Here we are just a couple of days before Christmas and just over a week from the start of 2016 which will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the very first Canadian comic book proper, Better Comics Vol. 1 No. 1 (March, 1941), and the start of the Canadian comic book industry and those wonderful Canadian war time comics known as the “Canadian Whites.”
We should be able to come up with a couple of creative ways to celebrate this event. My own effort to get Canada post to acknowledge our own comic books the way that they acknowledged Superman’s 75th anniversary fell flat but here are a couple of things that we hope will happen:
- Rachel Richey should have her Fred Kelly/Doc Stearne/Mr. Monster reprint book out.
- Though Overstreet doesn’t seem that interested in a section in its guide on the Canadian war time books, it looks like Chapterhouse might be interested in our effort to independently put a small, soft cover edition out by Canada Day.
- The future looks good for my own book on the Bell Features war time artists with reproductions of original art pages from the period to come out by the holidays at the end of 2016.
- Walter Durajlija has been tossing the idea of a celebration/party at the Canadian Comic Corner at Big B in Niagara Falls around the time of Niagara Con in June.
- I hope we can have panels celebrating this anniversary at some of the major cons throughout the year.
- Maybe the Shusters, which will be held at the Montreal Con this summer, can in some way recognize this anniversary.
We do need to think of additional ideas that could push this anniversary into the wider public consciousness and perhaps garner some print and other media presence. Any suggestions and ideas are welcome. How about a set of collector’s non-sports cards featuring characters from the Whites with first appearances, runs, creators, powers and other details on the back? Nice packet of 6 in a wrapper with special inserts…?
While 2014 was an explosive year for the Canadian war time comics as we dragged them out of the past into our collecting consciousness again in a big way and a good number of the books themselves surfaced on the market, 2015 has been a relatively quiet year with fewer books exchanging hands but with two essential reprint collections coming out: Hope Nicholson’s Brok Windsor and Rachel Richey’s Johnny Canuck. Also this past year we had Walt open up the Canadian Comic Corner at his Big B Niagara store which has a significant Whites display and great potential for growth.
In the coming year, I hope that we can bring all the energy to the upcoming 75th anniversary of the first Canadian comic book that such an occasion demands and deserves.
But I didn’t want to just do a year-end perspective for this column and, in fact, I also wanted to revisit the idea of values and collectability when it comes to the WECA comics, or Whites, or Canadian war time comics, or whatever we want to call them. I’ve tried to feel my way through this in a couple of past columns (the older Top 20 and more recently WECA Worth) but thought it was time again for a little rethink.
Respected Overstreet Advisor, Walt D., the Golden Horseshoe’s Super-man of comics and local comic promotion, who is himself coming out next year with a volume on investing in comics through Chapterhouse, has always said that above all, comic values are character driven and the peaks of comic value in a run, a title, or even a genre coincide with the first appearance of a character. This is an undeniable central axiom of comic book values and points directly to the first appearance of Nelvana making Triumph-Adventure Comics No. 1 lending that book the notoriety of being the most valuable comic.
I suppose we have to throw those pesky reprints of American material such as the Captain America Annual and those Super MLJ reprints of Pep 22 out of the loop because their value points are fueled by American collectors and they are, after all, just reprints. The four March 1941 reprints of Fox material could also be placed in this category, though American collectors don’t seem to be aware of them as much.
So for all you speculators and traders, the most valuable Canadian war-time comic at this time should probably be Triumph-Adventure No. 1 (one restored 4.0 copy in the CGC census) with Dime Comics No. 1 (and the first appearance of Johnny Canuck with two copies in the CGC census, a 9.0 and a 5.0) coming in second. These two seem to stand out clearly above the rest.
After these comes a tier of other No. 1’s such as Robin Hood Comics Vol. 1 No. 1 (a tabloid format book that has yet to turn up); Better Comics Vol. 1 No. 1 (the first true Canadian comic book with Canada’s first comic book superhero – The Iron Man and 3 copies in the CGC census, two at 7.0 and one at 6.0); Freelance Comics Vol. 1 No. 1; Lucky Comics Vol. 1 No. 1; Wow Comics No. 1 (the first Bell Features comic); the first issues of Grand Slam and Three Aces Comics; the two other Maple Leaf first issues of Rocket and Bing Bang Comics; the other Bell Features first issues and so on.
Somewhere in that mix we have to put the first cover appearance of Nelvana in Triumph-Adventure Comics No. 2 as well as the much sought after Nelvana 15 cent compendium from 1945 with its iconic cover. Then there’s a bunch of one shots including Top-Notch Comics from Hillborough, Famous Adventure Stories from Educational Projects and Your New World, that Maple Leaf looking book put out by the government of our most western province, and the later full-colour Slam-Bang Comics No. 7 from 1946.
I suppose that this could go on for quite a while when you have to consider where the first appearances of Brok Windsor and Canada Jack and the rare three issues of Lightning Comics from 1944-5 and it’ll be interested how we sort all of this out in a first stab at a price guide.
Here’s a scenario… let’s suppose a 4.0 raw copy of Triumph-Adventure Comics No. 1 came onto the market early in 2016 at an eBay, Heritage or ComicLink auction: what price point do you think the winning bid would achieve? What would you be prepared to pay for it yourself if you had the funds to offer a solid price? Let’s say a similar grade copy of Better Comics Vol. 1 No. 1, what would the winning bid have to be and how high would you be prepared to pay for it? What sort of a buy-it-now price should be put on each book if you were going to let go of it that way?
Visions of sugar plums…. Have a merry Whites Christmas.