I began doing this column on Jan. 3rd 2013 just after I had finished and sent off the long article I’d written on WECA comics for the Overstreet Price Guide which was finally published this year. I had been out of collecting comics since about 1975 and after I retired from teaching high school at the end of June in 2012, some 37 years later, decided to look in on them as a sort of retirement preoccupation in the hope of fending off the impending entropy of old age that can fester when every day becomes a Saturday and you start serendipitously floating on the surface of a calm, Sargasso sea that had just yesterday been the churning ocean of the work day world that you needed to claw at every day just to stay on its surface.
But I needed an angle in, and I remembered Patrick Loubert and Michael Hirsch’s The Great Canadian Comic Books, which I signed out of the Hamilton Public Library in 1972 and this made me further remember that I had purchased a copy, at around that same time and unknowingly, of the 1945 Tang one-shot compendium in a group of about a half-a-dozen golden age comics at $2 each from someone who had placed a classified ad of some comics for sale in The Spec. This also reminded me that I had won an eBay auction 4 or 5 years earlier for a copy of Better Comics Vol. 2 No. 1, not really knowing anything about it other than it was a Canadian golden age comic with a cool cover and nobody in it that I recognized. I dug those comics out of my long boxes and looked through them again and realized that I had my angle.
Next I got a hold of John Bell’s wonderful books on the topic and started to troll the web to get more informed, in general, about this strange group of Canadian comics that most people were referring to as “The Whites” (a term I first heard Capt. George Henderson use back in the late sixties). Then at Big-B Comics’ annual back-to-school sale that year, I was combing through the back issue bins looking for Canadian golden age reprint books and managed to bump into Walter Durajlija, who remembered me as a long time local collector, and we started up a conversation about comics that drifted into my interest in The Whites and surprisingly and coincidentally reflected a similar recent interest brewing in his own collecting energies. I remember I expressed an interest in contacting mysterious Whites collector, Stephen Lipson, whom Walt said he knew and I also threw out the suggestion that I could probably do a column on these strange old Canadian comics on Comic Book Daily as I waded through the old rain soaked, Film Noir Eisner back alleys of the comic world trying to find out more about them. Walt seemed warm to this possibility.
Well here we are two years and a hundred posts later and I’d like to thank all my fellow passengers on this expedition/safari into darkest WECA land. Besides being passengers you’ve all been contributors to this column as well by sharing your own knowledge and experiences with these wonderful Canadian comics and enhancing my own awakening to these books. Most importantly, this column has allowed me to meet so many fellow “creatures” out in the world who share and are affected by this same passion for Canadian golden age books, all of whom I can now call new friends. While writing this column and doing my research I was able to meet and count among my friends two of the original artists from Bell Features comics, Jack Tremblay and especially Gerald Lazare.
It is through this column that the families of many WECA creators I thought I’d never be able to find out anything about got in contact with me (e.g., Clayton Dexter, Lou Skuce, Manny Easson, Kurly Lipas…). When I started this column, I only had less than half-a-dozen WECA books and, either indirectly or directly, this column has helped that collection grow to over 180 books with over 70 coming in the last half of this year alone—these are books I never thought I’d come across.
I’ve done what I set out to do when I began this column. I helped to contribute to bringing these obscure war-time Canadian comics back into the fold of current comic book collecting consciousness. I didn’t want these comic books and their Canadian-ness to stay forgotten and to be a part of that greater whole engine that is bringing these books home is very gratifying.
I especially want to thank Walter Durajlija for giving me the chance to do this column and Scott VanderPloeg for his great editing job, helpfulness, and general oversight. I urge any of you who have something to say about these Canadian golden age books send your thoughts into Walt or Scott and become guest columnists under this mast-head in the way that Walt has guest columnists for his Undervalued Spotlight column.
All of you know the tradition of “Death of ….” issues in comics—their sense of finality is, more often than not, questionable. Those of you like me who grew up in the Silver Age know that life is bookended by doors and is itself a series of doors. It’s time now for me to go through another door and direct my energies towards reaching a slightly different horizon. These things may never see fruition or may finally appear in a form quite different from what I now envisage, but I do want to put together a large-sized collection of original Bell Features artwork accompanied by short biographies of and interviews with the artists and/or their relatives where possible. I’ve taken the first step of examining the original Bell art pages at the Library and Archives of Canada and selected 150 of them that I have now obtained license to reprint as a collection.
I also want to work on reprinting a collection, in three Volumes, of Freelance stories from the WECA period which, to my mind, were probably the best written (by Ted McCall) in the Canadian war-time comics. However, I will try to post whenever I have something significant to share and I’ve always enjoyed sharing my ideas here.
An honest and sincere thanks to everybody who read and contributed in so many varied ways to the health of this column. Most of all, I want to thank my wife, Sylvie, for her encouragement and letting me play with my comics.
Ivan , great job over the last 2 years and your column will be missed.Your passion for the “Whites” has brought these almost forgotten gems out into the forefront of collectors!All the best in your new pursuits!
If any serious student of this genre and of this period in Canadian Pop Culture history ever asked me for advice on where to start their research I’d point them to your 100 posts. This is important work you’ve done. Historians, collectors and fans past, present and future all owe you a huge debt. Thank you.
Thanks, and much appreciated, Dennis. Comic Book Daily is a repository of quality writing about comics (as your column exemplifies) and it’s a privilege to be a cog in this marvelous engine.
Kind words, Walt, and thank you. The best part of this whole enterprise has been the new friends I have made with you at the forefront.
Ivan. I have certainly taken away new knowledge from your blogs and want to extend kudos to you, my esteemed colleague.
Ivan, congratulations on two years (100 posts) of amazing insights and pursuits on these golden Canadian treasures. The column and your postings will be missed greatly, but has been a great reflection of your love, insights and passion! I have learned so much from this column. Good luck on your new adventures!
You’ve been an amazing teacher these past two years, one that I don’t mind doing homework for.
Your collection of 100 posts in this column are book ready because you do your homework every day.
One of the best things about your posts is that you mentioned all the wonderful artists and their family members you have been fortunate to meet on your journey so far.
I’d like to hear from you and others WHO you wish you could have met of the Canadian Whites artists (and publishers) if you could go back in time and start this project in 1972?
We have lost so many so far but you have reached into the past and brought so many to life for us and I imagine their families too.
I think your best Canadian Comics column posts are ahead of you as you work on your next project and I look forward to your many future returns.
I’m sure your wife Sylvie is not only encouraging and “lets you play with your comics” but proud of your work too.
You’ve made everyone have a good year collecting Canadian Comics and its great to hear that you have had one too.
I hope you and Sylvie have a wonderful New Year.
Thanks for making your collection so accessible for reference and research, Steven. It made this column that much better.
It was a pleasure to meet you and talk comics last fall, Brian. I wish you luck in finding the books in which you are interested.
My wife and I thank you for your new year wishes, Jim. There’s nobody I know who’s better on top of online sales of these Golden Age Canadian comics and your data keeping is helping us better understand what’s going on with these comics.
As for whom I would have liked to have met back from the history of these comics while they were still around in the early seventies, say in the way of having 3 or 4 people around for dinner one night? It would have to have been the Art Directors or publishers from each of the four main companies because they would have had the best overall picture of what was going on and they would have known the largest number of creators who worked for them. From Bell it would have been Dingle and or Cy Bell; for Educational Projects George M. Rae and/or Halperin, for Anglo-American Ted McCall and/or Ed Furness; for Maple Leaf, Vernon Miller and/or John Stables. Any mix of four of these individuals at a dinner table (but it would have to be sort of a week long event like the TV programme “Come Dine with Me”) would have produced a tsunami of insight and knowledge about this wonderful first era of Canadian comics.
Ivan I can only echo here what most have already said. Your coloum has exuded a commitment to excellence from the first post. I think you have done the comic collecting community a great service in bringing the Canadian Whites history out in to the open for all to share. The reprint efforts of Rachel Richey, Hope Nicholson, and yourself will help ensure this history will not be forgotten.
I know you have many concerns about the market for the few remaining original whites. Don’t worry about it in the least. You don’t set prices. Their will always be greed and speculation in any market for “rare” items. The market for original Canadian whites will sort itself out over time. All you have done is removed some of the ignorance surrounding the “Whites” market and made more informed collectors and buyers of us all for these books.
I will miss this coloum on a weekly basis, but look forward to future posts and your new endeavours. Good Luck Ivan!
Thanks, Mike. I feel privileged to have been given a chance to write about and share something I love from our Canadian cultural history and especially to have been able to have been given a forum alongside other great columnists on this site, like yourself, who who honestly and freely share a part of their past/youth that they genuinely cherish. Comic Book Daily is a helluva place to be if you want to learn about comics and I think that more and more people are finding out about that.
Ivan, congrats on making to to 100. I am sorry to see you reduce your contributions here but I’m happy that you will continue to work on related projects. You have quadrupled the available online knowledge about these books and important period in Canadian culture with this column and have the makings of several books right here. Happy New Year indeed!
Whoo wee! Congrats on making it to the triple digits. That’s a lot of work… **insert golf clap here** Hope I can make it half as far ^_^
Thanks Brian. Let’s see what happens. I’ve got those questions you’ve sent and will get them back to you soon.
You’ll be there before you know it, Charlie, and you’ll have fun the whole way.
What questions? What’s going on? Can the rest of us play too?
Which brings me to my burning question Ivan, now that you’re retiring from weekly column posting… how soon can we see that forum starting up on the Canada’sown site?
It would be nice to have a place that those interested can comment and kibitz on the various comics.
Thanks for the interesting 100 here.
These are questions Bryan sent about my comic collecting background and my involvement in the WECA books for his own blog, Jim.
That online database and it’s lack of a forum has been a albatross around my neck for a bit. The developer that put it together has had a couple of personal issues and had to clear out a back load of other work before he can get back to our site, but it will get done by this spring.
Jim, or any reader for that matter, you can always send me anything you write on the subject of Canadian war time comics and I’ll do my best to post it up here and even add my own two cents.
Thanks so much,Kevin and good luck in your new move and relocation for The Lounge.
Strong work Ivan. I have been sort of lurking in the shadows, but have enjoyed all of your posts about the Whites (specifically Bells). Best of luck on your Bell Features art book, I would like nothing better than to see that on my shelf. Keep us posted if there is a kickstarter campaign or any way individuals can help out.
Thanks for your appreciation, Ryan and good luck in finding those rare superhero Bell books you’re searching for. I’ll be sure to keep you and everybody else posted about the progress of the book.