I start with the preemptive apology acknowledging that this column will be mainly a shameless (but red-faced) self-promotion. For me this has been the “Summer of the Book.” Finished printed copies of my Heroes of the Home Front book arrived in mid-July and I have spent the past month-and-a-bit in a flurry of cardboard and packing tape to satisfy the Kickstarter pledges I had received almost a year ago. It was a one-man cottage industry (with some invaluable assistance from my wife who cut down a good number of cardboard boxes to the size we needed) and required a lot of patience from those initial Kickstarter supporters.
I’ve sent books across the country from Halifax to Vancouver with one copy each going to The Yukon and Nunavut. I’d like to thank shops like Calum’s Strange Adventures Comix in Halifax, Robert Chin’s Excalibur Comics in Toronto, Walt’s Big B Comics here in Hamilton, Future Pastimes in Sarnia, Jay’s Happy Harbor Comics in Edmonton and Leonard Wong in Vancouver who all got dealer packs. About a third of the Kickstarter copies went below the border with Bud Plant getting 20 of the deluxe signed copies for his Bud’s Art Books as well as a dozen regular editions. One copy even went as far as South Korea.
Feedback has been invariably positive, despite the inevitable typos. In a way, I’m sort of glad I didn’t get all the typos out because it makes the work more human. I prefer a garden of wildflowers with a weed or two rather than a manicured and geometric backyard but will not hesitate in extracting as many as I can should a second edition be possible.
Please allow me the indulgence of sharing a few of those comments, since this is the best type of return I could hope for from the four years that were put into assembling the work.
I sent Brian Dingle, who is one of Adrian Dingle’s three sons and a retired oncologist and former Senior Medical Director of the London Regional Cancer Program, a complimentary copy of my book at the beginning of August. He had done the featured interview with me about his father and I wanted him to see how it turned out. I was chuffed to get his reply a few days later:
Thank you so much. I have to confess, I thought you might be a wing-nut (that’s a medical term!) and so I was tentatively cooperative, but worried at the same time. I was not really pleased with prior efforts, so was not expecting much.
How bloody wonderful! I had totally forgotten the interview, to be truthful, and was wrapped in deep emotion reading it again. Touchy, borderline family secrets I am happy to divulge, happy to have them there for posterity.
I have yet to review the rest of the book, but the quality is excellent, and I am very pleased.
Can I get more copies? I shall insist on paying full price for them. This was so kind, I am truly speechless.
Please drop me a line so I know you received this, but my sincere congratulations.
John Bell, author of Canuck Comics in 1986 and Invaders from the North twenty years later (two books without which my own book would not have come about) wrote:
I received my package a few days ago. The book is absolutely splendid in every way. You should be very proud of such an important contribution to Canadian comics scholarship. I know it was a long and challenging journey—but it was worth it.
Congratulations on a remarkable achievement. Bravo!
Bud Plant, who picked up 20 copies of the deluxe signed and numbered edition and a dozed regular editions of the book for his Bud’s Art Books website said the following:
Got back for two weeks vacation mid-week and finally got to see the book, and to start reading it. I’m enjoying it a good deal, learning about all these folks I knew so little of. I was a little concerned at first with some of the coverage of the very minor creators, sometimes who did art that I am not so interested in. But once I got to some of the major players, I found it more than worthwhile as they more than balance it out.
I’ll be sorry to finish it, so am savoring it with some each day. Nice, nice work, the overviews are good, the bibliography for each artist is good, the interviews are outstanding, thank goodness they were done. Also love the full color repros, as well as the other artwork from elsewhere in the artists career, as well as hearing what they went on to do.
Your interview with (Gerald Lazare) is, so far, the highlight of the book for me. What an articulate artist, and with a great memory, even if not for all his own work, for his relationships and adventures with the other artists.
Reminds me of a Lou Cameron interview in Alter Ego about his 1950s comics career, one of the most informative and impressive I’d read in the same way.
Seth was a Kickstarter supporter and, after he received his copy, wrote me saying: “A joy to add such a wonderful new book to my library.”
My head has just swelled to room-size, so I need to pull the stopper out and deflate it back to close to normal which is generally two sizes too big anyway.
But, this kind of feedback, though extremely encouraging, isn’t the best part of doing a project like this. That for me was getting to meet all the new friends that the journey of this book has allowed me to make, especially the artists like Gerald Lazare and his wife Setsuko and Jack Tremblay and his son Rick. Included here are the family members of all these Canadian illustrators like Alene Alexanian and John Farr (who did the first-rate design of the book), Patti Thomas (daughter of Doris Titus), Linda Steele (daughter of Tedd Steele), Doreen Brunt (wife of Harry Brunt) and her son Stephen, Glen Cowan (son of Howard Cowan – a.k.a. Clayton Dexter), Karen Cooper Brown and Pam Feldman (daughters of Al Cooper), Barton Good (son of Edmond Good), and Brian Dingle. It was important for me to have the contributions to Canadian popular culture of the talented relatives of these individuals recognized and set down, and work against the unwarranted neglect they have had up till now.
I have just over 150 copies of Heroes sitting in boxes in my front hall and my job now is to get a good number of them into libraries across the country and once that’s accomplished, I can say “job done.”
Just prior to ‘The Summer of the Book,’ I was able to get the WECA Price Guide out and, through the help of a couple of individuals want to make a significant correction to the listings. First off, east coast collector Tony C. came up with a new Anglo-American giant called Double A Gift Book No. 1.
This is another compilation of remaindered Anglo books with covers that was probably set for the holiday season of 1942 judging by the issues it contained. Tony also sent along the cover to Lucky Comics Vol. 3 No. 10 which showed us that our logical extension of the numbering of Lucky Comics that appeared in the guide, jumping naturally from Vol. 2 No. 9 to Vol. 2 No. 10 was incorrect and that, at this point, the editors at Maple Leaf changed the volume number so that what should have been Vol. 2 No. 10 actually came out as Vol. 3 No. 10.
Kirk Wallace out in Saskatoon went even further and kindly checked out all the Maple Leaf listings in the guide. Here is his email to me:
I thought I should give you my take on comparing my information with the WECA Price Guide, before I forget.
1 – Better Comics & Rocket Comics: no difference
2 – Lucky Comics: a – “Vol. 2 # 10” is actually Vol. 3 # 10
b – I have not found evidence of a Vol. 3 # 3
c – there are two Vol. 5 # 4, with no Vol. 5 # 3
d – I have not found a Vol. 5 # 11 or Vol. 4 # 32; in this spot is Vol. 6 # 1
e – I believe the Guide lists 36 issues rather than 34
3 – Bing Bang Comics: a – “Vol. 2 # 10” is actually Vol. 3 # 10
b – Vol. 6 # 7 is actually Vol. 7 # 6
As you know, around July 1946, for some reason, the volume #s revert to #3 or #4, and the last issues list the actual number of total issues in the run.
Is there a pattern? The numbers keep going in sequence 1 – 10, and then reset to # 1 again (except for the very last issues as mentioned above). Independently, the volume numbers accelerate, staying in order but with fewer issues/volume. There are only a couple of “hiccups” in this arrangement (mistakes?); A – there are two issues of Lucky Vol. 5 # 4; B – Bing Bang resets to Vol. 5 # 1 following Vol. 4 # 1, rather than the expected Vol. 5 # 2; C – Bing Bang Vol. 7 # 6 was probably meant to be the logical Vol. 6 # 7.
I thank Kirk for his corrections and we will incorporate them into a second edition of the guide if and when that is possible.
Next week, on New Comic Book Day (Wed. Sept. 5), the first issue of a three-issue run by Margaret Atwood and Ken Steacy (who did that great cover of Speed Savage for the WECA Price Guide) called War Bears, comes out.
This is really a type of prequel to Atwood’s short story “Oursonette” that appeared in The Globe and Mail on Canada Day of our Sesquicentennial. It’s about a young comic book artist working in Toronto during the Second World War. You can view a sample here. Of course, it’s right up my alley, so I’ll be picking up a couple of copies and how can you go wrong with a creative team like that.
Early in August, I was fortunate enough to be asked to drive Ken Steacy up for a meeting with Margaret Atwood at her cabin retreat and got to meet her briefly and thank her for her vision and was able to present her with a copy of Heroes of the Home Front, which, I hope, will find a place on her bookshelves.
Thanks, Ken, for making this happen.
I also want to bring readers’ attention to Robert MacMillan’s decades-long work on Canadian cartooning, animation, and illustration finally beginning to unfold on the web. Here is a picture from the front page of the site showing an unprecedented number of Canadian comic book creators taken in the ‘90s. See how many you can name before you go to the site. Many of you might never have seen pics of these creators looking so young.
Bob has a vast collection of Canadiana, including cartooning, illustration, animation, literature and recordings. Much of this collection is intended to find a home in the McMaster University Archives in the next few years. At the heart of this collection is a solid set of WECA comic books and a great looking copy of Triumph-Adventure Comics No. 1 which includes the first appearance of Nelvana of the Northern Lights (only about a half-dozen copies known to exist). Check out the About Us link on the website to find out more about the scope and intention of the project.
Here is another picture from the front page of Bob’s site that features WECA creators Ross Mendes, Gerald Lazare, Leo Bachle/Les Barker, and Ed Furness. It was also taken in the ‘90s.
I hope to be able to do a longer interview with Bob for this column in the fall.
Last bit of news is that I, along with the rest of what we’ve come to call “The Over The Hill Gang” in tribute to that great pair of movies from 1969-70, which includes James Waley, Ron Kasman, and Art Cooper, will have a couple of tables at the Windsor Comic Con at the end of September. We will be joined by Windsor comic book historian, Robin Easterbrook, who becomes an honorary member of The Over The Hill Gang. I will be hawking copies of Heroes and the WECA Price Guide, James will have copies of Orb Magazine and Northern Light related items to sign, Ron will have copies of his Tower of the Comic Book Freaks, Art will have samples of his great illustrations available, and Robin will have some of his original WECA and FECA comics on display as well as some original art. All of us will have stories to tell and some of these will be shared in our panel on “Canadian Comics Before Captain Canuck,” but a lot more will be available at our table. So, come and meet us and let us share our stories with you and maybe you can share your stories with us. We’d love to meet you and chat if you are in the Windsor area the weekend of Sept. 29-30.
Now, go out and buy Canadian comics!