Kane, Brian M. Hal Foster. Prince of Illustrators. Father of the Adventure Strip. New Jersey: Vanguard, 2001. (206 S.)
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Keywords: "Prince Valiant", Adventure comics, Biography, Comic strip, Foster. Hal, USA
Publisher: Vanguard (New Jersey)
In the first comprehensive biography of Hal Foster, author Brian M. Kane examines the 70-year career of one of the greatest illustrators of the twentieth century. Superman was modeled after Foster’s drawings of Tarzan, Flash Gordon’s Alex Raymond borrowed compositions from Prince Valiant and thousands of artists, including the famous contemporary Western painter James Bama, count Foster among their greatest influences.
Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1892 of a seafaring family, Hal naturally took to the sea. At the age of eight he paddled a twelve-foot plank across Halifax Harbor to the consternation of large Cunard liners. In his youth he was a catalogue artist, a trapper, a professional boxer, a gold prospector, and a hunter-guide in the uncharted forests of Canada. In 1921 with a wife and two children to support he peddled his one-speed bicycle 1,000 miles across dirt and gravel roads from Winnipeg to Chicago to attend the Art Institute and later find permanent employment.
The young illustrator’s work appeared on the covers of Popular Mechanics and in hundreds of magazines for clients such as Northwest Paper, Jekle Margarine, Southern Pacific Railroad and Illinois Pacific Railroad. In 1929 Foster illustrated the first newspaper adaptation of Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The comic strip was the first of its kind and it was Foster’s sense of realism, composition, draftsmanship, and understanding of fluid anatomy that would forever mark him as “The Father of the Adventure Strip.”
The famous newspaper tycoon, William Randolph Hearst, wanted Foster and made the artist an unheard of offer. If Foster would leave Tarzan and come to work for Hearst’s King Features Syndicate he could do anything he wanted and have complete ownership of the new series. The first episode of Prince Valiant in the Days of King Arthur appeared on February 13, 1937. Foster would chronicle the exploits of his greatest creation for the next 43 years.
Prince Valiant became one of the most successful comic series of all time, winning the prestigious Banshees’ “Silver Lady” award and both the National Cartoonists Society’s coveted “Reuben” award and “Gold Key” award. The strip also generated merchandise outside of the Sunday funnies such as toy knights complete with castle, a board game, paper dolls, candy bars and even a briefcase. In 1954, 20th Century Fox took Foster’s creation to the silver screen in Prince Valiant, directed by Henry Hathaway, starring Robert Wagner, James Mason and Janet Leigh. Foster’s fame led to him being the subject of an episode of the popular TV series, This is Your Life which aired April 14, 1954. At age 73, Foster was elected to membership in Great Britain’s Royal Society of Arts – an honor very few Americans can claim. Foster’s classic portrayal of Britain’s history inspired England’s King Edward, who abdicated to become Edward, The Duke of Windsor, to call Prince Valiant the “greatest contribution to English literature in the past hundred years.”
Hal Foster’s work has inspired generations of artists including Jack Kirby, Lou Fine, Frank Frazetta, Al Williamson, Wayne Boring, Joe Kubert, Russ Manning, Wally Wood, Dave Stevens, Carmine Infantino, Charles Vess, William Stout, John Buscema, Mark Schultz and the great Disney artist, Carl Barks. The book will feature quotes and sidebars from many of these artists. His originals are highly prized works of art, which sell for thousands of dollars, and Prince Valiant continues to encourage new artistic interpretations in a wide variety of mediums. Without realizing it Foster had created a bridge between the Golden Age of Illustration and modern sequential art.
Table of Contents
1. Hal from Halifax (7)
Tributes: A Knight to be Remembered (202)
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