Our latest Bear Alley strip reprint is an adaptation of Anthony Hope's classic The Prisoner of Zenda, the original Ruritanian romance—and that's 'romance' in the sense of a swashbuckling novel of adventure. The author, whose full name was Sir Anthony Hope Hawkins, trained as a lawyer but, like many newcomers to the Bar, had plenty of time on his hands in his early days to write. He had some early success with a series of sketches published in the Westminster Gazette, gathered as The Dolly Dialogues (1894); however, it was with The Prisoner of Zenda, published that same year, that he hit the big time. The story of the Hon. Rudolf Rassendyll—whose uncanny resemblance to the soon-to-be-crowned King of Ruritania is key to the plot that unfolds in the novel—became hugely popular. Elements of the novel's plot have been used and reused in plays, movies, novels and comic strips galore, but this is the original and the best.
The artist is Patrick Nicolle, whose career as an illustrator began before the Second World War when he started providing articles and illustrations for a wood-work magazine. After the war, he found work with Amalgamated Press, drawing strips for their boys' adventure comics Knockout, Sun and Comet. For Sun he adapted a number of popular movies, including Ivanhoe, The Prisoner of Zenda, MacDonald of the Canadian Mounties and (for Comet) The Spanish Main.
His love of history (Nicolle was a founding member of the Arms and Armour Society) made him the perfect choice for strips of this nature as he brought historical accuracy as well as his talents as a draughtsman. He later found his niche writing and illustrating articles for Look and Learn, where his work appeared for 22 years. Nicolle retired when Look and Learn folded in 1984.
The Prisoner of Zenda presented here appeared in Swift in 1961.
(* Artwork © Look and Learn Ltd. Reprinted by permission.)