Hockey is back!! In appreciation of this, I want to share a relevant WECA splash. It’s a good thing that comics can’t be prorogued or locked out, but, in a way, maybe that’s what happened to American comics when Canada’s Parliament instated the War Exchange Conservation Act in December of 1940 and allowed the First Great Age of Canadian Comics and then again in reverse to Canadian comics themselves when the act was lifted after the end of the war. In a way this also happened to a certain type of comic after 1954 with the Comics Code Authority.
This splash is from Bell Features’ Active Comics 19 p. 16 and refers to the Toronto Panthers Hockey Club, a real-life club playing in the Toronto Hockey League in the forties that was purchased/started by Cy Bell, the owner and “CEO” of Bell Features. The Panthers’ uniforms were royal blue with red and white bands (you can see it on the cover of Active Comics 20 – one of the few hockey covers in comics). On p. 22 of Active 19 there is an announcement page stating that it is a midget club and asking readers under 16 to consider trying out. By the next issue there’s a complete two-page (36-7) 15 player line up with individual sketch portraits and a two-page (38-9) report on games played at Toronto’s Royal Rink. In this issue too, the panthers get their own story.
Our splash from Active 19 is the first of the Panthers stories. Drawn by Tedd Steele, it shows Tedd, himself, in between Leo Bachle on the left and Ross Saakel on the right. You can make out their names on the equipment (shorts and stick blade). Cy Bell, in the foreground, offers to get them some bob skates.
It was not uncommon for Tedd Steele (who by this time had put a second “d” in his first name) to draw himself and other artists from the Bell Features stable creatively into his stories. He, along with Leo Bachle and Ross Saakel seemed to be the young “turks” of the Bell stable, freshly out of or still in school and ready to have fun with what they were doing for a living. Stories like this, in which the creators included themselves, should be richly prized by collectors of Canadian comics.
I must also include a well-known hockey splash from a Steve Savage WECA book to set off the point.