Johnny Canuck

In celebration of the Johnny Canuck Kickstarter Campaign to reprint! Support before it's too late!

In celebration of the Johnny Canuck Kickstarter Campaign to reprint! Support before it’s too late!

Throughout 1941, Canadian comic book readers experienced a boom in Canadian produced comics. It wasn’t until late in that year that Johnny Canuck was slated to appear.

In December of 1940, American luxury goods (including comics) were forced out of the Canadian market. Without the heroes that Canadian children had come to know and love like Batman and Superman, Canadian publishers got a clear shot to produce Canadian ones. Foremost of these heroes was none other than Canada’s answer to Captain America, Johnny Canuck.

leobachle1Johnny originally appeared in the first issue of Dime comics, which likely appeared on news stands in late December 1941 or January 1942, but whose publication date is February. Johnny’s creator, Leo Bachle, was just 16 at the time he created the comic for Cy Bell and John Ezrin. Despite Bachle’s youth, Johnny Canuck would go on to be one of Bell Feature’s biggest characters, and indeed, one of the biggest and most lasting characters of the Golden Age. The comic itself is just over 230 pages of comics spread across 28 issues and 7 arcs. The first and last issue are the only issues to be one shots.

Although Leo Bachle created the character and worked on the comic for most of the series, he left Johnny Canuck and Bell Features to take a position in New York. Subsequently, Johnny was handled by Andre Kulbach from issue 24 to 27, and Paul Dak took the last issue.

LeoBachleJohnny’s character was kind of a Jack of all trades, a flying ace and fighter, secret agent, and officer in the Canadian military. Most of the time, Johnny was saving “foreign beauties” and fought the axis on almost every war front. He met up with Hitler no fewer than three times and was trained in trapeze and boxing! Throughout his comics he travelled to Yugoslavia, Russia, Germany, Libya, Tibet, and China. It wasn’t until the final issue that Johnny’s story took place in Canada, and just off the coast of Halifax! Interestingly, this story also had a science fiction feel, as this last comic took place after the end of the war, and essentially, after Johnny’s biggest villain was out of the picture!

Recently, like Nelvana of the Northern Lights, I’ve been privileged with the position of collecting, restoring, and publishing Johnny Canuck! It’s never been reprinted in the seventy years since the last issue hit the rack! But I need your help! I’m raising the funds through kickstarter, a crowd funding website! Preorder the book here and get all kinds of other cool stuff like prints, posters and even original art by some of todays top creators! Let’s read Johnny’s adventures again!

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Nelvana of the Northern Lights and Triumph Comics

On September 10th, 1939 Canada joined the war effort and made its first independent declaration of war. It maintained its status and position in the war effort but by late 1940, preservation of the Canadian dollar became a priority. In December of 1940 the legislation known as the War Exchange Conservation Act (WECA) was passed and the prohibition of importing luxury goods from outside Canada commenced.

Also during this time, the American pulps and comics industry was booming. Some of the most famous current superheroes were well into their own story lines, and children in North America were reading them religiously. However, with the introduction of WECA, American comics were quickly removed from Canadian new stands as they fell under the non-essentials banner.

In the spring of 1941, two Canadian publishers sprang up to fill the void left by American comics which were Maple Leaf Comics and Anglo-American Comics and in the summer of that year, Hillborough Studios and Commercial Signs of Canada (later Bell Features).

Triumph #1Hillborough Studios was created and launched by Adrian Dingle with the assistance of the Kulbach brothers, Rene and Andre. Its only title, Triumph Adventure Comics, debuted in August of 1941 and contained the first appearance of Nelvana of the Northern Lights, also created by Dingle. She continued to be featured in all of Hillborough’s Triumph Adventure Comics up to issue six when Cy Bell of Bell Features purchased the title and the company and merged them with his own. Since then, Bell began publishing the comic from issue seven onward as Triumph Comics. Adrian Dingle was hired as art director for Bell Features but continued to work on the series as sole creator.

Nelvana of the Northern Lights was featured in the first 31 of the 32 issues of Triumph comics. It ran from 1941 to 1947, ending just shortly after the WECA ban was lifted. Two stories appear outside this run including a colour story in Super Duper Comics No. 3 published in May of 1947 and the Death Dealing Double story published in the collected Nelvana of the Northern lights. Nelvana is most famous for predating Wonder Woman and being part Inuit and goddess, her father being Koliak the Inuit god. Her story was loosely based on an Inuk elder the Group of Seven’s Franz Johnston brought back from his travels in the North and restylized to fit comics by Dingle. In 1970 when Michael Hirsh and Patrick Loubert purchased the rights to Bell Features, they named their animation studio after her, Nelvana Limited.

Nelvana GlaciaNelvana’s most famous adventures are that of her battling the Axis, with evil characters like Toroff and Mardyth and the Dictator! Subsequent storylines included Vultor, Queen of Statica and Knuckles, among others. She was assisted by her brother Tanero as both dog and human and her friend Corporal Keene, the RCMP officer. Although no Canadian Golden Age comics have been collected or reprinted since they were first published almost 70 years ago, my associate Hope Nicholson and I have obtained exclusive reprint rights and are crowdfunding the project until November 1st. Donating to this project will not only get you a copy of the complete collection of Nelvana, but funds will also go to promoting her and creating the highest quality product possible. The ultimate goal is to make Nelvana a household name!

Vernon Miller

vernon-millerAlthough Vernon Miller is now recognized for his great accomplishments in Canadian comics, his beginnings were much less auspicious. He is well known in the industry for having created one of the first Canadian comics publishing companies and subsequently the first Canadian superhero.

Miller was born in Winnipeg in February 1912 to Gerald and Ethel Miller. He was the second born in a family of three boys and one girl. Mr. Miller supported the family by working as a real estate agent in Vancouver, while Mrs. Miller stayed at home with the children. Vernon spent the better part of his childhood in Winnipeg before moving to Vancouver in his early teens. It wasn’t much later that he began his career as an illustrator in local newspapers such as the Vancouver Sun and The Province. He did so until the early part of WWII when the Canadian government introduced legislation that lead to dramatic changes in print culture in Canada.

In December 1940, the War Exchange Conservation Act prohibited most American periodical publications from being sold in Canada. Miller, seeing the opportunity to capitalize on this market, decided to take advantage of the now vacant industry in Canada. In 1941, with Harry Smith, he co-founded Maple Leaf Publishing, one of the first four original publishers of comics in Canada.

The first issue released by the company, Better Comics, appeared on newsstands in the spring of that year, beaten only by Anglo American’s oversized melange of reprints and original material. Alternatively, Better Comics was published in the traditional size and format and featured all original material. Among the stories was the first appearance of Iron Man, better known as the first Canadian superhero. So not only is Miller responsible for creating the one of the first Canadian comics publishers and comic book, but also creating and executing Canada’s first superhero.

The premise of Iron Man is that, at the beck and call of the two children Jean and Ted, and the Major, Iron Man would depart from the depths of his watery home in the South Seas to fight the Axis or any other number of topical villains. Ignoring the discordance between his name and home, Iron Man was of a race of evolved, super powered humans that were prematurely destroyed by an earthquake. He is well known for mourning the loss of his people, which was only broken by his trips to the surface.

1941 was a busy year for Miller. During this time he also married his wife Lillian. They later had two children together named Richard and Karen.

Maple Leaf Publishing expanded to four titles including Better, Lucky, Rocket and Bing Bang comics shortly after the success of Better. They expanded to include other great heroes and characters such as Black Wing, Senorita Marquita, Brok Windsor, Derry Dreamer, Bill Speed, Callahan, the Adventures of Peter and Peggy, Honourable Freddy and Circus Girl.

Directly, Miller worked on several of the books in all aspects as both creator and producer, but as his staff of artists grew he began to do more writing and editing rolls, working on such titles as Danny and his Magic Ring, Mr. E and Tiger Tex among others.

During Canada’s golden age period from 1941 to roughly 1946, Maple Leaf publishing was not only a prolific but also quality comics publishing company. They produced several distinctly Canadian pieces with many successful artists on staff such as Bert Bushell, Jon Stables, Ernest Walker, Shirley “Ley” Fortune and Ted Watson. Unfortunately, in the spring of 1946, as the ban was lifted, Maple Leaf was forced to cease publishing as American comics again flooded the market.

This was not the end of Miller’s illustrating career, though. He continued to do work for newspapers and periodicals including the popular Canadian Boy Magazine in the 1960s. Vernon Miller passed away in 1974 at the age of 62 years old. You can read one of his Iron Man stories below.

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Vernon Miller is being given a Lifetime Achievement Award this year at the Joe Shuster Awards on Saturday, August 25th at the AGO. You can read more about Maple Leaf Publishing and comics on my other post here.

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)

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.

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.

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.

Canadian Comics References in Print

The back story is that Canadian comics came into existence because of the war-time ban on American publications. They flourished during the war because they were the only comics available to Canadian youth, and they were very good, but they suffered no competition. I sometimes think this kind of rule should be applied more often, especially in regards to Canadian pop culture, but let’s not open up that can of worms.

Anyway, after the war ended, the ban was lifted, and this was basically the end of Canadian comics as a flourishing industry until about the early nineties. There’s more to it, and here’s where you can find it.

Basically, nothing really happened until 1971. Canadian comics were being produced in different ways, educational, underground, etc., but the first reference book on the subject that talked about superheroes and proper mainstream comics from Canada was Michael Hirsh and Patrick Loubert’s The Great Canadian Comic Books. This book is basically a look into perhaps the most successful, and most Canadian, comics produced during the forties and includes histories and excerpts on almost all facets of the Bell Features collection including Nelvana, The Penguin, Johnny Canuck and popular genres. It was published kind of as a companion to an exhibition that was happening at the time.

The introduction by Alan Walker should be taken with a grain of salt as not all of his facts are accurate. The other chapters include The National Gallery of Canadian Heroes, Sports, The Surreal World of Secret Agents, Comic Book Covers, Humour, Western Action, Miscellaneous, The War Spirit, Youngsters Only, Jungle, Adventure, A Stable of Costumed Heroes, Detectives and an Afterword by Harold Town.

Unfortunately, this book is rare. Published in 1971 by Peter Martin and Associates Limited, it had a smaller print run. Being about comics, Canadian comics even, especially in the seventies, didn’t automatically mean great sales. It was published with two editions, but the only difference is that the second edition has a different cover. You can find it online, but it’s not cheap. The good news is that it was republished in Alter Ego #71. The other good news is that, if you’re on a budget, you can buy a digital copy for cheap, but they do have back issues as well. The bad news is that the republication does not include all of the Bell Features excerpts that the original does. You’ll find a link near the end to purchase these online.

And then nothing again. Well, almost nothing. At this time, the makings of the next great book on the subject were being collected by John Bell. An archivist with Archives Canada since 1975, John Bell had his own archives of comics with everything from fanzines, to underground comics, to one shots and comic anthologies. In 1989 he published the first Canadian comic price guide called Canuck Comics with Matrix Graphics Comics, which is not a complete listing of all the comics up to that time, but some of the more common or popular ones. The book also includes:

  • A Publisher’s Preface by Mark Shainblum entitled “Of Canadians and Comic Book People”
  • A foreword by Harlan Ellison entitled “Dreams of Joy Recaptured”
  • A humourously titled introduction by John Bell called “Yes, There Are Canadian Comics”
  • Also by John Bell, “A History of English Canadian Comic Books”
  • “The War Years: Anglo-American Publishing Limited” by Robert Macmillan
  • Luc Pomerleau’s “Québec Comics: A Short History” in both English and French (La BD Québécois: Bref Historique)

Shortly after the release of this comic, Bell, who had been a curator of the Canadian Museum of Caricature in Ottawa, wrote and published Guardians of the North: The National Superhero in Canadian Comic-Book Art. This small book was released as a program or companion to the 1992 exhibition of the same name, and focuses more on Canadian superheroes. Good luck finding this one. Your best bet is probably a library again, but there are a few available for purchase at a sharp price.

In May 2004, TwoMorrows Publishing released its first issue with a feature on Canadian comics, (I’ve done this a bit backwards) Alter Ego #36 and includes some fantastic pieces. In this issue is:

  • “The Golden Age of Canadian Comic Books and Its Aftermath” by John Bell
  • “Living in a World of Fantasy” in which Dave Sim talks with Adrian Dingle, Pat Dingle and Bill Thomas
  • “My Teacher Was Just Alex Raymond Strips” which is an interview with Jerry Lazare
  • “Comic Crypt: Fred Kelly – An Appreciation” by Michael T. Gilbert
  • “Les Barker, a.k.a. Leo Bachle” by Robert Pincombe

Like Alter Ego #71, Alter Ego #36 can be purchased in both print and, somewhat cheaper, digitally. Another benefit to having both copies is that issue #36 includes extra pictures (in black and white) and samples of Golden Age comics that #71 does not. 

Finally, the real treasure trove of information can be found in John Bell’s Invaders From the North: How Canada Conquered the Comic Book Universe. This was released in 2006 by Dundurn Press in Toronto. It features a concise history of comics in Canada from the man who essentially put it together. Since its publication the book has been remaindered, and is quickly becoming another rare book on a  long list of rare books about and of Canadian comics. This is, generally, the height of publications on Canadian comic books. But more information is obviously always available online. A great resource is always Sequential if you check out the blog roll and links section to the right, and I try and keep updated with reliable online references.

Sources

Bell, John, ed. Canuck Comics: A Guide to Comic Books Published in Canada. Montreal: Matrix Books, 1986.

Bell, John. Invaders From the North: How Canada Conquered the Comic Book Universe. Toronto: The Dundurn Group, 2006.

Hirsh, Michael. Loubert, Patrick. The Great Canadian Comic Books. Toronto: Peter Martin and Associates, 1970.

Lost Heroes. Pascoe, Will. Wosk, Tony. Toronto: Far Point Films. Middle Child Films, 2014.

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.

The True North

Cover By Dave Sim

In September of 1987, the RCMP seized 192 comics from a comic book shop called Comic Legends in Calgary, Alberta. They also charged owners Julie Warren, Darren Ott and Dale Clarke with circulating obscene materials. The comics in question were adult comics and were never intended for children, nor were they sold to children. The reason for the search and confiscation of the comics was that a 14-year-old boy purchased a copy of Warlock 5 by Aircel Comics, and his mother complained. Warlock 5 was not a comic that was seized that day.

When comic artists caught wind of this, as they would, they were outraged. As a result, Paul Stockton (Of Strawberry Jam Comics), Leonard S Wong, Liz Schiller and Derek McCulloch formed the Comic Legends Legal Defense Fund (hereafter CLLDF). In order to raise funds for Warren, Ott and Clarke, CLLDF published an anti-censorship comic book anthology called The True North. Despite the unfavourable circumstances with which it was created, the comic book is an excellent testament to the conviction of the comic book industry both in and outside Canada. It also features a fantastic array of Canada’s writers and artists, as well as some Americans, spanning from from style to era and genre.

Unfortunately, all three shopkeepers were convicted with a fine of $5500. Although they did appeal with the help of CLLDF, the result was only a reduced fine.

In 1991, the CLLDF published True North II, a second anthology collection, again anti-censorship, and again, a great collector’s item. What I love most about these comics is the sampling of so many different Canadian writers and artists. Here is the contents of each book and there are some useful links at the bottom of the post.

True North

  • Anti-Censorship Propaganda – Chester Brown
  • Reid Fleming – David Boswell
  • One Romantic Evening – Jeffrey Taylor
  • Ronald and the Ducks – Ron Kasman
  • Starbikers – Ronn Sutton
  • The Life and Times of Tomas De Torquemada, Grand Inquisitor – Kent Burles
  • A Little Thought About Comics – Ty Templeton
  • Dan Panic: Think Allowued Talk – Greg Holfeld
  • It Comes Down to This – Nick Burns
  • A Suburban Nightmare – Michael Cherkas and Larry Hancock
  • Real Life – M.A. Bramstrup and Monique Renee
  • Comic Books – William Van Horn
  • Dan Day Pinup – Dan Day
  • A True Story – Bernie Mireault and Joe Matt
  • Counterblast – Nick Burns
  • Warning – George Metzger
  • Wizard Pinup – Ron Kasman
  • Media Violence – Mark Shainblum and Gabriel Morrissette
  • Centerspread: Manunkind – Matt Wagner
  • -And So It Goes – George Freeman
  • Beware of…They! – Rodney Dunn
  • Jail for Joe – Dave Darrigo
  • Freedom of Choice Hot Tub – Todd McFarlane and Terry Fitzgerald
  • Edgar the Common Sense Elephant – Seth
  • Defenses of Clay – Rob Walton
  • Malcom and Eric – Ian Carr
  • Vox Populi – Richard Taylor and Mark Askwith
  • Bizarre Taste with Asta Roid – Gordon Derry and Adrian Kleinenberg
  • Rosebud – Derek McCulloch and Simon Tristam
  • Other Artists – Dave Sim, Gerhard
True North II
  • Lethargic Lad – Greg Hyland and John Migliore
  • Bachelor Party or The Road Not Taken or Just Another Male Fantasy – Dennis Eichhorn and Carel Moiseiwitsch
  • R.G. Taylor Pinups – Richard Taylor
  • How These Bastards Operate – Ron Kasman and Gabriel Morrissette
  • On Being Eurasian – Theresa Henry
  • The Weird Canadian Artist – Chester Brown
  • Prescription For Ignorance – Diana Schutz and Monty Sheldon
  • A Public Disservice Message – Roberta Gregory
  • Random Pornography – Darren Raye and Sean Scoffield
  • Saved – Seth
  • The Steel Brood – Kent Burles
  • Surgie Center Tales of the Existentialist Private Eye – Ty Templeton
  • Big Boss Barney – Sylvie Rancourt and Jacques Boivin
  • Reflections – Denis Beauvais
  • Little Zemo in Censorland – Richard Pace
  • Statue of Liberty – Jeffrey Morgan
  • The Censors – Stephen Bissette
  • Revenue Canada – Leonard S. Wong
  • Jungle Rescue – Ronn Sutton
  • The Eye of the Beholder – Deni Loubert
  • Tierra de Pajaro – Gilbert Hernandez
  • May 29th 1988 – Joe Matt and Bernie Mireault
  • Reid Fleming – David Boswell
  • Tales of the Censor – Janet Hetherington
  • Words and Thoughts – Toren Smith and Tomoko Saito
  • Potato Man – Todd McFarlane
  • The Raven – Patrick McEown
  • Three Card Monty – Derek McCulloch and Simon Tristam
  • Benefit – Rick Trembles and Bernie Mireault
  • Stupid Fucken Dumbass Censorship – Rick Trembles
  • Those People! – Reed Waller and Kate Worely
  • Blank – Tom Grummett and Roger Williamson
  • Captain Censored Vs. Dr. Goingtoofar – Al Roy and Max Douglas
  • Corpus Delicti – Jerry Prosser and Matt Wagner
  • Other artists – Dave Sim, Gerhard, Kelley Jones, Moebus

More recently, an American man was charged with possessing child porn when Canada customs agents discovered manga scans on his laptop. Both The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) and CLLDF have both decided to support the case. If you want to donate, you can go to their site. Here is a great new and informative promotional flyer as well. Here and here are further resources.