We’re sorry to report the recent passing of Spanish comic artist and illustrator, Jordi Longarón, co-creator of the ground-breaking newspaper strip “Friday Foster” with writer Jim Lawrence. He was 86.
Better known, for some, as Jorge Longarón, over a long and much-admired career, his many credits include work not only in his native Spain, but for the US, on titles such as Vampirella and the newspaper strip “Friday Foster“, and for his ground-breaking work for British girls titles in the 1950s and early 1960s.
Born in Barcelona, Longarón began professionally during the 1940s, drawing strips such as “Arsénico Lupin” for Chispa and “Chan-Chu-Llo” for Garabatos.
He also contributed to titles such as El Pequeño Mosquetero, Serenata Extra, the war comic Hazañas Belicas and the western title, Hazañas del Oeste.
He began work for the Spanish agency, Selecciones Ilustradas, in 1956, drawing short stories for British titles such as Valentine and Roxy, based on popular songs by Elvis Presley, Tommy Steele and other singers of that era.
Author of Masters of Spanish Comic Book Art and fellow artist David Roach regards him as “absolutely the top romance artist in Britain. In fact, he so dominated the genre that his sleek, pared down style and knack of drawing pretty girls set the style of the genre for over two decades.
“Together with Jose Maria Miralles, Longaron was responsible for paring down the previously florid, detailed romance artwork of the time to this wonderfully modern. more linear, stylised approach,” he notes, “effectively establishing the look of romance comics for the next few decades. He was brilliant.”
During his time woking for British titles, he also provided covers for titles such as the Battle Picture Library and Commando.
In 1969, he teamed up with writer Jim Lawrence, co-creating the ground-breaking strip “Friday Foster” for the Chicago Tribune and the New York News Syndicate, which centred on Friday Foster, a former fashion model who became an assistant to a world-famous photographer, and the strip was about her comings and goings in the modelling and magazine / publishing worlds.
“Friday Foster” was the first mainstream syndicated comic strip to feature a Black woman in the lead role: prior to this, other than a handful of broadly stereotyped caricatures from the industry’s very early days and a few series aimed solely at Black newspapers, no American comic strip had ever borne the name of a Black lead character.
Launched on 18th January 1970, the strip was syndicated until 1974 to over 20 US newspapers, with a number of artists, including Howard Chaykin, Dick Giordino and Gray Morrow, replacing Longarón in the final year. It spawned a one-issue comic book from Dell drawn by Jack Sparling, and a movie starring Pam Grier in 1975 and, in 2009, a doll collection created by Robert Tonner, all noted here on the Museum of Uncut Funk web site.
Incredibly, despite its ground-breaking nature as the first strip to feature a black woman as a lead published in mainstream US newspapers, the strip has never been collected.
(Nor, it appears, has “Torchy Brown” by Jackie Ormes, regarded as the first African
“Jim wrote several comic books,” Jordi recalled in an interview with David Moreau in 2015, also noting Lawrence travelled to Spain in the 1930s to fight Franco. “He had a syndicated strip character named ‘Captain Easy’ and was also responsible for the ‘James Bond’ comic scripts published in England, drawn by Yaroslav Horak. It was through this work that he met Barry Coker, the agent of the Spanish agency Bardon Art based in London, and he asked him if they had any artist who could create a character with an Afro style. Barry Coker spoke to his boss, Jordi Macabich, in Barcelona, he contacted me and I made some samples, but then it was not even called ‘Friday Foster’.
“They sent my drawings to the writer, he showed them to the American newspapers syndicates and the Chicago Tribune News was the one most interest in publishing it.
“The main character was already described as a black fashion photographer and that idea was always there. Honestly, when I made those first samples, I did not think the project would evolve and I faced it as an extra job. However, the syndicate accepted it so fast and they asked me to travel to New York City to sign the contract. So I decided to tie myself for a few years of work and see what happens.”
Longaron, whose work has influenced many modern comic artists, continued working in comics in Europe in the 1970s and 1980s, on strips such as “Fourre Tout & Cie” for the French magazine Pilote in 1978 (scripted by Mora).
In the 1980s, a boom time for Spanish comics, his work featured in magazines such as Cimoc, Blue Jeans, Boomerang, the western title Hunter and more. But in later life he re-focused as an artist and illustrator of book and magazine covers, both in Spain and in Europe, and also provided illustrations for games.
His paintings of the Catalan landscape and the American south west have been widely exhibited, in both Spain and the United States.
Longaron received the Grand Prix of the Saló del Còmic de Barcelona in 2011, in recognition of his professional career.
Our sympathies to his sons, Roger and Marc, and other family and friends at this time.
• Jordi Longarón (Jorge), born 29th November 1933, died 10th May 2019
• There are some cracking examples of “Friday Foster” on The Museum Of UnCut Funk!, and the The Funky Turns 40: Black Character Revolution Firsts Panel Exhibition which focuses on the timeline of key animation character first appearances and the historic significance of these appearances during the late 1960s / 1970s
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With thanks to Calum Laird, Colin Noble and David Roach for some of the imagery featured here | Friday Foster © 2015 Tribune Media Services Inc.