Ed Furness (1910?-April 20, 2005)
Inducted into the Hall of Fame in April 2005
Albert Edward, best known as ‘Ed’ Furness emigrated with his family to Canada as a child from the United Kingdom. Growing up in Toronto, Ed had a propensity for cartoon illustration and demonstrated this aptitude by graduating from the Ontario College of Art in 1933. Ed was instrumental in developing Freelance, a popular superhero icon for Canadian, and ultimately American, children during the war, by joining forces with writer Ted McCall at Anglo American Publishing in July of 1941.
Furness also drew ‘Commander Steele’ in Grand Slam Comics from 1941 and many other comic book stories. Ed honed his creative talent and ultimately became the lead artist for Anglo American Publishing, having thirteen artists in his stable. The advent of the War Measures Conservation Act coming to an end in 1946 precipitated the demise of the Canadian comics industry and Anglo American made one last ditch effort to distribute their periodicals in the United States in color and failed.
Ed closed the doors at Anglo American on one sad day in 1946 and went on to do commercial art and landscape painting.
Biography compiled by Stephen Lipson
Above: Will Eisner, Dave Sim and Ed Furness at the Paradise Comics Toronto Comicon in June 2004. Photo by Andrew Specht
Furness was a good friend to the Canadian Comics community, in the year before he passed, he appeared on a special panel spotlighting Canada’s Golden Age of Comics at the Paradise Comics Toronto Comicon (June 2004).
At the time the Hall of Fame committee was selecting our first group of inductees for the Canadian Comic Book Creator Hall of Fame, Ed Furness was still with us and Mr. Furness was notified of his induction into the Hall of Fame by JSA Director James Waley and he hoped he could be well enough to come to the late April ceremony. Unfortunately, Ed took a turn for the worse in April 2005, and passed away the morning of April 20, 2005.
The next day Committee chair Robert Pincombe contacted us to say:
James Waley has requested that I pass on the sad news regarding Hall of Fame inductee Ed Furness.
I’m afraid Ed passed away this morning at Tyndall Estates Nursing Home where he’s been residing. James informed me that Ed took a turn for the worse several weeks ago. Despite requiring oxygen frequently and other discomforts, Ed still managed to share his sense of humour with James and Mark Askwith when they visited him.
Although the plaque was not yet ready for them to show Ed, they did have the artwork to a special Jam cover featuring the characters of all the inductees by Canadian artists. Ed was tickled to see his most famous character, Freelance, front and centre among them. James told me when he called Ed for colour advice regarding Freelance’s insignia, Ed quipped, “I’ll tell you this, James. I know it ain’t purple.”
Ed‘s graciousness, humility and wit warmed the spirits of all who met him at last year’s Golden Age Panel at the Paradise Comicon, despite the serious physical effort it took for him to be there at all.
FURNESS, Albert Edward – Peacefully, at Tyndall Nursing Home, Mississauga, on Wednesday, April 20, 2005, in his 95th year. Beloved husband of the late Nellie Gifford. Dear father of Richard and his wife Joyce, and Carol Maund and her fiancé Murray Proud. Loving and devoted grandfather of Stephanie, Colin, Christy and her husband Brian, Jeff and his wife Jocelynn, and adored great-grandfather of Caitlin and Evan. Survived by his brother Lee and his wife Ginny. Friends may call at the Turner and Porter Butler Chapel, 4933 Dundas St. W. (between Islington and Kipling Aves.), on Sunday from 7-9p.m. Funeral Service will be held on Monday, April 25, 2005 at 10 a.m. from All Saints Church Kingsway, 2850 Bloor St. W. (at Prince Edward). Cremation to follow. If desired, donations may be made to the United Way – Peel.
I’ve updated his biography with the date of his passing, although his actual date of birth is unclear, 95 years in 2005 would imply 1910, so we’re leaving it as ‘1910?’ for now.
In 2017, Chapterhouse Comics revived Freelance for a new comic series, written by Jim Zub and Andrew Wheeler.
Kevin Boyd (updated May 2017)