Rode Ridder (The Red Knight)
Real Name: Johan van Horst
Identity/Class: Normal human
Affiliations: Member of King Arthur's Round Table; Galaxa (fairy of light, his lover), Morgenster, Merlin, Lords of Rode
Enemies: Bahaal (one of the Seven Rulers of Hell)
Known Relatives: Unidentified brother, the Pynnocks (a.k.a. the lords of Rode, un specified relations)
Aliases: Rooi Ridder (Afrikaans-version)
Base of Operations: Camelot, formerly Horst, but active throughout 6th century Europe including Carthage, Angkor, Baghdad, Constaninople, Japan, Egypt, Palestine (and with a loose sense of history has encountered characters from other time periods, up to and including the 16th century). Has also visited mythical realms such as Asgard
First Appearance: (short stories):De Kleine Zondagsvriend (1946); (in comics): Het Gebroken Zwaard (The Broken Sword)
Powers/Abilities: A perfect knight, skilled fighter, swordman and rider. He is ambidextrous (can use both hands equally well, which makes him an even more dangerous opponent with the sword), which allowed him to adapt well to being "mirrored" in one adventure. Because of the mirroring, all his organs are in the opposite position within his body (which comes in handy when some enemy tries to pierce his heart). Sixth sense for danger, skilled leader, courageous, and experienced fighter. His membership of the Lords of Rode dynasty grants him the privileges of noble birth in some places. He may have gained immortality during one adventure, but is unaware of this.
History: Johan was a Flemish knight who adventured across Europe, and even travelled to places such as Lyonesse and Atlantis, battling a huge variety of foes and mythical beasts (including the Hydra and Loch Ness Monster). He joined King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table, took a faerie lover, and even gained one of the Seven Rulers of Hell as a long standing enemy.
Comments: In 1946 teacher Leopold Vermeiren started to write stories about a knight of humble birth for Youth Magazine De Kleine Zondagsvriend. The stories about that red knight became rather popular, so - starting in 1949 - his adventures were published in books and the series would grow to a full 64 titles.
In the late 50s there was a takeover of the publisher and the new direction planned with Vermeiren about a comic version of his hero, an artist was contacted, but that artist had already a contract, Vandersteen informed his publisher and a counter action was undertaken and Vermeiren went with his books and comic adaptation rights to the Standaard publisher. Willy Vandersteen was very important in the first stories, but Karel Biddeloo has been the most influential artist, inker and writer (#44- #206). Perhaps he did mostly so in the Horst story arc in which the comic book knight is given a background, a noble birth and the meaning of his name has been changed forever: He became the Rode Knight, a son of the dynasty of the (historical) Lords of Rode, one of the most influential families in (late) medieval Flanders, and as a sort of pun he got used to wearing red. Castle Horst was the castle of that family (historical again!)
For the character this story arc was about what Weapon X was for Wolverine, and this story separated the origin of comic and prose versions of the character. This story arc placed Johan at the end of the 13th century, but that is no problem to Johan, whose comic series is book after book an example of the concept anachronism.
The comic series started to be published in late 1959 and is still running, currently with a Dutch writer and a German artist. It didnt take long before the two versions of Johan showed some clear differences, to which in 1990 the Red Knight version was added. As the artists of the comic series drew many of the book covers too, the unity of the character was underlined, but the differences between the versions are very, very clear. The books version is for instance more superheroic and tends to operate with a band of friends, while the comic version has much more paranormal adventures and supernatural acquaintances, and is much more the lone knight meeting attractive damsels in distress. In what was one of the best retcons in comic history, the Horst trilogy established Johan as an adopted member of the family of the Lords of Rode, which changed the meaning of his name and made clear that the two versions of Johan are rather different characters.
Comic Album Johan (latest version)
|originally peasant "Jo" owned by lord Oerold||Johan is noble blooded (to a degree), adopted into a real historical family (revealed in the Horst-trilogy #131-#133)|
|Red Knight||Rode Knight (as in Knight from Rode), also wearing red for the play on words.|
|road to knighthood mysterious||Nothing weird or mysterious here.|
|Set in the age of the crusades||Much more freedom in setting, the Arthurian age to the very latest part of the medieval period.|
|Horse Jago is black||Horse Jago is white|
|Johan has a loyal friend, page and sidekick called Koenraad||No Koenraad|
|more friends: Dallas, Rond, Sha||Other friends, lots of them female.|
|(originally dark hair) later blond||Always blond.|
|Coat of Arms: Red oak twig with three acorns.||Has used various ones.|
Thanks to Theodoor Westerhof for informing me about this character and providing information on him, and Stijn Depuydt and Eline Hougardy for additional information. There is a Rode Ridder forum (mostly in Dutch) here.
CLARIFICATIONS: Not to be confused with
Red Knight, newspaper strip hero
Related to, but not identical to, the
Red Knight, a third version which is clearly based on the comic version of Rode Ridder. Looks like Johan, dresses like Johan, has adventures Johan more or less had already (written by Vandersteen), even shares the same publisher. but differs from Johan in being a Celtic native of the British Islands, rather than being from Flanders (in the modern sense of the word), as both the Vermeiren and the Vandersteen version are. "Red Knight" was a sort of an adult version, a spin-off, but clearly just a different version. Of this series only the first album has been published, but it may be that the series will be continued.
Any Additions/Corrections? Please let me know.
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