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March 16, 1975 - Image 3

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1975-03-16

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

editors:

laura Berman
dan borus
contributing editor:
miary long

su..nday

magazine

inside:
page four-books
page five-features
page six-week in
review

Number 20 Page Three Marc
FEATUR

h 16, 1975
ES

The

man

who draws

Prince

Valant: Living

in the land of Camelot

By MARY LONG
HAL FOSTER is a dreamy-eyed
romantic - a natural for a
Camelot castle and moat and a
flashing white steed. He has been
drawing the Prince Valiant cartoon
strip for the past forty years.
Born in the wrong time, he sits
In his studio among his paintings
and roses, an old man who has
turned the trick of outwitting re-
ality. The noble Valiant becomes
the embodiment of everything Fos-
ter says "I should have been and
could have been."
An antique clock chimes the
hour and Foster reclines like a
lazy child in a dark plush chair.
Figurines of knights and ships and
horses in perfect miniature stand
framed in glass behind him. It's
not just that he loves elegance
-he needs it. Foster admits with
no shame that since childhood he
has constantly tried to transform
"real life" into something else.
"Usually," he says, "I try to change
reality into something more beau-
tiful - or into something roman-
tic." The approach apparently has
a lot of appeal. His fan mail has
never been heavier. It surprises
him that the Prince should main-
tain his popularity in so sophisti-
cated and skeptical an age.
"F MEAN, VALIANT'S a bit of a
prig, isn't he?" his creator
challenged. "He has to be - just
like- anyone who's got to be so
good and pure. But it's great to
knock him down occasionally -
his wife is the best means for that.
Sir Gawaine is also good," he says
speaking of the strips most rakish
character. "Gawaine can do all

the things Valiant can't do. I can
have him singing under a married
woman's window and then, in the
next panel, just show the little
edge of his cloak over her balcony.
That's alright, you see, because
that's Sir Gawaine. He's a foil for
Valiant. He's also sort of an idol of
mine. I was rather-bashful as a
young man and I give Gawaine all
the romantic qualities and oppor-
tunities that somehow always
seemed to escape me."
He lives vicariously through his
characters in over 200 Sunday pa-
pers in 14 different languages.
Seven Prince Valiant books have
been published. And, if you ask
him, Foster will do a very funny
impersonation of Robert Wagner
as a 1954 motion picture Prince
Valiant sobbing "TRAITOR!" at
James Mason when his Highness
finds himself set upon by the Vik-
in ys.
Foster generally hesitates be-
fore he says anything, but when he
sneaks, he sounds certain. The
only thing that seems to bewilder
thic artist, hailed as the finest il-
lustrative cartoonist in the world,
is the fact ha he has become an
old man.
"T CAME TO Florida to retire," he
A saes. with a vague gesture to-
ward the nalm trees outside the
window. "I'd been doing Valiant
since 1935 and I'm in my eighties
and I'm a bit lame - you noticed,
didn't you? But, I found that af-
ter I got here I couldn't give my
work up. For a while I had some-
one else doing the illustrations for
me and I'd find myself hanging
over his shoulder, giving him in-

structions right down to the ex-
pressions on the character's faces.
And all the time honestly wanting
to say, "Get your dirty hands off
it - it's mine!"
He lets loose a roar at the sulky
sound of his own words and then
is serious again, cupping his hands
over his eyes and shaking his head.
"No, no I couldn't give it up. The
character, the story, everything
about it, is indelible in me."
He stands then, not unsteady at
all, rising above the room like a
landowner inspecting the fields,
and leads the way to another area
of the studio.
SELECTING A PIPE from among
a half dozen in a round wooden
dish, Foster turns his dark blue
eyes directly on you. The gaze is
startling. "Everything" he says,
emphasing the word, "all of my
work on this comic strip has been
done with everyone telling me I
was destined for nothing but fail-
ure. When I first began Valiant,
it was the era of Buck Rogers and
the idea in cartooning was a total-
ly futuristic trend. I thought it
was great but the other artists had
already atomized all the planets,
what was I supposed to do for an
encore? So I went back in time in-
stead of forward. which evervone
swore would be a fatal mistake."
But the artist says he knew in-
stinctively that the age of King
Arthur would prove a harpy
choice. "It was a very exciting
time, an era of great and violent
contrasts."
"People were more dominant,"
he explains with enthusiasm,
"more savage and more apt to take
directly whatever they wanted.

--Daily photo by MARY LONG

They had their own idea of brav-
ery. On one hand, life was very
cheap - every little skirmish was
settled by mortal combat. On the
other hand, it is the age of - well,
romance and chivalry - and other
such dastardly things." He smiles
to himself at his last words, both
defensive and smug, touching his
moustache with his finger tips,
very much the would-be cavalier.
IT IS TO this red-carpeted studio
that Foster comes to sit and
wait for the germ of a story to fill
the weeks and weeks of Prince
Valiant strips. He says he thinks
over all the books he has read. He
listens to music. If any incident or
idea occurs to him he immediately
scribbles it down.

"There's a constant need for
fresh material and it can be very
tough. I've been with Prince Vali-
ant since he was five years old and
had just come to Britain" he says
like a proud papa. "And now he's
married with children, all of whom
have to find their way into the
story . . . sometimes I'm so blank I
drag out an old story and keep
trying to drape it over. Sometimes
it's terrible."
"I'VE USED a lot of poets for
ideas. I've even used Balzac if
you can believe it. A kind of emas-
culated Balzac," he laughs. "And
Chaucer always helps. What have
you read? The Canterbury Tales?
I like the Book of the Duchese
best. Canterbury Tales is rich, like

summer. But the other is like
spring itself, pale green and gold.
Listen - 'That she was lyke to
torche bright/that every man may
take of light/ Enough, and hit hath
never the lesse."'
"You see?" he smiles softly, "it's
just like a Valentine." Then, em-
barrassed he tbruptly pushes away
his words with his hands and says
in self-deprecation, "How did I get
on Chaucer when you came to talk
to me about the funny papers?"
Mentioning academics makes his
uncomfortable. Poverty put an end
to Foster's formal education but
did nothing to dim his love of art,
literature and history. He describes
(Continued on Page 5)

Ron

Dellums on

his own

terms: A

man of both sense and

By DAN BORUS
SPIRO AGNEW had Ron Dellums
all figured out. "That man,"
he exhorted his Silent Majority
faithful in 1970, "is an out-and-
out radical." Ron Dellums consid-
ered that a compliment coming
from a man who once said that if
you 'e seen one slum, you've seen
them all.
In his thirty-nine years Con-
gressman Dellums has seen his one
slum and then some. Once ex-
cluded from his high school base-
ball team because of his black skin,
he is presently representing Cali-
fornia's Seventh District precisely
because he is indeed a radical.
"If a radical desires and works
for the broadest possible change in
society, if a radical wants to com-
bat the suffering and corruption,
if a radical wants to end repression
in this country," Dellums says in
his curious jive mix between Oak-
land street hipster and Berkeley
professor, "then I am a radical. I
am proud of that. I have never
shied away from that label."
He doesn't look like a radical,
this 6'7" man with stylishly grey-
ing, sharply cut sideburns a n d
tightly coiffed Afro, a snug blue
Edwardian double-breasted jacket
with matching white slightly flair-
ed trousers, and perfect composure.
He looks like a stockbroker.
TTr '"1' fl'17 rfl-.t its1. 1 1 . .

very little in the process?
"I ain't no virgin," he says, words
pouring out in creative spurts much
faster than they can be captured
in reporter's shorthand. "I didn't
go there with the idea that I was
going to change the world single-
handedly. I don't think I will be-
come disillusioned because I didn't
come to Washington with any il-

He eschews conventional
politics, terming them
matic cures," which fail
through to root causes.

(s,

In Congress Dellums plug
at those vested interests he
calling hearings on racism
Armed Services, investigat
CIA, and introducing the

"I don't think the four years there have cha
me," Dellums says. "I consider Congress a
form for my ideas and for stimulating othe
work for change. I'm in Congress on my
terms." Change on his own terms is what
Dellums is all about. He eschews convent

sensibility
liberal almost gone, speaking in Ann Ar-
ympto- bor about niggerism, the ruling
to cut class, and the desperate need for
radical action now at a time when
gs away radicalism has seemingly lost its
s away focus and energy.
sees - "This society is a society of nig-
in the gers. If the term 'nigger' bothers
ing the you, substitute the term 'victim'
World or 'oppressed'. This is a society run
by white males over forty who do
not even guarantee full participa-
nged tion for all white males. So how are
they going to do it for blacks,
browns, reds, and women?" he be-
plat- gins, his voice rising ever so slight-
ly. He has a perfect tempo in his
Ars to speech.
own "WE NEED TO move to a more
mature society. By that I
Ron mean the ability to redefine 'civil-
ized!'" He's the professor now,
o a thoughtfully defining his terms.
a a "We must come to realize the na-
ture of the oppression in this coun-
mafic try - that it takes civilzation away
from all of us.
ses. With that he reels off a checklist
of America's social sins - militar-
-m ism, abuse of foodstuffs, subjuga-
legisla- tion of the many by the few -
axpayer and pinpoints their inter-relation-
iot he ship.
to sup- "This current economic crisis is
hat rat- valuable because it reveals to the
white middle class laborers how
ta,, they have been marginally treated.
that," Nobody's laughing at food stamps

liberal

politics,

terming t h e m

"synptoi

cures," which fail to cut through to root cau
- 4O fV . :. -n: Tf :c;-_::al: °; ; s : : -: " <

lusions. Politicians are followers,
not leaders; they don't act, they
re-act.
"But I did promise my constitu-
ents (California's Seventh includes
Berkeley, portions of Oakland, and
outlying suburban areas) I would

Peace Tax Bill, a piece of
tion designed to allow the to
to designate whether or n
wants his taxdollars going
port what Dellums calls "tI
hole, the Pentagon."
"He's always been like

V ,.r

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