The 1980 Comics Annual

One of my greatest regrets is that there are not more easy to access resources regarding Canadian comics. Some of these would not only include historical information but also sample work. This is perhaps one of the reasons why I so love anthologies. They are a testament to the range and variety of comics, artists and writers that were published at the time.

Ian Carr, a Canadian who has done a bit of everything in the comic book industry, is a man after my own heart. In 1979, Carr edited a book called The 1980 Comics Annual published by Potlatch Publications. Carr’s original goal was to put out an anthology like this yearly, featuring many top artists but unfortunately that did not happen. Had it been more successful, I would probably not be needing to write this blog, but I’m so happy he took the initiative anyway. The book, weighing in at 128 pages, half of which are in colour, feature work from great Canadian creators. Here is a list of the contents:

  • Return of the Magician: Arn Saba (Script), Lois Atkinson (Script assistance), Don Inman (Art)
  • Blarg the Swordsman: John MacLeod
  • The Intergalactic Depletion Machine #21
  • Stareway
  • Tales of King Arthur: Bill Slavin
  • Street Noise: Ken Steacy
  • Sir Rolaid and the Black Knight: Bill Slavin
  • The Believer!
  • Haab the Luckless: Steve LeBlanc
  • Totter of the Mounted: JOT
  • Last Chance!: Bob Smith
  • Neil the Horse: Arn Saba, D. Roman
  • The Revenge of Yukon Tom!: Richard Cordoba
  • Malcolm and Eric: Ian Carr
  • The Hunter: Martin Springett
  • Wirely L. Wiremire: Tom Nesbitt
  • Wirely L. Wiremire in Wired Again, Part I: Tom Nesbitt
  • Cave-in: James Simpkins
  • Dust Bowl Sanction: Jim Craig (Art and script), Bill Payne (Inks and Lettering)
  • Wirely L. Wiremire in Wired Again, Part II: Tom Nesbitt
  • The Gauntlet of the Gods: John MacLeod (Art and script), Steve LeBlanc (Assist)
  • Tommy Whitehawk: Don Inman
  • Cave-in: James Simpkins
  • Danger Squad: Ian Carr
  • A Dick Mallet Adventure: Michael D. Cherkas
  • Flying Eight Ball: Tom Nesbitt
  • Neil the Horse Goes to Hell: Arn Saba, D. Roman
  • Spud: William King (Plot), Paul McCuscker (Art and script)
  • Bubblegummers in The Cat’s Night Out: Jeff and Carol Wakefield
  • Little Feller: Ron Van Leeuwen (Script), Franc Reyes (Art)
  • Space Cat and the Flaming Commandos: Tom Nesbitt

The book also has that very distinct feel of the seventies with the science fiction fascination at the time, while there is also a very strong influence of underground comics, especially with MacLeods already satirical style. But most importantly, it shows a broad range of talents from more mainstream styles like Ken Steacy and Jim Craig to cartoonish spoofs by Bill Slavin and Tom Nesbitt. It even has Neil the Horse, a comic that successfully bridges the gap from the seventies to the eighties. As sited above in the Potlach Publications link, this book is still for sale by the publisher, but it’s also available on ebay or Abebooks if you look.

Penny’s Diary

Holy Cats!! Happy Valentine’s day everyone! In celebration of the occasion I’m posting an excerpt of the talk I’m giving later today on romance comics. Here it is, details of the talk are at the bottom.

Penny’s Diary was introduced around 1945 and is a cornerstone in Canadian comics history. Similar to Archie comics in style and content, the romance and drama In Penny’s Diary is targeted towards mainly teen girls. The story revolves around consistently lovesick Penny and her less than savoury, but levelheaded best friend, Jeanie.

Penny’s diary is a very interesting comic. Cyril Bell must have recognized the need to appeal to little girls when he published the comic but unfortunately not enough so that he created another line of comics targeted only for girls. Penny first appeared in number 19 of Active Comics. Laughably, Active Comics is generally what you’d expect, specializing in action heroes and sports. Also, during this time no stories were much longer than three or four pages of a book, and most books ranged from about 48 to 64 pages. This meant that poor Penny was wedged between Active Jim and Thunderfist and unfortunately the poor little girls who read them probably either paid a dime for one story or were forced to nick the comic from a brother.

Although Penny’s Diary is by no means a forward thinking comic, that it exists in itself is important. Penny’s diary is a comic for girls written by women, some of the first in the industry, Patricia Joudrey who wrote the script and Doris Slater who did the art. The series was short lived concluding with issue 26, and only marginally preceded the end of the Golden Age of comics in Canada.

If you’re interested in hearing more about Canadian romance and erotica comics, I will be giving a talk on this and more at Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa. The address is 395 Wellington and the talk begins at 7pm. Alternatively, I have given an interview to CBC radio which will be posted online.