1948), is one such character who plays a supporting role throughout the storyline. In fact, in 1953, her marriage to a white man will produce the first interracial baby in the strip. Ohmed, however, isn’t so lucky. He ends up murdered in the strip a few months after he makes his appearance. Still, that Valiant frees him and seeks to help him is a sign of Valiant’s generosity and Foster’s appreciation for treating everyone fairly.

Also noteworthy in this volume is that Valiant’s wife, Aleta, gives birth to her fourth child, a young boy named Galan. This event leads to Valiant’s oldest son, Arn, deciding he will abdicate his right to the thrones of the Misty Isles and Thule so his younger brother can have the throne and he can then simply enjoy himself. It should be noted that Arn gives no thought to his twin sisters, who are passed over for the throne—Foster isn’t that politically correct yet to let women be in the line of succession.

One of my favorite things about the Valiant strip is watching Arn grow up. In this volume, he is now old enough to travel with his father, go hunting and camping on his own, and truly become a man. Foster doesn’t give Arn’s age, but the drawings make it look like Arn might be about twelve or thirteen—he hasn’t had a romance yet, but it looks like he will soon from the way things are going for him—his female friend Diane is now afraid to undress in front of him when they go swimming, so Arn and his friends are definitely growing up.

I love Aleta, but she didn’t get a lot of time in this book, and the one week when we do go inside of her head, we find her remembering all the times Valiant has been “a magnificent brute” in the past, tossing her into a pond and even spanking her, and how she likes it. Again, not as politically correct as it should be.

Nevertheless, this volume was full of fabulous journeys to the Holy Land, Baghdad, Rome, and Spain, several stories of cleverness outwitting villainy, and just some all-around fabulous drawings. Valiant’s hair is also starting to look a little shorter and less girlish and subtly Foster is making Valiant look more mature—I suspect he’s well into his thirties by this volume and even Aleta is showing a bit of her age after her pregnancy. In their hearts, though, the lovers seem forever young.

I’ll be reviewing Volume 14 soon, so stay tuned.

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Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D., is the author of The Children of Arthur series, which includes the novels Arthur’s Legacy, Melusine’s Gift, Ogier’s Prayer, Lilith’s Love, and the upcoming Arthur’s Bosom. He has also written the nonfiction scholarly works King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition and The Gothic Wanderer: From Transgression to Redemption. You can learn more about him at www.ChildrenofArthur.com.

My newest novel, Lilith’s Love: The Children of Arthur, Book Four, is the most Gothic-influenced of my novels. While the series builds on the Arthurian legends, it also draws on many other legends, including those of Charlemagne, the Fairy Melusine, Prester John, Dracula, and the Wandering Jew. Here is the prologue to Lilith’s Love, which introduces the Wandering Jew, who is frequently known to appear at key historical moments, as if he is in some way manipulating them, and such is the case in this opening scene:

Prologue

Constantinople, May 29, 1453, Just after Midnight

“The city will be both founded and lost by an emperor Constantine whose mother was called Helen.”

— Ancient Byzantine Prophecy

For fifty-three days, the siege had held. He had never thought he would be able to hold off the Turks for as long as he had. Had Pope Nicholas V and the rest of Europe come to his aid, it might have been different; even so, his people had been remarkable in their determination not to surrender to the enemy. But any day now, even any hour, it was bound to end.

Largely a sequel to Dracula, Lilith's Love begins with the Fall of Constantinople, tells of Dracula's involvement with the ancient sorceress Lilith, and records what happened to Quincey Harker, son to Jonathan and Mina Harker.

Lilith’s Love brings together the legends of King Arthur, Dracula, and the Bible to create a stunning new look at human history.

And he would be the last, he, Constantine XI, the last Emperor of the Romans. For fifteen centuries, there had been an empire, and for more than eleven centuries, the capital had been here in Constantinople, but now all that would come to an end. He had done everything he could, trying to negotiate peace with the Turks, striving to get the Orthodox Church to concede to the Pope’s demands that they become Catholic, imploring the rulers of France, England, Hungary, Venice, whoever would listen, to come to his aid, but it had all been to no avail. The Turks far outnumbered those in the city.

And the city was not even worth taking; Constantine knew that. Its wealth had diminished to almost nothing in the last two centuries, ever since the Latins had used a crusade to the Holy Land as an excuse to sack the city and then rule as its emperors for most of the thirteenth century. Although the Romans had regained the city and the throne in time, the empire had continued to shrink and weaken; continually, Constantine and his imperial predecessors had sought to keep the Turks at bay, the emperors wedding their daughters to the Ottoman sultans and doing anything necessary to ensure the empire’s survival.

And as the last emperor, Constantine knew the blame would lie upon his head, without regard to how little chance he had to stop his enemy or how all of Christendom had abandoned him and his people to their fate. What would they call him? His first namesake was Constantine the Great. Would he be called Constantine the Defeated, Constantine the Failure, Constantine the Unworthy? Perhaps the best he could hope for was to be killed in battle so he would be remembered as Constantine the Martyr.

He stood alone now on the battlements, his soldiers knowing he wished to be alone with his thoughts. He looked out at the vast hordes of Turks encamped around the city. Even now they were battering at the walls, hoping to topple any one of them, not even seeking sleep as the night moved toward dawn.

How had it come to this? To some extent, Constantine could understand the reluctance and ignorance of his fellow rulers to come to his aid. Even the Pope, the supposed leader of the Christian world, he could forgive for his stubbornness when he considered that they were all men, full of weaknesses, but how could God Himself turn His back on them? How could the Holy Virgin to whom the city had been dedicated, desert them?

Constantine XI, who like King Arthur, is said will one day return.

Constantine XI, who like King Arthur, is said will one day return.

And there was no doubt they had been forsaken. The Holy Virgin had shown she would no longer protect them. The city had been dedicated to the Virgin since its ancient days. In desperation, the people had cried out to her ever since the siege had begun, and just three days ago, her most holy relic, the Hodegetria—an icon of her, believed to have been painted by St. Luke the Evangelist himself, which had saved the city on numerous occasions—was brought forth from Saint Sophia and carried in a procession through the streets. It had been mounted on a wooden pallet and lifted onto the shoulders of several strong men from the icon’s confraternity. The people followed as the Hodegetria traveled through the city, while the priests offered up incense, and the men, women, and children walked barefoot to show their penance. Hymns were sung, prayers said, and the people repeatedly cried out to the Virgin, beseeching her protection: “Do thou save thy city, as thou knowest and willest. We put thee forward as our arms, our rampart, our shield, our general: do thou fight for thy people.”

Then, before anyone realized it was happening, the Hodegetria slipped from the hands of its bearers. They struggled to grasp it, but it was too late. The people ran forward to pick it up, but it was as if it were weighted with lead, refusing to be raised. Eventually, when it was raised again, the procession had barely restarted before thunder burst through the clouds and lightning split the sky. Then the heavens poured down rain, soaking the procession and all the penitents. The downpour became torrential so that the procession had to halt; water, inches deep, filled the streets, making them slippery, and the flood soon threatened to wash away the children in the procession. Struggling, the icon’s bearers eventually managed to return the Hodegetria to Saint Sophia as gloom settled over the city, less from the weather than the omens that clearly stated the Virgin had refused their prayers and penance.

Worse, the next day, God’s grace had left the city. Since its construction by Emperor Justinian in the sixth century, Saint Sophia had held within it the Holy Light as its protector. But that night, a great glow was seen in the sky. First, the sentries on the walls and then people in the streets had cried out in fear that the city had caught on fire. All the sky lit up, but the flame was located only on the roof of Saint Sophia. The flame shot forth from the window and circled the entire dome several times before gathering itself into one great and indescribable flash of blinding light that shot up into the heavens. Clearly, the Holy Light had returned from whence it had come, no longer offering God’s protection to the city. The sight had been so overwhelming to Constantine that now, two days later, it still made him sick to think of it. Had he himself lost favor with God? At that fatal moment, such a thought had caused him to go numb throughout his body and collapse to the ground in a faint, remaining unconscious for hours.

Hagia Sophia, where it is said the priests disappeared into a wall during the Fall of Constantinople.

Hagia Sophia, where it is said the priests disappeared into a wall during the Fall of Constantinople.

When Constantine finally woke, the people had begged him to flee the city before it was too late, but he had insisted he would not do so. To leave his people solely to save his own life would be to heap immortal ridicule upon his name. And even if he did leave, what life would remain for him, without a throne, marked as a coward for not standing by his supporters in their hour of greatest need? Better he stay to fight, and if need be, die with his people.

He had seen both these catastrophes with his own eyes, but the most shocking event he alone had experienced. Early the next morning, when he had gone out walking in the palace gardens, he had come face-to-face with an old man with a flowing white beard in a tattered black robe. Constantine had never seen the man before, and he could not understand how the man had entered his private gardens. But before he could accost the man, the stranger looked him square in the eyes, his own eyes piercingly gray, and without showing fear or deference for Constantine’s station, he said, “Greetings, Constantine, last of the Romans.”

Constantine had frozen, feeling himself unable to speak or move. His mind went blank for what seemed the longest time as the question “Who are you?” struggled to rise to his lips. His first fear was that the man might be an assassin, sent by the Turks—who but an assassin would dare to enter his private garden at dawn? But then, slowly, the answer came to his lips in a whisper.

“The Wandering Jew.”

Before the words fully escaped Constantine’s mouth, the man turned and disappeared behind a clump of trees. Constantine ran after him, so stunned that he pursued him into the bushes, scratching himself on their branches but unable to see anyone. After a couple of minutes, he calmed himself and returned to the walkway, fearing his people had seen his frantic behavior. Had he dreamt it, or had he truly seen the man? But he could remember those words clearly; they yet rung in his ears: “Greetings, Constantine, last of the Romans.”

Gustave Dore's depiction of The Wandering Jew, said to have been cursed by Christ to wander the earth until the Second Coming.

Gustave Dore’s depiction of The Wandering Jew, said to have been cursed by Christ to wander the earth until the Second Coming.

He knew such a meeting forebode great ill. The Wandering Jew—he whom Christ had cursed to wander the earth until His return—had long been rumored to appear at pivotal moments in history. Stories claimed he had been seen in the city once before, back in 1204 when the Latin Crusaders had sacked Constantinople. He had also been seen at the surrender of Jerusalem to Saladin in 1187, amid the mob during the Peasants Revolt in England in 1381, and most recently in the crowd when the Maid of Orleans had been burned at the stake in Rouen, France in 1431. Constantine had heard rumors in recent days that the Wandering Jew had been sighted in Constantinople’s streets, but he had dismissed such rumors as folk tales. Now, he could not imagine who else this man could be who dared to address him as “last of the Romans”—an ominous reference, indeed.

The next day, Constantine knew his death was certain when twelve Venetian ships arrived to aid the city, bringing with them the news that no larger fleet nor other enforcements would come. Twelve ships would be of little help against the incredible Ottoman navy and the hordes of Turkish soldiers preparing for the final assault they all knew was coming. No one could accurately tell the numbers, but a city of just over fifty thousand souls—a city that in its glorious past had been home to a million residents—was being protected by an army of less than twenty thousand against some one hundred thousand Turks, plus their allies. Surely, the situation was hopeless.

Constantine had little doubt that tonight was the last time the sun would set on the city before it was taken, and pillaged, and perhaps even destroyed. The walls could well be broken through before dawn. The Turkish cannons had already damaged them beyond repair. The conquest would happen as soon as Sultan Mehmet II led the next charge.

Nothing was left to do but offer prayers, though prayers now seemed of little help. Nevertheless, Constantine had spent the last day at service in Saint Sophia, on his knees before his people and God, begging forgiveness for their transgressions. Afterwards, he had spent time here on the ramparts with his longtime friend and advisor Sphrantzes. And then he had sought some time alone, time to prepare himself for what he did not doubt was his imminent death. He would do so nobly, as Emperor of the Romans, and in a manner to make his ancestors proud, but he would be dead nonetheless, and he had his doubts that God would have mercy upon his soul after the signs he had already seen.

“Your majesty.” He turned to hear himself addressed and found the captain of the guard speaking. “The Turks are about to break through the wall. You must return to the palace. You must look to your own safety.”

“You know better,” Constantine replied, already in his armor. “Come; we will fight together, and may God have mercy on our souls.”

The Turks were firing their cannons. It was almost half-past one in the morning. Just as the emperor joined his army before the St. Romanus Gate, a cannonball came ripping through the wall, sending stone and men flying, and by the time Constantine and his men recovered from the shock, three hundred Turks had poured through, their voices roaring as they entered the city. In panic, some of the Romans fled into the streets, desperate to see to their own and their families’ safety, but most stood fighting beside their emperor and the officers.

The Romans fought violently, but they were far outnumbered, and while the battle raged at the great crumbling opening in the wall for several minutes, eventually, the Romans were cut down as the Turks began to spread and pillage throughout Constantinople.

Constantine found himself covered in blood as his sword continued to slice at the Turks before him, but within a few minutes, he was surrounded by his enemies. He had taken care not to wear anything to make the enemy suspect he was the emperor, for he knew if they discovered his identity, his life would be spared, but only because the sultan would want to hold him as a prisoner. No, he would much rather die here with his people than be forced to go down on bended knee before Mehmet II, or worse, be paraded through the streets by his captors.

Suddenly, Constantine felt a great pain in his back. He immediately became dizzy; for a moment, he felt his knees buckle and he thought he would collapse, but then he experienced a great lifting feeling, as if he were floating into the air. He could only think that his soul was leaving his body. Had he been slain? Was he now dead? Was he being taken to Heaven—could death be this quick?

Looking up, bending his head all the way back, he saw he was in the arms of a great winged man, a beautiful gorgeous man, a man a good couple of feet taller than him—no, not a man but an angel.

And then all went black.

*

When he opened his eyes, Constantine found himself lying on a cot inside a barren room all built of stone. He could see the sky, but nothing else from the window, making him assume he was quite high up. All he heard were birds chirping and a breeze rustling through the trees. No screams of his people. No cannons booming. And most surprisingly, he felt no fear.

Was he dead? But, surely, Heaven did not look like the barren room of a castle.

For a moment, he relished the quiet, but his curiosity overcame him. He sat up and continued to look out the window. From his sitting position, he could see what appeared to be a marsh, and beyond that a river, and then just a green row of trees and a lush countryside. He appeared to be in the middle of nowhere. Certainly, he was far from Constantinople.

“Where am I?” he muttered, about to put his feet on the floor when the door opened. In walked a man whom Constantine had only seen once before.

“You!” Constantine gasped.

For Immediate Release

New Novel Merges King Arthur, Lilith, and Dracula Legends

Marquette, MI, November 18, 2016—Since the dawn of time, Lilith, Adam’s first wife whom he spurned in Eden, has held a grudge against Adam and Eve’s descendants, and since the time of King Arthur, the descendants of Britain’s greatest king have sought to stop her from wreaking havoc upon the human race. But never could they have envisioned Dracula joining Lilith’s forces.

Lilith's Love brings together the legends of King Arthur, Dracula, and the Bible to create a stunning new look at human history.

Lilith’s Love brings together the legends of King Arthur, Dracula, and the Bible to create a stunning new look at human history.

Lilith’s Love is the fourth of five volumes in Tyler R. Tichelaar’s The Children of Arthur series. The series began with Arthur’s Legacy in which Lilith, in her incarnation as Gwenhwyvach, Guinevere’s half-sister, sought to destroy Camelot. The series continued through Melusine’s Gift and Ogier’s Prayer as Arthur’s modern day descendants, Adam and Anne Delaney, discovered the truth about their heritage and, with the aid of Merlin, tried to stop Lilith from destroying all that is good in the world.

Now things come to a head when Adam and Anne meet Quincey Harker, the child born to Jonathan and Mina Harker at the conclusion of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Quincey’s mother, Mina, had been forced by Dracula to drink his blood, and as a result, Quincey was born with superhuman powers and a tendency toward evil. Ultimately, Quincey is forced to choose between good and evil, and what he learns on his journey could ultimately make the difference in finally defeating Lilith, but nothing, everyone quickly realizes, is quite what it seems.

Lilith’s Love, like its predecessors, blends together myth and history to create a new imagining of mankind’s past and the possibilities for its future. Part Arthurian legend, part sequel to Dracula, the novel stars a legendary cast of characters, including Merlin, Emperor Constantine XI, the Wandering Jew, Dracula, Captain Vanderdecker of the Flying Dutchman, and Lilith herself. Readers will take a magic carpet ride from the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 to the beginnings of a New World Order in the twenty-first century, rewriting a past we all thought we knew to create a future far more fabulous than we ever dreamed.

Arthurian authors and fans have been delighted with each volume of Tyler R. Tichelaar’s The Children of Arthur series. Sophie Masson, editor of The Road to Camelot, praises the first book, Arthur’s Legacy, as “an intriguing blend of action-packed time-slip fantasy adventure, moving love story, multi-layered mystery, and unusual spiritual exploration.” Nicole Evelina, author of the Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy, states of Lilith’s Love, “Tichelaar deftly weaves together history, myth, and legend into a tale that takes the reader on an epic journey through time, connecting characters and events you’d never expect….” And Rowena Portch, award-winning author of the Spirian Saga series, proclaims that the Children of Arthur is for those who “love the mystical magic of Camelot but thrive on the excitement and tribulations of Game of Thrones.”

Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of numerous historical fiction novels, including The Marquette Trilogy, The Best Place, and the award-winning Narrow Lives, as well as the scholarly books The Gothic Wanderer and King Arthur’s Children, the latter of which served as research and inspiration for The Devon Players’ upcoming independent film Mordred. Tichelaar is currently writing the final book of the Children of Arthur series, Arthur’s Bosom, to be released in late 2017.

Lilith’s Love: The Children of Arthur, Book Four (ISBN 9780996240024, Marquette Fiction, 2017) can be purchased in paperback and ebook editions through local and online bookstores. For more information, visit www.ChildrenofArthur.com. Review copies available upon request.

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I am delighted to hear that the upcoming film Mordred is nearing completion.

I first heard of the film last year when I was contacted by the South Devon Players Theatre & Film company, which is producing it, and who wanted to tell me about it because half of the cast and crew of the film had read my book King Arthur’s Children as part of their research into Mordred, and then decided to blend him with the earlier Welsh tradition child of King Arthur, Amr, a decision that made eminent sense to me.

mordredfilm

King Arthur will battle his son Mordred at Camlann in the upcoming new film “Mordred.”

The film is being shot in England and was almost completed during the summer of 2016 but some footage still needs to be shot and the production is in need of a little more funding to complete the film.

Please view the trailer for the film at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiu9ZwwrQ8k

Then please consider making a donation to the film’s indiegogo fund. If you donate, there are numerous cool perks you can receive depending on the donation level you make, including an autographed photo by the star playing Mordred, a special handmade chalice with the Mordred logo on it, and a Mordred T-Shirt with your name on it as a backer of the film.

For more information and to view more video and images, visit: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/mordred-film-completion-fund-devon-cornwall#/

Mordred - a film promo image

Mordred – a film promo image