Tag Archives: Canadian Identity

The “Noble Savage” Stereotype as a Political Tool in Active Comics, No. 11

© Copyright 2018 Mila Kulevska, Ryerson University

Introduction

The phenomenon of the “noble savage” stereotype emerged as a response to the crude and primitive depiction of Indigenous groups within literature. The common ethnic stereotyping that type-casted Indigenous characters as barbaric and savage-like in nature was a fundamental aspect of Indigenous representation; this was a widespread literary concept up until the 18th century (“Noble Savage: Literary Concept”). As a result, writers and philosophers attempted to counteract this discriminatory stereotype with another form of literary misrepresentation. The character of the “noble savage” symbolizes the purity and innate goodness of the Indigenous populace that has not been corrupted by westernized civilization (“Noble Savage: Literary Concept”). Although this phenomenon is viewed as inherently heroic, the stereotype is representative of the often superficial means that the Indigenous were exalted for. While with historical perspective it is evident that such racializations were romanticized and non-reflective of the Indigenous minorities they portrayed, these stereotypes were initially intended to steer public opinion and strengthen nationalistic pride. These nationalistic sentiments are exemplified within the character of Red in Active Comics, no. 11 (1943). Within both the issue and the story of “Dixon of the Mounted”, Red is the only Indigenous character depicted. His limited representation speaks volumes of the portrayal of Indigenous people within literature, as he is used sparingly and is characterized as inarticulate and simple-minded. Still, his role is ultimately heroic, and he helps the main character Corporal Dixon to capture a drug lord on Canada’s home front.

During a time when Canadian Indigenous people were mistreated and erased from the public eye, the role of Red as a protector is worth focusing upon. In the text, Red performs many noble deeds that are uncharacteristic of the Indigenous stereotype of the time. This creates a change in perspective and national identity relating to Indigenous populations and Canadians as a whole. Even though his role is a romanticized idealization, the stereotype of the “noble savage” strengthened the sense of unity in the country which was important to increase the low morale during the Second World War. Nevertheless, when a greater enemy, the axis powers, arose during the Second World War, unity within the country became more important than the prior racial tensions. Thus, in an attempt to unify the country, the media began to close the perceived gap between Indigenous people and the Caucasian majority. Although the “noble savage” idea was inaccurate and fabricated to be propaganda through literature, it promoted unification of the country while maintaining the disparity between the two groups.  


The wide distribution and appeal of the Bell Features comics fortified this depiction of Canadian identity within popular culture. The portrayal of heroic Indigenous characters was a means to build national pride. Thus, the literary idealization of the Indigenous populace and the use of the comic industry as a political tool will be studied to evaluate how these concepts were used to elevate the “noble savage” stereotype as more than just a romanticization, but also a nationalistic discourse to support the Canadian home front.

The Phenomenon of the “Noble Savage”

To begin, the “noble savage” is a fabricated concept to demote the Indigenous people to dim-witted, but inherently courageous and noble characters (“Noble Savage: Literary Concept”). Although this stereotype had ancient roots and had existed for centuries before, it reached unprecedented popularity in Canada during the 20th century. The billboards and tobacco figureheads of the time period demonstrate that the representation of the Indigenous populace of pre-Second World War Canada was akin to tokenism as a novelty item. In the public sphere, the Indigenous people were dehumanized and reduced to caricatures. This glorified stereotype which was deep-rooted in literature is no more evident than in the character of Red. The narrative of “Dixon of the Mounted” follows the protagonist Corporal Dixon on a mission set in Northern Ontario. The series issues a synopsis, which reveals that Dixon is investigating a marijuana drug ring on an Indigenous reserve. Throughout the storyline, comradery is established between Red and Corporal Dixon through multiple instances, as Red saves the Corporal and declares his subservience for the protagonist. Although Red is purposefully written by author René Kulbach as inarticulate, constantly referring to himself in

A page from "Dixon of the Mounted" showing Red saving Corporal Dixon after he is injured.
Fig. 1. René Kulbach. Page from “Dixon of the Mounted”.  Active Comics, no. 11, May 1943, p. 3. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

the third-person and speaking in broken-English, the trapper goes out of his way to aid the Corporal on his mission. An in-text narration in the third panel of Figure 1 reads: “The Indian finds his stunned friend and brings him to the sleigh to bandage his head” (3). This line perpetuates the derogatory portrayal of Indigenous within popular literature: the reference to Red as an “Indian” rather than referring to him by his name is a derogatory typecasting, further emphasized by the mention of Corporal Dixon as his “friend”. In essence, this compartmentalizes the larger issue of ethnic stereotyping by establishing a power dynamic between Red, as a good-natured “Indian” who would go to drastic measures to protect his country and his white Canadian “friend,” the Corporal. This dehumanization is an effective introduction to enlighten and open audiences to diversity by showing Indigenous characters in a non-malevolent manner. The valiance and courage of Red throughout the mission fortifies his role as a “noble savage” character. His actions in protecting his reserve and exposing the drug ring are ultimately recognized as home front efforts. In this manner, the “noble savage” stereotype is employed as a nuanced propaganda approach throughout the comic to inspire and coax the readership into engaging in the war effort.

The Political Climate for a Canadian Identity

The significance of the creation of an Indigenous ally such as Red cannot be rationalized without an understanding of the political landscape in which he was created. After trade restrictions led to a ban of American comics during the Second World War, the boom of the black-and-white “Canadian Whites” comics documented a shift in popular culture and development of a national identity (Bell “Comic Books”). The tribulations to build a consistent political ideology for Canadian citizens was notably challenged in the years leading up to the Second World War. As a result of several misleading propaganda campaigns enrolled by the United Nations, most of the Canadian war efforts were discredited within the public sphere. The lack of global recognition was infamously punctuated by the British Royal Army in a propaganda campaign that maintained the false beliefs that British efforts in the war were unaided and solitary, implying that Canadian war efforts were futile (Bumsted 291).

Lieutenant-Colonel J.F.R. Akehurst looks at Sergeant Tommy Prince's Military Medal, black and white.
Fig. 2. Christopher Woods. Lieutenant-Colonel J.F.R. Akehurst, Commanding Officer, 2nd Battalion, First Special Service Force, Examines Sergeant Tommy Prince’s Military Medal, Which Was Awarded for “Distinguished and Gallant Service” at Anzio. Buckingham Palace, London, England, 12 February 1945, 1945, Faces of the Second World War Collection. Library and Archives Canada. Public Domain.

These publicized allegations were an under-acknowledgement of Canada’s substantial assistance and support of the allied forces, as they enlisted roughly 1.1 million soldiers, at least 6,000 of which were Indigenous minorities, including Sergeant Tommy Prince as seen in Figure 2 (Bumsted 291).  Regardless, there was significant advocacy for Canadian values, such as humility and responsibility, in attempts to raise troop morale. An emphasis on the underlying value of freedom and honour for the better of the collective community was a humble approach perpetuated as an integral aspect of Canadian values. This notion was also referenced by Bumsted as he notes that the Canadian populace served in the war with no “ulterior motives or expectations of advantage” (289). However, the overarching message of the Canadian propaganda differed from the tactics of the British Royal Army, which emphasized independence and dignity. Rather, the Canadian identity valued humility over dignity and the protection of allies for the greater common interest. These values are exemplified by the plot lines and heroes championed within the comics, who are framed by ideologies regarding compassion and servitude, which can be interpreted as humility (Grace and Hoffman 4). Following this manner, Red’s depiction reflects the core Canadian values that were being promoted at the time. For instance, Red is written patriotically in the way that he sees the merit in the Corporal’s needs above his own and lends his aid for the greater purpose of Canada’s protection. Red’s humbleness and devotion to the protection of his allies, as well as his nation’s common interest, capture the distinct Canadian identity values of the time in a manner that the comics could contrast from the British values. For that reason, Bell Features comics saturated literature through their popularity and availability, consistently perpetuating these Canadian values to strengthen the national identity. Thus, themes of Canadian patriotism became major selling-factors in the absence of the American comic books and solidified the industry as a cultural influence within literature.

The Ideal Wartime Civilian Populace

The concept of the “core notions of national membership” is investigated by authors Takeda and Williams by portraying how Canadians were expected to be an active participant in their country, particularly during the wartime (80). To be a member of one’s nation during the Second World War implied that citizens needed to be active participants in the war relief efforts, by building comradery with each other. The authors’ note that this was projected through propaganda and literature to establish a sense of “political stability” (84). This, in turn, discouraged ethnocentrism and promoted tolerance. Tolerance was important during the war, since a single force could not be considered unified if it were plagued by inner conflicts that weakened the whole. This emphasis of unification is exemplified within the Canadian comics, which employed diverse characters as a means to reinforce national unification; such ethnically diverse characters had never been depicted to this extent prior to the wartime. By promoting characters such as Red within the literature, comics were simultaneously inspiring their readers with nationalism and empathy for the diverse people of Canada. This had the ultimate effect of improving the unification of the country. Thus, the Canadian comic book industry was a part of an overarching wartime effort to strengthen and unify the bonds between the individual members of the Canadian population.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the comic book genre facilitated empowerment by engaging young readers with more diverse heroes, promoting acceptance and actively creating a stable Canadian home front. The widespread popularity and distribution of Bell Features comics advocated Canadian values and fortified the depiction of the Canadian identity. Essentially, serving Canada involved responsibility and active engagement in the war efforts, no matter ethnicity or political view. The representation of Indigenous minorities was building nationalistic pride and responsibility as a Canadian citizen, which in turn was being promoted to the young readers of the time. The notion of defending Canada reflected the core Canadian values, humility and protecting allies, and was intended to inspire nationalism in the youth (Grace and Hoffman 4). Through an analysis of Indigenous representation, the significance of the “noble savage” stereotype, and the comic book genre’s influence within Canadian literature as a political tool, the character of Red in “Dixon of the Mounted” encouraged unification among the Canadian population and bolstered the Canadian home front during the wartime. Indeed, the national discourse promoted through the use of such heroic Indigenous characters elevates them as a cornerstone for what the Canadian identity should entail: humility, and tolerance for the diversity which makes up our nation.

Works Cited

Bell, John. “Comic Books in English Canada.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, Historica Canada, 8 July 2015, https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/comic-books-in-english-canada.

Bell, John. Invaders from the North: How Canada Conquered the Comic Book Universe. Dundurn, 2006. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/lib/ryerson/detail.action?docID=611683#.

Bumsted, J. M. The Peoples of Canada : A Post – Confederation History. Oxford University Press, 2008. ProQuest, http://search.proquest.com/docview/887547210/citation/526E25B14D344555PQ/1.

Campbell, Grant. “William Collins during World War II: Nationalism Meets a Wartime Economy in Canadian Publishing.” Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada, vol. 39, no. 1, 2001, pp. 45-65,  https://jps.library.utoronto.ca/index.php/bsc/article/view/18199.

Kulbach, René. “Dixon of the Mounted.” Active Comics, no. 11. Bell Features and Publishing Company Limited, May 1943, pp. 1-8. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166512.pdf

“Noble Savage: Literary Concept.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 5 April 2016. www.britannica.com/art/noble-savage.

Grace, Dominick, and Hoffman, Eric. The Canadian Alternative: Cartoonists, Comics, and Graphic Novels. University Press of Mississippi, 2017. Ryerson Library.

Takeda, Nazumi, and Williams, James H. “Pluralism, Identity, and the State: National Education Policy Towards Indigenous Minorities in Japan and Canada.” Comparative Education, vol. 44, no. 1, 2008, pp. 75-91, https://journals-scholarsportal-info.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/details/03050068/v44i0001/75_piatsnimijac.xml

Woods, Christopher. Lieutenant-Colonel J.F.R. Akehurst, Commanding Officer, 2nd Battalion, First Special Service Force, Examines Sergeant Tommy Prince’s Military Medal, Which Was Awarded for “Distinguished and Gallant Service” at Anzio. Buckingham Palace, London, England, 12 February 1945, 12 February 1945. Faces of the Second World War Collection. Library and Archives Canada, 3191549, http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/military-heritage/second-world-war/faces-second-war/Pages/item.aspx?IdNumber=7.

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.

Canadian Identity in Triumph Comics #18

© Copyright 2017 Gillian Dizon, Ryerson University

Introduction

The comics published by Bell Features during World War II are a cultural backbone for what a given society at the time wanted to define as the nationalistic ideology of Canadian identity. Thus, superheroes, their sidekicks and their antagonists came to fruition to address these behaviours or characteristics for all audiences. Generally speaking, if one were to consider these superheroes and their journeys as an example of perfection and goodness, then their antagonists must serve as a way to illustrate to the readers what is considered evil or antithetic to Canadian identity. Tasked with motivating young Canadians during the war effort, the various heroes of Triumph Comics #18 (Ace Barton, Captain Wonder, and Nelvana of the Northern Lights) of Triumph Comics #18 (1944) are often antagonized by villains who are marked by cultural or ethnic stereotypes of Japanese, German and Indigenous people. Understandably, two of these cultural groups derive from the countries the Allies have been warring with during WWII, however, villainizing entire populations of people to young readers would have deleterious effects – especially since many of these ‘villains’ had resided within Canadian borders. This exhibit will analyze the nature of what the writers of Bell Features has decided was necessary to frame Canadian identity and the problems that arise from poor, stereotypical writing.

Comics: Mythology for Kids!

Comic book superheroes are ultimately symbolic. During the golden age of comic books, these characters are meant to embody the ultimate moral good. Understanding the influential power within comic books as something that is akin to mythology would best describe why the portrayal of these characters are so effective and why nations contextually accepted these portrayals – no matter how problematic – at the time of their publishing. As Bart Beaty describes in The Fighting Civil Servant: Making Sense of the Canadian Superhero (2006) that heroes “serve to protect the national interest within superheroic narratives, but they also serve to illuminate national interests in the real world as iconic signs” (428). Beaty further demonstrates that as contemporary mythologies, the actual construction of a hero draws largely from classical mythology (The Fighting Civil Servant: Making Sense of the Canadian Superhero; 2006, 428).

The heroes of Triumph Comics (1944) are no exception to the methods of mythology-based creation. Nelvana of the Northern Lights (Triumph Comics, 1944) created by Adrian Dingle is an example of the “man-god” (The Fighting Civil Servant: Making Sense of the Canadian Superhero; 2006, 428) trope. The first recognizable thing about Nelvana is that she is first discovered by soldiers as a polar bear mounted, otherworldly, magical apparition within an aurora borealis (Triumph Comics #18, 1944, 2). Between Nelvana, Ace Barton and Captain Wonder (and briefly, Speed Savage), all three embody the classical heroic attitude Beaty describes as “a dedication to the principles of justice” (The Fighting Civil Servant: Making Sense of the Canadian Superhero; 2006, 428). For Nelvana, her single in this issue of Triumph Comics has allowed her to speak only twice in the comic and yet the only words she tells to the group of men she had just saved from wolves was a vow that she will protect them from the horrors of their enemies (Triumph Comics #18, 1944, 9). As for Captain Wonder and Speed Savage in a collaborated issue, the White Mask is described as a “two-fisted, gun packing aid to JUSTICE!” (Triumph Comics #18, 1944, 52) while Captain Wonder shames a man for betraying his country for his own profit (Triumph Comics #18, 1944, 29). Finally, for Ace Barton’s issue, he is described to be an ace pilot for the R.C.A.F. who tirelessly fights the Japanese despite being outnumbered and stranded (Triumph Comics #18, 1944, 38-44). All four of these superheroes serve as an example of classical heroes found in myth who are enhanced beings with an inherently morally good heart.

Antagonists: The Japanese

Now to examine what Triumph Comics had understood the Japanese to be at the time of their comics’ conception. As previously stated, the Japanese and the Germans are vilified because they are part of the Axis Powers and have generally become a real life menace for countries that fight for the Allies. On top of crudely drawn features, throughout the entire issue of Triumph Comics #18 (1944) racial slurs such as “Japs” (Triumph Comics #18, 1944, 9) and “Yellow Peril” (Triumph Comics #18, 1944, 42). But to really drive home the concept of these people as monsters, the artists have depicted these people with less than human features and behaving in an animalistic manner (Triumph Comics #18, 1944, 42).

Figure 1. The “Japs” from Ace Barton. Triumph Comics #18, 1944.

There’s very little difference in the Japanese antagonists in this issue of Ace Barton. The bigger antagonist has slightly more depth as a double agent for the Japanese army but is still drawn in a way that makes him resemble a monster and with no exposition about his character as anything more than a villain. A moment later he commands hordes of Japanese soldiers (pictured above) to chase Ace through the jungle like a pack of dogs (Triumph Comics #18, 1944, 40-43).

On a visible and symbolic level, readers of this issue of Ace Barton can sympathise with Ace in comparison to the Japanese not only because he is the hero of this narrative but because he is simply more human in his behaviour. In an article entitled Aboriginality and the Arctic North in Canadian Nationalist Superhero Comics, 1940-2004 (2005), Jason Dittmer and Soren Larsen “Given the visual nature of most superhero media, this reductionism also requires this coherent subjectivity to occupy a specific body, one that is gendered, raced, and super-powered” (53). From a careful observation of this issue, the authors of Ace Barton had intended their young audience to take the Japanese is expendable, traitorous or hostile. Regarding Beaty’s work, he describes that the pantheon of Canadian superheroes “illustrate a set of tensions that surround the intersection of popular culture and federal institutions within Canada” (The Fighting Civil Servant: Making Sense of the Canadian Superhero; 2006, 427). Given the history of Japanese internment camps during this time period, stripping the humanity from the Japanese isn’t a taboo subject for the 1940s.

Germans

Figure 2. Captain Wonder vs. Nazis. Triumph Comics #18, 1944, pg. 29

In Triumph Comics #18 (1944) Nazis are an often central antagonist appearing in Captain Wonder, Captain Wonder Meets Speed Savage and one-off strips between the larger comic issues. In this publication’s single of Captain Wonder, unlike the Japanese of Ace Barton (Triumph Comics #18, 1944), the Germans are drawn not in animalistic or monstrous ways but rather as menacing people. However, they still exhibit the same behaviour of having no real, in depth motives besides a need to destroy and kill. Since the Germans are a main opponent for the Allies, and therefore Canadians, in WWII, wartime comics are quite active in heavily vilifying the Nazis. In fact they are shown to be an even more fearful antagonist than the Japanese because in the each of the Captain Wonder issues, the Nazis have infiltrated into Canada and successfully killed many civilians (Triumph Comics #18, 1944).

To contrast these Germans against the Canadian superheroes would be presumably an easy task because of how evil they are; but arguably, this places Canadian protagonists into becoming just as unrealistically good. In Beaty’s article he elaborates that when it comes to Canadian comic culture “Canadian superiority [is] rooted in historical circumstance” (The Fighting Civil Servant: Making Sense of the Canadian Superhero; 2006, 434). There is no way of defining moral rightness for the heroes of Triumph Comics #18 (1944) without having to use blatant, one dimensional comparison. Dittmer and Larsen would regard the power in representation because when considering countries as imagined communities, “that power is just as manifest in

the everyday production of national representations as it is in the enforcement capabilities and reifications associated with the organizations dedicated to government” (Aboriginality and the Arctic North in Canadian Nationalist Superhero Comics, 1940-2004, 2005, 54).

Nelvana …and then the rest of the Natives

The most interesting meta-literary comparison between racialized heroes and villains would be how the authors have depicted Indigenous people.

Figure 3. Nelvana of the Northern Lights in Triumph Comics #18 (1944)
Injun Moe (Figure 4.). From Triumh Comics #18 (1944)

Arguably, the most visual difference between Nelvana and Injun Moe would be how closely Nelvana is drawn to possess Euro-centric features. Injun Moe however, has darker skin for being printed on colourless pages and his hair is tied into braids, adorned in feathers. Since Nelvana is made to fit the heroic, white-centric ideal of Canadian patriotism, she is allowed to be characterized with positive, protagonistic traits associated with her other superhero counterparts as she is seen saving Canadian soldiers from wolves (Triumph Comics #18, 1944, 8) and swearing to them that she will protect them from harm (Triumph Comics #18, 1944, 9). Injun Moe is racialized ridicule as he is seen taking hyper-literal meanings from other characters such as the bird pictured in the above panel (Triumph Comics #18, 1944, 21). The next single within this issue, TANG! (Triumph Comics #18, 1944), also depicts Indigenous antagonists; this time, an entire tribe who ambush a white man and his fellow white sidekick, apparently justified by a cry from a Native chief that “the white men want to disturb [their] peace!” (Triumph Comics #18, 1944, 14). These characters, unsurprisingly, have are draw with ethnic features and traditional dress in comparison to Nelvana. In these three singles, Indigenous people have ranged from heroic, stupid and hostile.

Dittmer and Larsen have addressed this issue regarding Nelvana’s key to heroism as being tied to whiteness and that her ethnic culture isn’t addressed at length (Aboriginality and the Arctic North in Canadian Nationalist Superhero Comics, 1940-2004, 2005). Thus, Nelvana stands as a symbol of the Canadian North more than she is a positive representation of Indigenous people. From another author, Sherrill Grace, Dittmer and Larsen refer to her work to describe this fraudulent sense of cultural representation “that these countervailing ideas are integrated into a powerful discursive formation that ultimately privileges Canada’s southern urban interests over those of northern residents” (Aboriginality and the Arctic North in Canadian Nationalist Superhero Comics, 1940-2004, 2005, 55). Nelvana would have a stronger, more positive impact as a Native character if it weren’t for her imposed whiteness and that every other poor, appropriated depiction of Native (or generally non-white, non-Canadian) people appear in all the major comic narratives of Triumph Comics #18.

Conclusion

What is even more unclear about trying to tie Canadian identity to these heroes is also exhibited in an article by Ivan Kocmarek who writes in Truth, Justice, and the Canadian Way: The War-Time Comics of Bell Features Publications (2016) where Adrian Dingle, the creator of Nelvana of the Northern Lights, that the stories in Triumph-Adventure Comics will “all have a Canadian background” but “ have no indication or assumption of anything “Canadian” in their stories” (150). With that in mind, how can these comic books, which are made to drive the ideology of Canadian identity, be impactful and clear to impressionable, wartime readers? The culture of Canada continued to be undefinable because it is lost within the exaggerated characteristics of their superheroes and supervillains and not honed to any real culture within Canada but is instead framed around defaming other cultures. All in all, this comic book, despite how much it lacks in meaning, serves as a touchstone for the mindset of authors and culture-creators within 1940s and a foundation for better comics to proceed.

Continue reading Canadian Identity in Triumph Comics #18

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