Christmas is just a week away and the eye-of-the-storm peacefulness and sentiment of the coming Christmas eve and Christmas day, rather than its stressful bustle and rabid commerce, begin to rope me in. This holiday season, I’ve been wistfully thinking about what sort of volume of WECA reprint material I’d most like to find under the tree on Christmas morning.

You all know that we’ve had volumes on Nelvana, Johnny Canuck, and Brok Windsor in recent years and many of you have all three of these on your shelves. Each of these bundles up the published Canadian golden age output of stories anchored to a specific character. This week, I’d like to offer up my own take on what vertical script should appear on the next spine to incrementally widen your WECA-related bookshelf. I’d like to do this by submitting what I think is the best candidate from each of the four main Second World War Canadian comic book publishers in the hope that readers will consider challenging my choices and/or suggesting a couple of their own.

In order of preference, my top choice is from the company we’ve tended to cover least, not because of the unwarranted Toronto-centric orbit of our Canadian cultural consciousness, but because of the dearth of information available on that company and because that company’s comics are, in fact, the hardest to find of these scarce Canadian WECA comics—Vancouver’s Maple Leaf Publications. Strangely enough, my first choice of featured reprint character has no costume or uncommon ability. In fact, he hasn’t even reached puberty!

My leading candidate for a graphic novel resurrection is an eight-year-old French orphan named “Roger,” who is forced to navigate the stark necessities of occupied France in the hope that he can eventually make his way to his grandparents in Manitoba. That’s his Canadian connection. He was born to a Canadian soldier from WWI who remained in France and married a French woman. In spite of losing his parents and having to travel across occupied France, Roger takes on the nickname “Lucky,” and begins a saga that takes him through 32 issues of Lucky Comics. You can read my previous look at Lucky here.

Splash detail from Lucky Comics Vol. 2 No. 5

This feature presents a well-crafted, serialized, almost Dickensian, minor odyssey through occupied France and then to Canada after the war that better fits today’s graphic novel template rather than that of a trade reprint. It has quality and allure that Drawn and Quarterly or Conundrum could pick up outright instead of having it piggyback on a Kickstarter.

It wouldn’t be an easy task collecting it together, but writer Howard Hagar Hall and artist Ernie Walker offer up their best work for Maple Leaf and it needs to be seen as a whole. Lucky, therefore, is my top pick for reprint resurrection.

(As an aside, I must note that another contender from Maple Leaf is Bus Griffith’s “Now your Loggin’” run that appeared in early issues of Rocket Comics. You can find the whole first story reproduced in an earlier column of mine here, and more about Bus himself here. In fact, Bus Griffith did a more recent take on this as a successful graphic novel in 1978. Though the original series appeared as only about a dozen installments in Rocket Comics, it still merits consideration as a good reprint candidate.)

Half a continent away in Toronto, the Anglo-American comic factory with its assembly line production values, churned out one of the best-written features in Canadian war time comics. It was about a stateless, blond hero in a red long-sleeved, crew-neck t-shirt, jodhpurs, and riding boots who confounded Nazi efforts and plans throughout the African and European theatres of war. He was named Freelance and he did his good guy work pro bono and anonymously though, in the tradition of The Lone Ranger and Zorro, he often left a calling card. In his case, it was an actual calling card. You can find additional background information on Freelance from one of my past columns here.

From Freelance Vol. 2 No. 3

The Freelance saga runs 35 issues with most containing 3 or 4 stories ensuring that a Freelance reprint project would probably have to span three volumes, but this amount of Ted McCall scripting and Ed Furness artwork would certainly be worth the effort. The stories are mostly sequential, with solid supporting characters such as Big John Collins and Natasha, and better structured and more absorbing than Leo Bachle’s one-note efforts with Johnny Canuck.

I don’t think that other reprint collections of Anglo-American material would have the same impact, though something like a compendium of Fawcett redraws might sell well to Fawcett aficionados on both sides of the border (more information on Anglo’s Fawcett content is here). Anthologies of the Canadian characters from Grand Slam Comics (Commander Steel, Dr. Destine, Red Rover) and Three Aces Comics (The Crusaders, The Purple Rider, Terry Kane) might also generally sell well, but I don’t think McCall’s Robin Hood or Men of the Mounted/Kip Keene stories have enough umph! What we need to see from Anglo American’s published body, therefore, is a quality reprint of its Freelance stories.

Shifting east about six blocks from Anglo-American’s location on John Street in Toronto to Bell Features on York Street we find a trove of material that has already been mined for the well-known reprints of Nelvana and Johnny Canuck. But there is much more great reprint material here.

Characters that first jump to mind are Thunderfist, created by E. T. Legault and drawn mainly by Murray Karn, and Tedd Steele’s Speed Savage. Of this pair, I’d favour the latter. I know that Karn’s lines were cleaner and channelled Alex Raymond, but his artwork always seemed a little bit static to me. On the other hand, Tedd Steele’s artwork was always raw and dynamic and grew more solid as the series went on.

From Active Comics No. 8

Steele’s writing was also more involved and generally better than that offered in the Thunderfist strip. Ironically, Tedd Steele ended up writing and drawing the last four Thunderfist installments in Active Comics but, overall, I’d still take a Speed Savage compendium over a Thunderfist one. Still, either of these superhero collections wouldn’t be a real departure from the three collections already assembled.

I tend to favour something more coherently serialized and, for this reason, would actually choose René Kulbach’s Tang feature which ran in the first 27 issues of Triumph Comics. The feature was created and first written by Frank Brookwood, but Kulbach took the whole thing over when Dingle brought the property over with him to Cy Bell in the spring of 1942. Kulbach’s artwork is first-rate, especially his rendering of horses (and Tang is quintessential ‘horse opera’) his strong story is surprising given English isn’t his first language and the culture of the western must have been something foreign to him. Overall, the saga of Buddy Brekenridge and his horse “Tang” has so much going for it, but I wonder if westerns would sell these days?

In the end, though, I’ll probably surprise you by picking something out of left field as the best Bell Features candidate for reprint resurrection. What I’d like to see most as a reprint collection from the York Street company would be Manny Easson’s neglected tour de force effort on Dizzy Don in The Funny Comics.

The last of the big four WECA publishers that we could mine for collected reprint volume material is Educational Projects from Montreal. Its flagship title was Canadian Heroes Comics, another WECA title generally overlooked by collectors. However, the thirty issues of this rough-cut gem were probably the thirty most-Canadian comics ever produced. Its in-house art director was George Menendez Rae, who produced some of the best Canadian wartime comic book art, and it’s one of his features that I’d like to single out for reprint resurrection. Surprisingly, it’s not Canada Jack, though that feature does merit a future reprint in his own right. Should anyone ever take on a Canada Jack reprint volume, it would probably be most effective complemented with the inclusion of a collection of the Canada Jack Club pages. Those eager and shiny faces of Canadian wartime kids doing their bit for the war effort was what Canada Jack was all about.

What I’d most like to see resurrected from Educational Projects is Rae’s magnificent output on his R.C.M.P. stories from Canadian Heroes Comics. These claim to be based on actual R.C.M.P. files and Rae’s comic book rendering of them needs to be available to a larger audience. I know that some have been already been collected into the sought-after 1944 Educational Projects compendium Action Stories of the Mounties, but this volume only accounts for a dozen stories from the first half of the Canadian Heroes run (up to the end of Vol. 3 of the title). The remaining 18, which came after this compendium, need to be brought into the fold of a larger collection. A reprint collection of these stories would contain more Canadian maple syrup and maple leaf energy than all of the Johnny Canuck, Captain Canuck, and Alpha Flight stories put together.

To sum up, the reprint collections I’d most like to see come out in the next year or two are of Maple Leaf’s “Lucky” stories, Anglo-American’s “Freelance” stories, Bell Features’ “Dizzy Don Detective” stories, and Educational Projects’ “R.C.M.P.” stories. Roughly in that order, though I’d probably move the “R.C.M.P.” stories collection ahead of the Dizzy Don collection. So there you have it, a ranked Canadian WECA personal reprint wish list, and any one of them appearing under the tree at Christmas would widen my eyes in wonder and appreciation as well as swell my sense of Canadian comic pride to bursting.

Yet, as I’ve said, these are my personal, subjective suggestions. They might even be regarded as personal indulgences arising from a researcher’s swelled head. Maybe nobody else would be drawn to cracking open the covers of any of them. For this reason, I’d love to hear readers’ gut takes on what Canadian WECA reprint collection they’d love to find under the tree on Christmas morning.


Gerald Lazare has informed me that he sent a copy of my Heroes of the Home Front book to his wife’s sister in Japan and that her husband there happens to be a good friend of the director of the Kyoto International Manga Museum. Her husband was able to donate the book to their research library and received a formal letter of gratitude from them. Adrian Dingle, Gerry Lazare, Fred Kelly, Tedd Steele, and the rest are now on a shelf in the KIMM.

Last week, the Canadian War Plane Heritage Museum here in Hamilton purchased a half-dozen copies of my Heroes book for their Bookshop and the Art Gallery of Hamilton Bookshop also has a couple of copies. My remaining copies of the book are dwindling…. which is great!

Looking ahead, 2021 will be the 80th anniversary of the very first Canadian comic book–Better Comics Vol. 1 No. 1 (March 1941) and we should think about using the coming year as thinking out and preparing some significant ways of commemorating this. Let’s start preparing for “80 years of Canadian Comics.”

Ivan Kocmarek
Ivan Kocmarek

Grew up in Hamilton's North End. Comic collector for over 50 yrs. Recent interest in Canadian WECA era comics.

Articles: 176


  1. Thunderfist by Murray Karn would be my first pick, although the other examples you show are pretty good too. I love the artwotk in the RCMP story. The clesn look of black and white really make the early Csnadian books pop.

  2. Tony, I think Karn’s Thunderfist will be a popular pick and you make a good point about those black-and-white pages popping. The Canadian war time artists had to work a lot harder because they only had the white pages and black ink to create the effects they needed and no colour register overlay to bring out any subtleties.

  3. Also, congratulations on getting your book into KIMM and the CWPHM’s bookshop. Recognition of your excellent research and work is building and I’m very happy for you. I can only imagine the work and detail that went into Heroes.

  4. Lucky’s not a super hero or even has a costume but I’d very much like to read his story, there’s something that draws me into this series with your articles on him and the art is terrific. If all the pages can be found he could fit into the Fantagraphics book lineup.

    I’d like all the books you’ve mentioned under my christmas tree, and I’d have to get a tree. My nomination would be be The Penguin, just for odd ball-ness sake. Tang maybe not so much (yes I’d buy it anyway) but the RCMP book would be a top contender. Actual Mountie stories written and drawn by Canadians, yes.

    80 years of Canadian comics! Wow! How about resubmitting your stamp idea to the Canada Mint again? I’ll sign the petition. Would there be any possibility of an anniversary facsimile reprint of Better Comics #1 possible funded by us?

    Congrats on your book in the museums and art gallery shop. Great news and well deserved.

  5. Thanks for your thoughtful and energized comments, Tim. When I approached any American publishers the prospects of them putting out my Heroes book, they claimed that it was too ‘niche’ and wouldn’t have the base market they needed. I’m sure it would be the same with Fantagraphics and a Lucky reprint.
    The Penguin is a good choice but it would be a thin volume since Dingle didn’t create him until issue 15 of Wow comics. What might very well be a standout collection would be to gather together all of Dingle’s output for Bell Features, minus the Nelvana material already published, and call it something like “The Cartoons of Adrian Dingle”. That would be quite a volume since Dingle also did over 80% of the Bell covers.
    I think the idea of a facsimile reprint of the first issue of Better Comics is a great idea and I’ll add it to the list. We also need to get the ball rolling on the establishment of a Canadian Museum of Cartooning and Animation somewhere in the country. Also, perhaps I should send Canada Post that idea of commemorative stamps, or even coins, again.

  6. Well I have to say I am impressed with the Thunderfist art work… reminds me a bit of Alex Raymonds work

  7. Some interesting choices. I would like to see a Thunderfist collection, or perhaps a historical/overview collection of each publisher.

  8. Well, my favourite of the WECA artists has always been George Rae, so my vote would go for a reprint of his R.C.M.P. stories. They are, in my opinion, the very finest examples of Canadian Golden Age art, and the stories are exciting and well-written. So many things going for that particular work!

    As for the 80th anniversary celebration I would definitely like to see a reprint of Better Comics #1, a series of stamps of significant issues, and a five dollar silver coin from the Royal Canadian Mint (is it still “royal?”) with the cover of Better Comics #1. I mean, seriously, if they can pump out a five dollar silver Uncle Scrooge, I think they could give our own comics a nod.

    cheers, mel

  9. Mel, I very much agree with you about the quality of Rae’s artwork and of the R.C.M.P. stories in general. I think that a collection of them would sell well and find a good home in many libraries across the country.
    I think that it’s worth contacting Canada Post and the Mint early this coming new year and recommending that they consider a commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the first Canadian comic book. Perhaps it would be a good idea to start a petition as a supportive add-on to our request to show that there is a significant interest in the idea.

  10. The RCMP comics are very Canadian content and from the two samples shown here would be a great set of books – or an Omnibus edition which seems to be the new popular publishing format (I have a few myself and like them). Anyway, is this Canada Grant material? Maybe involvement from or with the RCMP? Better Comics is the first Canadian comic not particularly Canadian content (ie stories, characters).

    Re Dingle – the gallery owners and manager (my boss) and buyers of Dingle’s paintings did not know of his WW2 comic art book until I showed my boss Hope’s Nelvana book. He promptly ordered a copy and made a display with copies of some of the news coverage below some Dingle paintings we had in the gallery. The patrons were surprised and intrigued by this. Possibly could have sold some books but he didn’t think that part through. So a “The Unknown Art of Adrian Dingle” or something might do well, he is quite renowned for his paintings.

    Canadian Museum of Cartooning, Comics & Animation would be a great idea. In the city of museums, Ottawa, I guess is the logical place for it.

    How far in advance does the Mint and PO consider their projects?

    And a certain cover image book would be nice! How is that proceeding, Ivan?

    I guess two questions to ask are: are all the pages for any one of these available and in a state to be published? Do we know any publishers of Canadian material? ; )

    Re Thunderfist, yup there’s some channeling from Alex Raymond in there but Raymond channeled Gustav Dore for a while, so it goes around.

  11. I like the idea of Freelance, R.C.M.P. and perhaps Speed Savage.
    What would be nice is a sampler stories posted here or in a book of several characters mentioned for readers not familiar to get an idea of what the public would like.
    A book like Better 1, Name-it Comics 1, Canadian Heroes 1 (or V1_5) or Triumph 7 would make great sampler books or a custom book could be made all the first stories of these into ne book that could gauge popularity like the publishers used to do for Maple Leaf books where they asked the readers to write in and let them know what characters they wanted to see more of in future issues.
    I have lots of story scans when you need them.
    I also have at least a half dozen “Now your loggin'” story scans (600DPI or better) from years ago when Brad Mackay was going to publish a collection of the stories.

  12. From my perspective as a retailer…and a fan, too..I like the idea of the facsimile reprint of Better #1. It is the WECA equivalent of Action #1, if I can stretch a bit on the analogy. It should not be terribly hard to break even or perhaps make a profit on such a one-shot. It has far more importance, doesn’t it, than the Wow #1 edition? ….while fun, it badly needed color correction and Photoshop clean-up. Maybe even new coloring.

    If it worked, this replica idea could develop into a series of the best and most interesting Canadian Whites done as inexpensive editions. And not a years-long project like Ivan’s Home Front Heroes or even a collection of all the stories of one character.

    Someone with the source material, the scans, might make a presentation to publishers like Chapterhouse or It’s Alive, who’s currently doing replica editions of Sam Glanzman Charlton and Dell war comics, as Kickstarter projects. They could start as Kickstarter or Fundme, then move to general distribution through Diamond.

    It’s times like this I wish I had the time and staff to be a publisher.

    One of the downfalls of replica editions is they are sometimes already online for free, or were part of a larger Archive volume that potential customers already have. Correct me if I am wrong, but most or nearly all WECA material is NOT sitting online for our viewing. And we certainly know all the archive editions, as Ivan points out, which have scarcely scratched the surface of material.

    Could this be a very modest Kickstarter project for someone out there? i would support it with a quantity order. With some greater marketing vision, it might make its way into some Canadian libraries? Could someone get Margaret Atwood to write an intro to the first book? Or better yet, the series, this seems in her sphere of interest? Her name would carry some weight with retailers, even given just a short intro to each book.

    My other favorite would be the more ambitious RCMP collection. The artwork is the best of all your presentations. As a non-super hero piece, I think it can gain wider interest. With a basis in Canadian history, it should hold an interest for libraries, if they can be reached. Ivan might help on that.

    Maybe for some grant funding, which I know nothing of, but the right person might. As a resident of the US, I nonetheless have always been fascinated by the Mounties…they have some counterpart in the Texas Rangers, though the poor Mounties usually seem to work alone, at least according to the fictional accounts…with only sled dogs or companion dogs for company. But that may show what little I know.

    I think this could be a nicely focussed collection, offering some of the best and yet realistic WECA material, expanding the audience for the period.

    Regards to Dizzy Don. You don’t sound too serious on this one. I am afraid it, to me, is the last possible prospect. The art is not appealing and I have not attempted to get into it for that reason. The character is unknown in the lower 50, if not limited to only the most veteran fans in Canada.

    Most important, as a retailer I have rarely found humor material to do very well in the comics market. There are certainly exceptions, like Popeye and Blondie and Calvin and Hobbes, absolutely, but I don’t think old Don rises to these. Also, translating humor from one country to another is another strike against it. For example, the more serious TinTin does have a good fanbase outside of Europe, here in the U.S. But while Asterix does very well outside the U.S., perhaps due to its stories taking place in Europe, its humor just does not appeal to many in the U.S., in the English translations. I don’t handle any Asterix titles, nor any spin-offs by the same creators, like Lucky Luke, while I can still sell a $200 Complete TinTin set.

  13. Jim, perhaps we should do a couple of reprint books such as the Better Comics No. 1. I know that Studiocomix is eager to be involved. I’d also love to get started on an edition of collected Speed Savage stories and a collection of the comic “Now You’re Loggin'” stories from Rocket Comics would be a gem of a collection. The question is which one’s would need a Kickstarter and which one’s we could pull off ourselves.

  14. Thanks for all the heartfelt comments coming from all those decades of experience in selling comics and comics-related materials. I think, at the very least, we should come up with a facsimile of the first issue of Better Comics. I think there should be some blurb or sticker on the cover that indicates that this is a reprint of the very first Canadian comic for the 80th anniversary. And, yes, the Dizzy Don suggestion I made was done a little tongue-in-cheek because I enjoy what Manny Easson was trying to do with it. Also, Bud, remember that after the WECA period there were a couple of Dizzy Don books published by F. E. Howard that were distributed in the US but they fell flat. At least F. E. thought he could make a go of that particular series when he had the whole Bell Features stable to choose from. One other thing I think we will do Bud is have that small one day conference on the WECA books some time during 2021 for the 80th anniversary. I’m going to do a big push for this personally.

  15. More than a blurb or sticker I’d suggest a new cover design for the facsimile anniversary featuring the original cover art. The DC Millenium issues of Police Comics, Shadow, etc. did a very nice presentation with the original canted at an angle on a new foil stamped design. I’m up for proclaiming rather than indicating. Maybe as a wrap cover over the facsimile cover (more expense, I know) – the back cover could then be used for panel samples and more proclaiming and the inside front and back covers could be used for an historical essay, in b&w.

    Would Mr. Steacy be interested in creating an 80th Anniversary brand, badge, logo? I’ll be doing one for myself for a shirt.

    Until more full series character books come to the fore, I like Bud’s idea of a series of notable Canadian Whites issues in facsimile.

  16. I like Tim’s suggestion, to create a new cover incorporating the original cover. That would really help in-store sales, and perhaps even on-line. Facsimile editions suffer when they are forced to stand on their own. The cover is often less than stellar, they can look dated or just badly drawn compared to modern comics.

    It’s a given you will sell a copy to any WECA fan; the challenge is to break out into the general fan market, to start turning neophytes onto WECA history. That is where you put your marketing foot forward, like those Millenium titles trying to introduce obscure series to the average collector, like Police Comics.

    Putting it into a modern cover design like Millenium Issues would put it in the proper context for a buyer to recognize what is going on. And that “first original Canadian comic” tag line, on the cover, that’s what is needed. I’m afraid WECA is still a little-known specialty term. It won’t sell a comic, and could turn off people. We need to spell out in plain language what this is (the facsimile) and why it’s important. Even “Canadian White”
    is not a commonly understood term out in the average fan world.

    You could run the original cover full-sized inside. I vote to keep most or all ad pages, and absolutely any house ads—these really give it context. I love these. Add a 4-page signature to the page count, where you run the full-size cover, your essay on the importance of the book, your own house ad for other comics in this new series, or other WECA history books. Independent reviews of WECA-related books could be included, such as one for War Bears, or Heroes on the Home Front, for instance.

    Will Murray writes a contextual essay in all the Sanctum pulp reprints, it’s super informative, and author William B. Jones (Classics Illustrated: A Cultural History) did the same in nearly every Classics Illustrated facsimile reprint from publisher Jack Lake. Invaluable extra material!

    I love this added-on, bonus material. It’s often what I read first in archives or facsimiles; sometimes it’s the only thing I read, if I am familiar with the work collected or I am just am not enthralled enough to read it all the way through.

    Also, obviously, the new cover design can be used on subsequent reprints, tying the series together so they help sell each other. Wow #1 suffers from no cover sales pitch. “What is this?” says a buyer and they go right by it.

    It took me many years to appreciate the importance and value of lesser Golden Age titles, and creators, because they only became important and interesting to me after I learned more about comics history. For instance, look at the typical Centaur or Comics Magazine Company title, which ran 1936-41.

    Most of them are not much different than WECA books, done by youngsters just getting started. But when you understand how this company was a pioneer, much of it pre-Superman, even pre-Timely, then you realize that many of the contributors were getting their start here, crude as the work might be. Many would go on to major work elsewhere. Jack Cole, Fred Guardineer, Paul Gustavson, Bob Lubbers, Charles Biro, Bob Wood, and a favorite of mine, Harold DeLay…

    Hey, Ivan, that one-day conference sounds very cool. I would love to attend just as long as it doesn’t conflict with any major shows I am committed to. Finally a chance to meet some of you characters!

  17. Hey Bud, thanks for liking our old Canadian comics! Appreciate it. Good comments on the potential for the reprint, I like to see the house ads too as some historic context. I have Hope’s WOW #1 facsimile (ordered online) and would have picked it up at a store knowing what it was but think most comic readers would have passed on it. It definitely could’ve used some upgrade on the cover.

    Just finished reading WAR BEARS, great comic story with terrific art and some words from Ivan. Very glad I bought it

  18. Tim, on the subject of War Bears, it literally brought Ken Steacy back into drawing comics. He’s been busy teaching for a decade or so, this was his first new project. And it got us back in touch, too, which was great. He and Paul Chadwick both drew special covers for my catalog, voluntarily as I remember. Good friends and part of a very small club. Ken also was first to reprint As I See by Boris Artzybasheff, a wonderful 1952 art book that became tough and expensive and much in demand especially by artists.

    Of all people, underground comics artist S. Clay Wilson used to accost me at shows about finding him a copy in trade, which I finally did.

    Ken Steacy is as passionate an art history and comic art appreciator as any of us. He’s been to the Alphonse Mucha museum outside Prague, and that takes dedication. I haven’t made it there yet, but its on my bucket list.

  19. Thanks, Bud, good news about Mr. Steacy, I don’t think I appreciated him as much as I should have back when. War Bears has changed that so I’ll be seeking out more of his work like Tempus Fugit (?), Airboy covers.

    Re Better Comics 1+, anyone holding the rights to this currently or is it PD?

  20. Tim, I’m not aware of anybody holding the rights to Better 1 and, as far as I know, it is in the public domain, but the Miller family should be informed about the reprint possibility to see if they have any input.
    Also, a couple of years ago, I started up a forum to discuss Canadian Golden Age Comics, though it hasn’t been used much. Perhaps we need to get it charged up again to discuss what can be done to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the first Canadian comic book. For those of you who would like to join and start conversations about this and other topics the link is: .

  21. Involving the family in some manner would be a plus. Also, who’s got a copy in their collection and does it need restoration? I’ll head over to the link and participate there. Incidentally, Canadian Golden Age Comics is a banner title I was toying with in my head as appropriate for this hopefully series of reprints as not all would be 80th anniversaries. Succinct and descriptive, perhaps with a WW2 identifier tag or “brand”.

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