Harold Rudolf Foster (August 18, 1892 – July 25, 1982), aka Hal Foster, was a Canadian-American illustrator best known as the creator of the award-winning comic strip Prince Valiant, which influenced numerous artists and was adapted to film. Foster was 73 when he was elected to membership in Great Britain's Royal Society of Arts, an honour given to very few Americans.
Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Foster worked as a staff artist for the Hudson's Bay Company in Winnipeg and moved to Chicago in 1919 where he studied at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and soon found illustration assignments. The illustrator J. C. Leyendecker was an early influence on Foster.
Foster's Tarzan comic strip, adapted from Edgar Rice Burroughs' novels, began January 7, 1929, continuing until Rex Maxon took over the Tarzan daily on June 10, 1929.
Foster returned to do the Tarzan Sunday strip beginning September 27, 1931, continuing until Burne Hogarth took over the Sunday Tarzan on May 9, 1937. He soon grew tired of adaptation and began planning his own creation.
William Randolph Hearst, who had long wanted Foster to do a comic for his newspapers, was so impressed with Foster's pitch for Prince Valiant that he promised Foster the ownership of the strip if he would start the series, a very rare offer in those days. The strip began February 13, 1937, continuing for decades. In 1954, Foster and his wife Helen were seen on television's This Is Your Life. In the late 1950s, the couple moved from Illinois to Redding Ridge, Connecticut. Later they moved to Winter Park, Florida. In 1967, Woody Gelman, under his Nostalgia Press imprint, revived some of Foster's earlier work.
In 1970, Foster was suffering from arthritis and began planning his retirement. He had several artists draw Sunday pages before choosing John Cullen Murphy as his collaborator and permanent replacement in 1971. Murphy drew the strip from Foster scripts and pencil sketches. Foster stopped illustrating (and signing) the Prince Valiant pages in 1975. For several years, he continued writing the strip and doing fairly detailed layouts for Murphy, eventually doing less and less of both the writing and art until Alzheimer's took his memory and he no longer remembered ever doing Prince Valiant.
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