FRECKLES AND HIS FRIENDSMedium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: Newspaper Enterprise Association
First Appeared: 1915
Creator: Merrill Blosser
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Freckles & His Friends, which ran for more than half a century, is mostly remembered as a comic strip about teenagers. It didn't start that way — if it had, it would've beat out Harold Teen, as the first comic about that stage of life. Its protagonist was about
seven or eight years old on September 20, 1915, when the strip debuted. Like the Bumstead kids, he grew slowly, to a certain point, then stopped.
The cartoonist who created Freckles, Merrill Blosser, had been doing miscellaneous work in the art department at Newspaper Enterprise Association, later the syndicator of Alley Oop, Herky and Boots & Her Buddies, when, at age 23, he was asked to try his hand at a kid comic. Freckles was the result. It's the only syndicated strip Blosser ever did, but it sustained him over an entire career.
Freckles et al. lived in a peaceful town named Shadyside, of indeterminate location. He started out performing simple gags that took place in and around the town, but soon got involved in stories that ran longer than one day. After about a decade of that, Blosser saw Roy Crane, whose Wash Tubbs was also distributed by NEA, doing long adventure stories, and began doing the same. Later still, Freckles settled down and turned into a typical teenager. The eponymous friends were best friend Lard, girlfriend June, Lard's girlfriend Hilda, and a few others. Freckles also had a kid brother called Tagalong (Tag for short).
At its peak, NEA distributed Freckles & His Friends to about 700 papers. A Sunday page was added in the 1920s. There was never a radio show, movie or animated cartoon version, but Whitman put him in a Big Little Book, and he was reprinted in comic books. He had a long run in Dell's Crackajack Funnies (Apple Mary, Dan Dunn), and another in the back pages of Red Ryder's title. (Red was also an NEA star.) He had his own title from Standard Comics (Supermouse, Jetta) for eight issues in the late 1940s and again from Argo Comics (a very minor outfit) for four issues in the mid-'50s.
Blosser's assistant, Henry Formhals (Joe Jinks, Ella Cinders), took over most of the work after a few decades, but wasn't allowed to sign the strip until 1966. By then, its time was nearly past. It ended on August 28, 1971.