Dynamite Entertainment is proud to announce the January 2015 launch of King, an epic comic book event that marks the 100th anniversary of King Features Syndicate, the print syndication company owned by The Hearst Corporation. The celebratory event will bring history's most famous comic strip heroes - Flash Gordon, Mandrake the Magician, Prince Valiant, The Phantom, and Jungle Jim, to comic books with five miniseries that build to a grand crossover in May. Helmed by top-tier talent and raising stars of the comic book industry, each launch issue of the King event features an interlocking cover by acclaimed artist Darwyn Cooke (DC: The New Frontier, Catwoman).The creative teams of the King event include writers Ben Acker and Ben Blacker with artist Lee Ferguson on Flash Gordon; Eisner-Award Winner Roger Langridge with artist Jeremy Treece on Mandrake the Magician; writer (and line editor) Nate Cosby with artist Ron Salas on Prince Valiant; writer Brian Clevinger with artist Brent Schoonover on The Phantom; and writer Paul Tobin with artist Sandy Jarrell on Jungle Jim.
Darwyn Cooke skillfully brings a sense of visual solidarity to the five diverse concepts of King as its Main Cover artist. With his retro-chic design sense, popularized on such titles as DC: The New Frontier, Will Eisner's The Spirit, and Batman: Ego, Cooke is the perfect choice for creating a connecting cover montage for each #1 debut issue.
In addition to the Cooke interlocking covers, each #1 issue in the King line will feature two Variant Editions: one featuring the artwork of Rob Liefeld, and the other from Ron Salas. Liefeld is the sensational artist known for such bestselling titles as X-Force, Deadpool, and Youngblood, while Salas is a rising star in the comic industry, thanks in part to his work on the hot Dream Thief: Escape series. The variety of artistic styles from Cooke, Liefeld, and Salas, with each contributing covers across the whole line, provides fans with more opportunities to enjoy visual cohesion of the shared universe.
While the King event serves as a landmark celebration of King Features Syndicate's century of publication, the event also marks the first feature-length adventure of Lothar - longtime ally of Mandrake the Magician - in his guise as the new Phantom, a role vacated in 2014 upon the conclusion of Jeff Parker and Marc Laming's acclaimed Kings Watch miniseries. Finally taking the spotlight that the character has so long deserved, Lothar inherits the legacy of The Ghost Who Walks as the latest in a line of unrelenting jungle protectors.
Flash Gordon #1, by Ben Acker, Ben Blacker, and Lee Ferguson, sees the archetypical space hero (and antecedent of such characters as Star Wars' Luke Skywalker and Star-Lord of Guardians of the Galaxy) involved in a cosmic heist and once again - alongside Dale Arden and Dr. Zarkov - in the crosshairs of tyrant Ming the Merciless. As always, Flash Gordon proves to be anything but "just a man."
Co-writer Ben Acker says, "We love writing larger-than-life space adventures so much that getting to do actual-for-real Flash Gordon feels like a reward for something. Characters with this kind of history around them - you look at what Davies did with Dr. Who or at the Daniel Craig Bond - you have to be true to what's come before, but the stories and characters have to feel fresh and contemporary. This incarnation of Flash is all about boundless energy and the inability NOT to fight the good fight, while this incarnation of Ming is so pervasively, institutionally evil that a star war between them seems inevitable to me."
Mandrake the Magician #1, by Roger Langridge and Jeremy Treece, puts on an epic show for all comers, with the classic stage magician using his sleight-of-hand and true magic to counter the threat of witch doctors and demons.Roger Langridge says, "With the Mandrake newspaper strip ending last year and going into reruns, I'm glad the old boy has found a home in comic books where his adventures can continue, now in panels considerably larger than a postage stamp. I think Mandrake and I are a good fit: he has a career as a stage entertainer, which is a theme I seem to keep coming back to, and yet when I used to read Mandrake as a kid, I always had a sneaking suspicion that he had far greater powers than mere hypnotism and was constantly holding them back. Maybe they frightened him! I liked that there was this implied other side to him that we only caught glimpses of. It's quite a privilege to be allowed to carry on telling Mandrake's adventures. I'm taking pains not to contradict the history of the strip, while at the same time keeping it fresh and accessible to newer readers; I want this version of Mandrake to be for all his fans, both new and old, taking what went before and building upon it. We're looking forward to exploring some of those held-back powers, and maybe find out why he doesn't like using them - and what happens when he does!" Artist Jeremy Treece says, "Working on a history-lush property such as Mandrake is such an incredible opportunity. You have a character that has spawned many similar characters in the comic book media such as Zatara, Doctor Strange, and others. As an illustrator, the visuals you are able to pull out of just Mandrake alone are something that I assume any artist would love to be a part of. Not to mention the strong supporting characters such as Lothar, Narda, or his nemesis, the Cobra! My hopes are that exploring the world of Mandrake outside of comic strips, radio shows, and serials, we can really welcome a whole new set of eyes on the characters, and I hope that the faithful followers will also enjoy the steps forward into that world as well."
Prince Valiant #1, by Nate Cosby (Cow Boy) and Ron Salas, brings the King Features mainstay from comic strips to the comic book medium. An Arthurian hero who dares any adventure, Prince Valiant's latest will bring him face-to-face with sorcerers, rival knights, and an unexpected shift through time. Nate Cosby says, "Prince Valiant will dare any adventure. Our take on Val is a talented young guy with boundless energy and thirst for life... but he's an outsider, an outcast. He doesn't seem to fit as a knight, so his life is a never-ending quest to find his true purpose." "My love of Prince Valiant stems primarily from the art," says artist Ron Salas. "Hal Foster's work on Prince Valiant is immense - from character work, exciting fights, and battle scenes; to amazing vistas of mountain ranges, forests, and marshlands; to grand imposing castles from Arthur's time. It's his work - and the work of the artists that followed him - that inspires and intimidates me, and forces me to do my best work. I am incredibly honoured to be following in their footsteps in my own way, forging a Prince Valiant of my own."
The Phantom #1, by Brian Clevinger and Brent Schoonover, reintroduces the daring adventurer Lothar in his new guise as The Ghost Who Walks, as he explores the birthright of a heroic lineage - one not his by blood, but by heroic deed.Writer Brian Clevinger says, "I think it's great that Lothar gets to be The Phantom. This guy has no direct connection to the legacy, but he respects it, and he's the best guy around for maintaining it. This outsider's perspective lets him question what it means to be The Phantom and it lets us play around with what its ancient legacy means in the 21st century."Regarding the plot of The Phantom, Clevinger explains, "It's the first time in 200 years that worldwide industry has stopped. Old powers are displaced, new ones are on the rise. Greed and cruelty are everywhere. And Lothar's gonna be up against people who know more about The Phantom than he does. But I think he's smart enough to use that against them. We also get to bring back the Bandar and see how they've been influenced by The Phantom since helping to invent it 500 years ago.""I am very excited to be working on The Phantom. The comic strip was one of my first introductions to cartooning as a kid," says artist Brent Schoonover (Adventures of Superman). "He's always been on my ‘Comic Book Bucket List' of characters to draw in an official capacity. So to not only draw the character, but also get to do something progressive (i.e. Lothar taking the mantle of one of the longest running legacy superheroes in the industry), it's a real honor. I can't wait for people to check out what we have in store for The Phantom."
Jungle Jim #1, by Paul Tobin (Bandette) and Sandy Jarrell (Meteor Men), welcomes readers to meet a warrior who is as much a force of nature as the forest around him. A hunter with enigmatic abilities, the first issue promises an uncanny origin for reader enjoyment… as well as an extraterrestrial turn-of-events and an unnatural menace of the simian variety."When I was born, my parents looked at me and said, ‘There's a boy who's going to write stories about affable rogues in pith helmets,' and with Jungle Jim, I'm finally fulfilling my legacy," says writer Paul Tobin. "Even better, being a part of the treasure trove of the King Features Syndicate puts me solidly in a universe of incredible adventure, and to add to it by tossing Jungle Jim onto the planet Arboria, and pitting him against Ming the Merciless and a few other surprises. Luckily, readers will find that Jungle Jim has a few surprises of his own, and that he lives up to his name more than ever before."Artist Sandy Jarrell says, "I bought my first King comics when I was five, and am thrilled to be drawing one now. I'm having a blast with the King material, first in Flash Gordon #5 and now with Jungle Jim. Paul's story is great fun -- I get to draw the Arborian jungle, animals, animal men, blue women, and Jungle Jim, both in and out of a pith helmet. In and out of clothes altogether, actually. Just you wait." "This is truly an event that took 100 years to tell -- the most expansive King Features cross-over ever, and we're proud to be the publisher who brings it to the fans," says Dynamite CEO/Publisher Nick Barrucci. "This event leads to new adventures for these great heroes!"
Flash Gordon #1, Mandrake the Magician #1, Prince Valiant #1, The Phantom #1, and Jungle Jim #1 will be solicited in the Dynamite section of Diamond Comic Distributors' November Previews catalog, the premiere source of merchandise for the comic book specialty market, and slated for release in January 2015. Comic book fans are encouraged to reserve copies with their local comic book retailers. Each series in the overall King event will also be available for individual customer purchase through digital platforms courtesy of Comixology, Dynamite Digital, iVerse, and Dark Horse Digital.
Check out the rest of the covers below. Are you going to read the event, Viners? Let us know in the comments section!