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Racial Opposition In Dime Comics No. 15

© Copyright 2017 Benson McDaniel, Ryerson University

The WECA and the Comic Book Vacuum

In 1939 Germany invaded the Sudetenland; two days later England declared war on Germany and just a week after that Canada declared war alongside the Crown, thus entering what would come to be known as the Second World War. The Canada of 1939 was a small nation, despite its geographical vastness, with a population of just over eleven million, most of whom contributed to a resource economy deeply rooted in agriculture. By the close of the war, Canada had more than a million people serving in uniform (Scott 7). The staggering margin of the nation’s population that were personally invested in the war effort is an indication of the holistic dedication Canada showed during the Second World War. With nearly a tenth of the population serving hands on, Canada, at home and abroad, was truly at war.

War is an investment for any nation, and it is an especially dire investment when a nearly a tenth of a nation’s population is personally serving in the effort. For these reasons, on December 6th, 1940, William Lyon MacKenzie King introduced the War Exchange Conservation Act, or WECA, to protect the Canadian economy and aid the dollar. The War Exchange Conservation Act limited imports, specifically on luxury or nonessential goods, and among the paper products banned from the Canadian border were comic books (Kocmarek 148).

In is within the ensuing comic book vacuum that the genesis of the first generation of Canadian born comic books, the Canadian Whites, is found. In as little as three months, Canadian entrepreneurs mobilized resources and began to create titles in order to fill the empty space on Canadian magazine racks and in the lives of Canadian children. First came Anglo-American’s Robin Hood and Company Comics, soon followed by Maple Leaf’s Better Comics title, which though primarily composed of reprints included the appearance of the first Canadian superhero, coincidentally called Iron Man. That summer, Anglo-American expanded its line to include the Freelance title, and by September, Bell Feature’s Wow Comics and Hillborough’s Triumph-Adventure Comics were also on the stands (Bell 2015). Soon, Canada had a wide range of its very own comic book titles, complete with uniquely Canadian heroes

Among these comic books was Dime Comics, from Bell Features. Dime Comics’ content was a diverse mix of titles, including mysteries, crime stories, single page jokes, comedic strips, and superhero titles, but heaviest on titles focusing on military affiliated action heroes, fighting for Canadian interests abroad. Given that not only was Canada at war but it was that very war which allowed the Canadian Whites to come into existence it should come as no surprise that the ongoing fight features heavily in Dime Comics. In Dime Comics No. 15 alone, six titles, “Rex Baxter”, “ “Hitler” Has… Troubles!!”, “West Wewak”, “Lae Task Force”, “Scotty MacDonald” and “Johnny Canuck”, revolve around the war effort abroad.

“Rex Baxter” sees a heroic RCAF embroiled in a strange plot involving mystical figures and science fiction technology, all of which the title character is constantly looking to apply to the war effort. “West Wewak”, “Lae Task Force” and “Scotty MacDonald” all center on fighter pilots and ground troops attempting to advance through the jungles of South East Asia, while “Johnny Canuck” finds the eponymous Canadian superhero stranded in those same jungles, lost and trying to find his way out. Unfortunately, another primary theme present in most of the content of Dime Comics No. 15, is the racialization of villainous figures. Characters of Asian and South East Asian descent are consistently identified as villainous figures and figures of suspicion and deceit, not because of their geopolitical affiliation but rather because of their racial identity. In fact, these characterizations of racial others are not limited to stories set abroad, embedded in the geopolitical conflicts. Within a Dime Comics No. 15 “Nitro” story, the titular character, the superhero and masked avenger Nitro, identifies enemy figures as villainous and dangerous because they appear to be Hindu. Given India’s place in the commonwealth and its role as an ally to both Canada and the United Kingdom, the role of race as a determining factor in identifying enemy characters is undeniable.

Racialization and Otherness in Dime Comics No. 15

Dime Comics No. 15’s “Nitro” begins unassumingly; Nitro’s mild mannered alter ego, Terry King, receives a visit from a family friend, Carol Fane. Carol informs Terry she has been receiving death threats regarding a ‘Hindoo’ artifact her father, Sidney, has recently recovered from India. Despite the colonial overtones, the first pages of the title are relatively unassuming—that is, until the final frame of the second page, in which Carol is grabbed and hauled into a car by captors whom Nitro characterizes as “foreign looking thugs”. As Nitro begins to pursue the car, he shouts, “OKAY YOU FANATICS GET SET TO MEET YOUR ANCESTORS!” (Lazare 14).

Black and white image, the final panel of the second page of "Nitro", Dime Comics. No. 15
G. Lazare (a). Dime Comics. No. 15
June 1944,Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection, 1941-1946. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada

Here, Nitro could have identified his enemies by their actions—kidnapping a friend, throwing her in a car and taking off, any number of all round nefarious or suspicious behaviors—but instead its their ethnic identity that he identifies them as antagonists.

An identical occurrence can be observed in a military story later in Dime Comics No. 15, “West Wewak”. “Breezy” Bartlett, an RCAF pilot, is flying over the Solomon Islands when he is attacked by a Japanese Zero.  Just before ejecting, Bartlett looses a hail of bullets into the Japanese planes, proclaiming “COME AND GET IT, YOU SLANT EYED BABOONS! HAVE SOME GOOD CANADIAN BULLETS RIGHT IN THE PUSS!” (Legault 20). Later, after seeing an American assault on a Japanese base begin, Bartlett attacks a Japanese gunner, yelling “GANGWAY, YOU ALMOND-EYED LITTLE MEN OF BANZAI!” as he does (Legault 22).

Again, the enemies of the protagonist are not identified as so by their allegiance to enemy foreign powers—their colors, their insignia, their loyalties—things that may evolve and change overtime, things that may be forgotten after the war, things that are transient and not inherent to their identity, but by their racialization. The Japanese enemies of ‘Breezy’ Bartlett aren’t portrayed as his enemies because of their imperial mandate, the cruelty of their policies, or any other more nuanced reality, but because of their features which are inherent to their race: their Asian eyes, their Japanese stature. The message is clear: Bartlett’s enemies aren’t his enemies because they serve the Axis, but because they are the Axis—as evidenced by their racial features.

Later, on page 29 of Dime Comics No. 15, a “Scotty MacDonald” story features the titular hero and an American ally, Jim O’Hara, sent to rescue a Chinese allied agent. Once they’ve rendezvoused with their man, Sin Tong, Jim says to Scotty, “THINK HE CAN BE TRUSTED SCOTTY. [sic] HE’S A MYSTERIOUS LOOKING CHAP. HE MAY NOT BE THE M’COY!” (Cooper 30). One might expect the portrayal of Chinese people in Dime Comics to be more sympathetic, given their role as an ally (not that this prevented racist depictions of Indian people), yet again a character expresses sentiment specifically centering on an Asian person’s appearance. His behavior, his credentials, these things which any reasonable person would judge another person’s character, are secondary to the man’s racial identity. Paired with the racist caricature of Japanese soldiers which follows in the remaining panels of “Scotty MacDonald”, an opportunity for a positive representation of Asian characters is passed upon, and even an allied soldier is portrayed as rather shifty because of his Chinese appearance (Cooper 32).

The final title of Dime Comics No. 15, a “Johnny Canuck” story, offers even more racist caricatures.

Black and white image, the title page of a Johnny Canuck story, Dime Comics. No. 15
L. Bachle (a). Dime Comics. No. 15
June 1944,Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection, 1941-1946. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada

The cover page showcases an immense, menacing face, who’s pierced ears and head wrapping betray his foreign allegiance to readers.  Based off of this cover page, one might assume the Indian man terrorizing the exhausted hero might figure in the story as the primary antagonist, a villain deserving of such a frightening depiction; however, the character in question appears nowhere within Dime Comics No. 15’s “Johnny Canuck” title (Bachle 32). Why then does he populate the cover page? One can only assume because his racialized visage is meant to project villainy, fear and malice, traits that the artist, Leo Bachle, clearly associates with Indian peoples.

The Racial Home Front

What motivated the racist content of Dime Comics No. 15?

While the depiction of Japanese soldiers is abhorrently racist, its genesis is not a mystery. In December 1941, the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii was attacked by the Japanese air force, and alongside the United States and its allies, Canada declared war on Japan. Soon after the attack, the Canadian government used the War Measures Act—in order to declare each and every Japanese citizen—naturalized, Canadian born and immigrant alike—an enemy alien. Even Japanese Canadians who had served in the Canadian military during the First World War were subject to this draconian law (Fukawa, Hickman 68). Basic rights such as habeas corpus were annihilated by enemy alien status. The Japanese had their finances seized and their agency, already limited by racism and prejudice, entirely revoked. Japanese Canadians were then required to register with the RCMP as aliens (Fukawa, Hickman 72). At the beginning of 1942, the eviction and internment began, as Japanese Canadians were ordered to evacuate their homes and report for detention (Fukawa, Hickman 82). During the evacuation of Japanese Canadians from Vancouver, citizens were held in livestock stables and other makeshift buildings in Hastings Park (Fukawa, Hickman 86). By decree, the Canadian government essentially dehumanized the Japanese in every way—they revoked their rights, their status as citizens, and even kept them in holding areas intended for animals. All of this, not because any evidence was ever produced showing any Japanese Canadians held allegiance to Imperial Japan, or that there was any indication of a threat posed by radicals within Canada, but simply because Japanese Canadians were Japanese. Like the Japanese characters demonized in “West Wewak” and “Scotty MacDonald”, their enemy status wasn’t confirmed by any facts, any actions, their character or their conduct, but by their racial status, they Asian appearance.

As vile and reprehensible as they are, the depiction of Japanese people within Dime Comics can be rationalized. The Japanese were the enemy, for geopolitical reasons rather than racial ones, but the conflation of the two is understandable given that the Canadian government quite literally made the same mistake, and with the full power and resources at their disposal, not only treading into racist folly in theory but in action, permanently altering the Japanese population of Canada and leaving scars—financial, racial and yes, physical—that would never fade.

The depiction of racialized figures belonging to allied states, on the other hand, offers no such accessible and understandable explanation. India, as a British Commonwealth nation, was an ally to Canada and the rest of the Allied forces. What then is the source for the bizarre animosity directed to both explicit and implicit Indian and Hindu figures?

The majority of Hindu immigration to Canada began in the 1960s, with droves of professional Indian men and women, along with their families, arriving to find their place in Canadian society. The majority of Hindu immigration before this time occurred in British Columbia, far from the Torontonian home base of Bell Features comics (Coward 3). The west coast location of the pre-war Hindu immigration did not however prevent institutionalized racism from taking place, similarly to how it would take place decades later. Between 1900 and 1908, nearly 5000 South East Asians, mostly Indian peoples, largely Sikhs but Hindus as well, immigrated to BC. Until 1908, this process ran rather smoothly, but after eight years the small, frightened, racist white population pressured the government into taking measures to combat the imaginary invasion, just as the government would combat another imaginary invasion during the Japanese internment. Legislation was passed in 1908 not only to prohibit South East Asian, and specifically Hindu peoples, from voting, serving in public serving, on juries or as school trustees, professing law or pharmacy, working public contracts or purchasing crown timber, but also to prevent any further immigration through “continuous journey” laws (Coward 8).

While it may at times seem random and senseless, the racialization of the South East Asian figures of Dime Comics is not without precedent—precedent laid by the Canadian government itself. The Canadian Whites are as Canadian as any stories come—full of courage, daring exploits, heroism and alliances forged through adversity—but just like the history of Canada, there are negatives present as well: colonialism, racial violence, prejudice and exoticism. The Canadian Whites are spotted, they are flawed, just like Canada itself, and like Canada itself, if we are to move on as a people, we must acknowledge these flaws and seek to understand from where they came and how they might be avoided in the future.


WORKS CITED

  • Kocmarek, I. “Truth, Justice, and the Canadian Way: The War-Time Comics of Bell Features Publications.” Canadian Review of Comparative Literature / Revue Canadienne de Littérature Comparée, vol. 43 no. 1, 2016, pp. 148-165. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/crc.2016.0008
  • Bell, John. “Comics Books in English Canada.” The Canadian Encyclopedia. N.p., 2 July 06. Web. 22 Mar. 2017.
  • Lazare, Gerald (w., a.) “Nitro.” Dime Comics, No. 15, June, 1944,  pp. 14-16. Canadian
  • Whites Comic Book Collection, 1941-1946. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives
  • Canada
  • http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166578.pdf
  • Legault, E.T. (w., a.) “West Wewak.” Dime Comics, No. 15, June, 1944,  pp. 20-22. Canadian
  • Whites Comic Book Collection, 1941-1946. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives
  • Canada
  • http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166578.pdf
  • Cooper, Al (w., a.) “Scotty MacDonald.” Dime Comics, No. 15, June, 1944,  pp. 29-32. Canadian
  • Whites Comic Book Collection, 1941-1946. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives
  • Canada
  • http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166578.pdf
  • Bachle, Leo (w., a.) “Johnny Canuck.” Dime Comics, No. 15, June, 1944,  pp. 32-35. Canadian
  • Whites Comic Book Collection, 1941-1946. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives
  • Canada
  • http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166578.pdf
  • Hickman, Pamela and Masako Fukawa, Righting Canada’s Wrongs: Japanese Canadian Internment in the Second World War, James Lorimer and Company LTD., 2011.
  • Coward, Harold G., et al. The South Asian Religious Diaspora in Britain, Canada, and the United States. State University of New York Press, 2000. SUNY Series in Religious Studies. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=44052&site=ehost-live.

Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.

Themes of the Representation of Violence and War through Canadian Identity and the Portrayal of the Axis Powers in Dime Comics Issue No. 22

©Copyright 2017 Abigail Tamayo, Ryerson University.

Introduction

Published by Bell Features, Dime Comics’ 22nd issue of the Canadian Whites comic books was released in April of 1945. It is one of twenty-nine published comic books issued by Dime Comics from 1942 to 1946 during and after World War Two.

Dingle, Adrian (a). Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features: Cover, Bell Features collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Dingle, Adrian (a). Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features: Cover, Bell Features collection, Library and Archives Canada.

From front to cover, the comic issue contains several action, adventure and science themed stories and includes two activity pages. The stories included in the comic issue are as follows: “Chapt-Nine Conclusion: Rex Baxter and Xalanta’s Secret” written and illustrated by Adrian Dingle, “Chick ‘n’ Fuzz” written and illustrated by Bill Thomas, “Oolay the Eskimo” story by Cal, “Nitro” written and illustrated by Jerry Lazare, “Professor Punk” written and illustrated by Harry Brunt, “Johnny Canuck” written and illustrated by Leo Bachle, “Let’s go back and face the draft, he says there’s a war on here too!” story by Mickey Owens, “The Mongoose” written and illustrated by Bill Thomas, “Firebug’s Fiasco” written and illustrate by Jerry Lazare, “Drummy Young” written and illustrated by Jerry Lazare, “Monster of the Deep” written and illustrated by Fred Kelly, and “Murder Star” written and illustrated by Tedd Steele. Although the comic was released around the end of the war, there were still strong instances of national identity presented throughout the issue which battled the depicted characterization of the axis powers. Within the writers and artists’ representation of violence and war, the differences between Canadian identity and that of the Axis Powers were distinct. Readers can easily distinguish the ethnicity and political positions of certain characters due to the stereotypes we are aware of now, implanted within their words and appearances.

Bell features publishing originated due to the government’s program of “Eliminating non-essentials” (“We Must Do Without”), and their existence contributed to the Canadian Whites’ influence in popular culture during World War Two. Dime Comic’s issue no. 22 manifested Canadian ideologies in its production, becoming a form of Canadian propaganda by perpetuating Canadian identity in the comic through its superheroes and the depiction of an anti-axis powers political view through its Japanese and Nazi-German characters.

Representation of the Axis Powers

The comic issue incorporates various elements of representation when conveying the diverse characters that appear in its stories. A crucial reoccurring essence of representation that is worth observing is how the axis powers are represented in the comic issue. The way in which the Axis Powers are represented provided readers in the 1930s with a manufactured vision of who the enemy was, and when compared to their pre-conceived notion towards Canadian identity it benefited an uplifting movement that encouraged national pride and Canadian nationality as “the good guys”.

Characters in this issue ranged from being Canadian, American, Japanese, and Nazi-German. The characterization of all characters in the issue were done by Canadian writers and artists. The writers and artists of this issue had the tendency to represent “the other” in World War Two, referring specifically to the Japanese and Nazi-German characters in the issue, through the racialization of their Japanese and Nazi-German characters.

In this comic issue, Nazi-Germans appear in the comic issue as unintelligent individuals, at least in comparison to the Canadian characters that appear alongside them. Emphasizing on how ludicrous and ill-advised the Nazi-Germans are in the stories they appear in, provides the reader with a tone-deaf representation of actual Nazi-Germans during World War Two.

 

Chapt-Nine Conclusion: Rex Baxter and Xalanta’s Secret

Written and illustrated by Adrian Dingle, “Chapt-Nine Conclusion: Rex Baxter and Xalanta’s Secret” is the first comic that appears in the issue. The story features the characters Rex Baxter and Gail Abbot who rescue Zoltan from a Japanese prison camp from the south pacific. The panels on the pages represent various moments in time, first placing the reader in a radio station (Dingle 1-2), then immediately into the action; Rex Baxter running towards a plane and in the sky (3-5), and communication between Americans, Canadians, and Rex Baxter. (6-7)

Within the language of the story, Dingle includes several World War Two slang terms. To refer to a Japanese person; anything Japanese Dingle shortens the word to simply ‘Jap’, however Dingle also makes use of a more offensive term in synonymous to a Japanese person: ‘Nip’ which originates in the 1940s as an abbreviated form of the term ‘Nipponese’. (“Nip3”) Tension had risen in the beginning of 1942 between Canadians and the Japanese since the attacks on Pearl Harbour on December 7th, 1941, resulting in a sense of distrust of Japanese-Canadians which lead to the imprisonment of Japanese-Canadians in internment camps. (Marsh) They remained detained in these camps, located along the pacific coast, for the duration of the second world war until the war ended in 1945. (Marsh)

Dingle, Adrian. Panel from"Chapt-Nine Conclusion: Rex Baxter and Xalanta's Secret." Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Dingle, Adrian. Panel from”Chapt-Nine Conclusion: Rex Baxter and Xalanta’s Secret.” Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

Another offensive term referencing the Japanese is the word ‘squints’, which is a racial reference to the physical features of a Japanese Person.

Dingle, Adrian. Panel from"Chapt-Nine Conclusion: Rex Baxter and Xalanta's Secret." Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Dingle, Adrian. Panel from”Chapt-Nine Conclusion: Rex Baxter and Xalanta’s Secret.” Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Bachle, Leo. Panel from"Johnny Canuck." Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Bachle, Leo. Panel from”Johnny Canuck.” Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Chik ‘N’ Fuzz

Written and illustrated by Bill Thomas, “Chik ‘N’ Fuzz” follows two main characters Chik and Fuzz (notably a racist story due to Thomas’ depiction of Caucasian and African Americans through the two main characters) who are on their way to England when they intercept a Nazi-German submarine and take the opportunity to wreak havoc from within enemy lines. The Nazi-German characters in this story are easy to point out due to Thomas’ use of the characters’ speech bubbles and appearance to convey his Nazi-German representation.

Thomas, Bill. Panel from"Chik 'N' Fuzz." Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Thomas, Bill. Panel from”Chik ‘N’ Fuzz.” Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

Note the emblematic Swastika of the German Nazi party on bands around the arms of the German soldiers. (Jeff) The characters also speak in a thick German accent which Thomas depicts through the intonation of the words he writes in the speech bubbles for the Nazi-German characters. In one frame, the Nazi-German characters appear to “Heil Hitler”.

Although Thomas’ representations of Nazi-Germans are watered-downed versions of real Nazi-German’s during World War Two, the representation provides readers with a basic concept of identifying Nazi-Germans.

Thomas, Bill. Panel from"Chik 'N' Fuzz." Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Thomas, Bill. Panel from”Chik ‘N’ Fuzz.” Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Thomas, Bill. Panel from"Chik 'N' Fuzz." Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Thomas, Bill. Panel from”Chik ‘N’ Fuzz.” Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Johnny Canuck

In his comic, Leo Bachle’s character Johnny Canuck is captured and held captive by Japanese soldiers and is tortured for information. Bachle’s depiction of the Japanese soldiers in the comic reveal a racialized appearance and speech, apparent in how he drew the soldiers and the diction he used in their speech bubbles.

Bachle, Leo. Panel from"Johnny Canuck." Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Bachle, Leo. Panel from”Johnny Canuck.” Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Bachle, Leo. Panel from"Johnny Canuck." Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Bachle, Leo. Panel from”Johnny Canuck.” Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Bachle, Leo. Panel from"Johnny Canuck." Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Bachle, Leo. Panel from”Johnny Canuck.” Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Maximum Advantage in pictures: propaganda as Art and History. From a Poster. This is the Enemy. Public Domain.
Maximum Advantage in pictures: propaganda as Art and History. From a Poster. This is the Enemy. Public Domain.

The dehumanization of the axis powers was not uncommon during the second world war, due to the increasing amount of propaganda posters made by the allies. The appearances of the Japanese were often caricaturized as ghastly monster-like individuals, inflicting malice to instill fear in the audiences the posters were propagandized towards. One American anti-Japanese propaganda poster called “This is the Enemy” shows a Japanese soldier holding a dagger in one hand with sharp-nails on the other, appearing to claw and reach for the woman who is running away in terror.

The Japanese soldier on the poster bears the Japanese Rising Sun Flag on his hat which was Japan’s flag during the late 19th and early 20th centuries but has since then changed due to its connection to the military significance during World War Two, wherein it acted as Japan’s insignia as an allied force of the Nazi-Germans who they shared similar ideologies with. (Kim) The racialization of Japanese persons in propaganda posters utilizes racial stereotypes to distinguish ‘the other’ and inflict fear of ‘the enemy’. This form of propaganda permeates Bachle’s comic, evident in the portrayal of the Japanese characters who are depicted as ruthless, remorseless and violent individuals.

 

National Identity

Two of the comics in this issue, “Nitro”, and “Johnny Canuck”, feature superheroes highly popularized during World War Two, Nitro and Johnny Canuck respectively, who Guardians of the North listed as members of a group of comic superheroes purposed to personify the Canadian spirit embedded within Canadian identity. Unlike the typical superhero who is characterized to have supernatural abilities, Nitro and Johnny Canuck are uncharacteristically portrayed to use more mundane abilities in battles. Nevertheless, the two share the ability of superhuman strength though in their comics “Nitro” and “Johnny Canuck” have them seen using intellectual based abilities, natural of a regular person alongside their superhuman ability. In Nitro and Johnny Canuck alone, it is evident there is a plethora of representation of Canadian identity which is primarily projected through the superhero’s actions, thoughts and words, and even so far as the way they are drawn by their artist.

Nitro
Lazare, Jerry. Panel from"Nitro." Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Lazare, Jerry. Panel from”Nitro.” Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

In Jerry Lazare’s “Nitro”, Nitro appears to the reader firsthand as Terry Allen, a regular person who at the crime scene assesses the situation to an officer nearby, revealing his sharp attention to detail when pointing out a piece of evidence went amiss. He then switches into his alias, Nitro, to confront the perpetrator of the crime. He bears a skin-tight costume with the letter “N” on his chest, boots and gloves, and shorts held up with a belt that also has the letter “N” on its buckle.

 

 

Lazare, Jerry. Panel from"Nitro." Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Lazare, Jerry. Panel from”Nitro.” Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Lazare, Jerry. Panel from"Nitro." Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Lazare, Jerry. Panel from”Nitro.” Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

Nitro is not only strong physically but mentally too. His enemy (“Curly” Edwards) admits inevitable defeat because Nitro is ‘To wise for his own good.’

In the face of danger Nitro defeats his enemy, showcasing his ability to use his quick wit and intelligence alongside his fighting skills. His contribution to Canadian identity surfaces in his near ‘normality’, emphasizing the concept that having superhuman abilities is not a necessary quality for a person who wants to help in the instance of a crime, rather instead if a person is willing to help and makes the effort of helping someone of authority then that person has done their part. It is a subliminal message of Canadian Nationalism that permeates a lot of the superhero stories produced by Dime Comics. The comic mirrors the implications of Canadian propaganda released during World War Two which focused on a collective group coming together for the greater good- wherein using a nation’s shared strength, intelligence, and the force in unity– Canadians contribute to the war time effort. On the Homefront, Canadians were encouraged to support the Canadian military service men through thriftiness, conservation of food and duel, recycling and reuse of resources, and loans (victory bonds) which would finance the war. (“War and Military”)

Library and Archives Canada. From a Poster. The Men Are Ready...Only You Can Give Them Wings :  Canada's war effort and production sensitive campaign. Public Domain.
Library and Archives Canada. From a Poster. The Men Are Ready…Only You Can Give Them Wings :  Canada’s war effort and production sensitive campaign. Public Domain.
Library and Archives Canada. From a Poster. If You Don't Need it... Don't Buy it. Public Domain.
Library and Archives Canada. From a Poster. If You Don’t Need it… Don’t Buy it. Public Domain.
Canadian War Museum. From a Poster. Save Waste Bones -They Make Glue For Aircraft .. And Are Used For Explosives... Public Domain.
Canadian War Museum. From a Poster. Save Waste Bones -They Make Glue For Aircraft .. And Are Used For Explosives… Public Domain.
Canadian War Museum. From a poster. Invest and Protect. Help Finish the Job. Public Domain.
Canadian War Museum. From a poster. Invest and Protect. Help Finish the Job. Public Domain.
Johnny Canuck
Bachle, Leo. Panel from"Johnny Canuck." Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Bachle, Leo. Panel from”Johnny Canuck.” Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

Guardians of the North refers to Johnny Canuck as “Canada’s superhero.” Johnny Canuck was created by Leo Bachle and was used as a figure of response to the outside threats during World War Two. (Reynes-Chikuma et. al.) Johnny Canuck, also often referred to as Captain Canuck, helped legitimized a pre-conceived consciousness of Canadian identity, reinforcing the perception as Canada as a “peaceable kingdom.” (Edwardson 184) In his article, Ryan Edwardson explains the use of comic books which as a visual medium, encourages the imagination to be used, thus resulting in a conscious construction of the nation and national identity. (185) In issue no. 22, Johnny Canuck is placed under captivity by Japanese soldiers and is tortured for information, but later is thrown into a jail cell where he meets an elderly man who validates his persona as Captain Canuck while also validating the image of Canadian identity.

Captain Canuck became a part of Canadian consumer culture (195), especially as he mirrored Canadian nationalistic values that were propagandized towards Canadians on the Homefront in posters– moralism, natural strength, and self-sacrificing persona to name a few. (186) One artist pointed out the success of using propaganda posters as a tool to send messages, noting the artwork’s ability of permeating a message in an instant and aesthetically pleasing manner, alongside the tendency for posters to be internalized rather than analyzed, made them effective. (“Canadian WWII Propaganda posters”) In issue no. 22, Johnny Canuck exhibits the traits of a selfless hero whose perseverance goes unnoticed.

Bachle, Leo. Panel from"Johnny Canuck." Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Bachle, Leo. Panel from”Johnny Canuck.” Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

Johnny Canuck’s strength is tested here, as he blames his lack of food and water on his being weaker than usual. The elderly man who is with him encourages him to drink the water and eat the bread he has hidden under his bed to help him regain his strength.

Bachle, Leo. Panel from"Johnny Canuck." Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Bachle, Leo. Panel from”Johnny Canuck.” Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Mental_Floss. From a poster. We Are Saving You, You Save Food. Public Domain.
Mental_Floss. From a poster. We Are Saving You, You Save Food. Public Domain.

When creating most of the propaganda posters made during World War Two, government officials consulted old posters from the first world war and other resources at the Public Archives. (“War and Military”) Johnny Canucks’ need to be fed to maintain his strength mirrors the message of a Canadian propaganda poster that was made during World War One, tiled “We Are Saving You, You Save Food” which also includes the following statement: “Well fed Soldiers Will Win the War”

 


Bibliography

Bachle, Leo (w, a). “Johnny Canuck”. Dime Comics, no. 22, April, 1945, pp. 23-28. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166584.pdf

“Canadian WWII Propaganda Posters.” Air Museum. N.p., n.d. Web. http://www.airmuseum.ca/postscan.html

Clark, Jeff. Uniforms of the NSDAP: Uniforms, Headgear, Insignia of the Nazi Party. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing, 2007.

Dingle, Adrian (w, a). “Chapt-Nine Conclusion: Rex Baxter and Xalanta’s Secret”. Dime Comics, no. 22, April, 1945, pp. 1-7. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166584.pdf

Edwardson, Ryan. “The Many Lives of Captain Canuck: Nationalism, Culture, and the Creation of a Canadian Comic Book Superhero.” Journal of Popular Culture 37.2 (2003): 184-201. Web. 12 Apr. 2017. http://journals2.scholarsportal.info.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/pdf/00223840/v37i0002/184_tmloccoaccbs.xml

Lazare, Jerry (w, a). “Nitro”. Dime Comics, no. 22, April, 1945, pp. 15-20. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166584.pdf

“Nip3.” Oxford Dictionaries. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/Nip#Nip_Noun_500. Accessed 22 March 2017.

Kim, Dongwoo. “Why One Should Never Use the Japanese Rising Sun Flag.” Web. http://thewandereronline.com/why-one-should-never-use-the-japanese-rising-sun-flag-by-dongwoo-kim/

Marsh, James. “Japanese Internment: Banished and Beyond Tears.” The Canadian Encyclopedia 2012. Web. http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/japanese-internment-banished-and-beyond-tears-feature/

Reyns-Chikuma, Chris. “Exploring Canadian Identities in Canadian Comics [Special Issue].” Canadian Review of Comparative Literature/Revue Canadienne de Litérature Comparée 43.1 (2016): 5. Print.

Thomas, Bill (w, a). “Chik ‘N’ Fuzz”. Dime Comics, no. 22, April, 1945, pp. 8-13. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166584.pdf

“War and Military.” Archive. Library and Archives Canada. N.p., n.d. Web. https://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/posters-broadsides/026023-7200-e.html

“We Must Do Without.” Editorial. Toronto Telegram, April 13, 1942. Democracy at War: Canadian Newspapers and the Second World War, Canadian War Museum. http://collections.civilisations.ca/warclip/objects/common/webmedia.php?irn=5043709

Cupid and Psyche: Romance for the Victorian Child

The Red Romance Book
Figure 1: Cover displays intricate illustration by H. J. Ford, as well as colour corresponding bindings.

© 2013, Nabila Islam

“Cupid and Psyche.” The Red Romance Book. Ed. Andrew Lang. Illus. Henry J. Ford. New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1921. 249-64. Print.

 

This curatorial is an exploration of the ideologies in the 19th century that influenced and shaped the respective works of Andrew Lang and Henry J. Ford, providing a commentary on their collaborative work on “Cupid and Psyche” from the Red Romance Book.

Andrew Lang

Andrew Lang (1844-1912) was the eldest of John Lang and Jane Plenderleath Sellar’s eight children. Lang’s educational journey includes Edinburgh Academy, University of St. Andrews and Balliol College, as well as a fellowship at Morton College from 1865 to 1874. A Victorian intellectual and classicist, Lang was interested in numerous subjects, such as history, anthropology and psychical research, especially after he moved away from religion, towards mythology and legends.

As a child, Lang read the works of the Grimm brothers and William Shakespeare. As an adult, he wrote articles, literary criticisms, and essays on the varying subjects that interested him. His list of work is extensive, going far beyond fairy tales. Despite his diverse knowledge on a verity of subjects, Lang preferred the romance of folk and fairy tales. However, he is most renown for his collection of fairy tales. Despite having published some original fairy tales, his distinction comes from being a collector and editor of folk and fairy tales from around the world.

Lang’s twelve coloured fairy books became a staple for children, introducing new and old tales, from a variety of sources. With the aid of his wife, who would gather the material, Lang would edit and arrange the tales and H. J. Ford would then illustrate for his books. The physicality of the books increased popularity, each the corresponding colour, with the sumptuous covers typical of the early 1900s. The Red Romance Book, though not part of the coloured fairy book series, holds the same physical qualities (see Figure 1).

Time & Culture Specific

“Cupid and Psyche” is classified as Aarne-Thompson Tale Type 425A, Search for Lost Husband, under the category of “Supernatural or Enchanted Relative,” and sub-category of “Husband,” but it falls under ATU 425B, “Son of the Witch” as well. This tale comes from Apuleius’s version of “Cupid and Psyche;” a tale set within his novel Metamorphosis. Apuleius was a Latin writer and Greek sophist who was a North African native and a Roman citizen. Although Apuleius wrote his novel in 2 A.D., there is evidence of Eros (Cupid) and Psyche in 4th century B.C. Greek art. Apuleius’s version gained popularity during the Renaissance when Greco-Roman antiquities were received by later cultures (Classical tradition), following which the story was retold through various artistic mediums. Apuleius’s tale of “Cupid and Psyche” is similar to a Hittie tale on the god Telepinus from the 2000 B.C. While it is not quite the same, the metaphors and motifs align, suggesting roots as ancient as these Anatolian people from the 18th century B.C.

However, there are differences between Apuleius’s and Lang’s texts. Writing during the Fin de Siècle for a different audience, Lang had to make this tale more suitable for Victorian children. That meant changing the prophesized non-human dragon bridegroom to a monster which shall devour Psyche. Lang downplayed the description of Psyche’s fated husband, which is typical, considering the disapproval Victorian society held for violent content; they felt that such material was unsuitable for children. Lang also removed the section where Psyche seeks retribution from her two elder sisters who caused her to doubt her husband and thus lose him. Such deception and unmerciful deaths would not have been appropriate. However, the most significant difference in the two tales is regarding Psyche’s pregnancy. As Lang is writing a romantic tale for the consumption of children, he eliminated any mention of Psyche’s sexual interaction with Cupid and the subsequent pregnancy.

Joyfully the eagle bore back the urn
Figure 2: Pysche’s final task in Lang’s version of the tale.

On her search for Cupid, Psyche must face trials set for her by Aphrodite. Where Apuleius’s Venus sets four tasks, the fourth being a trip to the Underworld, Lang limits Psyche’s trials to the rule of three. Likewise, Lang shortens the tale by relegating a few paragraphs to Cupid and Psyche’s reunion, Cupid’s request for forgiveness and immortality for Psyche. Apuleius, writing for an adult readership, included a magnificent wedding feast with the gods of Olympus.

Apuleius’s tale was seen as an allegory for immortality granted to the soul as a reward (for sexual commitment). This was later adapted into a Christian allegory. Lang’s adaptation of “Cupid and Psyche” might have provided Victorian children with entertainment; however, it might also have instructed young girls to be good, well-behaved children who trust their parents, and later, their husbands; to remain committed to their husbands in all circumstances.

H. J. Ford

Henry Justice Ford (1860–1941), was quite prolific throughout his career as an illustrator. He is best known for his collaboration with Andrew Lang on the coloured Fairy Books. Ford had an illustrious education, attending Repton School and Clare College in Cambridge (where he attained a background in the classics), the Slade School of Fine Art in London with Alphonse Legros and Sir Hubert von Herkomer’s Art School at Bushey.

Although best known as an illustrator, Ford had wide-spread interests. The fourth of seven sons to Augustus Ford, a solicitor, and his wife, Katherine Mary, he was as interested in cricket as the rest of the Ford family. Ford was able to foster a connection with J. M. Barrie while playing cricket with Barrie’s Allahakbarrie Cricket Club. He was friends with many renowned figures of his time, such as P. G. Wodehouse and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He was a friend of Sir Edward Burne-Jones, a British artist associated with the later phase of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Ford, who also did history paintings and landscapes, was able to exhibit some at the Royal Academy and New Gallery.

A quote from “L. D. L.” in The Times provides a summary of Ford: “The name of Henry Justice Ford was familiar from the 1880s to innumerable children…Every year his inexhaustible fancy produced illustrations, decorative, charming, and sometimes a little alarming, of princes and princesses and fairies, demons, and animals…it is by his illustrations he is remembered, though he never had quite the reputation as an artist he desired, perhaps, because he was reckoned ‘only an illustrator’.”

Victorian Ideals Illustrated

Aphrodite brings Cupid to Psyche
Figure 3: First illustration in the narrative of “Cupid and Psyche.” Fine details reflects Ford’s high art aesthetic.

Despite a constant interest in both fairy tales and the illustrations that go with them, industrial progression brought forth a further interest in traditional folk and fairy tales. Between 1880 and 1900 the illustrations for fairy tales gained a sudden increase in popularity. Britain’s acquisition of Africa and India meant an interest in new stories from other cultures, in addition to the traditional and well-known tales. At this time, H. J. Ford became one of the two most important and powerful illustrators.

Aphrodite finds Psyche's task accomplished
Figure 4: The single colour plate for this tale depicts the major female characters (Aphrodite and Psyche), one with a glow indicating a goddess nature. Reprinting this image in a reduced size means an overflow of details.

Ford consistently produced high quality illustrations of fine and delicate detail, balancing a high art aesthetic with consumerism (see Figure 3). His work combined the realistic and the fantastical, due to thorough research and ability. His coloured plates better display his Pre-Raphaelite influence compared to his black and white work, thanks to the brilliant colouring. However, reprinting the original image sometimes dulled the intense colours in an unfortunate way. The original illustrations were four times the reprinted size, thus his work, full of details, sometimes came off as overcrowded (see Figure 4).

Ford gained painterly knowledge on myths and legends through his association with Sir Edward Burne-Jones, which allowed him to insert such a significant amount of detail in his illustrations. He also did the illustrations on the covers and spines. Characteristic of the period, Ford used the art-nouveau frames on the illustrations and the hand-scripted labels underneath.

Zepyhr carries Psyche down from the mountain
Figure 5: The ideal Victorian femininity displayed in Psyche’s flowing hair and draped clothing.

Throughout their collaboration, Lang and Ford placed a strong emphasis on English femininity, despite the origins of the tales, complicating the image of an ideal woman. There was consideration neither for new readership among the newly colonized nor for any possible appreciation of differing cultures. The illustrations throughout The Red Romance Book depict the ideal beauty from the Romantic era; fair skin, a flowing mass of locks, and draped gowns. Most of the images are ethereal and in the case of “Cupid and Pysche,” almost all the images showcase nature or animals, creating enchanted illustrations. While English ideals regarding femininity and beauty do not affect the reading of “Cupid and Pysche” to the extent as some other tales, superimposing of ideals grounded from the Romantic era and the Pre-Raphaelite aesthetic is significant. Especially once a growing readership is considered, as well as the purposeful neglect of displaying other cultures appropriately.

 


 

Works Cited

Anderson, Graham. Fairytale in the Ancient World. Taylor & Francis, 2002. 4 April 2013. e-book.

Merriman, C. D. “Andrew Lang.” The Literature Network. Jalic Inc. (2007).Web. 10 Apr. 2013.

Gollnick, James. Love and the Soul: Psychological Interpretations of the Eros and Psyche Myth.. Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1992. Print.

“H J Ford: Artist.” Look and Learn. Look and Learn Ltd. (2013). Web. 4 Apr. 2013.

“Henry J Ford.” The Wee Web Authors and Illustrators Archive. The Wee Web Authors and Illustrators Archive, n.d. Web. 4 Apr. 2013.

“Henry Justice Ford (1860-1940)” The Victorian Web. The Victorian Web. (2007). Web. 4 Apr. 2013.

Houffe, Simon. Fin de Siecle: The Illustrators of the ‘Nineties. London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd., 1992. Print.

Michalski, Robert. “Towards a Popular Culture: Andrew Lang’s Anthropological And Literary Criticism.” Journal Of American Culture 18.3 (1995): 13. Academic Search Premier. Web. 4 Apr. 2013.

Osgood, Josiah. “”Nuptiae Iure Civili Congruae”: Apuleius’s Story of Cupid and Psyche and the Roman Law of Marriage.” Transactions of the American Philological Association 136.2 (2006): 415-41. JSTOR. Web. 4 Apr. 2013.

Whalley, Joyce Irene and Tessa Rose Chester. “Moonlight and Shadown: 1880 to 1900.” A History of Children’s Book Illustration. London: John Murray, 1988. Print. 127-150.

Ziolkowski, Jan M. “Straparola and the Fairy Tale: Between Literary and Oral Traditions.” Journal of American Folklore 123.490 (2010): 377-97. Project MUSE. Web. 4 Apr. 2013.

view this exhibit on the CLA Omeka site