Prince Valiant by Hal Foster
Prince Valiant, 16 September 1937

Before Hal Foster started his illustration and comics career, he held several jobs in Nova Scotia, from newspaper boy, woodchuck and hunting guide, to a stint as a gold prospector. In 1921, he finally chose to explore the fine arts, and cycled 1,000 miles from Manitoba to Chicago to study at the Chicago Art Institute, and later, at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts.

Tarzan, 1934, by Hal Foster
Tarzan (1934)

Working as a successful illustrator, Foster was asked in 1928 to make 300 illustrations for the 'Tarzan' comics. Although Harold Foster hated the Tarzan character, he nevertheless agreed to do a Sunday page of 'Tarzan' when the 300 illustrations he made were enthusiastically approved.

Prince Valiant by Hal Foster
Prince Valiant, 2 June 1940

Then the legendary newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst laid his eyes on Hal Foster's 'Tarzan'. Hearst went to great lengths to get Foster to do a comic for him. As a response, Foster sent his idea for a comic named 'Derek, Son of Thane', which later became 'Prince Valiant'.

Prince Valiant, by Hal Foster
Prince Valiant, 26 January 1941

Upon receiving Foster's proposal, Hearst was so impressed that he promised Foster the ownership of 'Prince Valiant' if he would start the series, a very rare offer in those days.

Prince Valiant, by Hal Foster, August 1942
Prince Valiant, 9 August 1942

In 1937, the first Sunday page of Prince Valiant appeared and met with immediate success. Foster proved to be a master in both storytelling and drawing. The character Prince Valiant eventually grew older, got married to Aleta, and had children.

Le Chant de Bernadette, by Hal Foster
Le Chant de Bernadette (Book-of-the-Month Club, La Presse, 20/6/1943)

In the process, Hal Foster grew older, too - after all, he was already 44 when he started 'Prince Valiant'! He decided to start working with assistants. Three artists worked with him: Gray Morrow, Wally Wood and John Cullen Murphy.

Prince Valiant, by Hal Foster, 1969
Prince Valiant, 1969

Murphy was Foster's choice to continue drawing the strip when he decided to cut back, although Foster kept writing the 'Prince Valiant' scripts until his death, sketching the pages and coloring the pages after they were finished. Today, the 'Prince Valiant' comics stand as a classic in the U.S. comics scene, and have been beautifully reprinted by Fantagraphics.

Foster's work has influenced a great many other artists, and was even copied by some of them. Traces of Foster can be found in work by Carl Barks, Gallieno Ferri, Enrique Badia Romero, H.G. Kresse and Willy Vandersteen.

Prince Valiant, by Hal Foster

Series and books by Hal Foster in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:


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