The following appreciation of the artistic legacy of Prince Valiant creator Hal Foster (pictured at right) is excerpted from the foreword Schultz wrote for Fantagraphics’ 2010 publication Prince Valiant (Vol. 2): 1939-1940.
Hal Foster’s enduring status as the most important figure in the development of adventure comic strips would be difficult to dispute: With Tarzan, his groundbreaking adaptation of Edgar Rice Burrough’s iconic ape man, and then Prince Valiant, his personal invention and masterpiece, Foster virtually single-handedly invented the visual language and set the storytelling standards that would dominate serial comic-strip adventure for decades. What is open to argument, however, is whether Foster was primarily a cartoonist, working with and exploiting the opportunities unique to the sequential medium – or more of a traditional illustrator squatting on the comics page while remaining largely aloof from comics conventions.
The distinction, of course, isn’t that simple. Foster was very conscious of the differences in the disciplines and venues for which they were intended, and he made choices. Which elements of illustration Foster brought to the comics page, which illustrative elements he incorporated from established color comics added up to a singular whole that made his work uniquely appealing, innovative and influential.
– Mark Schultz
Excerpted from “Yes, He Was a Cartoonist,” the foreword to
Prince Valiant (Vol. 2): 1939-1940 (Fantagraphics Books, 2010)