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Monday, May 13, 2019

Jordi Longaron (1933-2019)

(c) Norma Editorial
Jordi Longaron, best known for his work on the American daily strip 'Friday Foster', died in Barcelona, Spain, on Friday, 10 May 2019, at the age of 85. He was commonly known by fans as Jorge Longaron.

Jordi Longarón i Llopart was born in Barcelona on 29 November 1933. He rose to fame in the 1950s working for Hazañas Bélicas, a war comic for which he created the iconic war hero used as a logo for the covers in the late 1950s. By then, he had already been working professionally for years, publishing his earliest strips in El Globito in 1948 while still in his early teens. Early work included fairy tales for Cuento de Hadas (1948), 'Arsénico Lupin' in Chispa (1948-49) and 'Chan-Chu-Llo' in Garabatos (1950) and, for Editorial Toray, he contributed to Hazañas del Oeste, El Pequeño Mosquetero, Sioux, Narraciones y aventuras de Davy Crockett and Serenata Extra in the early 1950s before first contributing to Hazañas Belicas in 1956.

Longaron found work in the UK via Selecciones Illustrades, contributing a string of strip stories and illustrations for Valentine (1957-67), Roxy (1961-62), Marilyn (1961-64) and Serenade (1962-63). His work included many strips based on popular songs of the era by Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard, Tommy Steele, The Searchers, The Beach Boys, etc., along with a number of serials, amongst them 'That'll Be The Day' (Valentine, 1960), 'Loving You' (Valentine, 1960), 'Where the Boys Are' (Valentine, 1961), 'Follow That Dream' (Valentine, 1962), 'Bon Voyage' (Marilyn, 1962; Serenade & Marilyn, 1962), 'Once in a Lifetime' (Valentine, 1963), 'You Were Made For Me' (Valentine, 1964), 'Sweets For My Sweet' (Valentine, 1964), 'Money' (Valentine, 1964), 'Away With Love!' (Marilyn, 1964) and 'Wedding of the Year' (Marilyn, 1964).

David Roach has called him "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." Having also found work in France, Longaron was almost unknown in his native Catalonia during this period, but his influence on other artists also contributing to British romance titles was immense.

Longaron adopted a grittier style for two dozen covers drawn for Battle and War Picture Library in the UK in 1966-68, and covers for a series of spy novels in France (1967-69). He also contributed to Commando (1968-71), but his contributions to British comics disappeared when he became the artist of 'Friday Foster' for the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate.

The strip was developed in 1968-69 by writer Jim Lawrence who, inspired by model Donyale Luna, wanted to create a sophisticated Afro-American leading lady for his next syndicated strip. Friday Foster was a fashion photographer, which allowed her to get into plenty of situations, both adventurous and romantic, in glamorous locations around the globe. Longaron used the opportunity of a trip to the USA to take reference photos of Harlem (Foster's home in early strips), and even though the strip dealt only lightly with racial politics, it was an issue when it came to syndication.

Longaron had to produce three months' worth of panels in advance of the strip appearing, and delays in the postal delivery of scripts meant that the artist sometimes worked with the assistance of Alfonso Font. Eventually he tired of the strip and left in early 1974, the strip continuing with Gray Morrow until it expired some months later. Longaron's appreciation for, and collaboration with, Jim Lawrence continued when the artist produced covers for the author's Dark Angel novels. A film version of 'Friday Foster' starring Pam Grier appeared in 1975, but had little connection with the comic strip.

Longaron had continued his association with French publishers during  the early 1970s, producing half a dozen book covers a month. He expanded his cover output post-'Friday Foster', his later output including further 41 covers for Commando (1976-88), dwarfed by the more than 200 fantasy and historical covers painted for Mondadori (Italy). Longaron returned to comics only occasionally, drawing the thriller 'Rond de nuit' (1974) by François Truchaud for Pilote and 'Fourre-Tout & Cie', 1978) by Victor Mora, as well as illustrating 'La historia del Oeste' for the magazine Hunter.

He also drew covers for Editorial Genil's Historia del Oeste and for Tormenta sobre España, a series on the Spanish Civil War written by Victor Mora and drawn by various artists. He also drew an adaptation (by Sylvain Ricard) of the Sherlock Holmes novel A Study in Scarlet as Une etude en rouge (1995).

For the past two decades, Longaron had devoted himself to painting, specialising in Catalan landscapes and studies of the American west. His first exhibition was in Madrid in 1975 and his work has been exhibited in the USA since 1995. In 2010 he received the XXXIV Premio de la Historieta Diario de Avisos, and in 2011 he was awarded the Gran Premi del Saló Internacional del Còmic de Barcelona in recognition of his long professional career.

He is survived by two sons, Roger and Marc.

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