As a lot of you may know, I am working on putting together a coffee table-sized book that would feature the main artists of these WECA comics, that is, the Canadian Whites. I’ve got about 10 sections finished and I have submitted a package with the first three sections to Dundurn Publishing in Toronto. I really don’t hold much hope for seeing my cache of fairly arcane information being picked up by a publisher over the next few months, but I will try a couple more (such as Drawn and Quarterly and Fantagraphics). Most likely, my project will only be able to see fruition as a self-published e-book or a book for which a good deal of publishing funding could be raised through an online funding scheme such as Kickstarter.
To be realistic, this book may never even be actualized or it may see the light of day as a series of articles in some journal. But, somehow, I want to get the information about these Canadian creators of war-time comic books into the hands of today’s collectors, especially featuring well-reproduced copies of the original artwork from the National Archives collection.
Recently I’ve entertained the idea of putting the project out as a series of comics, with two or three artists featured in each issue, though the negative here would be that the impact of the original art pages or reproductions of covers from the comics might ironically suffer from the size limitations of the comic book form even though that’s what it was originally intended for.
I guess I’m fishing for any suggestions or feedback as to what would be the most prudent approach. What vehicle would serve a potential audience best? Is there, in fact, enough of a market to keep pursuing this project? Do the Whites matter to today’s Canadian comic book world?
By the end of the summer interest will have been built up a significant bit by the publication of my lengthy article in the Overstreet Price Guide and the online web site/data base on the Whites we are presently populating will have gone live to the public. In addition to this Hope and Rachel’s Nelvana reprints will have been put out this spring and maybe they’ll have a second project in the works or finished. Will Pascoe’s “Lost Heroes” documentary is scheduled to air on April 10 on Superchannel. 2014 is going to be a breakout year for the Whites and I want to Silver Surf this possible wave into a published project on the creators but which current should I ride?
I have a pet theory that the best comics you ever remember reading were the ones that were out when you were 12 (I ripped this off from an old Ken Dryden interview about what every one’s idea of what the best hockey was). Given this, for me this would be those comics that came out in 1963: Spidey No. 1 and that great run of early Ditko Spideys with a brand new classic villain in almost every one, including Strange Tales Annual No. 2 and the Torch/Spidey battle there. By the summer, Strange Tales No. 110 would be out on the stands starting up those mystical adventures in the arcane magic worlds of Dr. Strange – more Ditko. On top of this I couldn’t leave out the multiple impacts of Tales of Suspense No. 39, Avengers No. 1, X-Men No. 1 and over at D.C., Justice League No. 21 which awakened me to the Golden Age (after those earlier little blips in Flash 121 and 129)—all in 1963.
Ditko had already impacted me with his Marvel monster book work as well as the stuff he had done for Charlton, but with the early Spidey work and the creation of Dr. Strange he clicked with me and for some reason, he has always continued to resonate with me. I suppose we all have artists like this that we ‘click’ with. Throughout the sixties I became aware of many more artists that I was able to ‘click’ with such as Eisner, Winsor McKay, just about the whole E. C. stable, and Steranko, right up to the start of the Bronze Age and Barry Windsor-Smith’s Conan.
A year after that Conan No. 1, I first became aware of the Bell Whites artists when I took out a copy of Loubert and Hersch’s The Great Canadian Comic Books. Though these authors were under the mistaken impression that the world of The Whites had begun with Wow Comics No. 1 they still put out a great reproduction collection of artwork from those Bell Features books. However, my first reaction to the book was one of embarrassment in the fact that this was all we could produce when it came to comics books—crude black-and-white line drawings that paled in comparison to the high octane four colour blasts of marvel cosmic comic energy that I had fed on during the sixties.
This notion that the Whites were little more than failed and embarrassing comic creations filled with crude, primitive art and simplistic narrative, stayed with me for the next four decades until I retired and took on the examination of them as a retirement project. It’s only through this closer squint, when I looked at all four publication houses and the breadth of the artists involved (such as Adrian Dingle, Jon Stables, Ed Furness, and George M. Rae just to give one from each) and I placed these books in their war time context, that I could appreciate the quality in them. The more I learned about each creator, the more impressed I became with their comic book work. So many of them went on to prominent careers in commercial and fine art, a couple of them even moved south and established solid careers in the American comics.
Funnily enough, the artists that have ‘clicked’ with me from the WECA period were the quirky ones like Ted Steele, Avrom Yanovsky, and Oscar Schlienger. I have no explanation for this, their lines and composition just work for me. If I were to pick my favourite artists from these books it would be these three.
Nobody can argue with the quality of Dingle’s work and use of blacks, or the fine, smooth lines of John Stables’ work, or Edmond Good’s solid, strong covers and Rex Baxter work. There are so many, and my original impression of the Whites as a Canadian embarrassment shifted diametrically to one of pleasant surprise and chest puffing pride.
Now, I’m curious to find out what favourite Whites artists other people have. There are so many to consider including, Adrian Dingle, Murray Karn, George M. Rae, Ed Furness, Edmond Good, Leo Bachle, Ross Saakel, Clayton Dexter, Al Cooper, John Stables, Spike Brown, Bert Bushell, Bill Meikle, Rene Kulbach, Fred Kelly, Jerry Lazare, Ernie Walker, and Manny Easson to name the best known.
Who is your favourite Whites artist? Who are the best artists from the WECA period?