Arcana

Issue one of Arcana by T.S. Wells and Rob Clark.

Issue one of Arcana by T.S. Wells and Rob Clark.

Arcana is a comic book series original appearing in 1994, written by T.S. Wells with art by Rob Clark. The independent fantasy comic was published under the creators’ names, “Wells & Clark”, out of Grimsby, Ontario.  The first issue in the series is a double sized issue at 72 pages and in black and white and contains two parts.

Clark and Wells continued the series for three more years, publishing issue eleven as the final issue in June of 1997. The comic remained in black and white including the distinctive black and white covers, at 24 pages each.

Arcana stars three anthropomorphic characters including the con artists, Flagg (a raccoon) and Foxglove (a fox), and later a third character, Clorinda (a tiger). The story follows the petty criminals and the haunted Clorinda as they travel on their journey to find Clorinda a new beginning from her mysterious past while discovering more about each other in every village and adventure.

  • Arcana #1 – 1994
  • Arcana #2 – March 1995
  • Arcana #3 – May 1995
  • Arcana #4 – July 1995
  • Arcana #5 – September 1995
  • Arcana #6 – January 1996
  • Arcana #7 – April 1996
  • Arcana #8 – July 1996
  • Arcana #9 – September 1996
  • Arcana #10 – January 1997
  • Arcana #11 – June 1997

Arcana was distributed throughout the US and Canada at around 3000 books a print run.

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Katherine Collins (Arn Saba) and Neil the Horse

NeilArnold Alexander Saba was born in Vancouver in February of 1947. He was born into a wealthy family and the eldest of four children. He began drawing comics at a young age, having had a very fertile environment in which to develop his skills. His mother, Allison McBain, was a cartoonist and comics enthusiast herself, and granddaughter of Mary “Dolly” Collins, a Manitoba cartoonist. Predominantly raised on newspaper strips and collections of Caniff and Barks, most of Saba’s earliest renderings are in a similar vein.

In 1965, Saba attended the University of British Columbia for Journalism and Print Production. During Arn’s time in school, he involved himself in theatre in both performance and writing. He also practiced cartooning for the school paper which, he explains, “eventually devolved into a story that featured songs.” This is not unlike a comic he created in highschool about dancing and singing garbagemen.

However, it wasn’t until 1975 that he first published Neil the Horse, the comic that dominated his cartooning career. Stylistically, the comic is most reminiscent of early Disney cartoons, but because of the mélange of characters, styles and forms, it transgresses any real comics tradition. Saba experimented with many forms of pop culture not normally associated with comics such as paper cut outs, musicals and dances.

In 1977, Saba moved from Vancouver to Toronto to be immersed in the Canadian comics scene and he continued to develop Neil the Horse, publishing it in a multitude of forums.

Oddly, I didn’t really think about or plan anything musical when I started Neil. I mean, there never had been any such comic, and my eye was firmly on “the great traditions” when I got going. And I wanted to find my place amongst those greats. But I could tell right away that I had to find my own footing. Every great cartoonist and great strip, those who really projected a unique voice, had done so by gradually finding that voice. And it had to be the creator’s own genuine voice, whatever that may be. Herriman could not have envisioned in advance Krazy Kat’s sweet mystery. Barks never planned to make Donald an everyman. Foster likely never imagined that his chivalric adventure strip would grow to include domestic soap opera. Caniff, essentially a hayseed, probably never sat around imagining he would write sophisticated male-and-female repartee. And so on. They all followed their noses, and developed what they did best, a day at a time.

The comic found its footing, because in 1980 Saba published one of these stories with Potlach Publications in the 1980 Comics Annual.

Then again in 1982 with Dave Sim and Deni Loubert in the “Unique Story” section of Cerebus No. 41, 44 and 45. In February 1983, Neil the Horse graduated and was featured in his own book published by Sim and Loubert’s company Aardvark-Vanaheim.

Neil Horse 3Saba was even deeper in the comics community as he was also developing a five-part radio documentary on CBC, The Continuous Art, which explored the cultural position of comics. He conducted many interviews including those with Milton Caniff, Floyd Gottfredson, Hugo Pratt, Will Eisner, Jules Feiffer, and Russ Manning. His interview with Hal Foster is famous for being Foster’s last interview. Also on the radio at this time was Saba’s radio musical called Neil and the Big Banana which did very well.

Although Neil survived the separation of Aardvark Vanaheim titles, it only lasted 15 issues, the last of which came out in 1988. This did not mean the end of Neil.  Between the years of 1988 to 1993, Neil the horse was optioned in Hollywood and Saba began taking Neil in all possible directions.

Saba was pursuing three avenues of publication: the stage musical, the graphic novel and the TV series. In September of 1993, all three were rejected. It was at this point Saba decided to abandon hopes of developing Neil the Horse and began to pursue other options. During this time he had been living in San Francisco for five years, and had begun to realize his transsexual transition. By the end of 1994, this transition was completed, and Saba began a new life as Katherine Collins. During the rest of her new life, she no longer pursued comics, either as a journalist or creator until recently. In August 2013, Collins was inducted into the Shuster Award Hall of Fame and Hermes picked up the rights to reprint the collection in its entirety.

Currently, Hermes Press is suffering from financial problems and they’re trying to raise the funds in Indiegogo. The restoration complete, these funds will go toward actually printing the book.

Gene Day’s Black Zeppelin

First cover by Gene Day.

First cover by Gene Day.

In 1985, Deni Loubert’s newly founded publishing company Renegade Press published the first issue of Gene Day’s Black Zeppelin. The comic, a mix of science fiction, fantasy and horror comics, was predominantly a collection of Gene Day‘s work published posthumously, but also featured regular contributions from Dave Sim, David Day, Dan Day, Mark Shainblum and Gabriel Morrissette as well as other contributors such as Charles Vess, Augustine Funnell and Gordon Derry.

The series never exceeded five issues and was relatively irregular. It featured colour covers, by either Gene or David, with black and white interiors. The first three issues were 24 pages, the latter two being 32.

Issue 1, April 1985, Ed. Gale Day, Joe Erslavas

  • The Strip: Gene Day (A, S), Dan Day (I), Susan Thomas (L)
  • Priest: Charles Vess (A, S)
  • Winged Jupiter: Gene Day (S), Dan Day (A), Joe Erslavas (L)
  • Adriene All Alone: Dave Sim (A, S,)

Issue 2, June 1985

  • The Bizarre and the Fantastic: Gene Day
  • E. Pluribus Unum: Gene Day (S) Dan Day (P) David Day (I) Joe Erslavas (L)
  • Slaughterhouse Passing: Gene Day (S), Larry Dickison (A)
  • Quiet in the Green: Gene Day (S, A), David Day (Rendered), Susan Thomas (L)

Issue 3, August 1985, Ed. Joe Erslavas, Gale Day

  • It Waits: Gene Day (S, A)
  • Occurrence on a December’s Morning: Gene Day (S), Bruce Conklin (A), Dave Sim (L)
  • The Eaters: Augustine Funnell (S), Gene Day (P), David Day (I)
  • God’s Good Children: Gene Day (S), Dan Day (A)

Issue 4, March 1986, Ed. Joe Erslavas, Gale Day

  • The Infinite Man “Who Shall Cry For Damocles” Chapter One: Mark Shainblum (S), Gabriel Morrissette (P), David Day (I), Ron Kasman (L)
  • An Evil Cause: Dave McCarthy (S), Dave Sim (A)
  • Sequence: Gene Day (S, P), Dave Sim (S), Joe Erslavas (I)
  • Harry: Ronn Sutton (S, A)

Issue 5, October 1986, Ed. Joe Erslavas, Gale Day

  • “Who Shall Cry for Damocles” Chapter Two, Questionable Acts: Mark Shainblum (S), Gabriel Morrissette (P), David Day (I), Ron Kasman (L)
  • Life’s End: Dave Sim (S, A), Gene Day (A)
  • Gravedigger’s Banquet: Dave Sim (S, A), Gene Day (I)
  • Between Two Worlds: Gordon Derry (S), Barry Blair (P), David Day (F)

Doug Wright Awards: Awards and Comics

In 2011 American cartoonist Dustin Harbin created a short comic celebrating the Canadian Doug Wright Awards inspired by the event he initially attended in 2010. The awards ceremony was developed by Brad Mackay and Seth in 2005 and was created to promote Canadian comics culture and work.

The comic is an interesting perspective into the relatively new awards ceremony, which, considering the few that Canada boasts on the subject, is exclusively Canadian. After the 2011 ceremony, Harbin created his comic The Doug Wright Awards 2011: An Essay in Comics, by Some American which was featured on The Comics Journal website. This was Harbin’s contribution as diarist to the magazine as part their Cartoonist Diaries initiative. It was also later published in hardcopy and can be purchased on Harbin’s  site.

The comic is an excellent look at the Doug Wright Awards from an outside perspective, and was featured in the program of the 2012 DWAs as well, where Dustin Harbin was a guest and presenter.

To see more about Harbin’s opinions on award ceremonies including responses from both Brad Mackay and Kevin Boyd, go here.

Corbo

“To my parents, for their patience, and to Will Eisner, for the dreamers in all of us.” Patrick R Hamou

This post is an extension of one of my previous posts on Roger Broughton and Charlton Media Group. Although the company produced a lot of reprint work, Corbo stands as some of the only known original material published by the company and was published by one of Roger Broughton’s many imprints Sword in Stone Productions.

The story takes place in 1936 and follows Jonathan Proud, “a freedom fighter, a mercenary or a terrorist, it depends what newspaper you read or what politician you listened to”. Fighting for social causes in other countries, Proud returns home to learn he is not only wanted but that his own country is in need of his attention and expertise. Hence, Corbo the vigilante is born.

Corbo Stats

Corbo stats at the back of the comic.

Corbo was published in February of 1987 out of Genevieve, Quebec at the height of the black and white comics boom. A full 32 pages it was written by Roger Broughton himself, with lettering was done by A. Kroy. The art was done by Patrick Hamou with assists by Errol Burke and Geof Isherwood with cover art by Mike Kaluta. Although the second comic was scheduled for May, it was never released along with a comic entitled Sun Warrior, also credited to Broughton.

Interesting to note, the dedication of the book, while thanking Isherwood and Burke for their work also especially spotlights Bernie Mireault. The comic hails Mireault’s work for its originality and encourages the reader to check out The Jam. It is also one of the many comics to thank Gene Day in memoriam.

An especially interesting comic for it’s position in Canadian comics history. There seems to be a lot of intrigue and mystery around Roger Broughton and the current status of his company. I definitely recommend picking one up if you have the opportunity.

Shane Simmons’ Money Talks

The middle ages of zine culture produced some fantastic works out of Montreal. The most well known is probably Julie Doucet, but another great creator of comics and zines is Shane Simmons, a master of experimental comics. A writer of screenplays and TV scripts, his early career produced several short zines, including one major series entitled Angry Comics. This series ran until issue #12 before it was discontinued.

A real gem in Simmons’ career is his five part comic series Money Talks published by Slave Labor Graphics. The first issue came out in June of 1996 and the series was published bi-monthly until February 1997. This concluded the first volume of Money Talks, but sadly the series was not continued.

Simmons, an extremely skilled writer, paired his scripting with characters from American, Canadian and British monetary bills and notes. Although perhaps a little off-putting to begin with, the style becomes quite comical, especially when Simmons further experiments with how to impose facial gestures and action using only the bust of characters.

Albert, Ellie and Abe.

The story begins in Evansville with the death of Edward Warfield. It soon comes to light that Edward’s death was at the hands of his rival tycoon played by George Washington. The story follows the mob style activities of both of the rivals and related characters such as the Bowes family, a mother and her three daughters, all played by different versions of Queen Elizabeth. At the hands of Simmons, the comic has expert comedic timing and character dialogue.

Simmons can now be found at Eyestrain Productions where he and his other work is available to look at or order.

FIB Chronicle

FIB Chronicle was created by writer and artist Nemo Balkanski of Vancouver, BC and formerly of Blegrade, Serbia. It was published by Vancouver based and recently launched multi-media publisher, The Publishing Eye, whose mission is to produce “visual culture for the conscious mind”.

This is certainly evident in FIB Chronicle which is a collection of comics featuring thinly veiled spoofs and criticisms of political and socially recognizable figures as well as the failings of society itself. Each comic features a distinctive character and is usually no longer than two or three pages. By the end of the book there is a large collection of heroes and anti-heroes. Mostly anti-heroes.

Although many adult comics have been described as gritty, Nemo’s writing style definitely creates a real friction. The yellow tape across the front cover repeats “This is not for children” and for good reason. Many of his most villainous characters are made up of distinctly human characteristics causing them to be all the more loathsome. The comics, meant to expose and to educate, incite feelings of sadness, irrationality, fear and dark humour that are common within the human psyche, and are therefore more effective in creating the dark and shocking tone Nemo is aiming for. For example, a man graciously holds the elevator for a woman with groceries. When they are inside he pulls out a knife an tells her about his unstable behaviour.

Despite the hard stories within the comics, it is hard not to be impressed by the breathtaking artwork which is mostly done in ink and water colour. Balkanski’s stylistic creativity is showcased throughout the book and his compositions complement his stories fantastically.

The book is also produced with very a high production quality which adds to the glamour but contributes to the shock of the offensive but excellent stories within. To get a sampling of the book, check out this trailer. But be careful, child or not, these stories will turn your head.

MAC TIN TAC

MAC TIN TAC is the product of Marc Tessier and Stéphane Olivier. The series was written primarily by the two and is made up of many short stories about the main character Mac Tin Tac or the inhabitants of the strange Kuskus city in which they live. The comic was produced irregularly over five issues from 1990 until 1995, the last of which was published in Mirrors, by Gogo Guy Publications.

This cover won the Pixel D'Or for Best Book Cover

The story is largely existential and sociological and effectively applies satire on the way we perceive substance abuse, life, death, work, tradition and ceremony. This dystopian narrative is largely reflective in the artwork as well. Created in Montreal, Tessier and Olivier hired many burgeoning and underground artists to illustrate their ideas. Some of these artists included Olivier himself, Simon Bossé, Siris, Rupert Bottenberg, Jean-Pierre Chansigaud, Caro Caron, Richard Suicide, G.B. Edwin, Helge Reuman, Hélène Brosseau, Phil Angers, Jean-Claude Amyot and Alexandre Lafleur.

More than ten years after the first comic book was published, MAC TIN TAC was compiled by and reproduced as a graphic novel by Conundrum Press in 2004. Although this made the work more accessible to a new generation of readers, many of the short stories from the singles were lost including the entire contents of the first issue. Some artists that produced chapters in the comics didn’t make the cut for the book including Alain Gosselin, Mario Tremblay, Michel Rabagliati, Gilles Boulerice, Martin Lemm and Matthew Brown.

Conundrum cover by Chansigaud.

I do recommend the graphic novel. The book takes from the singles and makes a more linear story line which is easier to read. That, and the singles are harder to find. They also include side stories and more alternative art and storytelling methods which may be more difficult or more alienating to read. If that is your thing, some of the singles can be ordered online, but are still difficult to find. You can Mile High Comics which usually has a pretty good selection. To see more of Marc Tessier’s work in both his publishing company Gogo Guy Publications, you can go here. You can see a review done by Montreal Review of Books here.

Orb Magazine

Orb #2 featuring Northern Light on the front cover.

In 1974, the honeymoon of the science fiction and comics marriage, James Waley published Orb Magazine from Toronto, Ontario. This is three years before Andromeda was published, and is very much Andromeda’s predecessor. Both lasted only six issues, featured many of the same artists and writers such as Don Marshall, John Allison, George Henderson, Gene Day, Peter Hsu and Jim Beveridge. They both focused on similar content, that is, science fiction genre common in the alternative comics scene of the 1970s with a touch of the adult themed including nudity and other mature content.

The comic has more to give in the way of just science fiction. This is the magazine that is known to produce one of the many Canadian national superheroes, Northern Light. Originally scripted by an American for an American audience, the character was adapted for the Canadian magazine. Later, James Waley resumed writing duties for the character, but, like his many brethren in red and white, the character was very short lived.

Norther Light wasn’t the only regular story line in the magazine. There was also the Electric Warrior, Kadaver and Dark Ninja. This magazine did also feature some coloured pages, mainly those given to Northern Light. Never fewer than 50 pages per issue, some contain more than 10 in colour. The series ran from July 1974 until April 1976.

Orb #1 Cover by John Allison

Orb 1 – 1974

  • The Ride: Stanley Berneche
  • The Astounding Origin of Kadaver: James Waley
  • Devil’s Triangle: John Allison
  • Belial: Paul McCusker
  • Meta-Morphosis: Alexander Emond
  • Whirls of a Numb-a; Matt Rust

Orb 2 – July 1974

  • Plague: Gene Day
  • Galactic Queen: Paul Savard and John Allison (Script) Paul Savard (Pencils) Gene Day (Inks)
  • Musical Roulette: Ronn Sutton
  • The Seeker: Matt Rust
  • The Guardian of Mars (Northern Light): T Casey Brennan (Script) John Allison (Art)
  • No-Man’s Land: Paul McCuscker
  • Salvation: James Waley
  • Reeve Perry: Bruce Bezaire
  • Small Talk:

Orb 3 – December 1974

  • Lepers: Paul McCuscker
  • Half-Life: John Allison
  • Cheezy-Nuggets: Alexander Emond
  • Super-Student: Ken Steacy
  • Northern Light: The Lone Guardian Strikes: T. Casey Brennan (Script) Jim Craig (Art) Matt Rust (Colours) and James Waley (Colours)
  • Escape the Truth: Richard Robertson
  • Karkass: Matt Rust
  • A Shroud of Tattered Grey!: Gene Day
  • The Rescue of Raniff The Fair: Ronn Sutton

Orb 4 – November December 1975

  • Electric Warrior: Ken Steacy (Art) Kerri Ellison (Script)
  • Encore: Matt Rust
  • Gothic Glitter: Peter Hsu (Art) George Henderson (Script)
  • Dark Ninja: Vincent Marchesano
  • The Horror of Harrow House: Gene Day
  • The Astounding Origin of Kadaver Continued: James Waley
  • Child Slayer-World Saver?: Art Cooper (Art) James Waley (Script) Matt Rust (Script)
  • The Origin of the Northern Light Part One: Jim Craig (Art) Jim Craig (Script) James Waley (Script) and George Henderson (Script)
  • Space Scouts: Matt Rust

Orb 5 – January February 1976

  • One Man’s Madness: Gene Day (Art) T. Casey Brennan (Script)
  • Dark Ninja: Harbinger of Doom: Vincent Marchesano (Pencils) Bill Payne (Embellishments) Russell Wallace (Script)
  • Retribution: Gene Day (Script and pencils) Peter Hsu (Inks and tones) Matt Rust (Tones)
  • Man O’ Dreams: Don Marshall (Art) George Henderson (Script)
  • The Origin of the Northern Light Part 2: Dénouement: Jim Craig (Art) James Waley (Script) Matt Rust (Script)
  • Kadaver: My Will Be Done!: Art Cooper (Layouts) Jim Craig (Finishing) Matt Rust (Tones) James Waley (Script) Matt Rust (Script)
  • Back Cover: Don Marshall

Orb 6 – March April 1976

  • Cosmic Dancer: Jim Craig (Art) Augustine Funnell (Script)
  • Woof! Woof!: Matt Rust (Art) George Henderson (Script)
  • Gyk the Barbarian in Escape: John Sech (Script) Paul McCuscker (Pencils) Jim Craig (inks) Gene Day (Colours);
  • Trojan Horse: Gene Day
  • Dark Ninja in Dawn of Darkness: John Sech (Script) Vincent Marchesano (Pencils) Gene Day (Inks);
  • Flame of El-Hamman: Bill Payne (Art and letters) George Henderson (Script)

Orb #6

You can check out more about these comics in either of the John Bell books, but also here and here for some basic information.

One Horse Leadworks

The three issues of Headcheese.

So, one of the more prominent Canadian artists to date is Stuart Immonen who has worked for both DC and Marvel pencilling just about every prominent series within such as Superman, Hulk, Ultimate Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and X-Men. That said, it wasn’t until 1993 that he started working with bigger companies, so what did he do before hand?

Along with his then girlfriend and now wife Kathryn Immonen (née Kuder), they created the publishing house One Horse Leadworks in Toronto. Slightly higher quality than a fanzine, Immonen and Kuder orchestrated the production of alternative comic anthology Headcheese and then Playground, both of which spanned three issues. Headcheese was released in 1988 and the contributors are as follows:

Issue #1

  • The Eternity Bar – Ron Boyd
  • Shooting Gallery – Nick White
  • Mort & Shirley – Kathryn Kuder, Stuart Immonen
  • Pax Magoohan – Wayne Immonen
  • Peer Pleasure – Sheldon Inkol, Stuart Immonen
  • No. 1 – Kathryn Kuder
  • Agro – Nick White
  • Just Thinking – Ron Boyd
  • Passing Time – Stuart Immonen
Issue #2
  • Service With a Smile – Jerry Drozdowsky
  • The Insane Machine – X
  • Mort and Shirley Banks – Stuart Immonen, Kathryn Kuder
  • My Last Girlfriend – Sheldon Inkol, David Scott
  • Peer Pleasure – Sheldon Inkol, Stuart Immonen
  • She-Devil – Kathryn Kuder
  • Blood and Roses – Ron Boyd
  • The Shooting Gallery – Nick White
  • Art Gallery Stuff – Rob Alton
  • Penis Longspot – Stuart Immonen
Issue #3
  • Quantum Leap – Nick White
  • Love in a Calm – Andrew Clark, 1HLW
  • I Saw the Bloody Stump of God – Kathryn Kuder, Stuart Immonen
  • Chicken Gumbo – Stuart Immonen
  • Peer Pleasure – Sheldon Inkol, Stuart Immonen
  • Art Gallery Stuff – Robert Alton
  • The Garden – Jerry Drozdowsky, Ron Boyd
  • Oswald – Sheldon Inkoll, Jai Dixit
Definitely a great piece if you’re interested in his early work, although they might be a bit hard to find considering there were only 250 made of #2 and #3. Likewise, Playground was co-produced by Immonen and Kuder, and the fourth and final issue was published by Caliber Press in October of 1990.
The issues are subtitled as:
  • Prologue: The Vessel
  • Chapter One: The Wheel
  • Chapter Two: The Vessel
  • The Hundred Year’s Wake
Here is an interview with Immonen in which he references the early works, as well as here.