EDWIN R. “TED” McCALL (1901-1975)
Although he spent most of his life as a journalist and newspaper editor, Edwin Reid (Ted) McCall is best remembered as the co-creator of Canada’s earliest adventure comic strips and of probably Canada’s most successful wartime comic book hero Freelance.
It was through his work as a journalist that he entered the world of the comic strip. Reporting on the exploits of the RCMP, he decided here was material for a strip and so with Harry Hall a newspaper illustrator who later created his own strip “News ‘n Nonsense”, McCall launched “Men of the Mounted” in The Evening Telegram on February 11, 1933. Although the strip was successful and can still be found in a Big Little Book of the same title, McCall could not break out of the small Canadian market into the large American and so he shelved the project February 16, 1935.
He turned to the Robin Hood story and this time with illustrator Charles Snelgrove created the strip “Robin Hood and Company” which first appeared in the Telegram September 23, 1935. This strip broke into the international market and at one point was in 80 newspapers. This time the Second World War intervened. As paper supplies to newspapers dwindled they cut back on unnecessary features like the comics. McCall suspended the strip February 16, 1939.
He then convinced Sinnott News to organize a comic book company Anglo-American through which he republished his “Robin Hood and Company” strips and then proceeded with new stories. He later resurrected the Men of the Mounted concept under several names: “The Red Sentinel” and “Kip Keene of the Mounted”.
But his greatest contribution was the creation of Freelance. For this one he obtained the services of Ed Furness a commercial artist with an interest in cartooning. “Freelance” was the only character in Canadian wartime comics to have his own comic book. The anecdotal evidence suggests that Freelance was the best selling comic of the time. Maurice Horn (The World Encyclopedia of Comics) said that the comic’s success was “… primarily due to McCall’s deft writing, inventive plots and earthy humour.”
With the end of the war the Canadian comic book industry crashed. McCall and Furness attempted to turn Freelance into a comic strip detective but could not interest Fawcett Publications of the U.S. to distribute it and so the project was dropped.
McCall left the comics field and rose to become Managing Editor at The Evening Telegram. He died of a heart attack in 1975.