Remember the time when Link turned into Ganon in The Legend of Zelda?
Before Link was saving Hyrule from a mysterious spreading rot and other malevolence in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, he had a much simpler mission: Kiss Zelda.
In 2023, Polygon is embarking on a Zeldathon. Join us on our journey through The Legend of Zelda series, from the original 1986 game to the release of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and beyond.
You don’t remember that part from the games? That’s because it’s not part of any of Nintendo’s oeuvre. Kissing Zelda was Link’s driving force in DiC Entertainment’s 1980s cartoon The Legend of Zelda, and it was used again for a comic book from Valiant Comics in the early ’90s — well before Nintendo started to get much stricter about how its franchises were portrayed.
American networks at the time were always on the lookout for things to adapt into cartoons. Nintendo’s properties were primed for that: Games such as The Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link have storylines, but they’re relatively simple in both graphics and narrative. In other words, there are a lot of gaps to fill in and various plot points to flesh out, which will (hopefully) end in a kiss.
The Legend of Zelda comic book is just one part of Valiant’s Nintendo Comics System collection, which had comics based on Super Mario Bros. and Captain N: The Game Master, a cartoon that mashed together different Nintendo characters. Like the cartoon created by DiC, Valiant’s The Legend of Zelda was much wackier than the franchise we know today — Link, Zelda, and a new fairy called Miff were up to a ton of hijinks. Here are a few of our favorite bizarre moments from the brief run.
In “Trust Me,” the second story in The Legend of Zelda’s second issue (it has two stories, as do the rest of the issues), Ganon visits the town of Saria (a location introduced in The Adventure of Link, not to be confused with the character from Ocarina of Time) to talk shit about the franchise’s iconic duo. The town quickly recognizes the shadowy, hooded figure as the prince of darkness; Ganon snatches up a little boy and sits him on his knee to evade suspicion, and then convinces the village that Link’s actually the malevolent villain. He points over the village’s barren land and asks: What have Zelda and Link done to help you there? Touché, Ganon. He uses his magic to sprout up an apple tree in an attempt to bribe the villagers — and it works. The villagers try to run Zelda and Link off, and when they don’t leave, Ganon convinces the angry mob to capture them. The little boy hesitates to hand over the Master Sword that Link had dropped, and Ganon turns on him — and the boy ends up saved by Zelda. The town switches back to Team Zelda and Link, who, we find out, did try to help the town by building a dam to divert water to the fields. It’s the dam that breaks and ends up washing Ganon away.
Link turns into Ganon
In the two-part third issue, Link and Zelda get their hands on the Triforce of Power, adding to the Triforce of Wisdom that Zelda already holds. Link gets corrupted by the power, slowly turning more and more into a grotesque version of the infamous Ganon, pig face and all. A bunch of beasts commit themselves to serving Link as the Triforce of Power holder. When Link attacks Zelda to get the Triforce of Wisdom, the Triforce of Courage transfers from Link’s heart to hers, protecting her from the spell. Link sees his reflection and realizes he’s got Ganon’s face, he throws the Triforce of Power down a well. Goodbye!
(Also, in the midst of it all, Zelda randomly says she loves Link.)
A parental punch
The Legend of Zelda’s fifth issue opens with a thud, as Link journeys home to Calatia to visit his parents.
Let me pause before we venture further. Catalia isn’t mentioned anywhere in the games, and Link’s parents have been absent entirely, aside from a few brief mentions in Ocarina of Time. It’s a shocker to look back at these comics to see Link’s father (Arn) punching Link in the face immediately upon returning home — You’re no son of mine! Harsh.
Reading on, you’ll find out there is a reason: An evil guy working for Ganon disguised himself as Link and took Catalia’s queen hostage. Everyone in Link’s hometown, including his parents, thinks he’s gone evil. Eventually, everyone sees past the ruse, only for Link to save the day again. The twist here is that the evil Link challenges real Link to a fight to the death, and Link accepts. (He’s also mysteriously missing his Triforce, but more on that below.) Naturally, Link wins.
The day of the Triforce
The second storyline in the fifth issue is called “The Day of the Triforce,” outlining the one day of the year where all three Triforces disappear for the day. Where do they go? To the beach to sip margaritas. (I made that last part up. There’s no explanation for the event, or where the Triforces go.)
This is, coincidentally, why Link has to do the battle to his death without a Triforce to help. The queen, held hostage in the last issue, chooses Link to be her champion in a battle with fake Link — and they’ve got to fight until one remains. Beyond this convenient premise, this storyline is actually pretty kickass. Where’s Zelda? A healer from the aforementioned Saria comes looking for Link to save her city, but Link’s not there. (See above.) Zelda heads to Saria in his stead, also without her Triforce powers, to save the city — and she does. She posts up on a wall and snipes the bad guys with her bow before taking on Ganon herself.
There are short comics at the end of each The Legend of Zelda issue, entirely different from whatever story was just told. They’re bizarre and have no context, the most amusing of which is a fake advertisement for the Hyrule Better Business Bureau. Get a warranty!
If we’ve piqued your interest, you can read the rest of The Legend of Zelda comic books (and Valiant’s other Nintendo comics) on Archive.org.
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