Saturday, May 24, 2008

Wild Canadian War Comics

An important Canadian article from Maclean’s Magazine on September 19, 1964 titled A Fond Portrait of Those Wild War Comics. This story is important because at the time it was published Cyril Vaughan Bell’s Canadian comic books were ancient history, gone and forgotten to all but the older kids who had lived through WWII. Occasionally one of the Canadian reprints of American comics would turn up in some trader’s pile only to be sniffed at for it’s bland appearance. I recall a copy of Captain Marvel with Tawny the Talking Tiger, and another, Senorita Rio from Fiction House‘s Fight Comics, with four-colour covers and b&w insides. I was used to American and British comics so this left me baffled and curious. Most kids read their comics and forgot them, some, like me, wanted to know their publishing history, and information was hard to come by in a small B.C. mining town. This was before Jules Feiffer’s work on superheroes came out (1965). There was something in the air those years that made grown men look back at comic book fodder with nostalgia. Maurice Horn’s 75 Years of Comics was still in the future - another eye-opener awaiting excited eyes.

Without this article I doubt there would have been a Great Canadian Super Heroes hardcover book - Dart Daring, Johnny Canuck, The Brain and the Invisible Commando may have sailed off into oblivion and vanished into myth if not for Alexander Ross's nostalgic and funny reminder that there were Canadian comic books. They didn’t last long, they were rudely and crudely drawn, atrociously written, and mostly lacked colour but they were home-grown cliff-hangers that any lover of adventure would admire. Ross contributed another article on comics to MacLean’s on March 19, 1966 titled Return of the Old Invincibles, about Joe Schuster and Superman.

Maclean’s, published in Toronto, was a large magazine in those days, like the Saturday Evening Post, and featured many fine cartoonists and illustrators in it’s pages. Len Norris, Peter Whalley, Duncan Ian Macpherson, James Simpkins, and George Feyer to name a few. Maclean’s had it’s beginnings in 1896 as the Busy Man’s Magazine and is still being published today in reduced size.

*Wow Comics No. 1 came out in Set. 1941 and featured Dart Daring by Edmund T. Legault.

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