Art for Art’s Sake

The quality of the artwork in the Canadian WECA books has often received unwarranted malignment for its primitive, almost amateur quality. Though it’s true that this was sometimes the case for the fledgling comic book industry of the early forties, It’s amazing to think how many of the WECA comic illustrators went on to have careers in fine arts in Canada once the WECA era came to an end. In this quick post I’d like to draw attention to the ones I can confirm produced fine art pieces.

Nelvana splash from Triumph Comics No. 27 by Dingle
Nelvana splash from Triumph Comics No. 27 by Dingle

Adrian Dingle seems to have been the Dean of the WECA artists creating Nelvana for his own Hillborough Studios and then becoming art director for Bell Features and doing the majority of their covers besides being responsible for the creation of Nelvana and The Penguin among others. He had had significant art training before drawing comics in the early forties.

Red and Gray, Gloucester Harbour c. 1965 by Dingle
Red and Gray, Gloucester Harbour c. 1965 by Dingle

 

Phantom Rider splash from Wow Comics No. 23 by Jerry Lazare
Phantom Rider splash from Wow Comics No. 23 by Jerry Lazare

Jerry Lazare is best known for his Nitro, Drummy Young, Purple Rider, and The Dreamer strips in Bell Features books. He is still going strong today with his own website [http://www.lazarestudio.com/].

Gerald Lazare next to one of his pieces probably early eighties.
Gerald Lazare next to one of his pieces probably early eighties
Canada Jack splash from Canadian Heroes Comics Vol. 4, No. 1 by George M. Rae
Canada Jack splash from Canadian Heroes Comics Vol. 4, No. 1 by George M. Rae

Over at Educational Projects in Montreal we had George M. Rae who created Canada Jack and later in his career became president of the Arts Club of Montreal.

Untitled Watercolour by George Menendez Rae
Untitled Watercolour by George Menendez Rae
Three T's splash from Joke Comics No. 1 by Mel Crawford
Three T’s splash from Joke Comics No. 1 by Mel Crawford

Mel Crawford who drew “The Three T’s” in early Joke Comics and who illustrated the first “Young Commandos” strip in Commando Comics No. 1 (the Canadian tip of a huge iceberg of accomplishments south of the border that includes  Dell, Gold Key, and Golden Book art) is still with us and doing well in his later life fine art career [http://melcrawford.com/].

Carolina Beach, Watercolour by Mel Crawford
Carolina Beach, Watercolour by Mel Crawford
Polka Dot Pirate splash from Slam Bang Comics No. 7 by Ross Mendez
Polka Dot Pirate splash from Slam Bang Comics No. 7 by Ross Mendez

Ross Mendes, the teen-age creator of the Polka Dot Pirate and the one-shot (Active Comics No. 28) Top Hat ‘n’ Tales detective team became a strong abstract artist after the forties.

Sick Girl by Ross Mendes
Sick Girl by Ross Mendes
Splash from Canadian Heroes Comics Vol. 4 No. 1 by Sid Barron
Splash from Canadian Heroes Comics Vol. 4 No. 1 by Sid Barron

Sid Barron, who did many stories for Educational Projects and perhaps was more famous for his editorial cartoon work in the sixties and seventies, produced some fine art pieces that sold well.

Sid Barron show catalogue
Sid Barron show catalogue

I can even find one piece of fine art from Ed Furness, Adrian Dingle’s counterpart at Anglo-American Publications.

Ed Furness uknown title
Ed Furness unknown title
Major Domo splash from Joke Comics 21 by Avrom Yanovsky
Major Domo splash from Joke Comics 21 by Avrom Yanovsky
Lucky splash page from Joke Comics No. 3 by Oscar Schlienger
Lucky splash page from Joke Comics No. 3 by Oscar Schlienger

And I cannot leave out two of my favourite Bell artists, politically charged father of Lovin’ Spoonful guitarist Zal Yanovsky, Avrom Yanovsky (creator of Major Do Mo), and Swiss born Oscar Schlienger  (creator of Colonel Braggart), both doing most of the comic illustration in Joke Comics. Avrom became best known for his political cartoons and murals and Schlienger for producing and teaching art in the Bancroft area.

Norman Bethune mural by Avrom Yanovsky
Norman Bethune mural by Avrom Yanovsky
Oscar Schlienger recent show catalogue.
Oscar Schlienger recent show catalogue

Finally, Jack Tremblay, (who is also still with us) teen-age creator of Crash Carson for Wow Comics under the name, Jen-Jacques Tremblay, had a prominent career as a fine artist in the Montreal area starting in the seventies, though I can’t seem to find a proper example of his work.

I would love it if anyone could add any more info to the fine art careers of these and perhaps any other artists from the WECA period.

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Ivan Kocmarek
Grew up in Hamilton's North End. Comic collector for over 50 yrs. Recent interest in Canadian WECA era comics.
Articles: 171

11 Comments

  1. Great stuff. have to check out those links.
    Have to add John Stables as probadly my favorite of the “whites’ artist.

  2. Thanks, Peter. There is so little info on those Maple Leaf Publications artists like Jon Stables, Vernon Miller, Bert Bushell, Ley Fortune, etc. is so sparse. I hope more will surface in the near future. I neglected to include a link to the Ross Mendes web site at: http://rossmendes.ca/
    in the post and recently found a youtube video that features a Sid Barron show by his wife Jesi Barron at:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aG9ZCl948Ps

  3. The most obvious artist missing here is of course Harold Town, one of Canada’s Painters Eleven along with others like Walter Yarwood and Oscar Cahén. Town worked so very briefly at Anglo-American but because of his afterword published in the GCCB book he’s gotten mentioned in almost every newspaper article published about Canadian comic books since.
    I imagine he didn’t make your post as it’s one of those ‘oh everyone knows that’ moments.

  4. Thanks again for more information to explore, Jim. I simply forgot to mention Harold Town in quickly cobbling up the post. He does indeed deserve a mention, but it seems so difficult to confirm which work he did for Anglo-American Publications. His biographies cite work on the Minute Man strips in their Whiz Comics and Mel Taylor in Kitchener has related a conversation he had with Ed Furness about Ed’s confirming that the cover to Grand Slam Comics Vol. 3 No. 2 which shows Capt. Marvel Jr., back to us, throwing one German tank onto another while being strafed by Nazi planes, was done by Harold Town. He says that Ed said that Town decided not to draw Capt. Marvel Jr.’s face on his body (he placed it as an insert in a circle close to the bottom of the cover) as a form of protest because Fawcett in the States were so concerned that the Canadian redraws would not capture the features of Capt. Marvel and his teen age counterpart properly that they sent photo stats of profiles and and full-front faces of its characters to Anglo-American so that they could cut-and-paste them onto the bodies of the lead characters that they drew. It seems that Town had a tough time putting up with this.
    I am not familiar with the comic book work of Yarwood and Cahen but I do know that they were part of the well known Painters Eleven group in Canada after the war along with Town. This does open up avenues for more exploration. Thanks, Jim.

  5. I forgot to add that the black and white photo of an artist at his easel that’s on the post’s opening link is that of George Menendez Rae at work.

  6. Yes, Charlie, it’s one and the same. This is part of the biography on the web site:

    Ross Mendes was born in Toronto and painted and exhibited in London, England;
    Capetown and Johannesburg, South Africa; and Ibiza, Spain.

    Returning to Canada he taught art at The New School, Cambrian College,
    York University, Arts’ Sake Inc., and the Ontario College of Art and Design.

  7. Ahhh… sorry, I totally missed your link to his site. A lot of frustrated artists in the commercial world… eventually, many of them end up teaching… like ME! Many thanks.

    ^_^

  8. I see that I may have misread your post concerning Yarwood and Cahen. I see that you were only listing other members of the Painters Eleven group along with Town and not implying that they were war-time comic book artists as well.

  9. That sounds like an interesting talk you had with Mel Taylor. Are you going to go further with that and the Waterloo comics exhibit in your next column?

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