Just about any major institution needs to connect with its people. This holds true for the Canadian government, and what better way than to create public service or promotional giveaway comics that are horribly awkward and so straight edge that no one wants to read them? I guess they’re not all bad, but here are some of the ones I’ve come across thus far.
The Adventures of Binkly and Doinkel. The three issues that were released were meant to teach kids about the dangers of household substances like cleaning solutions. Initially Owen McCarron did the art based on Noreen Young’s design and Robin Edmiston did the writing. For 1974, the colour comic was pretty appealing, despite the fact that it was sponsored by the government and educational.
It impressively took one issue to screw up. Technically two, as the second issue made no reference to the first for continuity’s sake, or just general tastefulness, labelling the aliens “Binkley” and Doinkel. To make it worse, the art in the second issue was inconsistent to say the least. It was like the artist, Diane Demerais, was nine and was not shown the original cartoon. The comic was so different from the first it almost doesn’t merit being called the second issue.
The third, as you can see, looks a lot like the first. I’m unsure who the artist was, it could have been McCarron, but there was definitely an effort made at continuity. The comic makes reference to Noreen Young’s character designs as they did in the first and the story is greatly improved. Although it doesn’t give credit on the actual comic, it looks as though this comic was produced by Comic Book World as well.
As for the storyline, it remains relatively the same. The aliens are getting into trouble with the household products and the dog, Sniffer, attempts to teach them about how dangerous chemicals can be. The issues were released in 1974, 1978 and 1981. As much as I give this comic a hard time, it’s important to remember that is was released in a period of relatively little Canadian work done for children and it had a purpose other than creativity or entertainment. Really, one and three were pretty good.
Next, the Amazing Spiderman. The series was funded and produced under the direction of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police with the cooperation of the Alliance for a Drug Free Canada. This is a pretty big one, and well funded, so needless to say, the government of Canada cut a deal with Marvel to make the educational comics appealing.
Released from 1990 to 1993 was a series of 5 comics in which Peter Parker makes his way to Canada time and again to cover Canadian events like the stampede and science fairs, all the while gracefully teaching young Canadians valuable life lessons about drugs, bikes, and honesty. Sometimes the lesson isn’t very well hidden. Issue number four sees Parker at the stampede battling the Frightful Four. The lesson is located in a couple of one page comics interspersed throughout the main story, and they have about as much to do with spiderman as spiderman has to do with bicycle safety.
I would have loved to have received one of these as a kid. The cover of number one, pictured left, features the work of none other than Todd McFarlane and you can see one of the kids is wearing an Oilers jersey. On issue three, the Blue Jays. It’s this kind of stuff that is just enough Canadiana without being too patriotic or cheesy.
Finally, DC will not be left behind. Here is a comic sponsored by Zellers to support and promote the cause for literacy in Canada. All funds from this comic went to ABC Canada. Basically, Batman chases the Joker from Montreal to Toronto and there is a lesson in there somewhere about reading. Again I find myself, wishing I had this as a kid, just to link my favourite superhero to Canada. This might just be a hangover of me wishing vainly as a child that not everything came from the US.
Either way, here was the first part to my entry on some public service comics.