Prince, eccentric and incredibly talented rock star, has thrilled fans for decades with his funky-driven pop tunes. The fact that some fans don't know that it was presented in two different DC comics, each of which represented the Prince, as an action hero, and a man of the people. ....
Who is the most famous prince in the history of comic books? Prince Valiant? Prince Namor? Diana Prince? Wrong, wrong, and wrong. With apologies to Hal Foster, Bill Everett, and Charles Moulton (respective creators of the aforementioned princes who wouldn't be king), the most well known comic book prince is, well, Prince, the eccentric rock star who made his splash during the 1980s with such flashy, funky pop songs as "Little Red Corvette," "When Doves Cry," and "Delirious," and who continues to thrill pop music fans today.
You may be wondering: What in the wild, wild world of sports does Prince have to do with comic books? In 1991, during a boom of sorts for music-based comic books (thanks in part to Revolutionary, the publisher of such titles as the Led Zeppelin Experience), DC Comics, under its Piranha Music label, released Prince: Alter Ego, a one-shot written by Dwayne McDufAe (Justice League Unlimited), penciled by Denys Cowan (The Question), and inked by Kent Williams (Havok & Wolverine: Meltdown).
Emblazoned with a gorgeous cover by the always great Brian Bolland, Prince: Alter Ego tries hard to infuse the storytelling techniques of sequential art with the power and drama of music. The result is a wistfully (and at times artfully) written, hopelessly corny morality play that offers convenient, romantic solutions to complex problems.
Our story begins with Prince cruising along on his purple motorcycle, returning to Minneapolis after a long tour, the tassels of his gaudy leather jacket blowing in the wind. As he enters the city, which is "his favorite song, a tune he knows by heart," he senses that the rhythm is not quite right, that something is amiss, like "hearing a favorite old single playing slightly off-speed." Obviously, the music metaphors in this comic book run deep, which is a credit to McDuffie. In fact, they spill over into literalism as Prince decides to "make a little music of his own" to set things straight.
Unable to find his muse. Prince leaves the studio in hopes of distraction (her name is Muse, fittingly enough), but finds more than he bargained for: a pair of gangs on the verge of war. Amazingly (not to mention unbelievably), Prince quells the conflict with the following retort: "I thought you two were supposed to be leaders. What happens to your people if you start a war with each other?" Upon hearing these words of wisdom, the gang leaders share an epiphany that makes them appear to come out of a trance and see the error of their ways. That the scene didn't end in tears, a hug, and an exchange of sugar cookie recipes was a little surprising.
After stopping the gang war. Prince remains uneasy, thanks to the city's "subtle new rhythm." He goes to his old haunt, the Glam Slam dance club, and hears a familiar sound: his own music, but played with "pure, explosive hatred" that causes people to "rip each other apart." Prince discovers that his ex band mate, Gemini, is back on stage, producing harmful, rage-inducing music. The resulting altercation and flashback sequence (in which Prince first encounters Gemini) exemplifies the theme of the issue: music should be positive and uplifting (both physically and spiritually), not hateful, destructive, and mean.