Tag Archives: WOW Comics

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.