BOOTS AND HER BUDDIESMedium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: Newspaper Enterprise Association
First Appeared: 1924
Creator: Abe Martin
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When Cliff Sterret's Polly & Her Pals proved a success for King Features Syndicate, it sparked a trend. Pretty soon, every syndicate had a comic strip or two about a young woman and her
social life. Tho it didn't come along until nearly a dozen years after Polly's December, 1912 debut, Boots & Her Buddies, by Edgar Everett "Abe" Martin, was, by virtue of its title if nothing else, the most obvious of Polly's imitators. (Merrill Blosser's Freckles & His Friends used the same title template, starting in 1915, but had a male protagonist.)
Martin's comic began as a daily from Newspaper Enterprise Association (Everett True, Wash Tubbs) on Monday, February 18, 1924. It depicted Boots as a college student, tho exactly which college she attended was never specified. She was sometimes seen carrying a pennant displaying "M" as the school's initial, which may indicate it was Illinois's Monmouth College, Martin's own alma mater; but Martin, striving for reader identification in any locale, avoided definite statements to that effect. The "buddies" consisted largely of suitors, each intent on eliminating the others — who were aparently even more numerous than seen on the page, as Boots was known throughout the 1920s and '30s as the "Sweetheart of America". Boots herself was an old-fashioned girl, holding herself chaste in the midst of the flapper era.
A Sunday version was added in 1926, as a topper to the Our Boarding House Sunday page. In 1931, Martin launched a page of his own, titled Girls (no relation) but Boots wasn't in it at first. She did start appearing there as a character in 1933, and on September 9, 1934, Girls was re-named Boots. It sported a succession of toppers of its own, the most prominent of which was Babe & Horace (no relation), about a couple of Boots's supporting characters, which started in 1939.
Boots took an inordinate amount of time to graduate from college, but eventually she did. As a working girl of the 1930s, she took after Tillie the Toiler and Winnie Winkle rather than Polly, Fritzi Ritz and most other pretty girl protagonists of American comics. In 1945, she emulated Blondie and went domestic, marrying Rod Ruggles on September 2 of that year. Their son, Davey, was born the following July 4.
Boots didn't appear in any movies or radio shows, but she did have a media spin-off not many comic strip characters can claim. Like Terry & the Pirates, Dick Tracy and precious few others, she starred in a hardcover novel from Whitman (inventor of the Big Little Book format), published in 1943 and profusely illustrated by Martin. The title was Boots & the Mystery of the Unlucky Vase. Also, her adventures were reprinted in a few comic books — five issues in 1948-49 from Standard Comics (Jetta, The Woman in Red), and three more in 1955-56 from Argus (a subsidiary of her syndicator).
Tho very popular in her time (not in the range of Hagar or Peanuts, but she did appear in over 700 papers), Boots lost circulation during the post-war years. By 1960, she was down to the point where Martin's death was taken as the syndicate's cue to drop the daily. The final strip appeared on October 15 of that year. The Sunday continued under the direction of Martin's former assistant, Les Carroll, until March 30, 1969, but after that Boots was history.