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Back in the heyday of the Nintendo Entertainment System, Valiant Comics was authorized by Nintendo to produce the Nintendo Comics System -- comic book series based on some of their most popular game titles, including Super Mario Bros. and Metroid. Naturally, given the popularity of The Legend of Zelda, this too was added to the comics lineup.
Unlike the manga adaptations which would be produced for the later games, the Valiant comics did not retell the stories of the NES games. The storylines were set in the Hyrule of the original game and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, but took place after the conclusion of the second game. These chronicled the further adventures of Link and Princess Zelda. The comics shared many similarities with the cartoon series based on the games which was popular around the same time; Zelda's costume is very similar to that worn by her animated counterpart, and certain other details were used in both media -- for instance, Link owned a horse named Catherine in both the cartoon and the comics, rather than the Epona of the later games. Unlike the cartoon, however, the comic books included the existence of the Triforce of Courage.
Like the rest of the Nintendo Comics System, the series only lasted for roughly two years. Copies of the comics are regarded by some today to be collectors' items.
The Zelda comic books include examples of:
- Adaptation Distillation/Adaptation Expansion
- Adaptation Dye Job: Unlike the games, which gave Link brown or reddish-brown hair in his sprite and manual art, the comics present him as a full-on redhead.
- Zelda has reddish hair, while in the original game she had either blond or red hair depending on what artwork you were looking at (most artwork has her as blond, but that was Japanese artwork).
- Anguished Declaration of Love: Zelda makes one of these in "The Price," trying to bring Link back from the dark side.
- The Archer: Zelda fights as one of these.
- Ascended Extra: Bagu, a very minor NPC from Zelda II, is a central character in "Thief in the Night."
- Battle Couple: Whenever they fight side by side.
- Berserk Button: Threatening to harm Zelda is the fastest way to press Link's, as shown more than once.
Link: You just said the wrong thing! Nobody threatens my girl!
- Big No: Link in "The Price"
- Canon Dis Continuity: Link in the comics is explained to hail from a neighboring kingdom called Calatia, where his family still lives. This piece of his personal history is not found in any other part of the Zelda franchise; although the background story of the original game did state that Link was from another country, his exact homeland was never specified.
- Canon Foreigner: Several, including Zelda's father and Link's family.
- Clingy Jealous Girl: Zelda behaves like one of these, about both Link and her father, in "Queen of Hearts."
- Combat by Champion: Link defends his homeland's Queen in "Coming Home."
- Comic Book Adaptation: Naturally.
- Continuity: For a derivative work, the comics are remarkably faithful to the source material on many points.
- Cool Horse: Link's horse Catherine and Zelda's horse Storm
- The Corruption: What happens to Link when he manages to get the Triforce of Power from Ganon.
- Dreadful Musician: Zelda mistakes Link's serenade for the cries of a dying animal in "Thief in the Night."
- Evil Is Easy: The moral of the storyline "Trust Me."
- Evil Twin: Link's evil doppelganger takes over Calatia and imprisons Queen Seline (and the real Link) in "Coming Home."
- Face Heel Turn: Link makes one under the influence of the Triforce of Power.
- Fairy Companion: Miff; also, in one storyline, an Expy of Spryte from the cartoon.
- Fake King: Dark Link in Calatia, in "Coming Home."
- Fourth Wall Mail Slot: A few issues featured Link and Zelda answering fan mail, which were actual letters sent to Valiant by readers.
- God Save Us From the Queen: In "Queen of Hearts," Zelda suspects Queen Seline of Calatia of not being as noble as everyone else thinks. Averted in that she's wrong.
- Heroes Want Redheads: Zelda is portrayed as a redhead in the comics, as she was in the sprite and manual art of the games.
- Hostage for Macguffin: Ganon kidnaps Bagu's pet frogs and forces him to steal the Triforce of Wisdom to get them back, in "Thief in the Night."
- I Gave My Word: Link's repeated protestation about why he won't leave North Castle in "He Also Serves."
- Ill Boy: In "The Day of the Triforce," Zelda must choose between saving a poisoned child or defeating Ganon once and for all.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Link's reason for helping Zelda leave Hyrule in "Missing In Action," despite his own pain.
- Love Is in the Air: The opening scene of the storyline "The Perfect Date."
- Mirror Match: Dark Link returns to fight Link once more in "Coming Home."
- Missing Mom: Zelda's mother is not shown; however, in "Queen of Hearts," it's heavily implied that Queen Seline of Calatia is actually her mother.
- No Fourth Wall: The main storylines were sometimes interrupted by little sidebar strips in which Link or Zelda addressed the readers directly, such as Link offering detailed advice on how to swing in through your love interest's window.
- The Obi-Wan: Impa, Zelda's elderly nursemaid.
- Only the Worthy May Pass: According to the guardian of the chamber in "Missing in Action," only Link -- because of the Triforce of Courage -- is worthy to enter and retrieve the magic whistle.
- Parental Abandonment: Averted for the only time in the entire Zelda franchise. Link's family is not only alive and well, he goes to visit them in the storyline "Coming Home."
- Zelda's mother, also...or so it is heavily implied.
- Playing Hard to Get: Zelda
- Redheaded Hero: Link
- Red Left Hand: Link gets this after obtaining the Triforce of Power.
- Requisite Royal Regalia: King Harkinian makes Link the temporary King of Hyrule, in "It's Good to Be the King," simply by handing over his crown.
- She Is Not My Girlfriend: Reversed in "Thief in the Night," when Bagu comes to visit and says he's heard all about Zelda, who is not amused to learn that Link told Bagu she was his girlfriend.
- Shout-Out: Some of the comic books contain fake ads which are blatant shout-outs to actual advertisements. An example would be the full-page ad for "Ambrosia Lite," Calatia's favorite beverage, which is a clear parody of a certain well-known beer commercial of the time.
- Smooch of Victory: As in the cartoon, Link is forever angling for one of these, but never gets it. It's much easier to sympathize with him in the comics, however, since he doesn't ask for a kiss in the middle of a dangerous situation.
- Standard Royal Court: The North Palace has one of these as its center of action.
- Ten-Minute Retirement: In "Missing in Action," Zelda takes the Triforce of Wisdom with the intention of leaving so Ganon will stop attacking Hyrule. Link's devotion to her persuades her that where she's really safest is wherever he is.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Link and Zelda aren't married in the comics, of course (they appear to be in their late teens), but the general implication is that they will be someday. While Link isn't precisely ugly, he's kind of goofy-looking, and appears even moreso next to the beautiful princess.
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: As opposed to the Belligerent Sexual Tension of the cartoon.
- What Have I Become?: Link in the storyline "The Price," when he becomes corrupted by the Triforce of Power.