Interview: Thank God It's 'Friday Foster'
Nov 22, 2022
Interview by Troy-Jeffrey Allen
From Pam Grier to Tonner dolls - in terms of mainstream exposure, Jim Lawrence and Jordi Longaron's Friday Foster is a major progression in Black entertainment and popular culture. If you're unfamiliar with the romantic adventures of "camera bunny" Friday Foster then publisher Ablaze is about to give you a history lesson!
With Friday Foster: The Sunday Strips, editor Christopher Marlon takes us back to the 1970s and into the thrilling, jet-setting, high-fashion world of your gal Friday. Keep reading...
Troy-Jeffrey Allen: Thanks for doing this interview, Chris! So what can you tell us about just the concept behind Friday Foster.
Christopher Marlon: Friday Foster: The Sunday Strips is a reprint collection of the history-making newspaper comic strip, Friday Foster. The book takes a comprehensive look at all things related to the strip: from the movie to the doll, to the one-off Dell comic book to the iconic Pam Grier, and a whole lot more. I really strived to take a 360-degree perspective on the character as much as possible.
TJA: What is the overall story of this strip?
Christopher Marlon: I’d say the strip would easily be classified as an adventure strip, with some smatterings of romance along the way. The book includes all 214 color Sunday strips and follows the exploits of Friday Foster, a former nightclub “camera bunny” turned photographer’s assistant turned fashion model. She has an innate inclination to help others and a natural beauty that makes her a magnet for men. As a result, Friday often finds herself in some very sticky situations which take her on world-class escapades.
TJA: What type of stories can people expect inside?
Christopher Marlon: The stories range from Friday being romanced by a reclusive black millionaire to her going to Africa and getting caught up in a precious gem scheme to being held captive by a lascivious voodoo doctor. There are even some stories with her boss, fashion photographer Shawn North, dating women’s libbers, and full-figured fashion models. Fairly progressive stuff - even for the 1970s!
TJA: Can you provide some historical context for Friday Foster?
Christopher Marlon: The historical significance of Friday Foster is that it is the first nationally syndicated “mainstream” newspaper comic strip with a black lead (title) character. Note I say, mainstream since the strip was published and syndicated by the Chicago Tribune. There were other strips with black characters that preceded Friday, but they were typically ensemble strips like Wee Pals, that had black characters or Franklin in the Peanuts. Most notably, there was the strip, Torchy Brown, that had a black female title character and was created by a black woman, Jackie Ormes. The distinction is that Torchy ran primarily in black newspapers around the country like the Pittsburgh Courier and Chicago Defender and did so in the late 1930s, some 30-plus years before Friday Foster came into existence.
TJA: So how did the Friday Foster collection come about as a project? Is this the first time these strips have been collected?
Christopher Marlon: I’ll give you the Cliffs Notes version here. I’m a filmmaker and I started watching a series of blaxploitation films that I had never seen around six years ago. I came across Friday Foster - the movie and was intrigued by its subtle comedic tone and an all-star cast of black actors at the time. I did some reading on the film and was surprised to discover that it was based on a newspaper comic strip. I started reading some of the strips online and immediately took a liking to the amazing artwork and interesting storylines. I then started collecting the original newsprint Sunday (color) strips wherever I could. Once I had a decent number of strips, I began to wonder if they had ever been collected in book form. I did some research and found out they had not and made a promise to myself to at least TRY and get them published in book form. And that’s where my story began…
TJA: How has the reception been for the book?
Christopher Marlon: Pretty darn good, if I must say so myself. We’ve had a couple of reviews that have been quite favorable and even more so I’ve had some awesome interactions with fans online. I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with people from across the globe – Canada, Australia and even the UK – and they have all expressed how much they enjoy the book.
TJA: What made Ablaze the right home for this project?
Christopher Marlon: This is an easy one. They said YES, first! I had reached out to Rich Young, who started ABLAZE and was just getting the company going at the time, but he liked my take on the book and wanted to talk more about it. We continued the conversation, got the Chicago Tribune on board and the rest is history
TJA: So, let’s talk a little about the creators of the book – Jim Lawrence and Jordi Longaron. Does the book provide any background on them?
Christopher Marlon: Absolutely. Jim Lawrence who created the strip passed away in 1994, but I was fortunate enough to track down his son, James Lawrence Jr. and he agreed to write the Forward for the book. It’s effectively a love letter to his father’s legacy and life’s work. James Lawrence was a comic strip industry journeyman who had created and written many strips over the years. In the late 1960s during the height of the Black Power movement, he was living in Newark, New Jersey, a predominantly black city. Having worked in the industry for so many years he openly pondered to his editor at the Chicago Tribune why were there no comic strips with black lead characters and the editor replied, “Why don’t you go create one?”. And that’s exactly what he did with Friday Foster.
The book is a bit of a co-publishing deal with the Spanish comics publisher, Norma Editorial. So, there is also an article on Lawrence and an interview with Jordi Longarón that we borrowed from Norma. Jordi Longarón was a self-taught artist from Spain whose work was beginning to gain traction in Europe when he got the call to illustrate Friday Foster. He came to America - Harlem, New York - specifically and met with Jim to discuss the project and get a feel for the world Lawrence had created. He studied fashion magazines of the day to use as reference points for how to capture the characters. And he was spot on in his depiction of the times. He was truly a natural talent with a keen eye for style and settings. Longarón was also aware that the book was being made and even got to see some of the remastered strips before he passed away in 2019. The great news is that he approved of the remastering, stating that “it reminded him of his original artwork on the strip” – the ultimate compliment!
TJA: What are you hoping readers take away from the first hardcover?
Christopher Marlon: As much as I loved working on this project, I don’t get overly philosophical about it. I know that it’s a book about a newspaper comic strip. So ultimately, I say if you’re a fan of the 1970s, have a love for great comic art, and enjoy entertaining stories about a globe-trotting gal going on extraordinary adventures you’ll thoroughly enjoy Friday Foster: The Sunday Strips. Not to mention, the book was nominated for an Eisner Award at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con and for a Ringo Award at Baltimore Comic Con this October. Not bad for a first time at bat!
Troy-Jeffrey Allen is the producer and co-host of PREVIEWSworld Weekly. His comics work includes MF DOOM: All Caps, Public Enemy's Apocalpyse '91, Fight of the Century, the Harvey Award-nominated District Comics, and the Ringo Award-nominated Magic Bullet.