One of the “precious” (not actually in the “Gollumnal” sense of the word, but almost) pleasure of being a comic collector for 50 yrs, is the magic of finding something you’d thought you’d never come across. In the last couple of weeks, Walter Durajlija and I have managed to unearth a World War II WECA treasure trove in our own back yard. Geekiness (bow to The Big Bang Theory) can sometimes be good.
Most of you who live in the “Golden Horseshoe that extends from Toronto to Niagara Falls will be familiar with a persistent set of TV ads about local flooring and carpet company: Alexanian’s, which at one time in the eighties had its flagship store across the street from the Hamilton branch of The Silver Snail just past the corner of King and Walnut streets. I recently became aware of the fact that one of the WECA period Bell Features artists/creators – Aram Alexanian – indeed belonged to this family. Walt and I did some inquiries and got in touch with The Hamilton Spectator’s local interest/history columnist, Jeff Mahoney and, after finding out that Aram Alexanian’s daughter Alene was the family’s custodian of her father’s comic book work, we initiated a photo-op and column that eventually, to our chagrin and pride, appeared front and centre of the Feb. 7 edition of the Spectator.
Aram created Super Commando who appeared in Joke Comics 12-16 and The Black Falcon in Wow Comics 19-22 and 24-5. He also did the war strips, “Action in the Pacific” which appeared in Joke Comics 18, Dime Comics 20-21 and Commando Comics 13-14. Joke Comics 18 also has a crime strip by Alexanian entitled “The Purple Gang.”
Aram Alexanian was born in 1928 and died far too young in the spring of 1988. He began working on comics, like quite a few war time artists, while living in New York City at the age of 15 and ghosted many portions of a few of the central golden age features for about a year. He returned to Canada in 1944 and worked for Bell Features. After the war he came back into the family business and at the beginning of the 1950s became manager of the newly opened Alexanians in Ottawa. During the fifties he sports themed panels for The Hamilton Spectator. After his own father (and founder of the Alexanian enterprise) Aris’ death in 1960, Aram eventually came back to Hamilton to help run the business from the King St. E. store. He would still frequent the Silver Snail and often have lunch with Stuart, one of its manager. Alene, his daughter, informs us that comics were always a big part of his life, that he attended many cons, continued to pick up current issues, and that Will Eisner was among his favourite artists.
Good on ya, Aram! And thanks for representing Hamilton in the Grand Constellation of Canadian Comic Art.