Educational Projects

The publisher that seems to get the least amount of love from collectors of war-time Canadian comics is Montréal-based Educational Projects. It was the last of the big publishers to come onto the scene and its comics were qualitatively different from those put out by its competitors.

While Vancouver’s Maple Leaf Publications and Toronto’s Anglo-American, Hillborough Studio, and Commercial Signs/Bell Features chose to have as their mainstay fictional champions whose dramas were spun out of conflicts with crime and the Axis, Educational Projects flipped that around and concentrated on presenting the stories of non-fictional, real-life Canadian individuals. Educational Projects produced comics intended, above all, to edify and educate its readers, and hoped that this would engage and entertain them.

The company was founded by Montréal-born Harry Joseph Halperin. Harry was born on December 27, 1909 to Hyman Halperin and his wife Edith (née Segal). He had two younger brothers, Daniel (b. 1911), who became a prominent Montréal ear, nose and throat surgeon, and Sam (b. 1913), who became a lingerie designer and settled in Los Angeles in 1946. The family was Jewish and had roots in Eastern Europe–in that area of fluid border between Russia and Poland, where current borders weren’t settled until after the Great War and, even then, it took another world war to make them final. On May 23rd 1937, Harry married Rose Arfin, a social services worker, and, on the documentation, Harry listed himself as an “educational director.” Both Harry and Rose became heavily involved in the Montréal Jewish community.

Canadian comics had already been in circulation for over a year when Harry decided to jump on the bandwagon. He purposefully timed the release of the first issue of Canadian Heroes Comics to come out just after kids had returned to school from their summer holidays in 1942. The cover date of the first issue was October, 1942 but it was probably on the stands in mid-September.

The first issue of Canadian Heroes

There were no costumed super heroes, no detectives, no cowboys, nor spacemen on the cover. Front and center was Alexander Cambridge, the 1st Earl of Athlone and the Governor General of Canada at the time. His portrait was flanked by two knighted Canadians, Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister and Sir William Osler, one of the founding fathers of modern medicine. Other figures blocked out on the cover are a Canadian soldier disembarking at Dieppe with tommy gun blazing, a Canadian battleship, a Mountie, and Montréal hockey legend Howie Morentz. All in all, a pretty untypical comic book cover constellation for the times, though American publisher Parents’ Magazine Press with titles such as True Comics and Real Heroes had been doing the same type of thing below the border for a year before Canadian Heroes Comics appeared (note that because of their deemed educational value, those two American titles were two of the few that were allowed through the ‘Comic Iron Curtain’ imposed by our government’s WECA restrictions at the time).

Harry Halperin’s vision for Canadian Heroes Comics is given in an editorial on the inside back cover of that first issue.

Inside back cover of Canadian Heroes Vol. 1 No. 1

He makes a declaration of the Canadian-ness of the book much in the same way that Vernon Miller did in the first issue of Better Comics and as Adrian Dingle did in the first issue of Triumph-Adventure Comics. Halperin says: “It may truly be said that this is a magazine of Canadians, by Canadians, and for Canadians. From paper to printer, from author to artist, for cover to cover, it is thoroughly Canadian.” He also goes on to explain that: “The title ‘hero’ does not belong only to the soldier on the battlefield, the sailor on the seas, or the airforceman [sic] in the skies. Every boy and girl can become a hero, but he or she must prepare himself or herself for the moment when the opportunity presents itself; this may come in some ordinary work in the class room; unexpectedly on the playing field, or during regular activities in the club room; it may be in your home front efforts on behalf of the salvage committee or war savings stamps or Junior Red Cross work.”

The title of the comic itself, therefore, had a double meaning.  It was meant, of course, to refer to Canadian heroes throughout society, history, and sport including, especially the armed force members battling in Europe and in the Pacific. However, it had the added implication that the Canadian kids reading the comic could serve as home front heroes and that they should prepare and groom themselves to become future Canadian heroes as adults (and how they should conduct themselves to do this can be seen from the graphic that filled the back cover.)

Inside front cover of Canadian Heroes Vol. 1 No. 1

The inside front cover of this first issue of Canadian Heroes posted a letter from the Minister of National War Services, Joseph Thorarinn Thorson, pointing out how Canadian kids could help the war effort. Ironically, Thorson was succeeded by Richer Laflèche while the first issue was still on the stands, and Laflèche, himself, was the central cover feature for the fourth issue of the title. Halperin actually wrote a letter to Laflèche after that issue came out and perhaps Halperin was of a habit to do this to solicit letters from Canadian ministers.

Letter from Harry Halperin to Minister Lafleche

Canadian Heroes was also meant to provide its young readers with news of the war, and this first issue had a “Flash!” banner just above the masthead that read: “Canadians Lead Smashing Dieppe Raid!” This was amazingly current because the Dieppe Raid had taken place on August 19, 1942, just about a month or so before the comic appeared on the stands. Understandably, the account of the raid in the comic proved to be more propaganda than accurate reporting. Today the Dieppe Raid is regarded as a disastrous effort and the single bloodiest day of the war for Canadian troops.

The template for Canadian Heroes comics was set with this first issue, and the title deviated from it only in the smallest of ways in its 30-issue run. From cover to cover, each issue was filled with informative, patriotic, edifying, and engaging material that parents might actually buy for their kids, and that schoolteachers might even stock on classroom reading shelves.

Its ‘go-to’ artists were Sid Barron, Joseph Hillenbrand, and Art Director George Menendez Rae. Barron, one of Canada’s most successful editorial cartoonists of the latter half of the twentieth century, created Bos’n Bill to connect kids to Canada’s navy and Ace Deacon to inform kids about the exploits of Canada’s air force. He also came up with benign silver-haired and pipe-smoking magistrate, Judge Goodwin, who showcased various possible career options for the young readers of Canadian Heroes. Here is the splash for Judge Goodwin’s presentation of what a career in commercial art would entail. It is written by George Menendez Rae and drawn by Sid Barron. It looks like Barron has put in a sketch of Rae himself doing a cover of Canadian Heroes.

Judge Goodwin discusses a career in Commercial Art from Canadian Heroes Vol. 4 No. 3

Joseph Hillenbrand worked mainly on historical biographies and was the chief artist behind the “History of Canada” series which managed to get up to the eve of Confederation before the title folded. He also created the speculative, futurist series called “World of Tomorrow” hosted by ‘Tomi’ girl from the future.

The first appearance of Tomi by Joseph Hillenbrand from Canadian Heroes Vol. 3 No. 4.

George Menendez Rae was an accomplished fine artist and, to my mind, among the very best of Canadian comic book artists from this era. He seemed to do most of the covers, though he seldom signed them. He is most remembered for creating, in the fifth issue of the title, the fictional champion of Canadian justice and fair play, Canada Jack and the offshoot Canada Jack Club which connected kids from all across the country in a united home front war effort. However, his best work was in his long-running series recounting stories from the case files of the RCMP.

George Menendez Rae splash from Canadian Heroes Vol. 4 No. 5

Harry Halperin even got himself and his family involved in the enterprise. He penned editorials almost every issue, some of the features signing with his monogram “H. J. H,” and I have the abiding suspicion that it was he who was behind the pen name “The Author” that claimed every installment of the “History of Canada” series. Harry’s wife, Rose, reviewed and recommended books for kids to read on her “Books You’ll Like” page, occasionally assisted by Harry’s brother and surgeon, David. She also wrote a comparable page devoted to recommended pieces of music called “The Music Nook.” David also wrote the Judge Goodwin career segments on Medicine (Canadian Heroes V2 n5) and Chemistry (Canadian Heroes V3 N2).

Besides Canadian Heroes, Educational Projects also put out some one-shot odds and ends. In 1943, the company issued a collection of classic fiction adapted to comic book form called Famous Adventure Stories.

Then, in 1944, it issued a compendium of George Menendez Rae’s RCMP stories called work Action Stories of the Mounties.

In the same year Educational Projects put out a 192-page giant-sized issue called Picture Story Annual that stapled together four remaindered issues of Canadian Heroes with a new, square-bound cover.

One last book that came out through Educational Projects in 1944 is a book of which I have yet to see a copy. It was a mail-order only copy of M. C. Gaines’ EC Picture Stories of the Bible Complete Old Testament Edition which had a 60 cent price tag—a price that never appeared on the American editions.

Ad from Canadian Heroes Vol. 4 No. 2

In 1945, Educational Projects issued another George Menendez Rae compendium—this time of his Canada Jack stories called Adventures of Canada Jack.

Back cover of Canadian Heroes Vol. 5 No. 6–slightly scary

 

The Action Stories of the Mounties and Adventures of Canada Jack compendiums have no price marker on them, so they were most probably mail order only or used as subscription premiums. I have seen the Picture Story Annual both with the 25 cent price marker and with a blank price marker, but I don’t think it was a mail order item because I have never seen an ad for ordering it.

Educational Projects also released a number of paint books which were illustrated by their staff artists and which were based on stories from literature.

Paint book with cover by Sid Barron

 

Paint book with cover that looks to be done by Sid Barron

Sadly, Canadian Heroes, the title that brought Canadian Kids stories on Billy Bishop, Alexander Graham Bell, Raymond Massey, and Walter Pidgeon, as well as the exploits of Canada Jack, lasted for only three years and 30 issues. Educational Projects was the first of the big four Canadian comic book companies to fold. The last issue of the title, Vol. 5 No. 6 had a cover date of October, 1945. However, we can’t deny that Canadian Heroes was the most Canadian comic book ever and that Harry Halperin’s efforts to make it so need to be remembered.

The last issue of Canadian Heroes
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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

17 Comments

  1. Great work! So sorry I missed out on several issues in a Heritage auction a while back. These now seem a good deal more interesting than I thought at the time. Love those Compendium covers, will add all this info to my want list…ever hopeful.

    Also worth mentioning, DC Comics had their own fact-based series, Real Fact, that I have always found quite good. It began in 1946, running 21 issues to summer 1949. The creation of the Batman and Robin, and a story about The Vigilante being adapted to a movie serial are just two of a great many highlights. And famous sci-fi artist Virgil Finlay also appeared there in a regular series, which included the first appearance of the long-running Tommy Tomorrow.

    Over at Standard/Better/Nedor publishing, Real Life began far earlier, in summer 1941 and lasted 59 issues, into 1952. It Really Happened was a sister title that began under publisher William H. Wise, but ended up with Standard, running 11 issues from 1944 to 1947. John Severin and Bill Elder did some great work in later issues of Real Life, and Alex Schomberg did covers for both titles that add to their collectibility. Real Life #3 is hugely collectible for its very threatening Hitler cover, “Emperor of Hate,” with this title written in blood, drawn by Schomberg.

    It would be great to see a Canadian publisher reprint some or all of the Canadian Heroes run. Even today it might be a item of interest and education for kid readers in their local library. Hint, hint…

  2. Fyi: Our editions of Real Life Comics up here in the Great White North had to be titled ‘Real Life Picture Stories’ to get them on the newsstands and escape being redrawn in the early forties (1942 at earliest?) Bud. Look around real hard and you may find one or two still exist.

  3. I recently made the decision to pare down my Canadian Whites somewhat to focus on just one copy each of both Bell and Maple Leaf titles, keeping also my Nelvana one shot and my Super Comics, and to try my damnedest to finish my run of Canadian Heroes. After all these years I have only put together a third of the run, but I recently realized just how much I enjoy those books far more than any other Canadian Golden Age title.
    These books just scream Canadiana to me. It’s a shame the reprint craze in our Golden Age seems to be slacking off and these books are still not in reprint. Even a volume of just George Rae’s Mounties stories would be a more than welcome addition to my collection. I can’t see why these books are the last on the want lists of many WECA collectors. I guess most of them are just looking for super heroes, but there’s a lot more to comic books than just guys and gals in tights and capes!

    cheers, mel

  4. So I guess they will be going to auction, Eh Mel? So much for donating them to an archive. I seem to recall you mentioning that at my demise, or rather eloquently stated as LIPSON’s demise, you hope I am going to leave my collection to an institution. The pot is calling the kettle black. Just sayin’

    Cheers,

    Stephen

  5. Hey Mel

    I’ve got a few Canadian Heroes books, including an Adventures of Canada Jack and I’d be happy to trade with you to help you keep enjoying these wonderful books. We have enough Museums of Canadian Whites with buyers names on them and its always refreshing to share with those like you who actually read the interiors,love the material and share whats inside the covers with new readers.
    If we don’t we become the Coin and Stamp collectors of this generation.

    I could easily put together an Adventures of Canada Jack reprint edition if there is interest and no copyrights issues,
    I’ve been interested in doing another reprint and only wish it was still possible to put it out there in this 150th year of Canada.

  6. My intent in trading some of my collection is to secure the best books I think might be the most worth saving, not for slabbing or investment, but, ultimately, yes, to go to a worthy institution. And, trust me, Mister Lipson, unlike some people in this hobby, I do not hoard these books until I can cash in. And, no, they will not be going to auction. I have been busy trading with like-minded individuals whose main focus on these books is historical…not financial gain. Not sure if that makes things clear enough for you to understand or not. As a matter of fact, my dear, I don’t give a damn if you do.

    Thanks for your kind response Jim. Just what I would have expected from a gentleman such as yourself. I think we’ll conduct our discussion in a less public forum. then I can tell you what I REALLY think about some of these investment brokers who try to pass themselves off as comic fans. I’m one of that rare breed, like yourself, who actually read these books and the thought of anybody slabbing without reading, as many of these investors do, is ludicrous.

    I look forward to breaking bread with you next time you’re in the neighbourhood.

    cheers, mel

  7. Mel. I do NOT hoard books. In fact, I have made hundreds of my duplicate copies available to many collectors, as the ENTIRE collecting community can attest to.

    Get your facts straight before you make unfounded allegations….You are a bitter man who from day one has attacked my character.

    My reputation in this hobby is sterling, as somebody who has not only shared available copies of my books with other like-minded collectors, but I have opened my collection to assist in endeavors pertaining to projects like the publication of several books, including the Nelvana and Johnny Canuck and Brok Windsor tomes. Nuff said.

    Cheers,

    Stephen

  8. Stephen
    Of course you can’t hoard all of them or you’ll never realize a profit. Sorry, my mistake. As for your stellar reputation…not what I’ve heard in the greater collecting community, but I really couldn’t say for sure unless I met you, and, quite frankly anybody who can carry a petty grudge about being called by his last name (unlike my friends Rigby, Wand, Turner, Kerrigan, Vere and Kane, Steve’s all) is not the kind of person with whom I would want to make my acquaintance. And, by the way, without knowing ME don’t you think YOUR comments might have been a little out of line? Why don’t we just refrain from discourse if this is the level it sinks too?

    mel

  9. I agree. Let’s both refrain from further discourse, other than the scathing remarks you have said in past blogs regarding my character, which has nothing to do with me holding a grudge from use of my surname, which is ludicrous. In fact, I will cite them here:

    Feb 27, 2014 Comiclink Whites Auction Blog

    mel taylor on March 6, 2014 at 11:35 am

    “One more great WECA fan almost bites the dust. These results have scared me right out of the market. When I began buying these lovely old books they seemed like a great opportunity to pick up some choice pop-cultural Canadiana at a reasonable price. The “new reality” is essentialy that these books are no longer for fans but investors. I would be very curious to know the circumstance under which Lipson managed to get a Nelvana and a Super Comics in exactly the same grade as the ones which just sold on ComicLink. I think the Lipsons of this world are the ones who will ensure that we are frozen out of that market once and for all. I just hope his books are slated for some museum or archives in the event of his demise! Drop in Ivan if you’re ever down this way again. I have all the time in the world for researchers and genuine fans. Not so much the people who are hogging all the fun for profit.”

    some responses to your salvo of insults in the same blog:

    Walter Durajlija on March 6, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    “My goodness Mel. Where in the heck is this coming from?

    Ivan, Jim, Tony, Stephen and I have put in a good year and a half now promoting this Canadian Comic Book Heritage. Others have done great work before us and still others like Hope and Rachel are forging ahead of us all in the name of raising awareness for Canadian Whites.

    We’ve discussed as a group the fact that our efforts are costing us! We are collectors like yourself and we are shooting ourselves in the foot in a way by increasing demand for the books we ourselves want to collect.

    The group consensus is that the work is too important to put ahead of personal gain (being able to buy these books cheap).

    – “I would be very curious to know the circumstance under which Lipson managed to get a Nelvana and a Super Comics in exactly the same grade as the ones which just sold on ComicLink” – What the hell does that even mean? What are you saying Mel?

    Mr. Lipson is the most generous of us all. He has opened many of his books for research purposes risking damage to these very delicate items. Stephen has personally noted to me that his dream of collecting all the Whites is now pretty much shot due to this increase in demand he is helping us all create. I’ve even pried away a few doubles from him but I can assure you it was not easy. Price was not the issue, for Stephen letting them go was and I can guarantee you I got them for below market. Greed indeed!!

    – “I think the Lipsons of this world are the ones who will ensure that we are frozen out of that market once and for all.” – I’m a Lipson of this world, I collect comics with passion, I get absolutely giddy then something cool comes my way. I wish there was a camera nearby when Stephen and I received our Better #1’s in the mail, we were like school girls with our giggles, and pure collecting joy is what it was.”

    Ivan Kockmarek on March 6, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    “Mel, I can assure you that Stephen had those books and had them slabbed long before the others were put up in that recent auction. Stephen is not the type of person that drove those prices up on that auction. I don’t know where that came from and we may never find out. What Stephen has done over the last decade or so is establish an efficient and aggressive method of searching out these books so that they can be preserved and studied and he has never, to my knowledge, paid an exorbitant price for any one of them. On top of this, when this method has afforded him duplicate copies he has shared these finds at reasonable prices or trades with those collectors around him. Our project research has relied heavily on books in his collection which he has shared freely and unselfishly with us, the upcoming Nelvana reprint is at least 80% based on his run of Triumphs. Mel, I know and enjoy your writing and share your love for Canadian comics. I must assure you that your criticism of Stephen is unwarranted and misdirected. He is not the cause of those high prices in this past auction and he is not the type of person to condone or do such a thing.”

    So, please do not preach about petty grudges. The above clearly illustrates your contempt for me. I had done nothing to warrant your remarks prior to that blog, and I still cannot fathom why you would say such spiteful and hurtful things.

    Stephen

  10. As I recall, at the time, when I realized I had offended you, I apologized (three times all told) and I realized that in trying to generalize about this situation, I obviously got a bit too particular. Several of my acquaintances at the time pointed this out t me, but also noted that none of those apologies was accepted. I’m sorry again. Maybe, it all stems from the fact that I was relying too much on opinions of your character I had gleaned from 57 years in the hobby. Should we ever actually meet, I will form my own opinion, and probably apologize again, and hope we can start afresh. Now, i hope you’ll excuse me if I refrain from further apology. I think I’ve said enough.

    I would however like to apologize to Ivan for unfortunately hijacking his post. My initial comment was simply intended as my way of showing just how much I love the Canadian Heroes. I have no idea how that could be construed as anything but, although I do admit I got a bit snippy after Stephen’s comment out of the blue over something I thought I had adequately apologized for long ago and put behind us. Between such exchanges as this one and being targeted by another writer on CBD for having a supposed “homoerotic man crush” on one of the writers, I think I’ll beat a hasty retreat for a while and keep my thoughts to myself. Once again Ivan, I do sincerely apologize for the fuss.

    all the best, mel

  11. Thank you so much for your apology Mel. I too wish to sincerely apologize for my earlier comments on this thread, and also hope that we can start afresh. I also, like you, wish to apologize to Ivan for all this discourse that has nothing to do with Educational Projects.

    Perhaps we can meet one day Mel and share our passion for this hobby.

    Kindest regards,

    Stephen

  12. Thanks Stephen. Let’s hope we can just put this all behind us.

    all the best, mel

  13. Thanks for sorting this guys. Thank you also for caring about this first Canadian comics of ours. They have been unjustly forgotten by the larger collecting community mostly, I think, due to their scarcity. We’ve managed to drag them out of their previous obscurity and make many more collectors aware of them. Reprints like Hope and Rachel, and you Jim, with Wow 1 and the Polka-Dot Pirate stuff have helped the most. I know that Chapterhouse would like to do an omnibus series reprint of all the WECA books and this would be a wonderful, encyclopedic collection that I would love to have take up a shelf or two in my house. I hope they can pull it off. I know that all of you who have commented on this post are genuine champions of these books and I want to thank you for that.

  14. Ivan

    We can do so much more on the Canadasowncomics.com website to help make the Canadian Comic community grow.

    1) Can we show new activity on the site like NEW BOOKS ADDED and some sort of column reprint of what you publish here or even guest columns?

    2) A Buy and Sell forum, or just a forum to talk to other collectors without it just being in response to a column.

    It really could be a dynamic community if we had things like these on the group website and lead to more trading of books, sharing of knowledge and topics for all of us to discuss, both leading the discussions and commenting.

    We can be retailers and sell all the Canadian reprints there too to maintain the site!

    Lets do it.

  15. My interest started in Canadian Heroes when I found out that my Dad had been featured in one of the editions. The family copy was last seen many, many years prior to when my Grandmother passed away. So the search has been on for almost 2 decades with no luck of finding the correct edition. So I appeal to you collectors to have a look at your issues and I can narrow it down a bit, as the actual incident took place in March of 1943 when crew members of RCN ML Q064 rescued the crew of a Catalina flying boat 1 mile off shore that had crashed and was on fire. I am not looking for the comic itself (could never afford it), but if anyone has information on what issue it was in or could even just make me a copy of the article, our family would be so appreciative, as it is a very proud part of our family history. Thank you.

    Keeping our fingers crossed!

  16. Thanks for your request Bonni. It actually makes us feel a little bit useful for a change. Can’t promise anything but we will take a look. Can you add any more details? What was your dad’s full name. Which country was it off-shore from?

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