Things to Come

We’re just into the last quarter of our 80th Anniversary year of the first Canadian comic book. In the Spring, Sequential Magazine came up with a special oversized issue looking at Canadian comics and in June we pulled off our first Canadiana Comics Auction. Since then, a number of ideas have still been percolating and in development. There is some bad news and some very exciting news.

The bad news is that, just in the final stages, with a hi-res digital copy of Better Comics Vol. 1 No. 1 provided by the Western University Archives ready to go to print, the Miller family was compelled to pull the plug on the project for some good family reasons. I can’t begrudge them at all… but we were so close. Perhaps things will change in a year or two. Anyway, here are the last couple of pages from the first appearance of The Iron Man in the comic:

Related to this is the fact that, last month, the subject of Canada’s first comic book got a spot on TVO’s The Agenda and you could catch a glimpse of my old, bald mug for a few seconds on it. You can still see the segment here.

Among the good news is that the conference about Canadian comics that I’ve long proposed and hoped for is going to be a reality on October 15th and 16th and it will be virtual. With the positive industry and creativity of our planning committee, made up of Candida Rifkind, Dominick Grace, Zachary Rondinelli, Meaghan Scanlon, and myself, we have tried to put together a two-day programme focussing on Canadian comics. The hosting infrastructure will be provided by Brescia University College which is affiliated with Western University. This is more of a ‘symposium’ in the old Greek sense of a convivial discussion around a given topic rather than a purely academic conference consisting of research presentations and critical studies. Also, the presentations won’t be typical Comicon, fan-panels that are often light on critical approaches. The symposium will be an earnest look at Canadian comic culture in a broad sense while still retaining a critical spine.

The mandate for the symposium is to bring together academics, creators, librarians, archivists, publishers, and others from the comics community in dialogue about Canadian comics while keeping in mind that this dialogue should be accessible and open to the general public. This, I believe, we’ve managed to pull off in the planning and I hope it comes off this way in the actual presentation.

The two-day programme is structured so that the first day, the Friday, concentrates on the past 80 years of Canadian comics, and the second day, the Saturday, deals with the contemporary Canadian comics scene and its possible future trajectories. The overall hope of this is, of course, that this first conference-type of gathering that focuses solely on Canadian comics is the first iteration of what will become an annual event.

Below is the schedule for the symposium but you have to register to view symposium discussions and you can do that here. The presentations will be closed captioned and I believe will be recorded for later accessibility. Let’s hope it will all be a success!

Another point of good news is that the Trailblazers tribute comic book to the Canadian comic book creators of WWII is moving along at pace with ¾ of the 20 submissions in. The comic is being set up in InDesign and we should be able to go to print by mid-October. You can see a detail of Ho Che Anderson’s amazing take on Adrian Dingle’s The Penguin in this post’s featured image. I think every one of the contributions to this tribute comic is first-rate and I’m proud of what I see will be the end product of this project. On top of this, all of the tribute pages were donated to this project, and I can’t show my appreciation enough to all the creators who found this project worthy enough to donate their talented hard work.

Here is Sam Agro’s take on Edmond Good and Emmanuelle Chateauneuf’s take on Shirley Fortune that will appear in the comic:

Enough was raised through the Canadiana auction to pay for a run of about 300 copies but the problem will be figuring out the best way to let people who would be interested in it know about it and have those people be able to put an order in for it online. At this point, I don’t want to make the comic available digitally. It is intended to be a one-shot, limited-run, old-school, physical floppy tribute comic and, if these limited copies run out, that will be it. It is a tribute comic and not meant to be a moneymaker. I welcome any suggestions on how to properly make the comic available.

Here is our working layout for the two-page spread for the Aram Alexanian piece done by Joe Ollmann as an example of the contents:

All the original artwork for the Trailblazers comic will be exhibited at the RAID Studio Gallery on Queen West in Toronto from December through to the first half of January. There should be some sort of small opening event during the first week and I hope that some of the artists will be able to show up in person. Thinking about it, the Trailblazers comic itself would serve as an excellent catalogue for the show and this could be one way I could sell it. The show will certainly be a way to bring these old WWII Canadian comic creators back into the current comics community again.

It also looks like I will be involved in London, Ontario’s Words festival in November in the way of making a presentation about retired math professor Eddy Smet’s involvement in the London comics community and his donation of Canadian golden age comics to the archives at Western University. It may be in the form of a Powerpoint presentation, or an interview with Eddy, or a combination of both. I’ll be happy to bring out Eddy’s contribution to comics culture in London in whatever form is decided upon.

The last thing to report on is the March 2022 exhibit at the Carnegie Gallery in Dundas, Ontario. I am co-curating this with John Farr who is the son-in-law of Aram Alexanian and who was the designer behind my Heroes of the Home Front book. The exhibit will be about four WWII Canadian comic book creators who were based at the time in Hamilton, Ontario. These four are Aram Alexanian, Harry Brunt, Edmond Good, and Win Mortimer. Three of the four were based in Hamilton during the war, but Good, halfway through the war and Mortimer just after, moved to the States and found their later fame there. Harry Brunt did his Bell Features comic work from the Simcoe area, but came to Hamilton just after the war and never left.

There will be some great, seldom-seen original art by these four Hamilton cartoonists at this exhibit. I hope many of you will be able to get out and take a look at the rare items on display. I’m trying to think of a good name for it and may just call it “WWII Steel City Supermen” even though Harry Brunt didn’t get there until after the war. Here are a couple of items that will be on exhibit at this show:

Original cover art by Edmond Good for a Short Stories pulp from September 1942.
Win Mortimer original drawing while at the Otis Elevator Plant in Hamilton, 1942.

Overall, still a good number of things to look forward to in the coming months if you love old Canadian comics.

Photo of Edmond Good (on left) and Al Capp with a caricature of Al by Good.
Ivan Kocmarek
Ivan Kocmarek

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

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tim hammell
tim hammell
2 years ago

Regarding Trailblazers: the gallery exhibition would be a great place to sell the issues. Personally, I’d need to buy a couple of copies from a place that uses PayPal such as the RAID store as I don’t have or use credit cards anymore ( a disadvantage some times). Some terrific art in this.

Well, thanks for showing us at least two pages of Better Comics Iron Man. It actually appeals a lot, sort of unpolished but a nice animation like fluidity to the line work. And I want to read that story, a bit sad the reprint won’t be happening.

Congrats on being so busy with the talks and such.