Texting Murray Karn

On Saturday, August 25, among many other winners, three Canadian comics creators will be inducted into the Hall of Fame category:  Katherine Collins (Arn Saba) from more recent decades and Vernon Miller and Murray Karn from earliest days of Canadian Comics (WECA period 1941-46).

Murray Karn is now 89 and last week I had the pleasure of talking to him over the phone about his career. One part of the conversation moved to his illustrations of text story fillers in a few of the Bell Features titles and I was surprised when Mr. Karn couldn’t recollect doing these. I plan to send him copies of many of these this week to jog his memory but it made me think that I could call attention to them here.

From Active Comics No. 3
From Active Comics No. 3

Everybody knows the two features that Karn drew for Bell: “Thunderfist” (created and written by E. T. Legault for the first 6 Active issues after which Karn took over the writng)  in Active Comics No. 1 (Feb. 1942) to No. 12 (Aug.-Sept. 1943) — Leo Bachle took over after this because Karn entered the armed forces

From Wow Comics No. 8
From Wow Comics No. 8

— and Jeff Waring (totally Karn’s creation) in Wow Comics  No. 7 (April 1942) to No. 16 (Aug./Sep 1943) after which Jerry Lazare took over but Karn came back to Bell late in 1945 to add Jeff Waring stories to Wow Comics Nos. 29 (Oct.-Nov. 1945) and 30 (Dec. 1945-Jan. 1946). The war shortened the Canadian comic careers of many of the WECA artists and Karn’s lasted less than two years  (he has no recollection of doing post-war work for Bell such as the Jeff Waring stories in last two issues of Wow Comics or the cover and Jeff Waring story in the May, 1946 issue of Slam-Bang Comics No. 7, or doing anything for Canadian Comics after he returned from the war.)

From Slam-Bang Comics No. 7, May 1946.
From Slam-Bang Comics No. 7, May 1946.

 

From Triumph Comics No. 8
From Triumph Comics No. 8

Besides these two features, Karn did illustrations for text stories first probably in Wow Comics No. 5 (Feb. 1942, though uncredited) but definitely in Wow Comics No 6 and then Wow 13 and 14, Triumph Comics Nos. 7 to 10, Dime Comics Nos. 4-7, and Active Comics Nos. 9-13, finishing up again by the fall of 1943. Most of these were written by either Vic Griffin or fellow Bell creator Edmond Good and one written by E. T. Legault (of Dart Daring and Whiz Wallace fame) in Triumph Comics No. 9 as well as one written by 12 year-old contest winner Maragaret Joyce Crooks in Triumph Comics No. 10.

From Triumph Comics No. 10
From Triumph Comics No. 10

 

From Triumph Comics No. 10 ("Desert Outpost" story)
From Triumph Comics No. 10 (“Desert Outpost” story)

Here are some of the best examples (you can often see how Karn channels Alex Raymond):

 

From Triumph Comics No. 9
From Triumph Comics No. 9
From "The Case of Dr. Lazar" Triumph Comics No. 9
From “The Case of Dr. Lazar” Triumph Comics No. 9
From Dime Comics No. 5
From Dime Comics No. 5
From Dime Comics No. 5 "Death Casts a Vote"
From Dime Comics No. 5 “Death Casts a Vote”
From Active Comics No. 9
From Active Comics No. 9
From Active Comics No. 11
From Active Comics No. 11
From Active Comics No. 11 "He Didn't Like the Army"
From Active Comics No. 11 “He Didn’t Like the Army”
From Dime Comics No. 7
From Dime Comics No. 7
From Dime Comics No. 7 "The Curse of the Crawling Death"
From Dime Comics No. 7 “The Curse of the Crawling Death”
From Wow Comics No. 13
From Wow Comics No. 13
From Wow Comics No. 14
From Wow Comics No. 14

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ivan Kocmarek Written by:

Grew up in Hamilton's North End. Comic collector for over 50 yrs. Recent interest in Canadian WECA era comics.

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5 Comments

  1. jim b.
    June 20
    Reply

    I guess a number of the comic book creators of the time were in the service. You mention E.T. Legault a few times in this week’s posting and I gather that he was also. I found an entry in the Legion magazine for Private Edmond Legault’s passing in 1995 was published in the January 1996 issue. Their website doesn’t seem to be working for the English portion at the moment though, so I have no other details.
    Maybe someone else out there knows more about the Thunderfist and Whiz Wallace creator’s post war life and career?

    • Ivan Kocmarek
      June 20
      Reply

      Jim the things you find in your determined trolling of the web with respect to Canadian wartime creators is invaluable and provides us with threads and clues to further chase down. Thanks so much for putting in the time to do this and even more thanks for sharing what you find. It’s very much appreciated.

  2. jim b.
    June 21
    Reply

    Thanks Ivan, but there’s still too many disappointments. For each discovery made it seems like I get at least two dead ends.
    I spoke with someone this week about Bell Features artist Harry Brunt (Professor Punk strip) but it turned out that their family was no relation, and trying to find information about Paul Dak (Mr. Totem) has been fruitless.
    It would be nice to put more of a ‘face’ on these artists and bring them into the light.

  3. Sarah
    August 18
    Reply

    Murray Karn is my Great Uncle. He is a wonderful man. Although I haven’t seen him in many years because of where we live. He has always supported my artistic interest’s. He never told us about these comics until he was inducted into the Hall of fame. So cool. Thanks for honoring him. He is still hanging in there

  4. August 19
    Reply

    Thanks for your comment, Sarah. I`ve spoken on the phone with Murray Karn a few times and he was always eager to share facts about his career in art. I`m glad fostered your artistic interests. His 92nd birthday is just over a month away and we all wish him well.

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