Tag Archives: WOW Comics

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.

Manipulation by Media

Children are easily manipulated as they are seen as innocent and naive. Children do not have the education to learn what the real reason is behind the madness that occurs every day. Events will happen all over the world and children will not be capable to grasp a proper understanding as to why it is happening. This is solely due to the lack of education on history. A major historic event that had a change in the world, was World War II in 1939. World War II made an impact on everyone all around the world especially in the media, as it was largely impacted. During this time, comics were very popular and they contained many different stories that were targeted towards war. A comic would show an example of how children were not being properly taught about an event. The use of racism, violence, and hatred was incorporated negatively in these comics. In my comic, there was an advertisement for war stamps that involved the illustration of Adolph Hitler. My comic found on page 15 of WOW Comics issue No. 10 (1945). Specifically focused on the aim for children to purchase war stamps. The purchase of war stamps was easier to persuade to children due to their age and young mentality. The sales of war stamps are one of the factors which helped fund the war, for it was important to keep the children engaged in purchasing. Depending on the perspective, this comic advertisement can be interpreted as a deeper meaning. This can be proven through the history presented, the illustrations, the vocabulary used and the dramatic events which unfolded in front of children in World War II.

Children and History: Historic Childhood Novelty

I found that the history of World War II was very effective while looking at this comic advertisement. Without looking into the history one would not be able to prove that children were very under-educated and manipulated. The media was able to target children with the use of comics and toys. Children have been targeted for many years, but it was most prominent during World War II because leaders found them to be more vulnerable (Martin Armstrong, 2014). In comparison to adults, children retain more information because they are continuously developing their own personalities and mentalities (David Machin and Theo Van Leeuwen, 2009). Children were targeted in this comic to purchase war stamps, however, they believed that by doing so they were helping fund the war for their nation. The message that they received was positive, as they were helping their families who were within the battle. At an impressionable age and with the passion to be involved, these children tried to come up with any way to make money. With whatever they earned, they would bring it to their school to purchase War Savings Stamps which they pinned into special booklets for post-war redemption. This created an appealing goal for them, by being able to fill and keep track of their unique stamps! Along with the mixed messages, there was the horrible bribery of the children that I found quite appalling. “Children learned to recycle and collect materials, such as metal, rubber, fat, and grease, which were reused to produce useful products for the war. In return for the children’s labour, different incentives were offered to the children such as free passes to the movies” (Veterans Affairs Canada, 2017). Apart from free movie screenings, children enjoyed playing with different toys in their free time. Toys were made to resemble the war; even today I still see these toys exist. These toys can consist of miniature soldiers, plastic machine guns, replica grenades and the full attire (David Machin and Theo Van Leeuwen, 2009). These toys would intrigue children, in relation to the plastic guns, those are not toys, even if they are plastic. These toys would intrigue a child and become an object of enjoyment, as opposed, to teaching them what their real purpose is, which is to injure and kill people. What I immediately thought was how boys-not girls because there was more sexism towards girls if they were caught wanting to play with these war toys; this could resemble their family that was out fighting for their lives. Young boys want to be able to follow in their parent’s footsteps, usually their fathers, which would make these toys more appealing. Further, into the research, it brought me to an article based on a true story made into a comic, about a young girl named  Hansi who loved the Swastika symbol (Figure 2).

This is something I found to be extremely inappropriate for a child to love. The Swastika symbol is the official emblem of the Nazi party and a symbol that holds a meaning of hatred. The Hansi comic book was part of a series of biographies of famous Christians in the 1970s. The Christian comic book was based on the autobiography of Maria Anne Hirschmann, who lived through World War II as a victim of the Germans propaganda (Comic Alliance Staff, 2010). She was an avid believer in the Bible, but then found herself intrigued and interested in the swastika.It was concerning as it is found unusual of such difference in an interest into something which negatively impacted the world. Further with age, she then returned back to her Christian faith.It was obvious the moral behind this comic, as it is showing you that your faith will always be there for you even when you do not realize it. By looking back on the history of World War II, I am able to further prove the point that children did not receive the proper education. If they had, these children would not want to resemble the toys they played with to war, misunderstand comics for wanting to help with the war and have a young girl who loved the swastika.

 

Illustration: Visual Stimulation 

I further my research on my topic by looking into the illustrations displayed in my comic advertisement. This comic I found was unique in the use of illustration, especially when looking at Hitler’s expression while he is saluting. The facial reaction displayed on Adolph Hitler plays a large part in the advertisement (Figure 3). Looking at his face is unsettling, we are not exactly sure how Hitler is feeling. Hitler looks disappointed when he is giving authority by saluting yet, he is not exactly proud of himself. He also looks guilty. When we see realistic photographs of Hitler, his face is usually flat and he has no emotion shown on his face. However, this comic shows him looking vulnerable and upset. This I find has a major effect on children because it will have the emotional grab; he does not look happy with what he is doing so why would someone else want to follow in his footsteps? It is also seen Hitler holding a swastika in his hand. My findings concluded that the swastika connected with the story of the young girl who loved the swastika symbol. This adds to the fact that children were easily manipulated through illustrations; most likely finding the symbol appealing because they would not understand the meaning behind it. Looking further into the illustration we can take notice of a solider showing force against Hitler. This I found portrayed violence, which should not be portrayed to young children. I think children should see that violence is not something that we approve, yet, this comic is showing our soldiers being violent towards one of the most notorious people in history. It is quite a contradicting illustration when discussing the impact of illustrations affecting children. Although they are young, this is the time their minds start to process information and remember things that they see such as the illustration in this comic. A child finds illustrations more appealing than vocabulary. However, in order for comics to be appealing to the young crowd, the illustrators had to use images rather than vocabulary to catch the individuals eye and have a reminding effect.

Vocabulary: Cunning Persuasion 

Lastly, a strong form of manipulation used throughout this comic is the vocabulary. There are two words that stand out to myself and those words are “heed” and “breed”. Heed is a word that expresses obedience, but also indicates a warning in this comic. Once defining this term and delving deeper into the meaning of it, I realized you have to pay attention to small details in the comic. I looked carefully at this and realized the word heed is used in an intentional way. I needed to focus on the main idea in this comic, which is Hitler. I paid more attention to him after this because what he did throughout his life was not right. His “breed,” aka the Germans, though they were doing good, but when we actually pay attention to the reality of it all, we know that Hitler was trying to create racial purity. In my article, the communicating text starts with: “A jerk called Adolph” which indicates that they are trying to keep an appropriate word for children instead of using a  vulgar term (Figure 4).

This portrays to the child that the term “jerk” would be a bad word, but not too bad as to reveal Hitler. In the verse following, “was once a kid” this removes Hitler’s scary nature, allowing children to feel somewhat empathetic. Thus, thinking that he was once like them being weak and vulnerable. Also, without caution to children of Hitler’s true nature, they might desire to be like him one day. Following that in the text, “But, when he grew up  just look what he did!” It is implying that the reader would know “what he did” and assumes they would share the same assessment as the comic author. Furthermore, the text says: “Now you” which is speaking directly to the reader of the comic. Also, reverting back to words spoke earlier which were: “can help destroy his breed,” which refers to Hitler’s mission which was to destroy the Jewish people. The ‘you’ in this ad is aimed at its readers to destroy Hitler’s breed. Hitler is known for his wanting to destroy the Jewish. There is a fine line between us attacking Hitler like, he is attacking the Jewish, it is displayed in this ad that we need to destroy his “breed” which does not equal justice. The comic displays Germans as a “breed,” just like animals, they are just something to be killed off as if they do not have to mean. We should not intend to equal the violence, we should show children that we want peace. Lastly, is the quote:  “if these words you will but heed… Buy War Stamps!” This is now trying to persuade its reader into thinking that they must buy these war stamps. The vocabulary in this comic advertisement was very particular, they added the persuasion, the double meaning and the second person perspective (WOW Comic, 1949).

In conclusion, I prove that the media has a large effect on children who lived through World War II. This was shown with the use of the historical information gathered through research of war stamps, as children paid and collected these stamps to help fund the war. The stamps were particularly advertised to children, as they were easy to persuade due to their age and passion for involvement. Secondly, toys which represented different war items allowed a child to have an imagination and feel like their mothers and fathers, who of which did their part to help the war. The true story of Hansi, allows us to understand the meaningful power of the swastika and that person’s faith will always follow them. Moreover, by looking at the illustration displayed in the comic, Hitlers image and expression is evident in showing a negative perspective. As well as, the vocabulary used, which allowed us to see many different aspects being persuasion, double meaning and the perspectives directed. Overall, comics had a lot of impacts, not only on the innocent young boys and girls but also in the aspect of how it portrayed media throughout the event of World War II.

Work Cited

Comic Alliance Staff “Comic Art Propaganda Explored: ‘Hansi The Girl Who Loved the Swastika’.” ComicsAlliance, 17 July 2010, comicsalliance.com/comic-art-propaganda-explored-hansi-the-girl-who-loved-the-swa/

Canada, Veterans Affairs. “Canadian Youth – Growing up in Wartime.” Veterans Affairs Canada, Government of Canada, 24 Mar. 2017, www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/history/historical-sheets/youth.

David Machin, Theo Van Leeuwen. “Toys as discourse: children’s war toys and the war on terror.” Toys as discourse: Children’s war toys and the war on terror | Critical Discourse Studies Vol. 6, No.1, February 2009, 51-63

Martin Armstrong. “Propaganda & Children – Always the First Target of Leaders.” Propaganda & Children – Always the First Target of Leaders | Armstrong Economics, www.armstrongeconomics.com/uncategorized/propaganda-children-always-the-first-target-of-leaders/.

Stacy Gillis, Emma Short. “Children’s experiences of World War One.” The British Library, The British Library, 20 Jan. 2014, www.bl.uk/world-war-one/articles/childrens-experiences-of-world-war-one.

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.

Morale in “Wow Comics no. 17”

Introduction

The Second World War brought many changes to the lives of Canadian children. With fathers and brothers being deployed in the battle overseas, mothers suddenly joining the work force, shortages of food, rations, and talk of Nazi spies and Japanese invasion, the echoes of war were ubiquitous in the lives of children (Cook). Undoubtedly troubling for them, one of the only offers of escape for children was comic books. Enter the “Canadian Whites”: a series of comic books created by Canadian publishing companies that filled the void left by the removal of the American popular media when the King administration passed the War Exchange Conservation Act (WECA) (Bell). The “Whites” lifespan was short, but nonetheless, their run fulfilled a significant role in the lives of Canadian children.

In this article, I will examine issue no. 17 of Wow Comics (a member of the “Whites” family), in particular the narratives that focus on themes of war and violence, and how those narratives quite paradoxically supply readers with a more optimistic outlook on the war they were living through. By selling children a world of clear-cut narratives to situate themselves in, where good and evil were easily distinguished, the heroes always won, and life at home was never shown as being in danger, Wow Comics perhaps served as a means of upholding morale in their lives.

Defining Morale

For the purposes of this article, I will be using the term “morale” as a measure of optimism held by Canadian children about the war. Advertisements, propaganda, and other products of pop culture (including comics) that work to improve or positively shape consumer’s outlook on the war effort can be seen as upholding morale. Additionally, anything that helped kids to orient themselves in the confusion of wartime, or provide some sense of comfort and security can also be seen as upholding morale.

Context of Consumer Culture

Figure 1. Government issued propaganda used Hitler’s image to discourage spending. H. V. Shaw (a). “Save to beat the devil,” from “Canada at War Forums”, Canada at War, Jan 2010.

When accessed digitally, there is a tendency to forget that artifacts of history belonged to a broader sociocultural context. We must then keep in mind that Wow Comics was not only a product of a consumerist culture, but highly successful ones. During the war, there was a tension between the government’s “anti-spending” propaganda campaign, and the companies that naturally wanted to keep up consumption. Businesses, to protect their success, had to be tactical about their approach to advertising. As Graham Broad puts it in his book A Small Price To Pay, advertisers’ initial response to the war was to maintain a “business as usual approach” (50). However, as the government continued developing their propaganda to align spending with treason (e.g. using Hitler’s image in anti-spending campaigns as seen in Figure 1), advertisers shifted tactics to attaching social significance to their products (Broad 61). To accomplish this, advertisers started constructing the purchase of every commodity as being useful to the war effort (77). In doing so, advertisers inverted the government’s “serve by saving” ideology into a “serve by spending” call to action. As a result, advertisers made consumerism a mode of participation in the war effort, and boosted morale in the lives of Canadians by giving them the sensation that their spending was in some way helping to win the war.

Commodifying the War

Figure 2. Toy gun advertisement. Wow Comics, no. 17, 1943, Bell Features Publishing, pp. 57.

Wow Comics fits into the consumer climate in a similar way: by working both as a source of morale and a piece of propaganda. Two advertisements in the back of Wow Comics no. 17 that promote toy guns to its readers serve as an illuminating example. The advertisements invite children to role-play as soldiers with models guns that are “Just like the real thing!” (Wow Comics 57). Margaret Higonnet, doing research on military themes in children’s culture, argues that toys can be used to domesticate war, “[granting] distance and [permitting] us to claim mastery” (“War Toys” 119-120), and we can see such a process taking place here. Purchasing these toy guns would allow children to recreate the battles they hear about in school and read about in these comics, relocating the war into an imaginary space where they have control. In other words, children can use these toy guns to imagine themselves as brave heroes of war. Since we know that toys are often employed by children to help them navigate through uncertain times (“War Toys” 118), this reconfiguration of war allows children to feel better equipped to deal with the changes wartime brought into their lives, and thereby boost morale. The advertisements also work as propaganda, as they encourage children in their play to embody soldiers fighting on the “good side” (i.e. the Canadian military) against evil (i.e. enemies of Canada, Nazis). Rehearsal of war, especially as it is informed by the advertisements and themes found in Wow Comics serves to reproduce the ideological binary of good vs. evil and solidifies the justification of the Canadian war effort.

“Hair-Raising Features”

While several of Wow Comics no. 17’s stories are based in the military genre, its representations of war are quite distant from the realities. The front cover of the lets readers know it is filled with action. The cover depicts a German U-Boat being blown up, complete with enemy bodies flung airborne, and crashing waves. In the bottom left corner is a text box that reads “‘The Penguin Strikes’ Plus 5 Other Hair-Raising Features,” advertising that at least six of the contained stories are action packed. Higonnet argues, “One of the paradoxes of war, as it is represented in children’s books, is that battle becomes distilled as individual combat” (2). Her theory applies here: while some of the comic’s stories are situated directly in the war effort, there is never a battlefield full of soldiers or towns under siege. Instead, comics like “The Penguin” take place on a nondescript coastline, with a single protagonist going up against a single German villain, “the Luger” (Wow Comics 3). Similarly, “Whiz Wallace” takes place in India, and has a battle between the protagonists and the villainous “Spymaster” and his henchmen (Wow Comics 19). The comics’ representations of war take place in contained (and due the lack of specificity in location, almost secret) places, where the violence does not reach innocent lives. Such representations reduce war to a singular heroic man seeking out and infallibly beating up singular villains without causing any auxiliary destruction. However, the reality war is far more complex, violent, and senseless than that heroic process. As a scholar on the “White”, Ivan Kocmarek, remarks that the “Canada Whites” were likely one of the only sources of information about the war for children (156), and this representation could therefore be interpreted as a realistic depiction for young readers. Appearing so controlled and one-sided, the war might have then appeared less scary for kids, as it upheld morale about the likelihood of Allied success.

Have no fear!: Heroism in the “Whites”

The cast of heroes in Wow Comics no. 17 is not what one would expect compared to classic comic heroes such as Superman. Instead of supernatural powers, the Canadian heroes used cunning, detective skills, some weapons, and their fists to dole out justice. They are not superheroes, but vigilantes, spies, and adventurers who fought for good and exhibited bravura in the face of evil. “The Penguin,” shows a lone hero in a penguin mask foiling a Nazi plot to bomb the Canadian coast without ever coming face-to-face with the enemy, merely outsmarting them by placing one of their own bombs in the U-Boat’s periscope (Dingle 5). Beyond the immediate threat of a bombing, the deadly weapon is aptly named the “demoralizer bomb” (Wow Comics 3). The Penguin is therefore not just protecting physical bodies, but also the collective spirit of Canadians, pointing to the importance of morale during wartime. Similarly, the comic “Guy Powers: Secret Agent” shows a Canadian detective uncovering a Nazi sabotage scheme in a Canadian factory. In the end, the hero expertly punches out the Nazi spy when he tries to pull a gun on him after being found out. What this common theme of self-defence reveals is a uniquely Canadian approach to the war where violence is used as a means of defence, as opposed to an all-out offensive means to victory. While these tales openly confess that the home front is always a vulnerable target, they also remind young readers that there will always be heroes that will stop the infiltrating evil before it can cause harm, further providing them with comfort, and maintaining the good vs. evil binary that justifies the war effort.

Heroism outside the war

Several of Wow Comics no. 17’s “Hair-Raising Features” take place in a setting outside of WWII. Regardless, they still keep up morale in a similar way to their militaristic counterparts by continuing to reinforce the hero vs. villain binary. As an example, in the comic “The Phantom Rider,” a vigilante hero (The Phantom Rider) rides through the Wild West seeking vengeance against the gun-wielding bandits that killed his father. On his quest, he finds the criminals, but realizes they are planning on stealing a herd of cattle from a local town. The Rider then proceeds to trap the criminals and turn them over to the authorities, saving the day. This comic reinforces the idea that justice is achieved by a clearly good hero fighting against clearly bad villains. When the sheriff says “He never breaks his word, always helps the one in need,” (Wow Comics 35) readers are further reminded that this story is an example of the Rider’s time-proven process.  The echoing heroism in the comics that exist outside of the war continue to remind the reader that there are good people who protect the innocent from evil.

Constructing villains

Figure 3. Panel from “Whiz Wallace” showing the Spymaster. Wow Comics, no. 17, 1943, Bell Features Publishing, pp. 21.

Although the Axis powers were generally understood as evil, the brevity of the comic’s stories required their visual representations of evil to be done efficiently. To do this, illustrators of the “Canadian Whites” tended to rely on stereotypical depictions of Canada’s enemies to communicate not only villainy, but also race and nationality.  Perhaps the most striking example of this is Thomson’s design of the Japanese villain “The Spymaster” in “Whiz Wallace.” The Spymaster is bald, fat, has slanted eyes, and a fu manchu (Figure 4). Although skin tone is absent in the black and white comics, he is described by one of the white protagonists as a “yellow beast” (Wow Comics 22).  Additionally, he possesses a magic that allows him to control the minds of men, and is described as being “mysterious” (Wow Comics 17), ascribing to him a sort of mysticism frequently linked to Asiatic peoples. The combination of both these visual and textual elements construct a portrait of the enemy that is immediately distinguishable to both the protagonists and the readers. This representation shows the “bad guys” as being easy to identify, and in turn, makes them easy for the heroes to find and stop. Children reading these comics might then feel more confident in the understood heroic process when it is demonstrated as being so streamlined and a simple matter of finding the stereotypical villain and swiftly putting a stop to them.

Moreover, German villains were constructed in a similar way to the Japanese: by drawing on stereotypes. The Luger in Dingle’s “The Penguin” is the perfectly designed villain: square jaw, bald, scar located on his head, devilish smirk, and even a monocle. In addition to drawing on the familiar white villain tropes, the German accent is transcribed in the dialogue to reify the connection to German nationality (as if the U-Boat and Nazi flag were not enough). “What is the hold-up” thus becomes “Vat iss der hold-up” (Wow Comics 5). Villains, then, can be recognized not only through visual signals, but also aural ones.

 Conclusion

For the price of 10 cents, Wow Comics offered children worlds parallel to their lived realities where war was not as scary as it seemed. In line with the trends of the era’s consumer culture, Bell Features was successful in turning its products into commodities with social significance in a wartime context. Within these comics, war is reduced to a game of cat and mouse where the hero hunts down and inevitably stops the villain from doing harm. Giving children a more simplistic perspective of war, a complex adult phenomenon, perhaps helped them to feel less afraid during a time of great fear and uncertainty, or at least have a stronger faith in the success of the soldiers fighting for them. Additionally, through advertising, these comics invited children to recreate these war narratives in a way that made them feel in control of their situation. Amid the sea change the Second World War brought to the lives of Canadian children, the Wow Comics fulfilled the important duty of keeping up their morale and fending off fear.


Works Cited

Bell, J., & Viau, M. “Canadian Golden Age of Comics” from “Beyond the Funnies,” Jun. 2002, Library and Archives Canada. https://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/comics/027002-8300-e.html

Broad, G. A Small Price to Pay: Consumer Culture on the Canadian Home Front, 1939-45. UBC Press, 2013, Vancouver, Canada.

Cook, T. “Canadian Children and the Second World War,” The Canadian Encyclopedia, Apr. 2016. http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/canadian-children-and-wwii/

Higonnet, M. “War Games.” The Lion and the Unicorn, vol. 22, issue 1, John Hopkins University Press, 1998, Brooklyn, United States.

—. “War Toys: Breaking and Remaking in Great War Narratives.” The Lion and the Unicorn, vol. 31, issue 2, John Hopkins University Press, 2007, Baltimore, United States.

Kocmarek, I. “Truth, Justice, and the Canadian Way: The War-Time Comics of Bell Features Publications.” Canadian Review of Comparative Literature, vol 43, issue 1, 2016, Canada.

Shaw, H. V. (a). “Save to beat the devil,” from “Canada at War Forums”, Canada at War, Jan. 2010. http://www.canadaatwar.ca/forums/showthread.php?t=2486

Wow Comics, no. 17, Oct. 1943, Bell Features Publishing. Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection, 1941-1946. RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166679.pdf


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.

Women, the Second World War and Misrepresentation in Wow! Comics No. 14

Good, E (a). WOW Comics, No. 14. June 1943. Commercial Signs of Canada: Cover. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada

Women, the Second World War, and Misrepresentation

During World War II, women were represented as dependent, beautiful, and helpless, especially within comic books. This can be shown through the depiction of the female characters within my comic. The way women were represented differs drastically from the way women actually were at this time, and all that they have contributed to Canada today. Through the analysis of the 14th issue of WOW! COMICS, and further secondary research, this paper will compare the representation of women within this comic during World War 2, to their roles within Canadian society and its establishment, and the importance of both. This argument is important because the way women are portrayed within these comics is a misrepresentation of women during this period, and  what women have contributed to the Second World War; thus limiting the knowledge of the  impact women have had on Canadian social/economic development.

Damsel in Distress Trope

In the 14th issue of WOW COMICS! the stories focus mainly on male protagonists that are seen to be hyper-masculine, and tend to solve their conflicts with other ch

E.T. Legault. Panel from “Dart Daring and the Rendezvous” Wow Comics, No. 14, June 1943, Commercial Signs of Canada

aracters through fighting and other acts of violence. According to Facciani et al., “female characters are often portrayed as being in need of saving by heroic male characters” (217). An example of this, is the character Loraine, who is in the story “Dart Daring and the Dreadful Rendezvous.” (Legalilt, E., 5-13). In this story, she is seen as the main male protagonist’s- Dart Daring-love interest and nothing else. As shown in Figure 1, Loraine is captured by pirates. The frame centres on the

“damsel-in-distress” trope, and implies that women are required to look their best no matter what situation they are in.

Lack of Acknowledgment for Female Characters

Another way women are misrepresented within this issue, is the unacknowledged opinion and voice of the female characters. An example of this would be the story “JEFF WARING” (Karn). In this story, one of the main male protagonists Jeff Waring is held captive by one of the antagonistic soldiers (22, Karn). Kay, the daughter of the second male protagonist, Professor Allen, sees that Waring needs help (22, Karn). Instead of fighting back against the soldier, Kay is shown running back to her father’s lab and telling him what she saw (22, Karn). When Jeff is rescued by Professor Allan, he thanks Kay for saving the day by acting the way she did (23, Karn). Through the act of Kay going to her father, it further implies that women should be dependent on men and cannot solve problems without the help of a man. In addition, Kay is not recognized for her part in the rescue of Jeff Waring. When Jeff thanks her for saving the day, Kay deflects the ‘thank you’ and centres again on Jeff, asking if he is alright (23, Karn). Not only does this show that women’s contributions are not acknowledge, but having Kay divert the recognition she does receive back on to the main male character, the comic seems to encourage young female readers to put men’s feelings, thoughts and opinions above their own. This correlates with the authors’ claim that the focus on women’s beauty and physical appearance in comics take precedence over their achievements in the story (Facciani et al., 217).

Furthermore, women in my comic are shown talking in one or two sentences that are either cries for help, or showing gratitude towards the male protagonist; or they do not speak at all and presented are presented as side character. An example of this portrayal of women is in the story “It All Started This Way” (Griffin). Specifically, on page 33, the main character and narrator of the story has moved to Ontario with his wife and just reunited with his old friend Al who is now his neighbour. In the small frame that shows the visual of the two men meeting, Al’s wife accompanies him. She is dressed sophisticatedly and is shown to be a beautiful woman. Despite her being there during this meeting, not a word is said from her nor is a name even given. In fact, there is no mention of her at all from either Vic or Al. This lack of validation of her very existence, enforces the idea that women are to be seen and not heard.

Benevolent Sexism

A prime example of what Facciani et al., call “benevolent sexism”-the involvement of viewing women in stereotypical and restrictive roles…which require the protection of men (217)-can be seen in the story of Whiz Wallace. This story focuses on a fighter pilot who rescued an unconscious female character named Elaine (47, Legault). Their plane crashes and Whiz travels through the scorching desert of Africa to “find help for poor Elaine” (48, Legault). It can be seen on page 49, that Whiz collapses with “the lifeless burden of Elaine.” The use of the word burden and the fact that Elaine is unconscious, further portrays women as something that men are required to look after. Additionally, when Whiz wakes up after being kidnapped by a king, he asks to see Elaine. The king reassures Whiz, stating that “there’s no need to worry. Your young lady is safe…” This subtle use of possessiveness implies that women are forms of property that should be cared for and looked after by men. In relation, Elaine, being reunited with Whiz, tells him that she’s ready to leave when he says (51, Legault). She is shown as being dependent on him to make decisions, instead of stating her thoughts and opinion on the matter.

In the story “Crash Carson”, the female character Jacqueline helps Crash and his partner defeat a group of Nazi soldiers (36, Tremblay), and offers the men horses as a form of transportation (37, Tremblay). Although she is described as ‘heroic’ (38, Tremblay), the story focuses on the romantic interest that Crash Carson has for Jacqueline, evident by the promise for him to come back after the war is over (37, Tremblay), and the kiss that results in Jaqueline telling Crash that she will wait for him. Crash does thank Jaqueline, but not for assisting in the fight against the Nazis, but for her kindness. The dismissal of her actions is followed by Crash’s description of Jaqueline as “a nice kid” who he’ll “think of throughout the war” (38). This description demeans Jaqueline to a love interest, altering the focus of her heroism and strength to a mere act of kindness. By belittling Jaqueline’s actions within the story, and all she does to help Crash and his partner, instead focusing on the romantic aspect of the story and shifting her character to a love interest in such a subtle way, further verifies the idea that women’s accomplishments are deemed secondary to those of men and their focus should be on romantic relationships. In relation to this, in situations where a female character helps a male character, the male character is older than the female character, and female characters are generally romantically attracted to the male characters that are helping them (White, 254).

 

Sexism of Women in World War II

All of the representations of women in my comic relates to the diminishment of the acknowledgement of women’s work during World War II. Although women were “praised for their bravery, loyalty to soldiers, steadfastness, and competence” (Honey, 677), they were still characterized as “slackers who were driven to their downfall by ambition or bitterness” (Honey, 677). During World War II, the Federal Government intended to draw upon the services of women (“Women in Industry”, 1939).The government also believed that “there exists a large reserve of women-power, which under proper management and direction could be very profitably utilized for the expansion of the war effort” (“Women in Industry”, 1939). By stating that women need to be “under proper management” and “direction” reinforces the idea that women are incapable of doing anything without the assistance of men.

Furthermore, the Federal Government only dispatched women who were physically strong to work in industrial work (“Women in Industry”, 1939). The Governm

Figure 3, Beauty on Duty

ent’s Department of Labour were found to “take precautions…to ensure that employers in their eagerness to increase output do not make demands upon women which they are not capable of fulfilling” (“Women in Industry”, 1939). The special precautions that were taken for women, were not taken or given to men, which implies that women were seen in the social eye as less capable of doing men’s work without some form of aid.

As shown in Figure 3, a woman’s “beauty” was something women still had to keep up in terms of social views. By having advertisements like these, focus is taken away from the important jobs and roles that women held during this time, and instead, focused on the

importance of physical beauty. Additionally, as explained in Proudly She Marches (Marsh, 1943), “women still had to maintain idealized beauty while fighting…” (00:05:09). In Figure 4, it can be seen that even though this is an advertisement for wom

To Make Men Free

en, the focus is still on men. By having the title “To make men free”, this advertisement centres on men and not women. Also, having this advertisement read “…you will share the gratitude of a nation when victory is ours” makes it seem like what the men are doing during this time, is more important than everything women did in order to keep Canada going during World war II

 

 

Women’s Accomplishments in World War II

 

Throughout WWII, women accomplished a lot that aided in Canada’s functioning and running as a country. Of these accomplishments, one of the most important is their placements in the work force. Gouldon & Oliviette (2013) found that the male labour force dropped by 9 million (257), and the women’s labour force, increased by 7 million (257). Having a drastic decrease in jobs for men due to drafting, opened many opportunities for women to take over these jobs and create a name for themselves. Most of these women, according to Honey (1983), “were predominantly from the working class” (683).

Additionally, Moniz (2016) found that “…assuming a ‘place’ in the nation war effort meant increased domestic responsibilities, volunteering, enlisting in the armed forces, and joining the civilian workforce” (81). As mentioned in The Home Front (Hawes, 1940), women also aided in the financial assistance and the war budget (00:04:00). Women did everything from working on planes to help production lines move faster (00:05:06) to helping foreign men by sewing their uniforms and aiding them in promotional work-based learning (00:05:51).

Women were also responsible for creating the Canadian Red Cross Organization, that was made up of women to help aid the war away from their homes (00:08:36). For this organization, they made hospital clothes, bandages etc. for refugees and injured men (00:09:26).  Furthermore, in To The Ladies! (Balla, 1946), 45,000 women took over the jobs of men during the Second World War (00:01:24). Women also worked on assembly lines, and used intricate machinery (00:01:57).

Specifically, volunteering women worked in “hostess houses”, giving their spare time to the men of the war (00:04:49). Volunteers also helped out hospitals that were short of nurses, giving care (physical/social) to veterans (00:05:00). Women used The Red Cross to send care packages and food to men overseas and in camps (00:05:14). They also created a program for price control (00:07:44), and helped beat inflation by reporting buying problems across Canada (00:08:05-00:08:17).  As explained by Marsh (1943), women took over male-dominated jobs so they could serve overseas (00:06:38).

Furthermore, women taught classes of men in fields like Aircraft Recognition (00:10:25). They also took many jobs in drafting of ships, and record keeping (00:12:22-13:09). According to Marsh, women played an important role as technical experts in the Army (0:16:09). Women also handled every form of motorized vehicles (00:16:30), which, along with industrial work, was seen as a male job. Within this film, Marsh also explains that “the safety and effectiveness of our Armed Forces rest on the new and exciting work performed by Canadian Women” (00:16:49).

 

Conclusion

 

Given the way women were represented in WOW! Comics No. 14, compared to all of the things women accomplished and contributed to the Second World War, it can be seen that the history of women was misrepresented at the time. This comic painted a socially acceptable (at the time) woman, who was dependent and always looked her best, which related to the societal norms of the war where women were concerned, but did not reflect how hard working and committed these women were during World War II.

The Reality of Indigenous People

Copyright 2017 Sarah Patriarca, Ryerson University

Introduction

During World War II, the family dynamic in Canada changed as fathers and brothers went off to fight in the war while the women were left to not only tend to the children, but also take over occupations typically held by males. As children were more or less left in the dark, the rise of comics provided Canadian children with a new source of entertainment. The comics illustrated different super heroes and plots based around the war at the time. Most of these stories included crude stories or depictions of events that helped the children to better understand what was going on without revealing too much for them to worry. In retrospect, the comics are a very good distraction to these kids. However, looking at the comics now as young adults, we can clearly see the crude humor of racism, and the facts of the war are displayed throughout these comics. In my comic, Wow Comic Issue. 16, there was one comic in particular that illustrated crude humour towards Indigenous people specifically. The specific comic I will be looking at is the “Jeff Warring” comic that uses the character of an Indigenous man and native setting to represent the Indigenous people in a certain way.  The research question I will be analyzing will be: How are the Indigenous People displayed in the comics? I believe that this comic displays Indigenous people as inferior to European Canadians, which in turn makes the audience perceive them in a different way. By using the simplistic language and illustrations of the comic, I will be able to show the difference between both characters. This topic will not only shed some light on how First Nations were seen as, but also give some perspective against stereotypical beliefs. Over the years, the First Nations of Canada have been characterized in a certain way that depict stereotypes and representations that are false, usually made by European Canadians.

 

European Canadians vs. Indigenous Canadians

In addition, the relationship between Indigenous Canadians and European Canadians are both the same in reality and in the comic. This relationship can be seen throughout the comic with the use of its illustrations and the text from speech/thought bubbles to analyze it more closely. In examining this, the reader can see that the European Canadian seems to have a speech of a superior tone over the Indigenous Canadian. The speech shown in the comic can be seen as very simplistic once the First Nation talks compared to when the European Canadian talks. For example, in my comic Jeff Warring would be considered as the European Canadian whereas the Chief of the tribe would be considered to be the Indigenous person. Throughout the entire comic, Jeff Warring speaks down toward the Chief in a condescending manner. It is also good to notice that the speech bubbles when Jeff Warring is talking contains more words, whereas the Chief have very little to no words involved in the speech bubble. Another way of looking at the difference between both races would be through the illustrations provided in the comic. The illustrations and the speech bubbles help the audience to see the difference of both characters when analyzing it. These very small details that show the comparison between both races. The illustrations are built to tell the viewer the story, while also building up knowledge for the reader as well. However, there are other stories that involve Indigenous people that are not

Source: Native American Heroes in the Comics: An Overview (Part 1), Kevin Breen, Blue Corn Comics (2005). © Whitman Publishing Company; 1st Edition (1940)

as inferior to European Canadians. In some comics, the Indigenous people are seen as doctors, business people and other higher positions in occupations (Dither and Larsen, 2010). This shift of representations displays how Indigenous people helped out in the war, even though this is rarely shown in history. On the contrary, there is one example where the comic displays the Indigenous person in more of a popular demand than the European Canadian character. The comic examines a Native hero, Big Chief Woohoo. Originally, he first appeared alongside a European Canadian hero named Gusto, however soon after Big Chief Woohoo, got the lead role in his own comic. Although, in this perspective, the Indigenous character was seen as superior over the European Canadian characters, the reasoning why Big Chief Woohoo became so popular was because of pop culture’s stereotypical approach towards Indigenous people. It is noted that “He fit the role of the ignorant savage” (Breen 2005) and much of the reason he became so popular is because the author made him ignorant to technology. This is a great example of the use of using illustrations and simplistic language to help depict a character. The only reason his character became a favorite to the audience is because of the crude humor and illustrations that made him seem inferior to a white character like Gusto. “You couldn’t find a better example of the ignorant savage than Wahoo. Besides the language cited above, the way he wrote letters in pictures, and his attempts to ride a car like a horse.” (Breen, 2005).  Even though, Big Chief Woohoo, is seen as superior to Gusto, he only became popular because his character lacked knowledge that supposedly more European Canadian’s have. The illustrations in the Jeff Warring comic specifically, reflect this approach in the differentiation of both races.

 

Stereotypes in Appearance: What Do You Think?

Furthermore, the illustrations in the comic help to support the case of how Indigenous people are perceived to its wider audience. The illustrations aid the reader to look deeper into the meaning of the comic and pick out certain characteristics that stand out when looking at the relationship between European Canadians and Indigenous people. When looking at the comic character of Jeff Warring and the Chief, the audience can see that the relation between both characters are very different. The comic displays Jeff Warring has an average looking man, with appealing features that captures the eyes of the audience. While in comparison, the

Murray Karn. Panel from “Jeff Warring.” Wow Comics, No. 16, August 1943, Bell Features and Publishing Company: http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166678.pdf

Chief is made to look non appealing, with features that get overlooked. When looking at the comic now, the reader can see that the illustrations tend to favour the appearance of a stereotypical Indigenous persona, and also display stereotypical movements in the illustrations of how they would have acted. This misinterpretation and inappropriate facts used against Native Americans shifts the audience’s perception on how they are viewed. Comic books, specifically a part of Pop Culture, details the prominence of anti-Indianism in comic books, particularly as means through which Euro-American authors and audiences have made claims on and through Indianness (King, 2008).  The audience when viewing the comic, takes the illustrations of the comic and reads in between the lines and perceives in a way that makes sense to them. For example, if the Chief is displayed with a racial appearance that goes with the stereotypes, as seen in the picture below, then the audience will see the Indigenous Chief in that manner because it was handed to them. These illustrations prove that our perceptions are made based on what the media shows us. In particular, the media and general sources, such as Encyclopedia’s and news documents, only display the negative aspects of the Indigenous people’s history and their war efforts as well.

 

Are the Media and the Government the Real Culprits?

Moreover, when researching this paper, I took note that most of the information about Indigenous people’s efforts in the war were erased from the mass media. This became very problematic when dealing with this topic because sources for this essay became scarce. In the perspective of the audience, this becomes an issue because lack of information means that many readers are not educated on actual facts. Instead, the media are sources that display these stereotypical approaches, which is the only thing the people know. We as millennials know in the 21st century, the mass media has become one that encompasses all knowledge and is used in everyday activities. As the people, we cannot deny that the media is a very powerful thing that can control how people perceive the world. In particular, history is effective and powerful, as we have come to realize with past historian rulers, whether they produced positive or negative impacts. However, in regards to Indigenous people in the media, it has been left out in majority of sources that Indigenous people did aid in wartimes. However, North American resources have wiped out majority of their efforts and in turn, shifting all the contributions on to the European Canadians, glorifying them in a sense. This is a problematic aspect because society forms a stigma and stereotypical approach to the Indigenous people rather than educating themselves. “The paper concludes that it is a responsibility of society to educate all students to understand that any portrayal of history comes from a particular vantage point and to understand that dominant society privileges some representations and disadvantages others” (Iseke-Barnes, 2005). People lose out on greater knowledge when the government decides to erase their efforts from the mass media. More so, the government is part of the blame for the stereotypical and prejudice the Indigenous people face in the comic, and in reality. In particular, what I have observed from my comic, is that women play a huge role in part of the prejudice that is associated with the Indigenous people. Looking at the comic from a child’s perspective, it can be

Murray Karn. Panel from “Jeff Warring.” Wow Comics, No. 16, August 1943, Bell Features and Publishing Company: http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166678.pdf

seen that there could be a romantic association with Jeff Warring and the Chief daughter, Tana, who is the main female character apart of the comic. However, looking at the comic through the lens of a researcher, you can observe that the relationship between Jeff Warring and Tana is submissive and dominant. Tana’s character goes against her own father, to help Jeff Warring escape and fight against her own kind. This can be related to the events of a women named Dorothy Chartrand, who was a part of the Metis tribe and had to be a service woman because her husband joined the war. In this journal article, she recounts her experience and the reasons she joined, as well as how she was treated and discriminated for her race. Her “grandmother’s teachings about oppression and its operation in the lives of Métis” in which she described the role of government to take away “your pride, your dignity, [and] all the things that make you a living soul. When they are sure they have everything, they give you a blanket to cover your shame” (Iseke and Leisa, 2013). They explain how even though their efforts were purely voluntary and not paid, the government still discriminated against them. This point in time, really shaped the lives of these women and were a critical point for these Indigenous women. The character Tana was stripped of everything, and aided Jeff Warring. In relation to the mass media, pop culture makes it so that when we perceive it as an audience, we see it as two characters falling in love, when in actuality it has a deeper meaning that children reading these comics will not understand. Children at a young age reading these comics take that interpretation and bring the stereotypical information with them into their adolescent and adult years.

 

Conclusion

To conclude, there is a very big separation between European Canadians and Indigenous Canadians that an observer can see in the comic and in reality. In particular, to the Jeff Warring comic story in Wow Comics, we can see this relationship when looking at both illustrations and speech bubbles that are in the comic issue. The speech bubble’s that the Chief uses is more simplistic language, whereas the European Canadian, Jeff Warring uses more terminology that can make the audience see the superior and inferior complex between both characters. The illustrations are used to make Jeff Warring appealing to the eye, whereas the Chief is the latter, which creates an image in the audience’s head of what Indigenous people are supposed to look like. The audience can take note that the mass media and government play a huge role in how we interpret Indigenous people. Due to the fact that there are no records of Indigenous people which makes people have a lack of knowledge when it comes to the topic. As well, the observer can notice that the relationship between women and government, is related to Jeff Warring and Tana, which can seem to be romantic when in actuality it is something far greater. In result, with the use of illustrations and simplistic language in the comic, we can see the meaning behind the superior and inferior relationship between European and Indigenous Canadians. Indigenous people are seen to be inferior, that even with the efforts of being portrayed in a comic, popularity will always be predominant for the European Canadian.

 

Work Cited

Dither , Jason, and Soren Larsen. “Originality and the Arctic North in Canadian Nationalist Superhero Comics, 1940-2004.” Originality and the Arctic North in Canadian Nationalist Superhero Comics, 1940-2004, 2010.

Judy, Iseke M., and Desmoulins A. Leisa. “Critical Events: Metis Servicewomen’s WWII Stories with Dorothy Chartrand .” The Canadian Journal of Native Studies, vol. 33, no. 2, 2013, pp. 29–54. Canadian Business & Current Affairs Database.

King, C. Richard. “Alter/Native Heroes: Native Americans, Comic Books, and the Struggle for Self-Definition.” Cultural Studies ↔ Critical Methodologies, vol. 9, no. 2, 31 Dec. 2008, pp. 214–223., doi:10.1177/1532708608330259.

Iseke-Barnes, Judy. “Misrepresentations of Indigenous History and Science: Public Broadcasting, the Internet, and Education.” Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 26.2 (2005): 149-65. Web. 11 Nov. 2017

Breen, Kevin. “Native American Heroes in the Comics: An Overview (Part 1).” Blue Corn Comics — Native American Heroes in the Comics:  An Overview (Part 1), Blue Corn Comics, 28 Sept. 2005, www.bluecorncomics.com/kbreen.htm.

 

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.

 

Physical Mediums: The Social, Cultural and Physical Histories of Wow Comics

©Copyright 2017 Tony Carlucci, Ryerson University

 

Comics’ Beginnings:

Not Just a Visual Medium: A Physical One

Fig.1. Adrian, Dingle. Cover, Wow Comics. No.20, Digital, Bell Features Publishing: http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166682.pdf

In 1942 Cy Bell, the owner of Bell Features, borrowed $75,000 from the Industrial Development Bank and spent $50,000 on a used offset lithography printing press from the Cleveland Plain Dealer. In Bell’s first print run of Wow Comics, issue No.1 sold 52,000 copies and before the war ended, a total of 20,000,000 were distributed. Wow Comics issue No.20 was printed on newsprint stock using offset photolithography and two-tone color printing (Hirsh).

Often, comic studies focus on visual illustrations and the meaning they produce through textual and visual elements. The visual content act as entry points for the reader to understand the deeper social, cultural and historical complexities of the comic. To read Wow Comics issue No.20 and experience it solely as a visual expression of ideas would be to ignore the deeper meaning we can draw from its physical properties. David Pantalony, museum curator and historian, asserts that the physical histories of an artifact act to enrich and deepen how we understand that artifact (52). The following paper will delve into Wow Comics’ physical qualities, paper and printing processes, and their lesser known social and cultural histories. Marshal McLuhan’s famous argument “the medium is the message” will build upon Pantalony’s ideas by showing how the physical elements of the comic, its medium, not only enrich our understanding but create meaning (1). Finally, Ian Hague’s insights on how touch plays a key role in experiencing comic books as a physical medium will be useful for exploring how Wow Comics as a physical artifact connotes different meaning than its digital counterpart.  What happens when we explore the physical histories of Wow Comics issue No.20?  Let’s find out.

Physical Entry Points: Historical Complexities of Canada’s Lithographic Industry

Before we begin our exploration of Wow Comics’ lithographic history, an illustration of Pantalony’s methodologies will serve to clarify our discussion. In Pantalony’s work, Biography of an Artifact: The Theratron Junior and Canada’s Atomic Age, he argues that museums frequently fail to explain their artifacts rich social, cultural and historical complexities (52). Pantalony exemplified his argument by exploring the physical artifact called Theratron Junior, a green radiotherapy device that lives on display at the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa. In his pursuit for new complexity, he uncovered that the Theratron Juniors green paint reflected the Canadian governments intention to entice commercial and aesthetic sensibilities of prospective foreign buyers (61). The green paint,  an element of its medium, challenged a traditional narrative that the Theratron Junior was a single purpose medical attention device. In comic studies, visual illustration dominates the traditional narrative that meaning is produced solely through illustration. But those visual illustrations did not appear on the comics’ pages by chance, they have a complicated history.

From first hand accounts of Cy Bell we know Bell Features’ offset printing press came with unexpected difficulties.

Fig.2. Frank, Booth. Brigdens Limited (1893-1912), Bay St., w. side, between Wellington & King Sts W.; INTERIOR, wood engraving shop. Photograph, 1900. Toronto Reference Library Baldwin Collection. Public Domain.

Bell explains: “hiring men to run it was another matter….lithography has always been a very tight-lipped business” (Hirsh). Bell’s insights allow us to peer inside the window of Canada’s lithographic history. In 1870 lithography was first established as a trade on the east coast of Canada (Davis 154). As lithography techniques progressed into the late 19th and early 20th centuries a new form of printing came to prominence: photolithography. Photolithography’s invention caused a disruption in the economic and social fabric of Canadian labour.  With its adoption into Canada’s graphic arts industry in the early 20th century a cultural tension was born between early pressmen, lithographers and photo engravers. The tension arose from new skill sets that were required to operate offset lithography and photoengraving machines. The pressmen’s union wanted to learn the new skill sets to establish a dominant role over the lithographers and photoengravers (Davis 145).  The pressmen sought support from the photoengravers but were denied in large part because the photoengravers union was far less established than the Lithographers of North America or the International Printing Pressmen and Assistants Union (David 146).

Bell’s comments and the historical tensions between pressmen, lithographers and photoengravers illuminate the deep social, cultural and economic complexities of Canada’s graphics arts industry. Now when we observe the comic’s dark ink pressed onto the thin, beige pages our understanding of how those images were produced is altered. They are not just creative fictions of one individuals mind but rather were born from the struggle between professional unions to maintain economic dominance in a shifting landscape. Through this research we produce new meaning from the comic’s medium that enriches our understanding and illuminates a narrative that has been, for the most part, hidden inside the pages of Wow Comics.

Parts UnKnown: Pulp & Paper, Newsprint and Canadian Invention

Wow comics was produced on newsprint, a form of cheap paper used primarily by the newspaper industry.  According to Marshal McLuhan, the medium (TV, radio, books, comics, etc) is more relevant in conveying meaning than the content of that medium (2).  McLuhan gives the example that form and function are often separated (5). He states, individuals ask what a “painting is about” but not “what a house or a dress is about” (5). What he means is by asking what a “painting is about” we acknowledge both form, literal paint on canvas, and function, artistic expression. For Wow Comics, we need to ask how the comics form, a photolithographic paper product, creates meaning in relationship to its function, artistic expression. For that answer, we turn to the history of newsprint.

Fig.3. n.d. Canada’s Northern timber lands provide the millions of tons of paper used yearly by the Canadian newspaper industry. The Star gets a large quantity of its supply from the Thorold pulp mills, where mountains of potential reading matter are piled. Around 350 tons of paper are used by The Star Weekly alone, every week in the year. Photograph, 1941. From the Toronto Star Photo Archives. Toronto Reference Library Baldwin Collection. Public Domain.

Newsprint was invented in 1844 by Charles Fenerty, a native of Nova Scotia (Burger 32). During the period before Fenerty’s discovery, rags were the main material used to create paper. In the 1840’s Europe sanctioned rag exportation and Canada’s demand for a new source of paper arose (Burger 31). Fenerty discovered that wood pulp could be ground and turned into a paper product (Burger 33). His discovery was revolutionary because it allowed Canada to begin exporting one of its most abundant resources: wood (Burger 33). The newspapers took advantage of the new, cheap source of paper at a scale which was previously not available (Kuhlberg).

McLuhan notes that the “message” of a medium can be understood by “the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs” (1).  He gives an example of how the railway altered the way in which humans lived and worked (1). By parallel, the newspaper industry was able to produce and distribute a much larger volume of content to a vastly larger audience. This shift changed our relationship to paper from one of value and preservation to volume and impermanence. By that very extension we find ourselves back at Wow Comics.  The physical grainy and fragile pages of Wow Comics issue No.20 connotes its own message: it was not meant to be preserved. The origins of newsprint as the physical medium of newspaper industries also tells us Canadians’ relationship to newsprint paper was ephemeral, meant to be consumed and discarded each day. The physical medium not only provides an opportunity to enrich and complicate the physical history of the artifact but it also produces meaning through its form, the physical paper it was produced on.

Experiential Medium – Ian Hague’s Touch

By flipping the pages of Wow Comics, the reader experiences the comics medium through touch. Ian Hague, a cultural studies scholar, argues that to fully appreciate the message a comic book conveys we must go beyond the visual (99). He stresses “comics are not images without material substance, they are physical objects that we interact with in physical ways” (98). Hague’s stress on the comic’s physicality as a form of communication extends the work of McLuhan. Hague goes on to specify, expounding that physical touch is a key component of how the message of a comic is delivered. At the most fundamental level by holding the book we are reminded of its physical presence (99).  By flipping the pages of Wow Comics we are reminded of its most basic form, paper. This experience in turn creates a connection between our hand and mind which promotes inquiry into an entry point (history of paper) that can be explored.

In his article Hague uses Art Spiegelman’s’ In the Shadow of No Towers as an example of how physical form and touch create meaning (101). He notes “it is a large board book printed on fairly hard cardboard pages rather than soft paper. Producing the work in this fashion makes a powerful statement because the hardness here serves to suggest permanence and significance” (101). By the same logic, Wow Comics’ paper medium as cheap and historically ephemeral not only conveys impermanence but highlights the insignificance of its content. An object that is not meant to be preserved would not hold meaning which is valuable to society. But when we change the medium from physical to digital, that changes.

Fig.4. Tony Carlucci. Video of Wow Comics, No. 20, Bell Features Publishing. Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection, 1941-1946. RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.

 

What about the digital? Medium specificity

When we cannot experience the physical object through touch we hinder our ability to understand, explore and create meaning through the social, cultural and historical complexities of the object. My experience with Wow Comics from the beginning has been 90% digital. I have experienced the artifact by clicking a mouse and tapping arrow keys.  Did I lose out on an enriched and complicated understanding of the physical artifacts medium? My answer is no, but its complicated. By nature of my profession, I studied the object in question. I was forced to be intentional and dig (Pantalony), understand the medium (McLuhan), and experience the object (Hague). But for the average person that intention may not be there.

The digital object without a relationship to the physical flattens rather than enriches. By flatten I mean it acts as a passive agent ready to be accessed. By contrast, the physical object is an active agent always present in our hands,demanding connection between us and its physical existence. Hague’s view is not quite as polarized and I intend to complicate my own argument here. On one side Hague notes that when an artifact is digitized it loses unique qualities such as texture and smell, experiences that have yet to be imitated in the digital space (104).  Conversely, he acknowledges that digital comics’ use of sound is far beyond physical comics (105). Hague takes a neutral position. Wow Comics as a digital artifact may flatten the experience but it also allows the reader to easily access those rich social, cultural and historical complexities. Without the internet, my knowledge of the physical artifact may have been vastly limited in its scope. If the physical objectivity of the artifact creates connections which promote inquiry then the digital artifact allows that inquiry to bloom into knowledge. Both the digital Wow Comic and the physical comic together create an enriched experience. A world without any physical artifacts points to a whole new meaning that we will have to explore later.

Conclusive? Physical Mediums and the Messages They Convey

The stories behind each of the comic’s physical properties create rich contextual meaning and convey a message of their own.  A Canadian invention, newsprint as a cheap medium specific to the newspaper industry connoted impermanence and devalue. We also learned that new photolithography techniques created discord among Canadian pressmen, lithographers and photoengravers. As a result, Cy Bell, the founder of Bell Features, had trouble finding lithographers to physically print his comics (Hirsh). Pantalony made the argument that the physical properties of an artifact matter and so did Marshal McLuhan. For McLuhan, the whole medium,  the comics pages,lithography, etc, conveys a message that is separate from the content. Hague built off McLuhan by arguing that the physical experience of a comic is equally important as the visual.

Our experience of the physical comic is important because we gain a deep connection to the object, understanding what the medium is conveying and how that medium is a site for rich social, cultural and historical complexities. What happens when we flatten those complexities through the digital? We no longer actively engage but rather passively consume. But that last statement is complicated because the digital allows easy access for our inquiries to bloom into knowledge. The future holds any number of possibilities for Wow Comics and the future of the genre but we must remember, the physical existence of our artifacts is critical in understanding why they matter.

 


Works Cited

Adrian, Dingle. Cover, Wow Comics. No.20, Digital, Bell Features Publishing, Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection, 1941-1946. Library and Archives Canada, Rare Book Collection. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166682.pdf.

Burger, Peter. Charles Fenerty and his Paper Invention. PB Publishing Inc, Toronto, Canada, 1971. http://www.charlesfenerty.ca/book_folder/BURGER%20%20Charles%20Fenerty%209780978331818.pdf

Davis, Angela E. Art and Work: A Social History of Labour in the Canadian Graphic Arts Industry to the 1940s. McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1995. Scholars Portal Books, http://books1.scholarsportal.info.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/viewdoc.html?id=34183.

Frank, Booth. Brigdens Limited (1893-1912), Bay St., w. side, between Wellington & King Sts W.; INTERIOR, wood engraving shop. Photograph, 1900. Toronto Reference Library Baldwin Collection. Public Domain.

Hague, Ian. “Beyond the Visual: The Roles of the Senses in Contemporary Comics” . The Scandinavian Journal of Comic Art, vol. 1.1, pp 96-110, 2011. http://sjoca.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/SJoCA-1-1-Article-Hague.pdf

Hirsh, Michael, et al. The Great Canadian Comic Books. Peter Martin Associates, 1971.

Kuhlberg, Mark. “Pulp and Paper Industry”. The Canadian Encyclopedia, 7 Feb 2006. http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/en/article/pulp-and-paper-industry/

McLuhan, Marshall. “The Medium is the Message”. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. Sphere Books, ch.1, pp. 1-18, 1967.

N.d. Canada’s Northern timber lands provide the millions of tons of paper used yearly by the Canadian newspaper industry. The Star gets a large quantity of its supply from the Thorold pulp mills, where mountains of potential reading matter are piled. Around 350 tons of paper are used by The Star Weekly alone, every week in the year. Photograph, 1941. From the Toronto Star Photo Archives. Toronto Reference Library Baldwin Collection. Public Domain.

Pantalony, David. “Biography of an Artifact: The Theratron Junior and Canada’s Atomic Age” Scientia Canadensis, vol. 34, no. 1, 2011, pp. 51 -63.

Wow Comics, No. 20, Bell Features Publishing. Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection, 1941-1946. RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.

Wow Comics, No.20, Bell Features Publishing. Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection, 1941-1946. Library and Archives Canada, Rare Book Collection. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166682.pdf.

 

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.

 

Social Redemption and Elevation during World War II in WOW Comics Issue #4.

© 2017 Hallett-Hale, Thomas,  Ryerson University

 

Introduction

The Second World War was an event that sparked tremendous social upheaval in the western world, and entire societies were bent on achieving military victory. Such a focus on military service came to elevate it to the top of the social ladder. Soldiers in the service were praised for their bravery, sacrifice, and loyalty; being a part of the military effort during World War Two represented serious social elevation for all, making heroes of ordinary citizens. The status military service offered freely, regardless of ethnicity, represented for minorities and marginalized groups social redemption. Social Redemption here means an elevation of social status for groups who endured repression and discrimination in peacetime society. Media such as Issue #4 of WOW Comics offer a fascinating window into how wide audiences were fed this idea of wartime heroism. The characters of Lorraine and Elaine in WOW Issue #4, as well as women on the wartime homefront, are all excellent examples of how combat heroism and redemption was extended to a priorly marginalized group.

 

Figure 1. E.T. Legault. Panel from “Whiz Wallace.” WOW Comics, No. 4, January 1942, p. 42. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

 

Heroic Redemption for Female Characters

The largest marginalized group who found opportunity and redemption in the Second World War were Canadian women. Opportunities for work at factories, in the Royal Air Force, and in the Army brought women into the limelight. In contrast, the female lead of “Whiz Wallace” is treated with a spectacular lack of respect, and thus tackles social redemption more directly. Her name is Elaine, and in Issue #4 she becomes deeply distressed that other women are fawning over her dearest- the protagonist Whiz. She becomes overcome with despair in her rooms, despair that’s narrated with stark disrespect.“Lying across her bed, Elaine Kenyon, like a foolish child crying for no reason at all, sobs her heart out” (Legault, 36). These words make clear the esteem that the reader is intended to hold Elaine in. On the counter side, our protagonist is portrayed as an earnest hero being snubbed; “Wearied of trying to get an audience with his sweetheart, Whiz goes back to the gathering honouring him, to apologize for Elaine’s action”(Legault, 36). Later, as a seeming punishment for her behaviour, Elaine’s request to join in a combat expedition is rebuffed – and she is left behind. This immense collection of “flaws” that the writer amasses against her only serves to highlight her redemption, as she stows away and fights with the men. Elaine manages to save the life of her companion, despite her perceived weakness. After taking the initiative, Whiz goes from demeaning her to; “Good girl Elaine, I don’t know how you happened to be here, but you’re mighty welcome!” (Legault, 43). This stands as the perfect example of redemption through military action, even from a group so marginalized as to be scorned and left behind for petty misbehaviours. Elaine therefore serves as a figure who, by taking action to aid the military cause of her friends, becomes a heroic figure in her own right; one whose prior misdeeds are erased by bravery.

 

A New Kind of Wartime Character

A reflection of women’s new status is found in my WOW issue, in the character of Loraine. She inhabits the story of “Dart Daring,” as the love interest to the titular protagonist. My issue opens to her brave rescue of Dart from a tribe of angry natives, in which she scales a sheer cliff by herself, sneaks by a hostile camp, and unties our indisposed hero. This is a far greater display of agency than other female characters throughout wartime comics; who often find themselves the victim of unfortunate circumstances rather than the solution. The writer does, however, portray her exploits in language far less heroic than applied to Dart. “Her heart misses a beat,” “Loraine, fear gripping her heart…” (Legault, 5). Her fear is emphasized, and she does not exhibit the cool courage of her male counterpart. And yet, the fact remains that Loraine indisputably clambers up a towering cliff, and braves a camp full of enemies to untie her friend. These feats far exceed being tied to various objects to be used as bait- a fate that inordinately befalls other female characters in many wartime comics. In a time where love interests were often portrayed as kidnapped, threatened, or helpless to create tension, Lorraine’s agency is a heroic new tone. That a heroine could perform heroic deeds in a similar league as a male character is a new brand of story, a portrayal of new, redeemed women, capable of playing stronger roles in w society.

 

Homefront Heroines

Beyond the world of comic books, the concept of women engaged in the war effort blossomed into the idea of wartime Heroines. These women stepped up to aid the war effort, and were acclaimed for doing so. The acclaim was built into the image of women as selfless, patriotic individuals who stepped up to aid their country in its time of need. The wartime service changed the concepts of men and women’s work; instead lauding women for accepting jobs that they could only dream of a decade before. “The war effort and patriotism are presented as the artimcentral motivators for women’s work and the progressive national narrative is strongly endorsed” (Wakewich & Smith, 59), meaning that women’s jobs had become emblematic of patriotic service. The social redemption lay in this recasting of working women as noble heroines aiding their country, simply because the jobs they took were supporting the military effort. This massive shift in thought was so powerful that, even after the war, official wartime record favours the stories of exceptional heroines rather than the everyday exploits of ordinary wartime women (Wakewich & Smith, 59). Thus, the wartime saw women rising from the marginalized social dynamic of women in the 1930s, to be given both greater access to jobs and greater social standing. This social redemption was the prime example of the power the war effort had to elevate and even glamourize marginalized groups.

Figure 2, 1947 painting.”Parachute Riggers,” Paraskeva Clark. Canadian War Museum, http://www.warmuseum.ca/cwm/exhibitions/artwar/artworks/19710261-5679_parachute-riggers_e.shtml

 

The Unredeemed First Nations in Issue #4

However, the forth issue of WOW comics is not entirely generous with this idea of redemption. While women benefit from redemption in combat, the same cannot be said for the Native Americans depicted in the story of “Dart Daring.” These faceless foes are heaped with cultural stereotypes, but with none of the redemption experienced by Elaine. They are termed both as “Howling Redskins,” (20) and “A pack of blood thirsty savages,” (19). Both of these terms are meant to demean and demonize the Natives- a common practice for wartime comics that wished to display their enemies as inferior. Despite Natives being Canadian minority, the writer pulled no punches, as seen when Lorraine is told; “If your friend is wise, he will easily outsmart those varmints! They’ve been drinkin’ the fire-water given to them by some unknown renegade, and they’re on the rampage!” (17). What makes this stereotyping relevant is that Native Canadians, like women, were a minority whom where actively engaged in the war effort on the Allied side. In theory, the principle of redemption that applied to women should have aided them, however this was not the case. Native Americans were welcomed into the Armed Forces, distinguishing themselves there; “[Charles Byce] won the Military Medal in the Netherlands and the Distinguished Conduct Medal in the Rhineland Campaign. His citation for the latter was impressive: “His gallant stand, without adequate weapons and with a bare handful of men against hopeless odds will remain, for all time, an outstanding example to all ranks of the Regiment”(“Indigenous People”). Native American men were accepted and honoured for their service, same as any others. Furthermore, many in the Native community found social “redemption” of their own, a chance to be validated as true Canadians the same as anyone else; “We’re proud of the word volunteer. Nobody forced us. We were good Canadians—patriots—we fought for our country.” – Syd Moore” (“Indigenous People”). Thus, the failure of Issue #4 to portray the heroism that the Natives earned overseas appears to be the inherent preference of Comic writers to stereotype and simplify their villains for children to grasp easily. When contrasted to the respect that real First Nations individuals won through wartime service, the cruel portrayal in Issue #4 does not refute the theory of social redemption.

Japanese Canadians in the Military

A strong example of this idea of redemption through military service lies outside my comic, in the stories of the Japanese Canadians during World War Two. Japanese Canadians, unlike the prior two marginalized groups, belonged to a minority whose former country was actively opposed to Canada and the Allied cause. This caused deep suspicion to fall on an already maligned group. The majority of Japanese Canadians lived on the coast of British Columbia, where they were viewed with deep suspicion and distrust by English Canadians. Eventually, through a mixture of distrust, racism, and a desire to eliminate fishing competition, the Japanese Canadians were relocated all over the country, a great many ending up in internment camps (Sugiman). This kind of widespread social distrust perpetuated appalling conditions that this group were forced to suffer, their homes, possessions, and lives stripped from them. The awful conditions makes the “social redemption” that many young Japanese-Canadian men experienced by joining the Armed Services even more marked, perhaps more so than that attained by Natives and women. These men did not hesitate to join the Forces, since “For [Japanese Canadian] men, a symbolic demonstration of both loyalty to the nation and confirmation of manhood was enlistment in the armed forces” (Sugiman, 195). This show of loyalty was rewarded largely by an escape from internment camps, and a form of social approval. A young Japanese Canadian at the time, by the name of Akio, detailed in an interview the results of joining the Forces; “In almost every reference to his decision to join the army, Akio introduced two related themes: his father’s support of this decision, and his belonging in Canada as opposed to Japan” (Sugiman, 196). It seemed that joining the forces switched the social standing of Japanese Canadians from that of possible enemy agents to loyal, patriotic Canadians. This change is a drastic example of how the redemption process not only exists, but how powerful it was during the war time years. Akio goes on to detail how his military status served as a protection against the racism and discrimination of every day life; “In almost every memory story, Akio juxtaposed the harshness of such discriminatory acts with the loyalty and support of Hakujin [White Canadian] men in the army. Akio believes that his military status in some ways shielded him from the impact of the racism that Japanese Canadians encountered in daily life” (Sugiman, 207). Even the depths of suspicion that an entire ethnic group had fallen to could be redeemed by service in the military, and all that it represented- the patriotism and dedication to one’s country that endowed a social standing all of it’s own, above the stereotypes and judgements of ordinary society.

Conclusion

To conclude, the characters within my issue- Loraine and Elaine- provide an abstract portrait of how the wider society of World War II was taught that military and combat engagement meant social elevation, and in some cases, redemption. The Native Americans, portrayal adds more nuance to the idea, contesting the reality of this social redemption with what the widespread, propaganda-like media spread. What the oral and archival evidence shows is that the social elevation of military service was profound to many minorities and marginalized groups, despite the castigation the Natives receive in my issue. In the end, the drive to win World War II was great enough to defy even the cast iron social standards of pre-wartime society.

 

__________________________________________________________________________

Works Cited

Brcak, N. and Pavia, J. R. (1994), “Racism in Japanese and U.S. Wartime Propaganda.” Historian, 56. 671–684. Retrieved from doi:10.1111/j.1540-6563.1994.tb00926.x

Walker W. St. G. James. “Race and Recruitment in World War I: Enlistment of Visible Minorities In the Canadian Expeditionary Force.” Canadian Historical Review 1989 vol. 70, 1-26. Retrieved from http://www.utpjournals.press/doi/pdf/10.3138/CHR-070-01-01

Wakewich, Pamela, and Helen Smith. “The Politics of ‘Selective’ Memory: Re-Visioning Canadian Women’s Wartime Work in the Public Record.” Oral History, vol. 34(2), 2006, pp. 56-68. Retrieved from www.jstor.org.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/stable/pdf/40179897.pdf

Sugiman, Pamela. ‘“Life Is Sweet”: Vulnerability and Composure in the Wartime Narratives of Japanese Canadians’. Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d’études canadiennes 43(1) (2009): 186–218. Print. Retrieved from https://muse.jhu.edu/article/367058

Dittmer, Jason, and Soren Larsen. “Aboriginality and the Arctic North in Canadian Nationalist Superhero Comics, 1940-2004.” Historical Geography, vol. 38(1), 2010, pp. 52-69. Retrieved from ejournals.unm.edu/index.php/historicalgeography/article/view/2864/2342

Legault , E T. “WOW Comics.” WOW Comics [Toronto, ON], vol. 1, Commercial Signs of Canada, 1942. No. 4, pp. 1–42.

Clark, Paraskeva. “Parachute Riggers.” Exhibition Theme – Work. Beaverbrook Collection of War Art, 1947. Canadian War Museum, http://www.warmuseum.ca/cwm/exhibitions/artwar/artworks/19710261-5679_parachute-riggers_e.shtml

“Indigenous People in the Second World War.” Veterans Affairs Canada, Government of Canada, 29 Nov. 2016, www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/history/historical-sheets/aborigin. Accessed 23 Mar. 2017.

The New Children of 1940’s Comics

This post will focus on the second issue of the WOW Comics, printed in November 1941, part of the Canadian Whites Collection. In this issue three main stories are: Dart Daring and Perils at Sea , The Ring of Death and Whiz Wallace and the Kingdom of Awe. Out of these three two super hero stories that continue into the issues to come. Alongside the main stories there are interactive games and contests. For example, a drawing contest with the winning prize roller blades. This comic issue also holds, insight on the “Science of Wrestling” as well as war flags and fighter planes. On first glance, the comic seems to be a fun escape for children during the war, but the WOW Comics second issue can be seen as an instructional manual for both young boys and girls in the 1940’s.

Introduction of Children in Literature:
In the mid 18th and early 19th century, the Romantic period, the child came fully into its own as the object of increasing social concern and cultural investment; which in turn brought a new genre into writers’ attention, children’s literature. The previous belief was the Puritan belief, that all humans are born sinful as a consequence of mankind’s ‘Fall,’ which led to the notion of childhood to be a perilous period.

Construction of the Child:
From around the middle of the 18th century, many people in Britain began to think about childhood in new ways. Philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau is one of the architect’s whose work rejects the doctrine of Original Sin and maintains that children are innately innocent, only becoming corrupted through experience of the world in Émile, or On Education (1762).
Following Rousseau’s lead, romantic poets such as William Blake and William Wordsworth, childhood became close to God and a force for good. Both Blake and Wordsworth work with the suggestion that the “child-like state of innocence [is] morally and emotionally superior to the condition of adult experience,” (Benziman, 69). Childhood was now associated with nature, innocence, the unconscious, most instinctual being. In children’s literature, the idealized version of childhood became prominent and remained enormously influential throughout the 19th and into the 20th century. The child like state of innocence is viewed as higher ranking to a condition of adult experience,” (Reynolds). Add to that this child-like state is rather artistically productive.

Perpetual childhood:
However, not everyone saw childhood as a state to be hurried through in order to achieve adulthood. The 19th century saw the development of what is occasionally referred to as the “Cult of Childhood”, with adults delighted to celebrate childhood in texts and images. The connections with the Romantic ideal of childhood are clear, but many writers of the ‘Golden Age’ of children’s literature went further, even expressing a longing themselves to be children once more. But perpetual childhood is impossible, and there is a notable tendency in some of the best-known Victorian fantasies for child characters to die in this world in order to be reborn or to stay children forever elsewhere. The Cult of Childhood persisted into the 20th century, reaching its height in J M Barrie’s Peter Pan (who first appeared in a play of 1904), who famously refused to grow up (Reynolds).

Break in the Romantic Image:
Working-class children were sent to work at an early age with the beginning of the industrial revolution, as it was a common belief that children should contribute to carrying on the industries of their country. This notion was of equal importance as education, urging factory owners to use children to their advantages. For example, using children in coal mines, as they were small enough to fit in the crawl spaces as well as they did not know any better.

Brief Re-account :
On 1 September 1939, German forces invaded Poland, and the Second World War began. Donald Macdonald, then a boy in Winnipeg and later a federal Cabinet minister, remembered huddling around the radio in his grandparents’ living room, listening to the CBC reports of the Nazi invasion. “Even as a seven-year-old I understood that the world had just changed for the worse,” (Canadian Encyclopedia). The six-year-long war brought changes to the world and forever altered Canada. Then a nation of only 11 million people committed more than one million men and women to uniform, (Canada War Museum).

Changes in Children’s Lives:

New Responsibilities:
The adults started to disappear from children’s lives after the war started. Soon male teachers abandoned classrooms for service in the armed forces. “They went from men in civilian dress to uniformed heroes — and sometimes martyrs,” (Canadian Encyclopedia). While fathers and older siblings were away on duty, children were expected to help around the house. Young children were assigned new chores, anything from cooking to cleaning. Mothers entered the workforce in white or blue-collar jobs forcing older siblings to look after the younger ones. Later, young girls, sometimes around the ages of 10 or 12, were employed in positions such as “general housework” or baby sitters. These children were expected to do this as they balanced homework and other duties.
Schools were plastered with posters encouraging students to do their bit. They were taught to avoid careless talk that might aid the enemy and to be on the lookout for spies, specifically Russian. Teachers taught lessons about the war overseas and Canada’s contributions to beating the enemy.

Helping the War Effort
Victory Gardens were encouraged, at school or at home, anywhere a free patch of soil could be found. Children planted seeds and tended to their vegetables. “Every bunch of carrots or canning of jam was portrayed as a blow in battling the Nazis,” (Canadian Encyclopedia).
To further the war efforts recycling was also depicted as essential to the war effort. Paper and metal scraps were gathered in large salvage drives. Canadians were instructed to recycle and reuse. Nothing was to be wasted in the fight.
Babysitting money and allowances went towards purchasing war stamps. The stamps were sold in schools and stores; children purchased each for 25 cents. Sixteen stamps filled up a $4 card, which was sent to the federal government. In return, the child received a War Savings Certificate worth $5, to be cashed in after the war, (Canadian Encyclopedia).

Harsh Realities:Germans, Italians and Japanese
Not all Canadian children were allowed to participate in the war effort. Canadians of German or Italian descent were teased, taunted or assaulted by other children at school and home.The victims sometimes fought back, insisting they were as Canadian as anyone else, but most slunk away to the shadows, not anxious to draw any more attention to their heritage, or firm the stereotypes portrayed in political propaganda.

The war in Europe ended on 8 May 1945, and children were among the millions of Canadians who were swept up in the excitement. Most young people took pride in having done their bit, with their service marked by knitting socks, helping in the home or on the farm, having dirty fingernails from gardening, and collecting mountains of scrap metal for recycling (Canada War Museum).

Early Childhood Literature:
As a result of the Puritan belief much of the earliest children’s literature is concerned with saving children’s souls through instruction and by providing role models for their behaviour, (Reynolds). Children’s literature includes stories, books, magazines, and poems that are enjoyed by children. Modern children’s literature is classified in two ways: genre or the intended age of the reader. The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries became known as the “Golden Age of Children’s Literature” as this period included the publication of many books acknowledged today as classics (Burke M. Eileen, 108). One of the engineer’s leading towards children’s literature is William Blake. His work in the Songs of Innocence and Experience illustrate and conceptualize the new image of the child that was formed in the romantic period. The content of these poems revolved around purity and the angelic child that falls into experience as they transition into adulthood. Blake’s work was printed in a two part series, the Songs of Innocence and the Songs of Experience. This formatting created a divide in the content that was considered acceptable for children, and what happens after they live and experience. For example, the introduction to the Songs of Innocence illustrates the differences between the boy in the cloud and the piper who is tainted by his experience.

WOW Comics Literature:
As mentioned earlier the second issue of the WOW Comics can be seen a piece of literature that sets examples for children during the war time. With all the changes to their daily routine the children lacked the knowledge on how to accomplish what is expected of them. The ban on the importing of comics from the States allowed Canadian artists and writers to really gear the content towards the expectations of Canadian children in the 40s. The content of the Canadian Whites is specially geared towards the new image of the child surfacing during the war.

For example:

The Science of Wrestling: One side of the page is taken up with visuals of different wrestling holds, and how to successfully do them. On the other side of the page there is a detailed description of the holds, and how to perform the various holds if

Legault, E.T. (w). “The Science of Wrestling.” WOW Comics, no. 2, November, 1941, pp. 31. Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection, 1941-1946. RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.

the images were not clear enough. This page is geared towards young boys, or men, training them so they feel confident when enlisting into the army. This page allowed the boys to feel as if they are part

of the movement and learning to fight is giving them a leg up in the fight. They now felt prepared to tackle whatever enemy came into Canada, or when they themselves were fortunate enough to fight overseas.

On the other hand, young girls were taught how to be submissive girls, calm and subdued.

Legault, E.T. (w). “Elaine Kenyon Cut-outs .” WOW Comics, no. 2, November, 1941, pp. 30. Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection, 1941-1946. RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.

Elaine Kenyon Cut-outs: On the page there is a female dressed in an undershirt with calve length boots, in red. And there are three dresses, 2 styles of hats and a pair of boots. A young child can cut them out and dress up the doll in various ways, and there will be more outfits in issues to come. Young females were basically told they do not need to learn to fight because the boys already know how, they just need to relax and let the men do the saving. Young girls were employed as babysitters and they were encouraged to garden because that is all they could possibly accomplish.

Super Hero Comic:

Dart Daring and Perils at Sea: Dart Daring, is a youthful, dare-devil, sword fighter and so forth, begins his story in this issue discovers a treasure at an old shipwreck. Dart faces many predators, the octopus, 2 sharks, Captain Ajabe Maruk, who captures Dart and punishes him. Lorraine rescues Dart. Savages take over the ship and Dart must help Ajabe and his crew. Dart and Lorraine jump over board find themselves lost at sea, waiting to be rescued by a passing ship. Dart is an average man, with the skills of an

Legault, E.T. (w). “Dart Daring and Perils at Sea.” WOW Comics, no. 2, November, 1941, pp. 10. Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection, 1941-1946. RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.

experienced fighter. He takes on ever challenge thrown at him, whether it be wrestling sharks or seizing a ship all by himself. Dart is the example for what young boys should strive to be; the average man that can be a fighter and warrior. A heroic average man, ready to bravely tackle any enemy.

 

 

 

 

The New Construction of Childhood

According to the Comics

The content of the comics challenges the ideas of the ideal childhood introduced by Blake and other writers in the Romantic period. These comics present themselves as a binary to innocence and experience. The formatting of a comic book is considered equivalent to a picture book, but these comics tackle much greater political themes and questions. The child in the 1940’s was one of great responsibility and knowledge, as well as the duties of the home and contributing to the war. An advantage towards the war effort in whatever way possible.

Works Cited
Benziman, Galia. Narratives of Child Neglect in Romantic and Victorian Culture. United States Of America: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. Print.

Blake, William. “Songs of Innocence Introduction.” Poetry Foundation. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/43667.Accessed 14 Feb.2017 (referenced the poem)

Burke, Eileen M. Early childhood literature: for love of child and book. Boston, Allyn and Bacon, 1986.

“Canada and The Second World War .” Canada War Museum , www.warmuseum.ca/cwm/exhibitions/chrono/1931crisis_e.shtml. Accessed 31 Mar. 2017.

Legault, E.T. (w). WOW Comics, no. 2, November, 1941, pp. 10. Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection, 1941-1946. RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.

Reynolds, Kimberly. “Perceptions of Childhood“ WordPress.com. https://www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians/articles/perceptions-of-childhood, British Library. Accessed 15 Feb.2017.

Comics for Creativity: Why Comics Should Have a Place in Art and Literary History

Introduction

Many art historians have deemed comics to be amongst the lowest form of art or simply not art at all. However, by turning comics away from the world of high art, literature and academic study, there are many opportunities for learning and creativity that are missed. Through integrating a close reading of WOW Comics issue 3, into a history of why comics aren’t considered art, how comics have similar movements to art history, the hybrid nature of comics and Roy Lichtenstein’s use of comics for creativity, I will raise the question as to why comics aren’t considered art and what opportunities are missed as literary and artistic thinkers by discluding comics from our discourses and serious history.

Comics Aren’t Art – Critics and Art History

In Bart Beaty’s book “Comics versus Art”, Beaty raises a point about Clement Greenberg’s critical approach to comics. Greenberg is a famous modernist art critic and Beaty summarizes his critique of comics by saying that “comics as among the lowest forms of debases and industrialized pseudo-culture” (20). Beaty goes on to explain that similar to many art critics’ problems with new movements in art history, comics are being disregarded in the same way. Beaty highlights that critics see comics as a medium that does not evolve from any practices in art that came priory to it (20-21).

With this understanding of how comics have been perceived throughout art history, Beaty raises an argument towards the way people look at comics as destructive. Rather than seeing comics as literature or art, Beaty argues that comics should be understood as a hybrid art form (21). A hybrid art form, when concerning comics, is the working relationship of images and text that make up the whole of any comic (Witek 34). With understanding that hybrid art forms are created by the merging of multiple different inspirations, ideas and mediums, it makes them extremely hard to categories. It is important to enter the discussion of comics by keeping in mind their hybrid nature. Within the hybrid form that comics present themselves, it is also important to remember that, unlike other forms of high art or literature, comics are printed cheaply and by masses.

However, by keeping the nature of comics in mind their placement in the world of literature and art becomes extremely important. With the marrying of both text and images, comics form the delicate line between the world of visual and literary arts. By focusing on the ideas that are open for expression through the hybrid nature of comics, their less academic appearance becomes irrelevant. Diving into the hybrid nature of comics, the printing process and consumer quality that fills up most of WOW Comics and many other comics coming out of World War One, will become less important. While their value in history, their relationship between visual and literary qualities, and the overall wealth acquired from looking at comics as art will become apparent.

Art and History – World History and Movements Within Comics  

When looking at comics as art, it is important to document that most comics that are being created surrounding a war, WOW Comics included, are almost always focused on the war occurring. With this recurrence of war within comic, a connection can be made between the goals of many famous painters and writers that include war in their works of art. This framework of seeing comics like other works of art, as a way to document history and/or movements in a society, help us to understand their artistic and historic value.

In Sabin Roger’s book Comics, Comix, & Graphic Novels, there is an outline of the movements in comics that occurred to fill a new motif. Here Roger describes action comics and their newly found way of artistic expression: “the name of the game was bold, figurative art with strong colours. In terms of content, the emphasis was again on simplicity: the heroic derring-do found in the pulps was perfect” (57). This shows how a movement within a comic books changes how the artists met new demands in their medium. This happens in action and hero comics, like WOW Comics where there is a demanded to draw more attention onto the hero and their call to action. This shift in relation to motif and visual representation proves that, like many other movements in art history, artist within comics are looking at past ways of dealing with medium and remodeling it to fit the ideas they want to share.

This demand for comic book artists to shape their work to fit the story line of action heroes, is also a challenge that they faced when drawing comics for World War One. Sabin Roger explains that in Britain, the First World War created a new demand for artistic representation within comics. “Artistically speaking, the genre made new demands on comics (54). Invariably, the style would have to be ‘realistic’ in order to carry the story, and this required a new attention to detail”(57). What Rogers speaks to in this quote, is not only the adaptation the comic must undergo to match the subject matter, but the hybrid relationship that all comics carry. The hybrid relationship is the marriage of the realistic images needed to coincide within the new storyline of World War One.

Showing that by understanding the comics’ way of shaping the artists format to match the subject matter and working between the relationship of imagery and subject to convey a coherent message reveals that comics should be recognized in art history.This hybrid relationship of the marriage between a comics media and visual representation is shown

A three panel of Dart fighting with shipmates.
Figure 1. E.T. Legault. Panel from “Dart Daring.” WOW Comics, No. 3, December 1941, p. 9. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

in WOW Comics Issue 3. Shown in figure 1 on page 9 of “Dart Daring’s” action packed fight, the medium is being used to convey meaning. The viewer’s eyes automatically go to the middle panel, where the gutters are being used to draw tension onto to Dart’s relentless fight. This overt feeling of tension being placed on the main character is drawn into full force by the use of medium to convey a message.

The Hybrid – Scout McCloud and the Lines between Art and Comics

While understanding the complex hybrid nature of art, it is important to look into Scott McCloud’s rich understanding of the comic’s place within high art. McCloud explains that movements in art, like Modernism, Expressionism, Dada and Surrealism, made their way into being ‘art’ the same way comics did – by the balance of “appearance and meaning”. While comics have a hybrid balance of words and images, they take on the birth that many  famous works in art history have (144-149). In further relation to the language in art and comics, McCloud expands on the expressionist use of line in relation to comics. McCloud explains that late nineteenth century artists such as Much and Van Gogh, worked with line as a way to express deep meaning, meaning that can also be found in comics (122-125). Although the comics use of line might not be as vibrant as one of Van Gogh’s night skies, it does mean that comics lack expression within their use of line or colour. It might mean that the comic is expressing something more calm and simple.

Dart is draw in a page containing three triangle panels. In panel one, Dart sits shirtless on his boat staring into panel two. In panel two Dart holds onto his lover while staring at the viewer. In panel three Dart holds his lover while knelling before a latter leading to a ship.
Figure 2. E.T. Legault. Panel from “Dart Daring.” WOW Comics, No. 3, December 1941, p. 2. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

This use of line as expression can also be found in WOW Comics Issue 3, when “Dart Daring” is show in a three piece triangular panel in the first section of his spread. Seen in figure 2, this early introduction to Dart is important as it requires the viewer to see him as an important character in their first encounter. Line is used here, like the expressionist, to render tremendous meaning. In its most obvious way the three panels are broken up by harsh lines, placing Dart in an altarpiece of panels. In panel one the reader makes their way from the horizontal lined waves that are forced into corners, arriving at Dart creating a line with his  body, leaning towards the next panel. As he looks onto himself in panel two,  he guides the viewer’s eyes. While the last panel uses line to create literal distance and give Dart, the only rounded figure in the panel, a chance to break free from the daunting lines of the boat and the adventure that lies ahead.

By recognizing how comics use line in a subconscious way, it can become clear how they hold as much meaning in relation to the way famous artist use line.  Continuing with McCloud’s comparison of high art to comics, he explains that “the father of the modern comic in many ways is Rodolphe Topffer” (120),  revealing that his cartooning and use of panel explores a combination of pictures and words. This made him a contributor to the understanding of comics. According to McCloud, Topffer was a master and creator of a form that was “both and neither” text and image (122). All of these recurring ideas that flow between high art and comics should be taken into consideration when understanding that these two art forms function similarly and should be treated as such.

Pop Art – Roy Lichtenstein, High Art and Comics for Creativity

When you combine high art and comics, you get Roy Lichtenstein, “being one of the best known pop artists of the 1960’s to use comics and cartoons as source material for their work” (Greenville 228). In order to understand the comics place in high art and academia, it is vital to understand how Lichtenstein took hold of the medium for an artist message. By diving into Lichtenstein’s goal of using comics in his art, we can come to a conclusion on why we should learn from Lichtenstein and use comics for creativity.

In Bruce Greenville’s book KRAZY! Roy Lichtenstein’s rendering of the comic is presented in full force, by Greenville saying that “Lichtenstein’s genius lay(s) in his ability to grasp the most compelling elements of comic composition and bring them forward for scrutiny”(Greenville 228). This quote acknowledges Lichtenstein’s tribute to comics. He also used comics to his advantage by working with a strong understand of the new visual culture that was emerging at the time. He used a medium as a vessel to express his artistic message (288), as many great artist of the past have. This use of medium in relation to message within high art is an idea that takes place in comics as well. In Rublowsky’s book Pop Art, he highlights Lichtenstein’s interest in comics and their mechanical creator, the separation within the comics that comes from the lack of viewing the artist’s hand (1-2). Here, there is specific definition of what Lichtenstein found so intriguing about comics.  

Continuing with a greater understanding of what Roy Lichtenstein was trying to achieve by using comics as a medium, it becomes clear that we should be following in his footsteps and use comics for our own artistic and literary expression. In Michael Lobel’s book Image Duplicator, there is an explanation of how art historians disapproval of Lichtenstein’s work allows for a deeper insight into the academic use of comics. The explanation states, “I think it is fair to say that art history as a discipline has tended to view realist painting of any period as if they were nothing more than accurate transcriptions of reality outside themselves” (Lobel 14). Lobel expands by using an art historians critic of Liechtenstein to his advantage saying, “I want to treat Fried’s components in much the same way Lichtenstein treated printed images: I will appropriate and strategically reuse them for my own purpose” (Lobel 15). By combining Lichtenstein’s use of comics for an artistic message and Lobel’s tactical way of turning art historians critique of Liechtenstein to fit his project, it is clear that the same should be done with comics. By looking at comics as artistic expression or a vessel in which artists (like Lichtenstein) can be inspired, their space within art history and academic study allows for more opportunities of creativity and learning.   

Conclusion

The evidence that comics belong in academic and creative discourse is overwhelming. The risk in not including this hybrid art form that is comics into the world of art and literary history allows for current gaps to form in creativity and learning. By understanding a critical reading of WOW Comics issue 3, the historical view of comics as ‘false art’, how comics work within movements similar to art history, the hybrid art of comics and the inspiring way in which Roy Lichtenstein’s uses comics for creativity, academic and creative thinkers must be called to re-evaluate comics as valuable components of our past and future history.


Work Cited

Legault, E.T. “Dart Daring”. WOW Comics,Volume 1, No. 3, December 1941, p. 2-9. Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection, 1941-1946. RULA Archives and Special Collections Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.  

Beaty, Bart. Comics Versus Art . University of Toronto Press, 2012. Toronto, Canada.

Greenville, Bruce,  et al. KRAZY!: The Delirious World of Anime + Comics + Video Games + Art. Vancouver Art Gallery,University of California Press, 2008. Vancouver, B.C.

Lobel, Michael. Image Duplicator: Roy Lichtenstein and the Emergence of Pop Art. Yale University Press, 2002. New Haven.

McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: the Invisible Art. Harper Perennial 1994. 1st edition. New York, N.Y.

Rublowsky, John and Ken Heyman. Pop Art. Basic Books, 1965.  New York, N.Y.

Sabin, Roger. Comics, Comix, & Graphic Novels: A History of Comic Art. Phaidon Press Limited, 1996. London.

Witek, Joseph. Comic Books as History: The Narrative Art of Jack Jackson, Art Spiegelman, and Harvey Pekar. University Press of Mississippi, 1989.


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.