Crisis in Camelot? Arthurian-Themed Comics and Their Place in Arthurian Studies: A Roundtable in Commemoration of the 80th Anniversary of Prince Valiant (A Roundtable)
Sponsored by the Arthur of the Comics Project, an outreach of the Alliance for the Promotion of Research on the Matter of Britain
Comics based on or inspired by the Arthurian legend have been in existence since at least the 1920s, and this corpus, which is primarily American in origin, numbers in the thousands. Despite the history and diversity of this material, comics studies remain a neglected aspect of research on the modern Matter of Britain compared to work on other media, a fact lamented on by Alan Stewart, one of the founders and foremost popularizers of Arthurian comics research, in 1986. At that time, he remarked, “Over the centuries, the legend of King Arthur has been recounted in virtually every medium of expression known to humankind. Most of these are represented in Arthurian studies, but the popular artform known as the comic strip has been largely neglected, despite the fact that comics remain one of the most widely disseminated and experienced media of our time” (12). Sadly, there has yet to be burgeoning interest in Arthurian comics, despite some promising starts. However, this does not have to remain the status quo.
Comics are important texts for understanding the contemporary reception of the legend, and they have much to offer the Arthurian enthusiast, as Valerie M. Lagorio and Mildred Leake Day observed in 1990: “It is interesting to note the parallel development of Arthurian adaptations in the novel, science fiction and fantasy, movies, and the comics in recent years, as all have exhibited increasingly sophisticated, imaginative, and original treatments of the Arthurian ideal” (xvi). Writing in 1996, Norris J. Lacy, focusing specifically on comics, submitted that “American comics and cartoons constitute one of the fertile sources of popular Arthuriana,” though the slow progress of study suggests some reluctance in incorporating the medium into our scholarship and teaching. Thus, the purpose of this roundtable is to initiate discussions of how we might foster original work on Arthurian comics by exploring various ways to successfully integrate the comics medium into our careers, for, as Peter W. Williams reminded us in 1982, “Speculum and Prince Valiant both occupy the pages on the shelves in our libraries, and each in its own way is a manifestation of that strange and wonderful culture, the American” (15).
The Alliance hopes to attract a varied group of presenters for this session, including medievalists, popular culture specialists, and comics scholars.
Lacy, Norris J. “Popular Culture.” The New Arthurian Encyclopedia. Updated Paperback Edition with Supplement, 1990-1995. Ed. Norris J. Lacy, et al. Garland Reference Library of Humanities 931. New York and London: Garland, 1996. 363-64. Print.
Lagorio, Valerie M., and Mildred Leake Day. “Introduction to Volume II.” King Arthur Through the Ages. Ed. Valerie M. Lagorio and Mildred Leake Day. Vol. 2. Garland Reference Library of Humanities 1301. New York: Garland, 1990. Xi-xvi. Print.
Stewart, H. Alan. “King Arthur in the Comics.” Avalon to Camelot 2.1 (1986): 12-14. Print.
Williams, Peter W. “The Varieties of American Medievalism.” Studies in Medievalism 1.2 (Spring 1982): 7-20. Print.