'Friday Foster' (24 January 1973).

Jorge Longarón was a Spanish comics artist, book cover illustrator and painter. He worked on war and western comic books in his home country, romance comics in the UK, but is most famous as the original artist behind the soap opera newspaper comic 'Friday Foster' (1969-1974), written by Jim Lawrence. Together with Jackie Ormes' 'Torchy Brown' (1937-1940) it was the earliest U.S. newspaper comic to star an African-American woman, though 'Friday Foster' had a much longer and more nation-wide distribution.

Early life/Children's comics
Jorge "Jordi" Longarón i Llopart was born in 1933 in Barcelona, Spain. He got his interest in drawing comics through Jesús Blasco's 'Cuto' strip and the work of US masters like Milton Caniff, Alex Raymond and Frank Robbins. He started his career as a commercial illustrator, and made his debut in the comics industry at age 15. He initially contributed to fairy tale/storybook collections aimed at children, such as 'Cuento de Hadas' (Fabregat/Emege, 1948), 'Cuentos de la Abuelita' (Toray, 1949) and 'Azucena' (Toray, 1950). He also contributed to Toray's children's magazines Chispa and Garabatos. For the first, he made the feature 'Arsénico Lupin' (1948), spoofing the popular gentleman-thief character Arsène Lupin by novelist Maurice Leblanc. In the latter, he created the humor feature 'Chan-Chu-Llo' (1950-1951).

Editorial Toray
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s he continued to work for the mainly oblong-format comic books published by Ediciones Toray in Barcelona, training his skills under Toray's lead artist Boixcar. He drew stories in several genres, but was a regular in the publisher's war title 'Hazañas Bélicas' (1950-1958) and the historical series 'El Pequeño Mosquetero' (1951) and 'Narraciones y Aventuras de Davy Crockett' (1958-1959). Other Toray titles with Longarón interior art were 'Selecciones de Aventuras' (1950), 'Brick el Indomable' (1951), 'El Mundo Futuro' (1955) and 'Hombres de Accion' (1959). He additionally drew issues for the buccaneer comic book 'El Caballero Negro' (1950) published by A. Fabregat.

Cover artist
By the late 1950s he was promoted to Toray's cover artist, and most notably created the cover mascot of the 'Hazañas Bélicas' series. He also painted the covers for digest-sized collections as 'Hazañas Bélicas' (1961-1967), 'Hazañas del Oeste' (1962-1965), 'Sioux' (1964-1969), 'Novelas Gráficas Clásicas' (1960), 'Salomé' (1962) and 'Relatos de Guerra' (1963).

Selecciones Ilustradas
Like many of the Spanish comics artists of his generation, Longarón began doing agency work for foreign publishers. By 1956 he was associated with Josep Toutain's Selecciones Ilustradas agency, and was largely responsible for the typically Spanish drawing style which dominated the British romance comics throughout the 1960s, together with José María Miralles. In the period 1957-1967, his art appeared in short stories for Fleetway's romance titles such as Valentine and Roxy, which were based on popular songs by Elvis, Tommy Steele and other singers of that era. Similar titles he worked for were Marilyn and Serenade. His skills as a cover painter were also much in demand, as he contributed to the war anthology series 'Commando', 'Battle' and the 'War Picture Library'.


'Valentine', 29 October 1966

Bardon Art
By the mid 1960s he moved over to Bardon Art, an agency ran between Barcelona and London. He dropped his comic book work, and worked on illustrations for Scandinavian women's magazines. In 1964 his longtime association with the French publisher Gerfaut started. He created over 500 cover illustrations for the publisher's war and espionage paperbacks over the next two decades. In the late 1960s he returned to the comics medium, when he was asked to illustrate the 'Friday Foster' newspaper comic for the Chicago Tribune Syndicate.

African-American comic book characters
In 1968 veteran comics writer Jim Lawrence ('Joe Palooka', 'Captain Easy') noticed that most U.S. comics only featured white male characters in starring roles. Female African-American characters weren't totally absent, but over the decades they usually were nothing more but side characters and, to add insult to injury, stereotypes, like the "mammy" housemaids Bella Donna in Arthur Momand's 'Keeping Up With the Joneses' (1913-1918) and Rachel in Frank King's 'Gasoline Alley' (1918-...). A notable exception was 'Torchy Brown' (1937-1940), which starred a positive depiction of a black female character and was drawn by an actual African-American female cartoonist: Jackie Ormes. But 'Torchy Brown' had only a limited circulation since many U.S. newspapers didn't dare to run it and it therefore remained rather obscure. Around the same time Robert Crumb created a few underground comics starring a satirical portrayal of an outdated black female African native stereotype named Angelfood McSpade (1968), but these appeared only in underground magazines and on a rather irregular basis.

Friday Foster, by Jorge Longaron (1970)
'Friday Foster' (3 September 1970).

As it turned out Lawrence wasn't the only one who felt that more African-American female protagonists were needed. The Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate had already created a 1968-1972 newspaper comic by Roy Doty based on the popular TV sketch show 'Rowan Martin's Laugh-In', which occasionally featured African-American side characters. But this was more of a stand alone gag-a-day comic. The syndicate asked Lawrence to create a comic strip with an African-American character which had a continuous narrative that could be serialized. In search for a proper artist Lawrence contacted Bardon Art and selected Longarón for the job. When Longarón travelled to New York City to sign his contract, Lawrence took the opportunity to take him to the Harlem neighbourhood to photograph the streets for documentation. To avoid trouble a police officer advised them to take these pictures from inside a taxi. Longarón furthermore collected a lot of U.S. magazines with great photographs and articles about the African-American community.


'Friday Foster' (21 March 1971).

Friday Foster
Designing the protagonist was another difficult task. Longarón couldn't rely on previous African-American female comics characters, because most were drawn as stereotypes. Even though many black women wore Afro haircuts at the time, the artist didn't want their protagonist to sport one, since it would again look too stereotypical. During a broadcast of a TV interview he noticed Donyale Luna, the first black supermodel, who gained some fame as an actress too, making appearances in arthouse movies like Federico Fellini's 'Fellini: Satyricon' (1969) and Andy Warhol's underground films. Luna had straight hair and, as such, he gave his comic strip protagonist this coupe. She was named Friday Foster and on 18 January 1970 her first adventure appeared in newspaper print. Although this first African-American female comics character broke new ground there were still some newspapers in the U.S. South who refused to publish the series.

'Friday Foster' stars the adventures of African-American fashion photographer Friday Foster, who worked as an assistant to white photographer Shawn North. Friday worked her way up from a harsh youth in Harlem, New York City. The series follows her as she eventually became a fashion model herself, travelling all over the world and finding the man of her dreams. 'Friday Foster' was drawn in a realistic style, with Longaròn spending much detail in his backgrounds, particularly when Friday visited London, Paris, Hong Kong or Africa. The writing had a dramatic tone, making the comic strip comparable to a romantic soap opera. Interviewed by David Moreu on 17 January 2015 for the website museumofuncutfunk.com, Longarón only remembered one instance of censorship. In one episode Shawn Forth travels to Harlem, where a black teenage gang threatens him with a knife. The syndicate removed the weapon, which made many readers wonder what was going on in this scene? In the same interview the cartoonist remembered receiving praise from the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art for depicting the museum in the series. And pop singer Tom Jones once requested him if he could buy an original panel, since he was given a cameo in one episode.


'Friday Foster' (18 April 1971).

Collaboration with Lawrence
Lawrence and Longarón maintained a long-distance professional collaboration. He wrote his scripts in New Jersey, while Longarón illustrated the sent-in written pages into full-blown newspaper comic panels from his home in Spain. Delays in the delivery sometimes caused him to fall behind with his deadlines. With help from Alfonso Font and Victor Ramos Santos he sometimes made it, but when the pages didn't arrive in the U.S. on time the Chicago Tribune called in help from U.S. cartoonist Frank Springer (best known for 'Phoebe Zeit-Geist') to ghost a few episodes. They weren't the only artists to work on the series, by the way. A one-shot comic book issue of 'Friday Foster' by Dell Comics (October 1972) was written by Joe Gill while Jack Sparling provided the artwork. By late 1973 the series lost popularity and Longarón interest. He was succeeded by Gray Morrow, with help from Howard Chaykin and Dick Giordano, in December 1973. Nevertheless in May 1974 'Friday Foster' was cancelled.

Movie adaptation
Although the comic strip was terminated and no longer as popular as it used to be, it still inspired a movie adaptation a year later. Arthur Marks, best known for his blaxploitation pictures like 'Detroit 9000' (1973), directed 'Friday Foster' in 1975, starring Pam Grier, Eartha Kitt and Scatman Crothers. The picture adds a crime narrative with sleazy violence and eroticism, all a far cry from the comic strip's original tone and set-up. The movie flopped at the box office and has faded away in obscurity since. Longarón once watched the movie, but only liked Pam Grier as the casting choice.


'Fourre-Tout et Cie' (Pilote Mensuel #5, 1974).

Later career
After 'Friday Foster', Longarón drew two one-shot stories for the French magazine Pilote Mensuel, starring 'Fourre-Tout et Cie' (1974, 1977), written by Victor Mora. He illustrated the cover of a 1975 issue, promoting the one-shot story 'Ronde de Nuit' (1975), written by Truchaud. Through the Norma agency, Longarón continued to make many cover illustrations for publishers in the USA (Signet), France (Gerfaut), Germany (Pabel, Bastei), the UK (Sphere), Scotland (DC Thomson) and Italy (Mondadori). He notably illustrated the covers of fantastic and historical novels published by Mondadori in Italy in the collections 'I Romanzi' and 'Biblioteca dei Romanzi' between 1979 and 1990, and many German crime, horror and western pulp books. He also illustrated the covers of Jim Lawrence's mid 1970s series of novels about 'Dark Angel', an attractive African-American woman inspired by Friday Foster. In Spain his cover illustrations based on western themes graced the covers of magazines like Cimoc, Dossier Negro, Bluejeans, Bumerang and Hunter. His last comic strip was the 'Sherlock Holmes' adaptation 'Une Étude en Rouge' (1995) by writer Sylvain Ricard, published in France by Éditions Joker and in Germany by B&L. He did his final commercial assignment in 2007. By then he had already shifted to painting, specializing in the Catalan countryside, U.S. South-West and nudes.Jordi Longarón passed away in 2019.

Recognition
In 2011 the artist received the Grand Prix of the Saló del Còmic de Barcelona, ​​in recognition of his professional career. 

Series and books by Jorge Longaron in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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