Murray Karn

Murray Karn began his career with Bell Features in early 1942 while the publisher was still under the name Commercial Signs of Canada. Only 18 at the time, much of his original work was done for the Thunderfist and Jeff Waring storylines.

Karn worked on ‘Thunderfist’ in Active comics and was the most consistent artist for the line. His talents were not overlooked at Bell Features; he also did several covers for Active Comics as well as working on the ‘Jeff Waring of the Amazon’ storyline of his own creation. It was released about a month after ‘Thunderfist’ in March of 1942 and was run in Wow Comics, Bell Features’ first comic title.

Karn continued to work regularly for Bell Features for the next two years as artist on these and other lines including Captain Red Thorton, Rex Baxter and Scotty MacDonald. He even contributed artwork to the narrative shorts in Triumph Comics, all under Bell Features. Within a couple years, Karn went into the Medical Corps but continued cartooning for the wounded troops to raise their spirits.

murray karnAs Bell Features continued to gain prominence in Canada’s comic book industry, Karn was easily accepted back into the ranks just shortly before the end of Canada’s Golden Age and finished the last two issues on Jeff Waring. Shortly after, Karn went to New York to pursue other opportunities.

His classic and realistic style make his comics very easy to spot and a pleasure to view. His characters, nothing short of perfection, are elegantly composed, both on the paper and in character. Karn’s style at this time was almost reminiscent of a twenties chic with his big eyed beauties and his men modeled much like Clark Gable. Specifically, Karn’s style was distinctive in such a way that his comics were of a much higher caliber.

Murray Karn currently resides in New York and is a part of the Southampton Artists Society. Find out more on his work in the upcoming documentary Lost Heroes.

Advertisements

Canadian Superhero Webseries

For the most part, my blog covers any and all kinds of Canadian comics. On this post I’d like to take a step back and look at another form of the genre: webseries. Recently there have been a couple of great Canadian products in this format regarding superheroes, here is a VERY brief glance at each.

Heroes of the North: Based out of Montreal, Heroes of the North is an award winning series spread across many forms including webisodes, comic books, a novella, among other mediums. One of the purposes of this web series was to bring attention to some of the great heroes in Canada’s history. One of these is Fleur de Lys from my last post about Northguard! The story takes place in present day alternate Canada, and revolves around the legacy of scientific development under Hitler.

Tights and Fights Comic Book.

Tights and Fights: Tights and Fights is another transmedia series focused on superheroes. This one, based out of Toronto, is more of a comedy about Canadian superheroes and has been running since 2010. They’re currently on their second season and a pretty big hit.

The Undrawn: The reason that I write this blog now, is that another webseries is in production, but desperately needs funding. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, Canada’s history of comics is riddled with underfunding. Let’s not see this happen again! This series, while perhaps a bit more crass that the above two, is definitely hilarious and looks w. The series plans to release 6 episodes. Check out the fundraising campaign on kickstarter here! And watch more teasers in the updates tab!

Northguard

Issue three of the original series.

 New Triumph Featuring Northguard will be one of the most remembered comics in Canadian history. This is not only because the hero dons the national flag, or the book’s preoccupation with Canadian acceptance of national heroes, but because it was created and published by two very talented men, Gabriel Morrissette and Mark Shainblum. Morrissette and Shainblum published the comic through their own publishing company, Matrix Graphic Series, based in Montreal. They are also responsible for publishing Canuck Comics and Mackenzie Queen.

New Triumph was published irregularly for five issues from September 1984 until the summer of 1986, and all except the first book were forty pages long with an added mini-comic of Bernie Mireault’s The Jam. The comic featured consistent black and white art by Morrissette with art assists by Bernie Mireault, Geoff Isherwood, Jacques Boivin and Jan Harpes.

However, 1986 was not the end for Northguard. In 1989, in cooperation with Caliber Press, the first five issues were re-released as a trade under the imprint “Matrix and Caliber Press”. The book was 144 pages in black and white. Importantly though, it included a foreword by John Bell which again addressed the issues surrounding Canadian national heroes and the even greater irony of the comic’s publication being resumed by an American publisher.

For resume it did! In the same year they published the trade, Caliber Press published three final issues entitled Northguard: The ManDes Conclusion. These were published between 1989 and 1990, and, like the title suggests concluded the series.

Fleur De Lys appeared on some special edition stamps in the 90s.

The story follows 20-year-old Phillip Wise and his part in a private corporation’s plan to defend Canada from American radicals. You can see a greater description here, although be wary of spoilers. What the comic prides itself on is its superhero realism. Wise’s powers are not magical or supernatural, they’re technological. They come from an attachable device. Likewise, Northguard’s partner, Fleur-De-Lys, is a Tae Kwon Do instructor and Steel Chameleon has a built-in holographic disguise tool. This same idea can be applied to their enemies which are political and religious radicals and not superheroes. This superhero comic could almost be described as science fiction.

This brings me to another aspect of the comic I really enjoy which is the interchangeable English and French. The story uses both as it takes place in Montreal. It also references separatist politics but addresses the desire for an amicable relationship between French and English Canada through Northguard and Fleur-De-Lys (Manon Deschamps). The comic has great depth, giving the reader many ideas to consider. An excellent read and not terribly hard to find, but can also be purchased as e-comics.

I’m going to go ahead and take this opportunity to plug Lost Heroes, an upcoming documentary on Canadian superheroes. It will include this and so many more of Canada’s superheroes from the past to the present. Here is their website, Facebook page, twitter.