Tag Archives: Canadian Nationalism

Shaping Childhood: The Significance of Educational Propaganda (Wow Comics No. 12)

© Copyright 2018 Kisha Rendon, Ryerson University

Introduction

Comic books have been regarded through multimedia platforms, scattered on the spectrum of both print and film. When thinking about comics, we envision certain theatrical conventions that were popularized by the D.C. and Marvel American franchises. It would be safe to say that each of us have encountered a superhero movie, or at least an advertisement for one. Coincidentally though, we do not often encounter Canadian comic books in our time the same way people had encountered them during the years of 1941-1946. These years will be remembered as the “Canadian Golden Age of Comics” (“Canadian Golden Age”); when Canadian comics were a revered form of media, and served a greater purpose than providing simple entertainment. During this time, Canadian children turned to comics as an escape from reality, where stories of victory and war time toys would scatter the pages and fulfill their imaginations.

When analyzing an archived copy of Bell Features’ Wow Comic Issue No.12, I found a pattern in the structural scheme of the comic book. This specific issue held a total of six comics/storylines. Three of the said stories were war related with propagational connotations. This especially caught my attention because in comparison, the issue has eleven advertisements/newsletters that are educational/are related to the war effort.

Fig. 1. Front Cover (recto) of "Wow Comics Issue No.12" in four toned printing using the colours magenta, yellow, cyan, and black. The "Bell Features" 10 cent logo is seen on the right hand side underneath the large print words; "WOW COMICS".
Fig. 1. Front Cover (recto) of “Wow Comics Issue No.12”. April 1943, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

This can be exemplified on the back cover (verso) of the book where there is an advertisement for model airplanes following the comic “Whiz Wallace: Bombers to Victory” created by C.T. Legault (54), which happens to be centered around fighter pilots and aircrafts. Another obvious structural theme was the use of letters or cartoonish lettering over imagery in these advertisements/newsletters, althemore pronouncing the contrast from modern day advertising, which is highly based on imagery and film media. Comic books in this time heavily relied on the use and understanding of literary conventions, thus highlighting the weight at which advertisements/newsletters were used as educational tools.

Although the success of Canadian Comics were a result of the War Exchange Conservation Act (W.E.C.A.) enacted in 1939 (Thomas), through the exploration of the Bell Features Publication Wow Comics Issue No.12, it is reasonable to say that the attempt to refurbish the popular culture of comic books brought forward a medium to propagate Canadian nationalism and the war effort. As well, this research exemplifies that comics hold a larger issue surrounding the ideology of childhood and how children were perceived by the government. Through the exploration and analysis of this specific comic (Issue No.12), I will shed light on the hidden purpose the printing press served in the alternate use of comic books, and will further develop the reasons and educational values expected of children during this time.  

Birth of Printing Press: Coming to Comics

Fig. 2. Archived propagational poster from the Canadian War Savings Committee, printed in three tones (red, black, and white) utilizing the image of two children collecting war stamps to encourage the support of the war effort.
Fig. 2. Unknown. “Canada, War Savings Committee, ‘We’re doing our bit! We’re buying War Savings Stamps’ (Ottawa, n.d. [1942])”. War, Memory and Popular Culture Archives – The University of Western Ontario – London, Ontario, 1942. Wartime Canada http://wartimecanada.ca/sites/default/files/documents/War%20Savings%20Stamps.pdf. Copyright is in the Public Domain.
During the first world war, issues of censorship were circulating in Canada and amongst other countries. This time period highly relied on the printing press in order to convey announcements and war time news, which transformed the concept of print into “propaganda machine” (“Government Propaganda”). This propaganda paradigm follows in the time of the outbreak of the Second World War. Print was cheap to produce which provided as an effective source to promote the war effort and patriotism, while also doubling as a way to conserve the dollar. Newspapers were the prime example of an advocate of wartime broadcasting and easily became an agent in shaping/maintaining a sense of value. The enactment of the War Exchange Conservation Act propelled individualized production in Canada in attempt to save the Canadian dollar (Kocmarek 148). The prohibition included the halt on the importing of American magazines and comic books. A new industry for printing, independent from the United States, emerged from the importation ban.

Children would read comics as a pastime or form of entertainment. Thus, when the import of American comics was discontinued, the child industry was left open for exploitation. Publishers utilized the prohibition of American comics to establish Canadian comic printing companies such as Bell Features. Founders of Bell Features Publications utilized the publicity of the war time status to establish a Canadian printing press, especially by targeting influential youth who were adamant on supporting different gimmicks in contribution to war effort participation. This resulted in the eruption of the time period called the “Canadian Golden Age of Comics” (1941-1946).

Undercover Propaganda

This time brought to light new Canadian heroes, and thus, Canadian based comic book series came to life. To name a few iconic figures; “Crash Carson”, “Nelvana”, “Johnny Canuck”, and etc., were among most of which who followed the mold of an average patriotic citizen, turned sacrificial, brave superhero. Furthermore, Canadian comic books would specifically include true victory stories like that of “Tommy Holmes V.C.” (24) to instill patriotic ideologies in children, and further encourage enlisting in the war and their participation in the war effort. So although on the surface level, comics served as a form of entertainment, publishers would often times include propaganda in forms of advertisement and newsletters, including war toys and self promotion to support, therefore maintaining the war time environment and propagation. Interestingly, during the Golden Age of Comics, education became a crucial aspect in shaping children’s values (Cooke 2), leading back to why true war stories were included in the collection of comics in this issue, and developing the acceptability of “educational” propaganda in children’s entertainment. Through the inclusion of subtle value based advertisements and newsletter additions in between comics and victory stories, comic print cultivated a new level of propagation that changed the meaning of childhood during the war.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, “propaganda” is defined as displays of often one sided idea/opinion based information displayed through images, broadcastings, or publications intentionally spread to influence people’s opinions. Propaganda was commonly seen during both the First and Second World Wars to do exactly this in regard to the upholding of patriarchal values and beliefs. The Cambridge definition of the word “propaganda” insinuates the use of subliminal messaging. In the Wow Comics Issue No.12, there are instances of comics that follow the idea of subliminal messaging. Taking the example of Parker’s Tommy Holmes once again, the comic follows the real life victory encounter of Tommy Holmes being a Canadian soldier, and how he won the Victory Cross. The educational value of this comic, shows to have propagational background in the sense of glorifying enlistment into the front line and educational value through the teaching of a real time event. This is amplified then, by the following overzealous inclusion of advertisements in the children’s print.

Advertisements are typically used to depict messages through mass media. Often times advertising is meant to persuade the purchase of goods or services (Goodis and Pearman), which can be exemplified in this comic issue through the promotion of model plane sets on the back cover (verso). The page is printed in four tone (red, yellow, black, and white) and is displayed with two miniscule drawings of the “Identoplane” box and a boy yelling. All other details on the page are written in different fonts and lettering that mimic/direct the way they are to be read. However, through the comparison of this advertisement against advertisements found in modern day, it is visually more word oriented versus the media we see now. In an article written by Beth Hatt and Stacy Otto in 2011, they discuss the use of visual culture and imagery in advertisements as a way for accessibility to the audience (512). Thus, by using word based advertisements and newsletters in children’s comic books, there needed to be a target audience who could read and understand the content, and were overall meant to be in possession of these comics.  

The Canadian Effort: Educating Youth

Fig. 3. Illustrated newsletter printed in black and white, and drawn by Canadian artist Al Cooper. Newsletter describes a German Nazi plane called the "Torpedo Aircraft", along with informational text boxes.
Fig. 3. Al Cooper. “Informational newsletter on the ‘Torpedo Aircraft'”. Wow Comics Issue No. 12, April 1943, p. 32. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

These findings lead to the question about how children were educated during the war time. The use of comics was an easy solution in educating children through advertisements and newsletters that actually served as politically driven propaganda. Ultimately, the most popular example of educational use in comic books leads back to the highly weighted importance of participating in the war effort. The advertisements for related Bell Features comic books advertise comics aimed toward both boys and girls. In analyzing Issue No.12 further, page 32 stood out as an independent/unique newsletter amongst the others. This newsletter is a stand alone page that has two text boxes with information on the “Torpedo Aircraft”. The page is accompanied by three illustrations of a Nazi German aircraft drawn by the infamous Canadian illustrator, Al Cooper. At first glance the newsletter could be mistook for an advertisement or a one panel comic due to its cartoon-like demeanour, but upon deeper analysis the page is a definite informational newsletter. The newsletter appears to be specifically beneficial to the male audience as it discusses the Torpedo Aircraft in two entire text boxes; which is an example of male gender content. However, during the war time schools as a whole became highly involved in the contributions to the war effort.

Through the outbreak of the war and the installment of the W.E.C.A, school began to revolve around supporting the front line. Educational systems led and focused on contributions to propagational campaigns that would help save the dollar. An example of this would be classrooms being transformed into sewing rooms for girls, where they would “learn” how to sew/knit for the Red Cross organization, and articles would go to servicemen and victims of bombed areas.

Fig. 4. Unknown. Archived. Captured in black and white, vintage photograph of three boys working on the mechanics of an aviator machine at Wester Technical School.
Fig. 3. Unknown. “Archived vintage photograph of boys working on aviator machine”. City of Toronto Archives
www.toronto.ca/archives, 1930, Toronto Guardian, City of Toronto Archives. Copyright is in the Public Domain.

Boys on the other hand were to “learn” how to produce scale models of aircrafts that would go toward training pilots and gunners. Furthermore, this explains why the verso of the comic advertising “Identoplanes” is printed in colour, and makes sense of the use of letters versus images as building aircrafts was associated with school. Education was being strategically interwoven into popular culture through the comic book medium. Moreover, students would often receive education on defence and war emergency training. The type of education included would be how to recognize enemy aircrafts and understanding how they function (Millar “Education”), which is the exact information included on the newsletter from page 32. This thus encompasses the image and value of education as presented to children through political propagation as it was important for students to be educated on certain war time concepts to better protect themselves.

Building Childhood: Concluding Thoughts

The government imposed many political standings over Canadians which is clearly presented through newspapers and printed propaganda, reaching out to parental figures at home, while children were more often concerned with new war toys and other popular culture novelties. School systems held the great responsibility over shaping the values and ideologies of children in a time where there was no structure of understanding or definite knowledge to when the war would end. The war time brought significant changes to the social environment of many families in Canada, which in turn, highlighted school as a facility of direction. Education taught children how to observe and retain knowledge from the world around them, and still plays an important role in shaping personal perspectives. It is important to recognize that children are impressionable and will reflect actions and mistakes. For example, when there is a high standard set on expectations of a noble soldier like Tommy Holmes, children will reflect on that image and mimic it’s value. Therefore, the manipulation of comics as war educated propagational mediums, holds potential power for abuse. Although comics served as entertainment, they were also popular tools used to educate children on serious topics ranging from political ideologies, moral values, and racial categorization. If used/misused with from an ignorant standpoint, there could have been severe consequences in the social development of war time children that would last far into the future.

The most interesting thing about analyzing the issue of childhood education through propaganda in comic books is the lack of thorough research done on this topic. The Golden Age of Comics arose multiple issues that have been overlooked in scholarly work such as: the importance of word oriented/educational advertisements and newsletters in children’s comic books and the purpose that they serve. The values of education in correlation to comic books and popular culture is almost nonexistent. This is concerning considering the weight at which the government influenced Canadian values and ideologies during the Second World War. Continually, there was minimal research regarding how children experienced the war time and war effort movements. Although young and impressionable, the social results of their own experience has not been thought to be analyzed thus far. It was through compiling this research that I found it difficult to produce a connective argument, as this argument does not yet exist, but should exist. It was not hard to point at a page in the comic book and correlate it to a post-war time issue/concern. Wow Comics embraces a great ordeal of information through example illustrations of propaganda and subliminal messaging in story lines. I believe that comic books are detrimental to future studies and analysis on World War II and the experiences of those who lived through it.  

In conclusion, through the analysis of the structure of the Wow Comics Issue No.12 and it’s significant use of advertising and newsletters, comic books are proven to have served as educational tools for children during the Second World War. The printing press and pulp print built an opportunity for publishers such as Cyril Bell, to bring forward publication firms such as Bell Features Comics and develop the initial platform for popular culture propaganda. However, it was the importance of education that ultimately motivated the inclusion of subliminal propaganda in comic books. Furthermore, this research envelopes the notion of the child as an important figure in the construction of social values through their impressionable nature, but also the leading figure of direction through their capability to mold the future of Canada. Essentially, the government simultaneously established manipulation and dependence on the education of children through comic books, locking themselves in a feedback loop entailing both the political figures and the children to rely on one another.   

 


 

Works Cited

Clemenso, Al, et al. Wow Comics, no. 12. Bell Features and Publishing Company Limited, April

1943, pp. 1-65. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166674.pdf

Cook, Tim. “Canadian Children and the Second World War | The Canadian Encyclopedia.” The

Canadian Encyclopedia, 12 Apr. 2016,

https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/canadian-children-and-wwii.

Cooke, Ian. “Children’s Experiences and Propaganda.” British Library, Creative Commons, 29

January 2014,

https://www.bl.uk/world-war-one/articles/childrens-experiences-and-propaganda.

Cooper, Al. “Torpedo Aircraft.” Wow Comics, no. 12. Bell Features and Publishing Company

Limited, April 1943, p. 32. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166674.pdf

Good, Edmond. “Wow Comics Issue No.12” Wow Comics, no. 12. Bell Features and Publishing

Company Limited, April 1943, cover page (recto). Bell Features Collection, Library and

Archives Canada.

http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166674.pdf

Goodis, Jerry and Brian Pearman. “Advertising.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, Historica Canada,

4 March 2015, https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/advertising.

Hatt, Beth, and Stacy Otto. “A Demanding Reality: Print-Media Advertising and Selling

Smartness in a Knowledge Economy.” Educational Studies, vol. 47, no. 6, 2011, pp.

507–26. Scholars Portal Journals, doi:10.1080/00131946.2011.621075.

Legault, C.T.. “Whiz Wallace: Bombers to Victory.” Wow Comics, no. 12. Bell Features and

Publishing Company Limited, April 1943, pp. 54-63. Bell Features Collection, Library

and Archives Canada. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166674.pdf

Millar, Anne. “Education during the Second World War.” Wartime Canada,

http://wartimecanada.ca/essay/learning/education-during-second-world-war. Accessed 30

September 2018.

Parker. “Tommy Holmes V.C.” Wow Comics, no. 12. Bell Features and

Publishing Company Limited, April 1943, pp. 24-31. Bell Features Collection, Library

and Archives Canada. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166674.pdf

“PROPAGANDA”  Meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary.

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/propaganda. Accessed 20 November

2018.

“Save While Supporting the War.” Wartime Canada. 1942. The University of Western Ontario,

London, Ontario. War, Memory and Popular Culture Archives,

http://wartimecanada.ca/document/world-war-ii/victory-loans-and-war-savings/save-whil

e-supporting-war

Thomas, Michael. “Canadian Comics: From Golden Age to Renaissance (Includes Interview).”

Digital Journal, 18 Aug. 2015,

http://www.digitaljournal.com/a-and-e/arts/canadian-comics-from-golden-age-to-renaissa

nce/article/440981. Accessed 30 September 2018.

“WarMuseum.ca – Democracy at War – Information, Propaganda, Censorship and the

Newspapers.” Canadian War Museum, 14 Nov. 1940,

https://www.warmuseum.ca/cwm/exhibitions/newspapers/information_e.shtml.

“Western Technical School – Boys Working on Aviation Motor.” Toronto Guardian. 1942.

Western Technical School, Toronto, Ontario. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item

19594, https://torontoguardian.com/2016/08/vintage-school-students-photographs/

 

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.

 

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 Nationalism Informed by Captain Red Thortan in Active Comics No.1

© Copyright 2018 Nicole Bernard, Ryerson University

The Second World War saw the emergence of a Canadian national identity, crafted by the actions of the government and military, and articulated through the popular literature of the era. During the war, maintaining the Canadian economy was essential, and so the government sought to prevent the diversion of Canadian funds to other nations unless absolutely necessary. The War Exchange Conservation Act was introduced to restrict luxury imports including popular fiction. This created a demand for Canadian equivalents. One form of Canadian popular fiction which emerged from the War Exchange Conservation Act was the Canadian Whites, a collection of comic books which were iconically Canadian in both their production and content. The War Exchange Conservation Act not only encouraged the investment of Canadian money in its own market, it created an opportunity for Canadian artists to showcase their talents and for Canada to take pride in the abilities of its citizens.  In this paper, I will be focusing on the character Captain Red Thortan from A. Cooper’s “Capt. Red Thortan” featured in Active Comics No. 1 published in 1942. Captain Red Thortan reveals the inherent hypocrisy of Canadian society by representing the emerging Canadian nationalism of the Second World war despite the transgressive reality of racist, anti-democratic, and discriminatory practices in Canada.

The Canadian War Hero in Comics: Captain Red Thortan

Captain Red Thortan in search of his captured companion, Lieutenant Harley, in the Malayas.
A. Cooper. “Capt. Red Thortan” Active Comics, No. 1, p. 34

The protagonist and namesake of the “Capt. Red Thortan” comics is an iconic Canadian hero, reflecting inherent cultural assumptions regarding who merits idolization based on gender, race, loyalties, language, and ethics. Captain Red Thortan is depicted as an Anglo-Saxon male in the military. He also presents Canada’s loyalty to Britain by protecting the British Malayas from Japanese invaders and saving a British unit from impending harm (Cooper 32). Captain Red Thortan speaks exclusively in English, reflecting British tradition as well as a discontent with alterity. This appeals to the majority of the Canadian population and the narrative of Anglo-Saxon superiority. The democratic ethics of Captain Red Thortan, along with the public’s desire to eradicate all anti-democratic people, makes the discrimination against those who do not conform to the ideals of the Anglo-Saxon Canadian evident. The Canadian war hero, as embodied in Captain Red Thortan, is qualified through masculinity, Anglo-Saxon heritage, loyalty to Britain, English language, and democratic values.

WWII and Canada’s Emerging National Identity

World War II was a milestone for Canadian identity as it was the first war in which Canada acted independently of Britain. Historically, Canada had loyalties to Britain as a member of the British Commonwealth alongside nations such as India, Australia, and the Malayas. Canada officially declared war on Germany one week after Britain, showcasing its independence while still maintaining loyalty to Britain out of respect rather than obligation.

Canada maintained this relationship through military actions, allying itself with Britain first and foremost. Canada hosted British children in the homes and schools of Canadian families in 1940. The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan also instated air training schools and ancillary units in rural Canadian communities (The Canadian Encyclopedia). The formal cessation of Canada’s obligation to serve Britain allowed for the emergence of an innovative and modern national identity. Canada gained the ability to declare independent values and standards.

Gatekeeping in the Military: Who are Canada’s Heroes?

In 1939, Prime Minister Mackenzie King inquired as to Canadian popular opinion and due to French-Canadian dissent, chose that enlistment would be voluntary. However, within a year, under pressure of societal demands, he rescinded his promise and instituted conscription across the nation (The Canadian War Museum). The process of conscription began with the distribution of the national registration: a series of questions which were to be used to determine which individuals were eligible to serve and their skills.

Military service has a psychological association with national loyalty and rights to citizenship: “Being prepared to die and to kill on behalf of the nation continues to be an ideological cornerstone of national belonging and a sound qualification for the material benefits of democratic citizenship” (Ware 321). The social value ascribed to those who serve in the military contributes to the concept of the national hero. The Canadian government’s selective choice in who among its citizens could serve in the military undermined the status of certain minority ethnic groups within Canadian society. This gatekeeping was an underlying principle of the national registration and the ensuing conscription for service: “[M]obilization officials charged with the calling up of men into the Armed Forces were instructed to classify men identified as Negros within their internal documents, ‘along with the Chinese, Japanese etc., as “not acceptable for non-medical reasons” (Department of Labour 1943a, n.p.)’ (Thompson 710)”. The explicit exclusion of certain ethnic groups from serving in the military is an injustice that isolates such groups from being included in the concept of Canadiana.

The racist exclusion of these groups from military service subjected them to additional discrimination as even Canadians who served at on the homefront were disdained and deemed “zombies”: lacking human decency, subhuman beings (The Canadian Encyclopedia). Serving in the army was viewed by the majority as an act of duty and valour, and being willing to sacrifice one’s life to defend democracy overseas was regarded as the greatest of such acts.

Questioning Canadian Democracy

In “Captain Red Thortan”, the Axis nations of the Second World War are referred to as “the enemies of democracy” (Cooper 18). This mentality of the war as a defense of political beliefs rather than a war between countries juxtaposes the Allied countries and the Axis countries, distinguishing a disdain for the alterity of non-democratic nations. However, this implies that in order to be a member of the Allied nations, a nation would need to be democratic. This implicit requirement demands the questioning of Canadian democracy.

In 1939, the Provincial Elections Act prevented Chinese, Japanese, Hindus, and Indians from voting in British Columbia. That same year, women were deemed eligible to vote in Quebec. The isolation of certain minority groups from their right to vote in British Columbia were repealed in 1947. It did not extend to all groups but it was a conscious start to right the wrongs done in the name of national interest: “This discovery of prejudice and discrimination, and the steps taken to safeguard human rights, were remarkable in a country where discriminatory practices remained largely unchallenged until the war (Patrias and Frager 1).” Discrimination had been an implicit subtext within the narrative of Canadian national identity. Canada is, after all, a nation formed by frontier men, who took advantage of the groups native to the region for personal profit. The repeal of 1947 still prevented Japanese and Aboriginals from voting and certain other groups lost their right to vote without performing military service. The voting rights for all racial groups within the body of Canada was not completely restored until 1960 (The Canadian Human Rights Commission).

Canada’s choice to legally remove voting capabilities from certain members of its body specifically violates the concept of democracy. Therefore, Canada was an anti-democratic nation defending democracy abroad when it was absent within the confines of the country itself. This hypocritical judgement of minority groups emphasizes the narrative of Canadian policy makers and of the sole group which possessed complete inalienable rights: English-speaking Anglo-Saxon males. Their loyalty to their nation was not subject to questioning due to race or heritage. In fact, popular media praised the Anglo-Saxons, in a fashion similar to the white-superiority narrative propagated by the Nazi party:

” [Watson Kirkconnell] was a leading member of the Nationalities Branch and author of the Bureau of Public Information’s most important propaganda effort to promote national unity [. . .] proclaimed that ‘ [. . .] The Anglo-Saxons, who have displayed the greatest political genius of any age or people, have bequeathed to Canada the master-principle of responsible government and federalism.’ (Patrias and Frager 6)”

The implications of these racial biases is that there was one concept of a true Canadian, which was a descendant of Britain, maintaining British values.

The Treatment of Enemy Aliens in Canada

Japanese internees preparing to board a train from Slocan City, B.C. where they were relocated.
Photographer unknown, taken in 1946.

During World War Two, tensions were high and, out of fear, Canada turned inwards likening race and heritage to political position in the war. Due to the Axis powers’ fighting in opposition to Canada in the war, discrimination against Germans, Italians, and Japanese was prevalent. The most extreme and most documented of these cases of discrimination is against Japanese:  

“Canadians of Japanese descent were actively harassed after Canada went to war with Japan in December 1941. [. . .] 23,000 Japanese Canadians who were viewed as threats to Canada’s security [were] moved by the government from their homes on the British Columbia coast to communities and camps in the interior (The Canadian Encyclopedia).”

While not explicitly violent, this segregation creates a national divide within Canada, reinforcing prejudices against alterity.

Enemy alien groups in Canada were subject to frequent questioning of their loyalties. In order to assess these loyalties, individuals were tested and then were treated in a method corresponding to their attitudes:

” Ultimately, enemy alien individuals were allocated to one of three categories. First, those determined to be un-Canadian were relegated to internment camps across the country. Second, those who were found to be participating in Canadian society but were not above suspicion were to be kept under police surveillance as part of a parole system. Finally, those who had proven their importance to Canadian society were to be granted Certificates of Exemption, marking these individuals as exempt from nearly all of the government’s legal exclusionary policies targeting enemy aliens (Thompson 711).”

Even though one could possibly obtain a Certificate of Exemption, all groups who visually conform to the image of an enemy alien individual were subject to question and to prejudices based on the government narrative of these individuals as suspicious.

Jim Crow Law and the Treatment of African-Canadians

African Canadians also experienced discrimination in Canada during the Second World War. While slavery had been abolished for a long duration, African Canadians still were not treated fairly due to the Jim Crow Laws. These laws enabled individuals and businesses to refuse to serve African Canadians on the grounds of racial difference. This discrimination was not forgotten during the war:

” African Canadians were acutely aware of the glaring injustice of the government using slogans like ‘Canadians all’ to urge them to make sacrifices in the fight for freedom overseas while permitting fellow Canadians to deny them jobs, housing, and even service in restaurants and bars at home because of the colour of their skin (Patrias and Frager 8).”

This exemplifies the disparity between Canada’s desire for the participation of previous civilians in the war through conscription with its racist dialogue against the right of minority members of its ranks to merit citizenship.

The Importance of the Image of the Canadian Military Hero

Characters like Captain Red Thortan were important in Canadian society during the Second World War. He was a role model for the youth who were the readers of Active Comics. In wartime especially, it is important for children to have a strong role model encouraging the traits of strength, valour, and loyalty which are commonly ascribed to the masculine. The choice for the embodiment of Canadiana to be an English speaking Anglo-Saxon male is a reflection of the sociopolitical climate of World War Two Canada. The lack of representation of minority groups in literary positions of power and influence is a direct product of the racist rhetoric which was then prevalent. Yet, the White image of a Canadian Military hero is problematic due to the social theories of Anglo-Saxon supremacy that were accepted during the Second World War. Canada’s explicit action in preventing certain ethnic groups from meriting citizenship mirrors the anti-democratic attitudes embraced by the Nazi regime. The character of the Canadian Military hero has historically held inherent prejudices against certain groups. It is because of this blind hypocrisy that the representation of Canadian Military heroes in popular literature such as “Capt. Red Thortan”  must continually be questioned to reveal the underlying morality of such characters.

_______________________________________________________________________

Works Cited

Cooper, A. “Capt. Red Thortan.” Active Comics, No. 1, Commercial Signs of Canada, 1942.

Library and Archives Canada. ‘Embarkation of W.W.II Japanese Internees from Slocan City, B.C., Probably in 1946’. Library and Archives Canada, 1946, http://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item?app=fondsandcol&op=img&id=a103565-v8.

Patrias, Carmela, and Ruth Frager. ‘“This Is Our Country, These Are Our Rights”: Minorities and the Origins of Ontario’s Human Rights Campaigns’. Canadian Historical Review, vol. 82, no. 1, 2001, pp. 1–35. Scholars Portal Journals, doi:10.3138/CHR.82.1.1.

The Canadian Encyclopedia. Canadian Children and the Second World War. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/canadian-children-and-wwii. Accessed 1 Oct. 2018.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission. ‘Voting Rights’. Human Rights in Canada: A Historical Perspective, https://www.chrc-ccdp.gc.ca/historical-perspective/en/browseSubjects/votingRights.asp. Accessed 13 Nov. 2018.

The Canadian War Museum. ‘Conscription – Canada and the War’. Democracy at War, https://www.warmuseum.ca/cwm/exhibitions/newspapers/canadawar/conscription_e.shtml. Accessed 1 Oct. 2018.

Thompson, Scott. ‘Real Canadians: Exclusion, Participation, Belonging, and Male Military Mobilization in Wartime Canada, 1939-45’. Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d’études Canadiennes, vol. 50, no. 3, 2016, pp. 691–726.

Ware, Vron. ‘Whiteness in the Glare of War: Soldiers, Migrants and Citizenship’. Ethnicities, vol. 10, no. 3, 2010, pp. 313–30. Scholars Portal Journals, doi:10.1177/1468796810372297.

 

 

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.

Cover of Wow Comics No. 8, part of the Canadian Whites collection.

The Everyman Hero in Canadian WWII Comics (Wow Comics No. 8)

© 2018 Kelley Doan, Ryerson University

When Canadians think about comic book heroes, most of us refer to characters that are American: they were created in America, they represent American ideas and ideals, and most of the stories are set in American cities or places that, if fictional, are easily recognized as intended to be American. However, while entertainment in Canada does tend to be overwhelmed by American influence, there was a golden age of Canadian comics during which artists and writers took advantage of a pause in access to American content to create Canadian heroes.

Cover of Wow Comics No. 8, part of the Canadian Whites collection.
Title: Wow Comics No. 8
Creator: Bell Features and Publishing Company
Source: http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166671.pdf

In examining Bell Features’ Wow Comics No. 8, I realized that something seemed different about the main characters. These Canadian comic book heroes, in contrast to their American counterparts, were without superhuman powers or superscientific weapons, and this was true of largely all Canadian comic book heroes of the time. For example, in Wow Comics No. 8, heroes Dart Daring, Jeff Waring, Crash Carson, and Whiz Wallace were all simple adventurers (Legault et al.). Most of them were everyman heroes – the average citizen with a passion to set things right and an exceptional dose of courage – with whom readers could identify rather than idolize. Two major contributing factors brought about this new class of comic book hero. Cultural differences in Canada were reflected in their character, particularly a differing notion of what is heroic. More relevant, though, is the impact of propaganda which was used to muster support for the Canadian war effort and was found in all forms of media at this time, including those directed at children. An exploration of the more prominent Canadian comic book heroes as purveyors of the message of unity and call for support sheds some light not only on the origin of future Canadian comic book heroes, but also indicates reasons – beyond a fraught publishing industry – that those later heroes struggled to find more than a niche audience.

Canadian Comics: The Origin Story

Comic books made their debut in the late 1920’s, rising from the popularity of the comic strip. Comic strips were meant solely for entertainment, unlike the already established political cartoon, and the comic book followed suit. There were a number of Canadian comic strips in print, but American artists and publishers had established a foothold in the genre early on, and Canadian comics found little success in syndication beyond our borders (Bell and Viau, “Emergence of the Comic Book, 1929-1940”). Even within Canada, publishers faced financial challenges, in part due to the popularity of the American comic books flooding the market thanks to a much stronger American publishing industry (Edwardson 184).

The Daisybelle comic strip by Gene Byrnes from The Funnies No. 2, 1936.
Title: “Daisybelle”
Creator: Gene Byrnes
Source: http://digitalcomicmuseum.com/index.php?dlid=5640
Copyright: Public Domain

As the popularity of comic strips, known as “the funnies”, increased, the adventure genre strips emerged. Among the first of these was Superman. While he is frequently said to be a Canadian creation – the National Film Board included him in one of their Heritage Minutes and he was part of a collection of stamps commemorating Canadian comic book heroes – the truth is that the connection is very minimal. Superman’s creator, Joe Shuster, was born and lived in Toronto until he was eight years old. He then moved to the United States where he created Superman, who fought for “Truth, justice, and the American way” (Beaty 428). Superman was more than an adventurer, though. He was the first of the superheroes, with powers beyond those of a human being. Children on both sides of the border saw the appeal immediately (Bell and Viau, “Emergence of the Comic Book, 1929-1940”s). Canada’s own Mordecai Richler was a fan, remarking that, “They were invulnerable, all-conquering, whereas we were puny, miserable, and defeated” (Richler 80). Whatever his heritage, Superman’s popularity paved the way for an ever-increasing roster of superheroes, including Batman, Arrow, and Flash Gordon.

Many superheroes got their start in comic strips, and comic books began as compilations of the strips; but publishers rather quickly noticed that comic books had a greater potential, one which included longer-form storytelling and experimenting with elements not possible in strips. Children embraced this new medium as much as they did the superheroes that filled the comic books’ pages, and a new sector of American publishing took off like a speeding bullet. Emphasis is on the American industry, because although there were thousands of fans and a large market in Canada, those Canadians who were part of the comic book boom generally had to move to America to work (Bell and Viau, “Emergence of the Comic Book, 1929-1940”).

A child at the Children's Colony, a school for refugee children in New York, N.Y. reading a Superman comic.
Title: New York, N.Y. Children’s Colony, a school for refugee children Creator: Marjory Collins Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:N.Y._Children%27s_Colony_04108v.jpg Copyright: Public Domain

As war approached, though, this would change drastically. On the heels of Canada’s declaration of war in 1939 came the War Exchange Conservation Act (WECA), which restricted the importation of non-essential goods including comics. The embargo prompted the formation of Canada’s own publishing industry comprising a group of publishers and their works known later as The Canadian Whites, and provided an opportunity for Canadian artists to produce their own heroes (Bell and Viau, “Canadian Golden Age of Comics, 1941-1946”): heroes which better represented the Canadian audience; heroes who used Canadian cultural references; heroes who could relay messages to the audiences that felt so much more connected to them, a point which did not go unnoticed.

 

Propaganda in Comics: The Art of Persuasion

The word “propaganda” often conjures ideas of nefarious government deeds, but that is not always or even often the case. It is simply a form of communication with a cause at the heart of its agenda, and can be completely benign or even beneficial. Much like marketing, it is a form of persuasion, but propaganda is enhanced by ideology. As an integral part of a democracy (Batrasheva 8), it is not hard to understand why propaganda is used during war time, when it is of vital importance for governments to unite citizens in support of the war effort.

In 1942, the Wartime Information Board was created from the previous entity, the Bureau of Public Information, changing the mandate from simply providing war-related information to the public to using techniques of persuasion to manage Canadians’ perceptions of and feelings about the war (Young 190-91). Following on the Bureau of Public Information’s failure to rouse support in more traditional and grandiose ways, the Wartime Information Board created the idea of a “people’s war”. Canadians disliked American “brouhaha and victory parades”. They felt that patriotism was being forced upon them, but were inspired by the idea that neighbours together could fight the enemy and build a better society (Young 192-93). It was a young idea that needed a young method of relaying the message.

Among the messages necessary to impart to Canadians during World War II was the integral idea that the war effort, despite the tremendous impact on their lives, was important and good; among the motivations for that message was avoiding the need for conscription and a repeat of the 1917 crisis (English) which divided the nation because French Canada felt disconnected from the cause (“The Conscription Crisis”); in fact the Canadian government eventually avoided the need to send conscripts overseas until nearly the end of the war (Jones and Granatstein). While support had to be stirred in both the men who would go overseas to fight and the women who remained and took on the extra work of supplying the needs of the troops in addition to maintaining their families and communities, it was also important to address the children, whose fathers were suddenly absent and in many cases may never return.

Canadian WWII industrial propaganda poster
Title: Canadian WWII industrial propaganda poster
Creator: Pratt and Whitney Aircraft Company Limited
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Our_Answer_All-Out_Production,_Canada,_WWII_Propaganda_Poster.jpg
Copyright: Public Domain

Wartime propaganda is typically of the integration type, seeking to unify society to a common goal (Batrasheva 12). The transference technique, which connects the intended message to something the audience respects or reveres (Batrasheva 16), is especially useful with children as it emulates the parental role. To reach children, the most obvious choice was their current favourite: comic books. Since the favourite characters of the day were already adventure heroes, it was simple enough to send those characters off to war. Combining transference with the plain folks technique – a method aimed at connecting well known figures to activities that should be imitated (Batrasheva 18) – which appealed to both children and those who were on board with the “people’s war” ideal, one of the obvious methods of communication was through entertainment, particularly using popular figures who represented both the war effort’s message and connected with the average citizen. Comic books, with their young market, were an effective medium., particularly since the heroes in Canada’s World War II comics already differed from American heroes in one crucial way: they were not supermen, they were everymen.

Not All Heroes Are Super

The more well-known comic book heroes of the day were American, and the hero among these that best represented American nationalism and support for the war effort was Captain America, who first appeared in 1941. While Captain America began as an average citizen who passionately wanted to go to war and fight the Nazis, he was a sickly man who was not able to enlist. However, he was offered the chance to participate in a government experiment during which he received the Super-Soldier formula and was exposed to “vita-rays”, after which he had a perfect (though still human) body. His physical prowess was enhanced by a shield made of an impenetrable, indestructible, and fictional metal (“Captain America”).

While Captain America is written as a human, the level of perfection raises the character to a level unattainable in reality and carries a super-real shield thus elevating him to the level of superhero. Examining the real-life people that Americans celebrated as war heroes, I found many highly decorated people such as actor Audie Murphy, who at age 19 “manned a machine gun on a burning tank and made a desperate solo attack against German forces”, for which he won the Medal of Honor, and upon which he built his film career (Andrews). This type of hero reflects a preference for a hierarchy of supporting characters following one extraordinary leader, and supports ideals of patriotism and rarefied bravery, and the message that with the support of American citizens the government will send a hero to save the day.

Title: “Johnny Canuck”
Creator: Leo Baschle
Source: http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166581.pdf

On the other hand, Canada’s main wartime nationalistic comic book hero, Johnny Canuck – who first appeared in 1942, the same year as the Wartime Information Board – was the kind of hero that most Canadians could become. Many knew someone of similar ability, be it their family, friend, or neighbour. Johnny Canuck was an excellent athlete who regularly fought Hitler with his bare hands. Although he had no superhuman powers, weaponry, or armour (Beaty 430) he was designed to be “Canada’s answer to Nazi oppression” (Bachle et al. 1) In fact Leo Bachle was an adolescent when he created Johnny Canuck, drawing him in his own image and including friends and even his teachers in the stories. Johnny Canuck was truly an everyman hero (Plummer).

A photograph of Elsie MacGill during her CCF tenure.
Title: “Elsie MacGill during her CCF tenure.”
Creator: Elsie Gregory MacGill
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Elsie_macgill.jpg
Copyright: Public Domain

Of course, Canada had some decorated heroes as well, but given our smaller more supporting role, the everyman hero better represented Canadian ideals and mirrored the real-life heroes they venerated, such as Elsie MacGill who led the Hawker Hurricane manufacturing project that supplied fighter planes to Allied Forces and became known as Queen of the Hurricanes, and Leo Major who was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for liberating an entire city by himself, but did so by using his intelligence to trick the Germans rather than brute force (Ferreras).

Conclusion

While Canada and America were united by participation in World War II, their roles were very different. The messages relayed by propaganda to the citizenry were also dissimilar, but this is at least as much due to cultural differences, as Canadians generally saw their mostly supporting role as every bit as important as that of the American troops, not to mention that Canada was involved earlier (Young 190).

While later Canadian hero Captain Canuck – one of the few to emerge in the decades following the war – did have superpowers, he embodied many of the characteristics of Johnny Canuck, and is often confused for a later interpretation of the Canadian Whites hero (Edwardson 189-91). Canadian society had moved on, but Captain Canuck clung mostly to the everyman values that portrayed Canada as “a “peaceable kingdom”” (Edwardson 184), an idea created by the Wartime Information Board to connect to audiences. Later readers had no need for this type of character and, once again inundated with American escapist entertainment, spent their dollars in support of American superheroes.

Nevertheless, the Canadian Whites are an interesting and all too often overlooked part of our literary history. They represent the tenacity of Canadians in the face of war and in the pursuit of entertainment; our ability to band together to fight the enemy in hope of a better world; and our ability to come together and create a whole arts industry that represents Canadians more than it imitates American content, when given the space to do so.


Works Cited

Andrews, Evan. “Audie Murphy’s World War II Heroics, 70 Years Ago.” HISTORY.Com, http://www.history.com/news/audie-murphys-world-war-ii-heroics-70-years-ago. Accessed 10 Jan. 2018.

Bachle, Leo, et al. Johnny Canuck. Chapterhouse Publishing Incorporated, 2016.

Bachle, Leo. Johnny Canuck. 1945.

Batrasheva, Yeldana. Children and the Media: Propaganda Methods Aimed at Children during World War II. 2016, https://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=12&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjzrqeH2d_WAhWlx4MKHX3iBnkQFghNMAs&url=https%3A%2F%2Felearning.unyp.cz%2Fpluginfile.php%2F58141%2Fmod_data%2Fcontent%2F1862%2FBatrasheva%252C%2520Yeldana_510135_Senior%2520Project%2520Thesis.pdf&usg=AOvVaw0UPYbTLSCTXTppKgA-utKz.

Beaty, Bart. “The Fighting Civil Servant: Making Sense of the Canadian Superhero.” American Review of Canadian Studies, vol. 36, no. 3, Oct. 2006, pp. 427–39.

Bell, John, and Michel Viau. “Canadian Golden Age of Comics, 1941-1946.” Collections Canada, https://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/comics/027002-8300-e.html. Accessed 7 Jan. 2018.

Bell, John, and Michel Viau. “Emergence of the Comic Book, 1929-1940.” Collections Canada, https://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/comics/027002-8200-e.html. Accessed 6 Jan. 2018.

Byrnes, Gene. Daisybelle Comic on Page 32 of The Funnies. 1 Nov. 1936. http://digitalcomicmuseum.com/index.php?dlid=5640, Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Daisybelle_-_The_Funnies,_No._2_02.jpg.

“Captain America.” Marvel Directory, http://www.marveldirectory.com/individuals/c/captainamerica.htm.

Collins, Marjory. New York, N.Y. Children’s Colony, a School for Refugee Children. Oct. 1942. Library of Congress, Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:N.Y._Children%27s_Colony_04108v.jpg.

Edwardson, Ryan. “The Many Lives of Captain Canuck: Nationalism, Culture, and the Creation of a Canadian Comic Book Superhero.” Journal of Popular Culture, vol. 37, no. 2, pp. 184–201.

English, John R. “Wartime Information Board.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/wartime-information-board/. Accessed 6 Jan. 2018.

Ferreras, Jesse. “11 Canadian War Heroes We Can’t Forget On November 11.” HuffPost Canada, 9 Nov. 2015, http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/11/09/canadian-war-heroes-remembrance-day_n_8475820.html.

Jones, Richard, and J. L. Granatstein. “Conscription.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/conscription/. Accessed 6 Jan. 2018.

Legault, E. T., et al., editors. Wow Comics: No. 8. Bell Features and Publishing Company, 1942.

MacGill, Elsie Gregory. Elsie MacGill during Her CCF Tenure. Apr. 1938. Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Elsie_macgill.jpg.

Plummer, Kevin. “Historicist: Toronto’s Golden Age of Comic Books.” Torontoist, 20 Nov. 2010, https://torontoist.com/2010/11/historicist_torontos_golden_age_of_comic_books/.

Pratt and Whitney Aircraft Company Limited. Canadian WWII Industrial Propaganda Poster. 1940s. WWII propaganda poster (Immediate source: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/301459768779680901/), Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Our_Answer_All-Out_Production,_Canada,_WWII_Propaganda_Poster.jpg.

Richler, Mordecai. “The Great Comic Book Heroes.” Hunting Tigers Under Glass, McClelland and Stewart, 1968.

“The Conscription Crisis.” CBC Learning, http://www.cbc.ca/history/EPISCONTENTSE1EP12CH2PA3LE.html.

Young, William R. “Mobilizing English Canada for War: The Bureau of Public Information, the Wartime Information Board and a View of the Nation During the Second World War.” The Second World War as a National Experience, HyperWar Foundation, https://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/UN/Canada/Natl_Exp/NatlExp-14.html.

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

Superheroes Representing Canadian Identity through Active Comics #1

©Copyright 2017 Vera Almeida, Ryerson University

Introduction

Tri-coloured cover (yellow, blue, green) Active Comics No. 1
C.T. Legault (a). Active Comics. No. 1, February 1942, Commercial Signs of Canada: Cover. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

Comic books became an important source for providing information and education for children about the World War. Active comics were used to display adventure through war stories and demonstrating to children about Canadian identity through superheroes. The period of Canadian superheroes started around the 1940’s releasing the “Canadian Whites”. According to Beaty, “These comics, so-called due to the black and white interiors that distinguished them from the four-color American comics of the period, arose in response to the wartime importation ban on non- essential goods that removed American comic books from Canadian newsstands” (Beaty 429). Active comic #1 has carried out a way to demonstrate children about war in a way where they are separated from reality, thus still being taught war in a much more fun approach. This exhibit’s critical aim is that the superheroes in Active Comics Issue #1 (February, 1942) like Dixon of the Mounted and Thunderfist explore the depictions that show children about Canadian society and values. In particular the masculine role that these two superheroes perform in order to demonstrate that all Canadian soldiers were brave and strong. The comics have never been as effective, as advertising, but the ideology of maintenance for Canadian military is still there. However, as long as they are considered a ‘children‘s book’ the comic book will serve as an active way of teaching them.

The Children being drawn into Canadian-ness:

Black and white
C.T. Legault (a). Front Cover Verso of “Dixon of the Mounted”Active Comics. No. 1, February 1942, Commercial Signs of Canada: Cover. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

Active Comics was served to explain the importance of strong and intelligent superheroes to illustrate what it means to be Canadian. These comics portrayed all sorts of action and fun stories in order to catch the children’s engagement and the conformity on the battlefield. Moreover, the two superheroes Dixon of the Mounted and Thunderfist’s goal was not only to defeat the enemy, thus to engage children that these superheroes were strong Canadian figures. These two superheroes summon into question the theme between connecting popular culture and nationalism about Canadian-ness through comic books. Moreover, Active comics put forth the idea of importance for those children who have brothers, fathers and uncles serving in war. The adolescent and pre-adolescents of Second World War read the comics eagerly. The comics provided that young audience, which did not read newspapers and had no television to watch, with probably their only source of information on the war.

 

Black and white
C.T. Legault (a). Front Cover Verso of “Thunderfist” Active Comics. No. 1, February 1942, Commercial Signs of Canada: Cover. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

Moreover, Bell Features seemed to work in giving life and durability to these Canadian comic books and “looking back at them they were a significant piece in the puzzle of our Canadian-ness”(Kockmarek The war-time Comics of Bell Features Publications). Bright, bold and with colour only on front page, this comic reveals how the publishers wanted to get as much attention as they could for children to buy it. These publishers know exactly of what the comics provided and what type of audience’s the comics would have. Beaty questions, “Why superheroes? Why comics? They are not just entertaining fantasy figures. They are important to our history because they are symbols of our Canadian identity” (Beaty 431). Through making the superheroes play the role of what it means to be Canadian, this embraces the popular culture and makes children aware of what it means to be Canadian. Representing Canadian-ness was a brilliant way to let children, who were the main consumer’s to get a copy of this comic, engage with Canadian nationality. Beaty states, “Superheroes of the Second World War into legitimated representations of Canadian wartime aspirations that could be affectionately regarded in hindsight as examples of Canadian popular culture” (Beaty 431). According to Beaty, these superheroes were the finest way to represent the Canadian culture to children during the war. Dixon of the Mounted and Thunderfist were superheroes that fit the role to represent their Canadian abilities that children learned from. Active comics was a great source for children to engage and know what it meant to be Canadian, thus the only Canadian popular culture the children was being open too was the whole concept of masculinity features.

Masculinity taking action during World War Two:

Black and white
The “Men of the Mounted” daily strip was created by Edwin Reid “Ted” McCall and drawn by Harry S. Hall for the Toronto Telegram on Feb. 13, 1933.

The two heroes in the Active Comic #1; Dixon of the Mounted and Thunderfist are adventurous and demonstrate the representation of masculinity throughout their stories in order to keep the Canadian ‘identity’. The first story in the issue, Dixon of the Mounted, plays out the strong and brave man as he is going through a blizzard in the mountains searching for his female companion, Ruth Barton. He was a Corporal in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police labeling for Canada then the beaver and even the maple leaf. Thunderfist opens up as a strongman and as a scientific man known for the strangest inventions. His abilities are his allow him to advance at great speed and makes him fly through the electrical currents. Thunderfist’s costume makes him immune to electrical attacks and he has an intelligent mind that leads him to create devices and his own costume. The realization of the need for mental and physical toughness on the battlefield demonstrates the presumed virtues of dominant masculinity for both Dixon of the Mounted and Thunderfist, which men bring to the military service. Both of these heroes portray what its like to be in Canadian popular culture through their intelligence and strength. Saying that, this makes them Canadian and the children take on that every soldier who fought in the World War two and was Canadian; they had to be like Dixon of the Mounted and Thunderfist. There was even aToronto Evening Telegram portraying Men of the Mounted, which contained a strip about the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Dixon of the Mounted is a Royal Canadian Mounted police and through this telegram, it is portraying that the superhero is being advertised in a different media form than the comic. Kockmarek states that, “The ‘Men of the Mounted’ daily strip was created by Edwin Reid “Ted” McCall and drawn by Harry S. Hall for the Toronto Telegram on Feb. 13, 1933” (Kockmarek Men of the Mounted). Dixon of the Mounted was so popular that he began to be advertised in other ways. Through both superheroes encouraging Canadian-ness towards children in a masculine way, this started to educate children they way the comic intended too.

Active Comics #1 played a significant role in education a young populace before, during and after the war, encouraging the children that the soldiers that they would win and defeat their enemies just like the Canadian superheroes. Beaty affirms that, “The effect of The Oreat Canadian ComicBooks was twofold: first, it introduced into comic book fandom an awareness of the specifically Canadian contribution to the development of the medium during the war; second, it initiated an association between comic books and nationalism that would subsequently shape the discourse surrounding Canadian comics” (Beaty 431). Throughout the war, the comic book super heroes were involved in helping soldiers defeating their enemies. The representation of the superheroes action was always good, since they are fighting the evil enemies away. The characters always illustrated war aims and how children can be assured that their fathers or brothers were strong and would win the war because they are brave just like the Canadian superheroes. According to the article Part of golden age of Canadian comic books, “Peter Birkemoe, owner of the Beguiling comic book store in Toronto, said that during the war many artists like Riley realized the commercial potential of their comics…these were businesses, this wasn’t an art collective or art-driven,” (Riley Part of golden age of Canadian comic books). In compliance with Peter’s statement, the comics had a specific reason that they wanted children to look at which how the superheroes portray the Canadian popular culture in a masculine way. Children had the mindset that Canadian heroes would always win because of their strong Canadian strength and intelligence. Comics present combat most often as the business of ordinary men and the courage and ability to fight as intrinsic to all men. The Comic promotes the idea that every man, is able to rise to the occasion and defeat the enemy, but only if they have the Canadian-ness powers that Dixon of the Mounted and Thunderfist portray.

Superheroes and Canadian Nationalism:

Colourful cards with pictures of Men of the Mounted
Men of the Mounted” trading cards put out by Willard’s Chocolates which had opened in Toronto in 1917.

The mobilizations of clichés that are in the place of these superheroes are substantial. Active Comics mentions stereotypes with its two superheroes Dixon of the Mounted and Thunderfist and it is clear that the overt nationalism of Canadian superheroes in the contemporary era had as much to do with frustrations over sustaining a viable Canadian comics publishing industry as it did with representational issues of Canadian identity. For Canadian superheroes to partake in the discourse of Canadian nationalism, therefore, it was necessary for the proponents of those heroes to disavow cultural production. With these two Superheroes Dixon of the Mounted and Thunderfist the children were becoming aware that since these superheroes were Canadian they knew all about what it was to be a Canadian. The comics were demonstrating that these superheroes fought and thought like Canadians, since they were strong and intelligent because of their actions and were Canadian. Children were being drawn to all the masculine aspects of these superheroes which made them believe that all Canadian men were supposed to act as accurately as they performed. Furthermore, Willard’s Chocolates, a shop that opened up in Toronto in 1917 and came up with an idea of, chocolate with trading cards inside. Willard’s, “…came up with the “Sweet Marie” caramel and nut filled chocolate bar in 1931 and was eventually purchased by George Weston in 1954” (Kockmarek Men of the Mounted).The trading cards consisted of Men of the Mounted, which was inspired by the superhero Dixon of the Mounted; the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Saying that, with Willard’s chocolates connecting to Dixon of the Mounted, it is portraying Canadian-ness. The superhero was being portrayed into popular culture through a company who sold chocolates with these trading cards in them. This idea was made because Dixon of the Mounted made great success in the first Canadian adventure strip to appear in Canada. With this being said, the superheroes were becoming popular, which was a great way to influence the Canadian-ness to everyone especially the children being targeted. These chocolates influenced children with their trading cards, which was a good way to get children involved with Canada’s popular culture.

Conclusion:

Conclusively, Active Comics Issue #1, examined the portrayal that displayed to children about Canadian popular culture through Dixon of the Mounted and Thunderfist encouraging Canadian-ness towards children in a masculine method. Canadian superheroes in the contemporary era had many clichés, in particular the masculine role that these two superheroes perform in order to demonstrate that all Canadian soldiers were brave and strong during the World War two. Through making the superheroes play the role of what it means to be Canadian, this embraces the popular culture and makes children aware of what it means to be Canadian. Representing Canadian-ness through these two superheroes was a brilliant way to let children engage with Canadian nationality. Saying that, these comic books limited the children’s concepts of what it means to be Canadian since it was being portrayed in a masculine way.

 

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.


Bibliography

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Beaty, Bart. “The Fighting Civil Servant: Making Sense of the Canadian Superhero.” American Review of Canadian Studies, Oct. 2006, pp. 427–439., doi:10.1080/02722010609481401.

Bell, John. “Comic Books in English Canada.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, 7 Feb. 2006 www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/en/article/comic-books-in-english-canada

Kocmarek, Ivan. “Truth, Justice, and the Canadian Way: The War-Time Comics of Bell Features Publications.” Canadian Review of Comparative Literature/Revue Canadienne De Littérature Comparée, Canadian Comparative Literature Assn, 2016. https://muse-jhu-edu.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/article/611725

Kocmarek, Ivan. “Men of the Mounted.” Comic Book Daily, 8 Jan. 2014 www.comicbookdaily.com/collecting-community/whites-tsunami-weca-splashes/men-mounted

Laurie, Ross. “Masculinities and War Comics.” Journal of Australian Studies, 18 May 2009, www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14443059909387455.

Legault, E.T. (w) and M. Karn (a). “Dixon of the Mounted and Thunderfist.”Active Comics, no. 1, February, 1942, pp. 1-29. Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection, 1941-1946. RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.