Friday Foster The Sunday Strips Review

By | Tuesday, January 18, 2022 3 comments
I have been asking for a Friday Foster collection since I first discovered the strip over a decade ago, and we finally have one at long last. But the question is: was it worth the wait?

The strip was originally by Jim Lawrence (of Captain Easy and Joe Palooka fame) and Jorge Longaron (the first Spanish artist to make his American comic strip debut). The story revolved around Friday Foster, a model-turned-fashion-photographers'-assistant, and was a mixture of romance and adventure with some social commentary thrown in for good measure. The strip debuted on January 18, 1970 and lasted a scant four years, but did spawn a Dell-published comic book in 1972 and a feature length movie starring Pam Grier, which wasn't actually released until a year after the strips' cancellation. This collection, as the Friday Foster: The Sunday Strips title suggests, reprints all of the Sunday strips that were published back in the 1970s.

One of the reasons such a collection took so long to get published was just gettting a hold of useable materials. While many of Longaron's original art boards for the strip have been found, it's certainly not all of them and many of the individual strips had to be scanned from newspapers the comic ran in. This, not suprisingly, required a fair amount of clean-up work. In the end, all of the strips were recolored for consistency and clarity, based on some of Longaron's original color guides, although I can't seem to find any indication of who exactly did the recoloring. I'm a little disappointed not to see the colorist(s) creditted because they seem to have done a good job replicating the original work. And while they do print the original colors on to modern, high-gloss white paper, the recoloring doesn't feel overly garish, as is often the case in these types of projects. The entire work was also entirely re-lettered by Antonio Moreno.

Longaron's artwork is fantastic which, frankly, I expected having seen bits and pieces of it before. There are a handful of direct scans from newspapers (largely as historical/contextual examples, not as part of the collection itself) and even the poor printing on newsprint does little to diminsh his linework and figure drawings. The book also reprints several of Longaron's sketches for character and logo designs; even those rough, preliminary pieces are lovely!

The story does suffer a little from collecting only the Sunday strips. Unlike some comics, in which the Sundays ran a different story than the dailies, Friday Foster was a single, continuous narrative. Editor Christopher Marlon describes the dailies as "3-panel-story continuations of the Sunday strip" which I think dismisses their significance, especially reading the Sundays here highlights that new characters and significant plot points are in fact run in the dailies. Lawrence does a pretty fair job of bringing readers up to speed with each Sunday strip, but that was almost certainly a function of how strips were/are syndicated -- with some papers opting to get Sunday strips only while others get the strips on weekdays and Sundays and others still get weekday installments only. Lawrence was writing to all three audiences simultaneously; it wasn't that the dailies were just in support of the Sundays or vice-versa. The writing style was very much a function of the medium and, given that Marlon freely admits he never paid any attention to comic strips before this project, it would seem that his ignorance there is at least a part of what drove the decision to reprint the Sunday strips only.

To be fair, collecting all of the dailies would require a TON more work with no real guarantee of decent sales, so I can see the decision to collect Sundays only being a practical, financial one. And, like I said, Lawrence does a pretty fair job of making sure readers aren't totally lost with each new installment; it's just very clear that a decent amount of story seems to occur off-panel.

Beyond the fact that these strips finally exist in a form people can access again, one of the great benefits to this book is the volume of historical context that's brought in. There are interviews with Longaron, Lawrence's kids, Grier, Arthur Marks (director of the Friday Foster movie), and others; some of Longaron's original sketches, color guides, and finshed line art that wasn't published; promotional items and clippings around both the strip and the movie; fan mail (scans of actual letters they received); plus a variety of other articles and informational pieces about the creators, the strip, and this particular project. Almost 20% of the book's pages are material to supplement the strip itself!

I think that is what's really key here. There is disappointingly little written about Friday Foster, so this book serves not only to rectify the lack of the strip itself being in circulation again, but he provides plenty of context for it, which I think is vital given how little most people -- even most comics people -- know about the strip. The book retails at $39.99 US from Ablaze Publishing, and is defintiely one of the best comic strip collections I've seen in a few years.
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3 comments:

Most of the restoration and coloring has been done by Guillermo Velasco. I myself have contributed by restoring and coloring some pages and giving the final touch to all the pages.
The decision to make the book only with the Sundays has its origin in the Spanish edition, due to the difficulty of accessing dailies of sufficient quality (getting all the Sundays took several years). Recently, good copies of most of the dailies have been found.

Fantastic! Thanks for the info, Antonio! Much appreciated!

I'm not surprised getting all those dailies proved to be difficult, but I'm hoping this volume sells well enough to justify collecting those as well!

It was a very laborious work, searching for printed newspaper strips, originals and photographic copies. I think the result was worth it.