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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Suspended Animation Review - Hal Foster: Prince of Illustrators, Father of the Adventure Strip



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            I was in my late twenties before I took a good look at Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant, despite being a fan of comic books and strips since childhood.  Maybe it came with the passage of time, and further education in the art form of comics, but a deep appreciation for his work eventually materialized.  And then solidified.  Then, marked me for life.  That’s why I’m so thankful for Brian M. Kane, and his book Hal Foster: Prince of Illustrators, Father of the Adventure Strip.

            A carefully assembled examination of the professional and personal aspects of Foster’s life, Kane’s work doesn’t simply present historical facts pertaining to the business end of Prince Valiant.  It also gives a tender look into the creator’s role as husband, father, and friend, and shares a bit about how who Foster was affected the work he did.  

            Besides giving visual detail as to how the artist changed the adventure strip landscape when he took over the Tarzan strip, the book contains plenty of Hal Foster’s work related to Prince Valiant, including promotional and personal illustrations, as well as some of the best examples from his work as a commercial illustrator.  Kane does a wonderful job of letting the quality of Foster’s work vouch for the superiority of his skill.

            Additionally, readers are treated to many photographs from throughout Foster’s life, including those relating to family, friends, work, and leisure. 

            One of the facets of this book I found most interesting was the collection of testimonials of professionals from the world of comic strips and comic books, pertaining to what Foster’s work meant to them.  There is always something inspirational and even touching about hearing some of the best in the field reminisce about one of the “greats” of the same profession.  The respect, admiration and wonder expressed by peers can help fans understand exactly what kind of talent they are privy to.  This fan is grateful.

            Brian Kane’s Hal Foster is recommended to anyone who appreciates great comics art, or simply great art.  It’s also recommended to everyone else, so they can LEARN to appreciate it.

Mark Allen