Foster, Harold R. (Harold Rudolf), 1892-1982

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Harold R. (Hal) Foster (1892-1982) was a Canadian-American cartoonist. His most famous creation was the Prince Valiant strip.

Born in Nova Scotia in 1892, Foster studied at the Chicago Art Institute, supplemented with night classes at the National Academy of Design and the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. His artistic influences included E.A. Abbey, Howard Pyle, Arthur Rackham, Maxfield Parrish, J.C. Leyendecker, James Montgomery Flagg, and N.C. Wyeth. Foster worked as a staff artist for the Hudson Bay Company and then as an illustrator before getting involved with graphic adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs's Tarzan novels. Foster's sense of realism, composition, draftsmanship, and his fluid anatomy brought a new "fine art" feel to adventure comics. Another Foster trademark that appeared for the first time in comics was the use of captions instead of word balloons.

Eventually, wishing to do something original, Foster began working on a character of his own: Derek, Son of Thane . Hal later changed the strip's title to Prince Arn and King Features Syndicate's general manager, Joseph Connelly, finally re-christened it Prince Valiant . Hal decided early on that his hero would be a Knight of the Round Table and made tens of thousands of notes and sketches covering the main character's life from childhood to old age. Hal never included a locale that he had not personally visited for thematic accuracy.

In 1936, Foster pitched Prince Valiant to William Randolph Hearst, who had long wanted Foster to do a comic for his papers. Hearst was so impressed that he promised Foster the ownership of the strip if he would start the series, a very rare offer in those days. The first episode of Prince Valiant in the Days of King Arthur (the full title) appeared on February 13, 1937. The tales were so epic that Edward, The Duke of Windsor called Prince Valiant the "greatest contribution to English literature in the past hundred years."

Prince Valiant became one of the most successful comic strips of all time, winning the prestigious Banshees' "Silver Lady" award (1952) and both the National Cartoonists Society's coveted "Reuben" award (1957) and "Gold Key" award (1977). When he was 73, Foster was elected to membership in Great Britain's Royal Society of Arts - an honor very few Americans have received.

In addition to the Reuben and Gold Key awards, Foster received a number of other recognitions from the National Cartoonists Society, including the Story Comic Strip Award in 1964, the Special Features Award in 1966 and 1967, and the Elzie Segar Award in 1978. He was inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 1996, and in 2005 he was inducted into the Joe Shuster Canadian Comic Book Creators Hall of Fame for his contributions to comic books.

Hal Foster died in 1982. As of 2010, Prince Valiant, was still appearing in newspapers as a Sunday only feature, drawn by Mark Schultz and Gary Gianni.

From the guide to the Harold R. (Hal) Foster Papers, 1936-1973, (Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn San Francisco Academy of Comic Art collection : Newspaper Comic Strips, 1893-1996 The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum
referencedIn Giopulos, Peter,. Peter Giopulos files on campus art 1999-2004 RIT Library, Wallace Library
creatorOf Foster, Harold R. (Harold Rudolf), 1892-1982. Prince Valiant / Hal Foster. Michigan State University Libraries, Main Library
creatorOf Foster, Harold R. (Harold Rudolf), 1892-1982. Prince Valiant / Hal Foster. Ohio State University Libraries
referencedIn Cullen Murphy (AC 1974) Prince Valiant Comic Collection MA. 01000., 1971-2000 Amherst College Archives and Special Collections
referencedIn Duke University Oral History Program Collection, and undated, 1973-1978, 1992 David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
creatorOf Foster, Harold R. (Harold Rudolf), 1892-1982. Hal Foster : clipping file. Michigan State University Libraries, Main Library
creatorOf Harold R. (Hal) Foster Papers, 1936-1973 Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries
Role Title Holding Repository
Direct Relationships
Relation Name
associatedWith Duke University Oral History Program person
associatedWith Gianni. person
associatedWith Giopulos, Peter, person
associatedWith King Features Syndicate. corporateBody
associatedWith Murphy, Cullen. person
associatedWith Murphy, Cullen, (AC 1974) person
associatedWith Murphy, John Cullen. person
associatedWith Russel B. Nye Popular Culture Collection. corporateBody
associatedWith San Francisco Academy of Comic Art. Bill Blackbeard, Director corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
American wit and humor, Pictorial
Arthurian romances--Comic books, strips, etc
Middle Ages--Comic books, strips, etc
Knights and knighthood--Comic books, strips, etc
Comic books, strips, etc.--United States
Caricatures and cartoons--United States
Cartoonists--United States


Birth 1892-08-18

Death 1982-07-27





Ark ID: w6001bqr

SNAC ID: 1794657