Beginning with the March 21, 2004 release, Gary Gianni, distinguished illustrator of such well-known characters as Indianan Jones, Batman, Tarzan, The Shadow and Conan of Cimmeria, will succeed retiring artist John Cullen Murphy as the illustrator of the internationally syndicated comic strip Prince Valiant. Cullen Murphy, managing editor of The Atlantic Monthly, will continue to write the scripts for this epic Arthurian legend-based strip.
Gari Gianni and Cullen Murphy
Distributed to 350 newspapers worldwide by King Features Syndicate, Prince Valiant chronicles the travails of King Arthur, Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table. It is the best of the illustrated adventure strips to emerge from the Golden Age and is considered to be fine art by collectors and critics alike.
"John did an amazing job on Prince Valiant," says King Features editor in chief Jay Kennedy. "His meticulous attention to historical accuracy and artistic realism is what made Prince Valiant a weekly reading habit for so many fans for so many years."
Prince Valiant was created by Hal Foster in 1937. Murphy began collaborating with Foster in 1970 and assumed full artistic responsibility for the strip when Foster retired the following year. Prince Valiant gradually became a family affair when Murphy's son, Cullen, came aboard in 1979 as the strip's writer.
"The entire setting of Prince Valiant, the world of knights and chivalry, is kind of an imagined setting," says writer Cullen Murphy. "My goal in writing Prince Valiant is to be realistic about something that is fantastical. At the same time, Prince Valiant is a very realistic strip about human relationships, heroism and ordinary family life."
Knowing how difficult it would be to find an artist capable of the classic-illustration technique that Prince Valiant demands, Murphy carefully selected and groomed Gianni to be his successor because of Gary's already impressive command of compositional and rendering skills. Gianni, who has assisted Murphy on Prince Valiant for nearly three years, is ready to assume full artistic responsibility.
"For lovers of romantic adventure and great spectacle, there is no other strip like Prince Valiant. Not only does the strip have a devoted readership, but it has inspired hundreds of cartoonists, illustrators, writers and filmmakers over the past 70 years. It's fun stuff," said Gianni.
Influenced by Golden Age illustrators such as Joseph Clement Coll and Franklin Booth, Gianni has extensive experience in the publishing and illustrated-book business. He has won numerous awards, including the prestigious Eisner Award for Best Short Story and the Spectrum Fantasy Illustration Award. Creator of the popular The Monstermen Mysteries, he is perhaps best known for his ink drawings and oil paintings in a number of book collections featuring such legendary characters as Solomon Kane, Bran Mak Morn and Conan of Cimmeria, and his illustrated adaptations of The Tales of O. Henry and 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea for the Classics Illustrated series.
"I knew that Gary Gianni was the right choice to follow in John Cullen Murphy's talented footsteps when word of his assisting john spread among knowledgeable fans to great reception said Jay Kennedy.
"Gary Gianni understands the vast history of Prince Valiant. As an illustrator, he has the dedication and enthusiasm to deliver the realism that Prince Valiant requires. Just as importantly, he has the skill. He is a brilliant - and highly acclaimed - illustrator and storyteller. It's a marriage made in heaven," said Bud Plant, owner of Bud Plant Comic Art in Grass Valley, Calif. and a lifelong fan and collector of classic comic art.
About John Cullen Murphy
John Cullen Murphy began his career as a model for, and later an informal student of, his next-door neighbor Norman Rockwell. He studied at the Chicago Art institute and the Phoenix Institute, and spent World War II, among other things, painting the portraits of the Allied high command in the Pacific. After the war, he created with Elliot Caplin, the long-running prize-fighting strip, Big Ben Bolt. H has drawn Prince Valiant since 1970.
Murphy has been president of the National Cartoonists Society and won its Best Story Strip Award a record six times. The NCS also awarded him the prestigious Elzie Segar trophy for his contributions to the art of cartooning, as well as the Silver T-Square, for his outstanding service to the society
About Cullen Murphy
Cullen Murphy is the eldest son of artist John Cullen Murphy. He has been the managing editor of The Atlantic Monthly since 1985. He has written frequently for the magazine on a great variety of subjects, from religion and language to social science and such out-of-the-way matters as ventriloquism and his mother's method for pre-packaging lunches for her seven school-aged children. Earlier, he was senior editor of the Wilson Quarterly and a contributor to magazines such as Harper's.
In 1974, after graduating with honors in medieval history from Amherst College, Cullen started contributing stories to the Prince Valiant strip at Hal Foster's invitation. With Foster's full retirement in 1979, Cullen began creating the weekly Prince Valiant adventures in earnest.
He is the author, with William Rathje, of Rubbish! The Archaeology of Garbage, and the author of a collection of essays, Just Curious, published by Houghton Mifflin.
About Gary Gianni
Born in Chicago in 1954, Gianni graduated from The Chicago Academy of Fine Art in 1976. From there, he worked for Chicago-based newspapers Chicago Tribune and The Sun-Times as an illustrator and for Network Television News as a courtroom sketch artist.
His artwork has appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines, paperbacks, comic books and children's books. Gianni's work has been at the forefront of fantasy illustration over the last few years, illuminating the original stories of Robert E. Howard for prestigious publisher Wandering Star. In 2004, these limited-edition illustrated books will be released by Del Ray Publishing, a division of Random House. The paperback editions are scheduled for release in Summer 2004, first with the highly anticipated Savage Tales of Solomon Kane followed by the release of The Bloody Crown of Conan, Vol. 2. These books contain hundreds of Gianni's drawings and numerous oil paintings. Also in 2004, Dark Horse Publishing will release The Dark Horse Book of Witchcraft, an anthology featuring stories illustrated by Gianni.