© Copyright 2017 Natasha Daley, Ryerson University
In Active Comics No. 4 from May 1942, there are not only an arrange of heroes that intrigued young children from this era, but there are enemies that these heroes fight that also engage readers to continue reading about their favourite heroes. These enemies are the main reason why heroes like “The Brain” or “Capt. Red Thorton” have a purpose. The enemies portrayed in this comic are not all centred around war enemies that the Canadian army had during the second World War such as the Japanese or German. These enemies stand out in particular due to the way they complement each other, leading to the success of the heroes at the end and the enemies ultimate defeat.
Through analyzing each comic heroes in the comic number from “Dixon of the Mounted” to “Thunderfist”, it is evident that these heroes do not have the same extravagant powers that deem them able to defeat any enemy. Each enemy for the hero is created to fit what the hero is able to do ability wise, so that the inevitable end of the comic would be the hero winning. The enemies within these comic books are the important factor in the evolution of these heroes because without them, these heroes would not be the heroes’ children of the 1940’s looked up to in a time of despair. If not for the enemies within each comic that were specifically designed to fit the heroes’ capabilities, the heroes would not only be subject to not having much enemies, but to also face enemies that they cannot handle. Through this strategic design to have the enemies centred around the comic heroes’ skills, the outcome is creating a world for children of the second world war to escape to knowing that their favourite heroes are able to defeat the enemy quickly.
The Heroes Companion: The Enemy
The first comic series of the comic number focuses around “Dixon of the Mounted” trying to actively solve the case of the disappearance of his friend, Constable Wicks, but he is soon ambushed by an enemy that is hidden out of his site. This enemy is sent by a sheriff that is helping an enemy get away with a crime that they are scheming and getting rid of Dixon is on their plan list to be able to achieve their goal. Dixon is the hero in this comic series due to the fact that constable Wick had died in the process of uncovering the enemy that Dixon is after. Since constable Wick was facing an enemy that was greater than what his capabilities were, which is unknown in this comic number, he fails to defeat them and dying from his attempt. Dixon is put on the job to not only seek vengeance on behalf of his friend, but to put his skills into use. His capabilities are made to be better since he is the hero of the comic, hence why the enemies are drawn to him. These enemies are designed for Dixon because if anyone could defeat them than constable Wick would have been able to as much as Dixon is considering they are both men in the law enforcement. It is evident on page 6 of “Dixon of The Mounted” that Dixon has skills in quick thinking, strength and agility that the enemy lacks due to them always attacking and scheming from afar. With the enemy being distant from their target, it is a perfect opportunity for the hero, Dixon, to counter their cowardly attempts by doing the opposite: hunt them outright.
Even with enemies being sneaky in their ways of getting over the law enforcement by strategic planning, a law enforcement dominated by one hero allows there to be enough security within the region. The enemy is consisted of a sheriff that is familiar with how the system works and has criminals join him in his pursuits of defeating Dixon, who they cannot defeat. Dixon could be imagined as being a counterterrorist strategy to help the enemy stay away from Canada by using the skills he embodies to defeat them (Chalk 15). Elaborating on this, Dixon is Canada’s most skilled mounty that can defeat even the worst criminals that have entered Canadian territory. These precautions are usually taken by an army or complete law force, but the enemies that they are facing are a greater issue since they have a sheriff helping them achieve their goal of sabotaging Canada. The enemies that Dixon faces are his perfect match due to him being able to be Canada’s sustainable counterstrategy that has the ability to face an underhanded enemy. If these enemies were forward and came in a larger number, Dixon would fail to achieve defeating them since he is only one, ordinary Mounty.
Opposite of a comic of a semi realistic storyline, “The Brain” is a comic that focuses around the supernatural, meaning that the enemies are not human. The enemy he is facing is a mummy and a ghost that have come alive to defeat him. The Brains’ expertise as a hero is to defeat creatures and monsters that have come to Canada to overtake it. These enemies are designed for the Brain since he is able to connect with the supernatural world unlike any other heroes within the comic book number. Also unlike the other heroes in this comic number, the Brain has the power to fly, meaning that he possesses otherworldly powers that makes him a stand out hero. By having these ability, it is easier for him to fight the mummy that is after him and ultimately being able to defeat him for good. The enemy that he is faced with is stronger and otherworldly than regular human enemies, making him a hero with a unique capability, but having harder enemies to defeat. The mummy is a complex enemy to have due to the notion that the Brain would have an easy time defeating it since such creature would be very fragile from years of decomposition, but the twist of this concept is that the mummy is an ordinary man with powers. The mummy is made to be an equal match against the Brain because they both possess similar characteristics of being men with powers. By having these similarities, it is easy for the Brain to use this to his advantage since defeating the mummy only takes minimal effort if they are compatible ability wise through their common grounds. The ghost enemy is even more complex due to the fact that there is no body meaning that he is left to fight a spirit. Surprisingly, the mummy and the ghost are a match for the Brain when it comes to strength and strategy, something that the Brain was not expecting. On page 24 and 23, it is shown that the Brain is able to defeat such supernatural beings without any real harm done to himself.
Viewing the Enemy
Within Active Comics No. 4, the enemy is undermined by the hero of their respected comic series, but the enemy is much more valuable than they are perceived. Even though these enemies are causing destruction among society, it leads to comic heroes to be able to be the heroes that they are. Without enemies to cause mayhem within a heroes’ city or country, a hero cannot be the hero that they are. A hero is only a hero when they do something that protects others from evil within their living spaces. Such evil can consist of robbing a bank, murdering someone or even trying to sabotage a city. The comic series entitled Crime Does Not Pay, one of the first true crime based comics, plays on the idea of the enemy having a purpose within a larger picture: being the reason there are heroes who want to put an end to crime.
Going off of this concept, this comic focuses on the criminal and the crimes that they have committed, which drives the series. In Chris and Rafiel York’s book, Comic Books and the Cold War, 1946-1962, they discuss how this comic series glorified the enemy to the point where readers were left to wander whether they should be intrigued by the crimes that these criminals have committed or be scared of them (York 160). This crime centric comic book evolved the way readers viewed criminals and enemies within comic series because they were interesting to read about. This curiosity of what kind of crimes criminals can commit and all the chaotic behaviour they embodied allowed readers to crave more of the exciting lives that these law breaking people lived. Even with these comics depicting graphics that were questionable for the age group reading, it did intrigue a well needed focus on characters that were not the hero. This was needed because the hero of a comic such as Dixon from “Dixon of the Mounted” only depicts the good that a hero has to bring. By following storylines that focus on the enemy brings in the other side of the spectrum as to why heroes are needed to protect their city or country from criminals.
With this comics’ concept of focusing on the enemy, enemies of sorts have gotten interesting storylines that compel readers to be interested in them as well as the hero. The enemy having a back story or a plot that gives some information as to why their favourite hero is trying to defeat them causes readers to have a stronger connection to the comic. With this in mind, Active Comics No. 4 channels this concept of bringing some attention to how the hero and the enemy have to be on par to bring interest to the comic. Without having an interesting hero or enemy, the comic has no way of bringing any substance to a reader.
An Enemies Crime is a Heroes Glory
The dependence of a hero on their enemy counterpart is more crucial than it may seem when thinking about a comic. The heroes of the Active Comic No. 4 are depicted on the front cover to display who the readers, mostly children, should be interested in to intrigue their interest. This all changes while they are reading the context of the comic and getting to know characters outside of the hero, which are most likely their enemy. In Nickie D. Phillips and Staci Strobl’s book Comic Book Crime, they acknowledge that the hero and enemy of the comic are like “yin and yang” since they need each other to function (Phillips and Strobl, 82). This is true when thinking about a comic hero without an enemy counterpart to defeat and an enemy without a hero counterpart to try to defeat. This back and forth of trying to claim power over the other is the driving force of comics and what readers stay for. Both characters drive one another to great lengths to continue a plot line that is stimulating and has a purpose, not just a plot that lasts only one comic.
In Active Comics No. 4, the it is evident that the enemy plays a bigger part in a comic series than it may seem from the cover. A hero is nothing without an enemy counterpart who is a match for them ability wise, enough to be an interesting duo that children or young adolescence would be thrilled to read about. Through being each other’s back bone in a comic series, the heroes and enemies in this comic number grants that there will be well played out plot and storylines to follow along for both characters.
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.
Active Comics, no. 4, May 1942. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166505.pdf
Chalk, Peter and William Rosenau. Confronting the “Enemy Within”: Security Intelligence, the Police, and Counterterrorism in Four Democracies. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2004. https://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG100.html.
Crime Does Not Pay Front Cover. N.d. Sequart Organization. http://sequart.org/magazine/9981/the-year-in-comics-week-five-crime-does-not-pay/
Bachel, Leo. “The Brain: The Return of the Mummy Man.” no. 4, May 1942, p. 23. Bell Features Collection, Ryerson University Library and Archives. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166505.pdf
Phillips, Nickie D., and Staci Strobl. Comic Book Crime, edited by Nickie D. Phillips, and Staci Strobl, NYU Press, 2013. pp. 82. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/ryerson/detail.action?docID=1225007.
York, Chris, and Rafiel York. Comic Books and the Cold War, 19461962, edited by Chris York, and Rafiel York, McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2012. pp. 160. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/ryerson/detail.action?docID=867075.