My Back Pages

On occasion these B-sides became hits in themselves and sometimes even outshone their original A-sides in popularity. In the same vein, I think that there are a few WECA book back covers that merit attention and offer lots of historical information to mine and I wanted to share some of them with you.

I was first issued during the late Golden Age, more specifically, during the Atom Age of comic books. Those of you of similar vintage as well as those of you who were first issued during the Silver age or even the early Bronze Age will remember that those arcane vinyl artifacts called 45s had an “A” (or plug) side that was supposed to be the hit and a “B” (or flip) side that was supposed to be the filler or lesser backing song. I’ve still got about a thousand of these sitting in my basement next to my long boxes (I won’t even mention the couple of thousand LPs sitting on shelves down there that are what got me through high school and university in the sixties and early seventies.)

walrus

On occasion these B-sides became hits in themselves and sometimes even outshone their original A-sides in popularity.  I can think of “Gloria” which was the B-side of Van Morrison’s Them single of “Baby Please Don’t Go” (1964), The Beatles’ “I am the Walrus” which was the flip of “Hello, Goodbye” (1967) and “We Will Rock You” B-side of Queen’s “We are the Champions” (1977).

In the same vein, I think that there are a few WECA book back covers that merit attention and offer lots of historical information to mine and I wanted to share some of them with you.

Colossal Comics back cover
Colossal Comics back cover

For me the best of them all is the back cover of the 1943 giant compilation of remaindered Bell Features books called Colossal Comics (see picture at the top of this page). This looks to me like a paste-up collage of actual figures from the original panels.  Gerry Lazare’s version of The Wing is there twice but surprisingly, Nelvana seems to be missing, unless that’s her with her back to us in the uppermost left-hand corner. If I’m wrong and this is a one piece original drawing, this would be best pieces of original Bell Features art to have. How many names of the characters in this collage can you come up with?

From Dime Comics No. 1
From Dime Comics No. 1

Dime Comics Vol. 1 No. 1 has a great back cover featuring the feature character from early issues of Wow Comics and  the back cover of Wow Comics Vol. 1 No. 5 shows us the three Bell titles that existed at the time of its issue.

Wow Comics Vol. 1 No. 5
Wow Comics Vol. 1 No. 5

Some Bell book back covers from 1945 gave us information about the six bigger size compilation reprints that the company put out that year.

Wow Comics Vol. 1 No. 28
Wow Comics Vol. 1 No. 28

Some Bell book back covers from 1946 showed us what titles and directions Bell came up with trying to stay afloat in that final floundering WECA year. I’ve never come across an issue of Capt. Wonder or The Dreamer Comics.

Comic Crimes No. 11
Comic Crimes No. 11
Slam-Bang Comics No. 8
Slam-Bang Comics No. 8

 

Other back covers such as that of Freelance Comics No. 1 also featured their own brand characters grouped appropriately under the three other existing Anglo-American title mastheads.

Freelance Comics No. 1
Freelance Comics No. 1

A year later in Robin Hood Comics Vol. 1 No. 11 you can see the changes that had taken place and by the very next issue we can see what has taken over (notice the misspelling of the magical empowering word at the top… simple error or intentional?)

Robin Hood Comics Vol. 1 No. 11
Robin Hood Comics Vol. 1 No. 11
Robin Hood Comics Vol. 1 No. 12
Robin Hood Comics Vol. 1 No. 12

Educational Projects in Montreal promoted its Classics Illustrated type of comic called Famous Authors Illustrated one shot on the back cover of Canadian Heroes Vol. 1 No. 3.

Canadian Heroes Vol. 1 No. 3
Canadian Heroes Vol. 1 No. 3

Back covers of later issues such as Canadian Heroes Vol. 3 No. 6 and Vol. 4 No. 5  displayed some of their other related product (which probably featured work from their main comic artists as well).

Canadian Heroes Vol. 3 No. 6
Canadian Heroes Vol. 3 No. 6
Canadian Heroes Vol. 4 No. 5
Canadian Heroes Vol. 4 No. 5

Maple Leaf Publications out in Vancouver also did a good job of promoting its own product on its back covers as with Bing Bang Comics Vol.  1 No. 5, where we see the line-up for Lucky Comics and Better Comics Vol. 3 No. 6 where we find the mid-run line-up for Rocket Comics.

Bing Bang Comics Vol. 1 No. 5
Bing Bang Comics Vol. 1 No. 5
Better Comics Vol. 3 No. 6
Better Comics Vol. 3 No. 6

The later Maple Leaf back covers were probably some of the best that the WECA books had to offer and in 1945 and featured full page, poster-like drawings of their central characters. You’ll notice on some of these that in 1945 Maple Leaf Publishers acquired a new script-like logo. Better Comics Vol. 6 No. 1 displays both of these elements.

Better Comics Vol. 6 No. 1
Better Comics Vol. 6 No. 1

A few months later in the full-colour, last issue of the title, Better Comics Vol. 7 No. 4 gave us the potential of a new feature, “Gunsmoke Terror” which would never materialize (I hope that the artwork exists somewhere).

The last issue of Better Comics, Vol. 7 No. 4 which was entirely in colour.
The last issue of Better Comics, Vol. 7 No. 4 which was entirely in colour.

Bing Bang Comics Vol. 5 No. 1 gave us a great Jon Stables back cover that featured Canada’s version of Alley Oop, Piltdown Pete.

Bing Bang Comics Vol 5. No. 1
Bing Bang Comics Vol 5. No. 1

 

Perhaps my favourite WECA back cover has to be Lucky Comics Vol. 5 No. 4 which could easily have been a poster for a forties Brok Windsor movie. Who the heck is The Ghost’s Granddaughter and who doesn’t want to know more about her?!?

Lucky Comics Vol. 5 No. 2
Lucky Comics Vol. 5 No. 2

I guess my point here is that WECA back covers often weren’t just relegated material such as subscription ads, ads for toys and other send away items, or for quick art courses, they were often works of art in themselves and completed these books. Look out for them.

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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: 170

10 Comments

  1. Actually “Gunsmoke Terror” did appear in the next issue of Better Comics! The one with the big grizzly bear on it.

    You can find it in issue vol. 4 #6 which believe it or not comes after the volume7s as Maple Leaf adjusted their numbering system at the time they started adding the U.K. pricing to the comics and shipping their books overseas.

    So the last issue of Better I believe is vol. 4 #8, the one pictured in Denis Gifford’s International Book of Comics with Bill Benz’ feature “Quest of the Solar Star” featured on the cover with the cover date of October 1946.

    I, too, would love to see that Starra the Ghost’s Granddaughter story, great job featuring these back covers – thanks

  2. BTW I tried to add the cover in the last comment by the copy and paste keyboard commands but nothing happened… how did those videos get added into comments, is it simply via an html code, or something I’m missing here?

  3. I always appreciate your clarifications, Jim. I should have registered this because I’ve seen the grizzly bear cover Better in Stephen Lipson’s collection of bound Maple Leaf comics that come from Denis Gifford’s collection and the vol. 4 no. 8 is probably in there. I hope that Stephen will give me a chance to read through them and see what changes Jon Stables made to Brok Windsor besides his costume change that’s on that grizzly bear cover.
    I wonder if the volume change was done because those books were only distributed in England and never received distribution here. I know that the Canadian Vol. 4 No. 6 was Feb./March of 1945. I only seen those vol. 4 nos. 7 and 8 in the Gifford collection. I guess we’ll find out once details become clearer.
    The issue of Lucky Comics which has the Ghost’s Granddaughter on the back came out in Feb/March of 1945 and as I said the contemporary issue of Better that would have been out the same month would have come out just after the Vol. 4 No. mentioned above. This issue featured a dark-haired girl that appears in a couple of the last few panels of the Brok Windsor story and is the one on the cover being attacked by a giant rat. The last panel of the story reads: “Can Brok save the girl? Read the next exciting installment. You’ll be shocked and surprised!” I think this might be that Granddaughter.
    Thanks again for your useful comment, Jim.

  4. Commenters can add items hosted elsewhere. Youtube videos are automatically formatted. To add an image you either need to know the HTML to add one and resize it or just put the link in your comment and people can click on it.

  5. I have to correct my typo here, the last Better Comics should have read vol. 4 #38 (not just 8).
    In my excitement to comment I’m getting sloppy, sorry. The penultimate issue was vol. 4 #37, as Maple Leaf was numbering the issues to how many they had printed by then, so 38 issues, unless a 39 ever shows up?

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