Spring Cleaning

Welcome back to another edition of Forgotten Silver. As regular readers know, I did not publish a new column last month. East Coast Toys and Games appeared at three major events over four weekends in late March and early April, which I had to prioritize. Tania and I will be appearing at many more events in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia this summer (more than ever before). Keep an eye out on the East Coast Toys and Games Facebook and Instagram pages (@eastcoasttoysandgames) in the weeks and months ahead. June will bring us to Moncton for the first East Coast Comic Expo (ECCE) since 2019 and this will be our first time bringing out business back to the Hub City since before the pandemic. There are many customers, comic book creators and other business owners across the region who we haven’t seen since the world went sideways and we can’t wait to see everyone again at the Moncton Coliseum on June 9th and 10th.

I had originally planned to present a broad look at an influential comic series from Quebec this month, but some new tidbits of information about a variety of comics came out of the woodwork recently. As such, I have decided to use this month to do a bit of Spring cleaning.

Let’s start with something that isn’t from the Canadian Silver Age, but is an interesting rabbit hole that I found myself going down a couple of months ago.

One of this year’s guests at the ECCE is New Brunswick’s very own Gisèle Lagacé. Lagacé is a mainstay of the New Brunswick comic scene and is well-known for her Shuster Award-winning webcomic Ménage à 3 (which ran from 2008-2019). She has also drawn the ongoing series Exorsisters for Image Comics with Eisner Award-winning writer Ian Boothby and has worked with Archie Comics, IDW and Marvel over the years. Yet, whenever I think about Lagacé the thing that I associate her with is Jem and the Holograms, despite her only working on a few issues of the series for IDW as an interior artist and a handful of covers. Perhaps this is because, back in 2016, she was also working on Josie and the Pussycats and the one-shot Archie Meets the Ramones. With all of this in mind, I have it in my head that she draws comics about rock stars.

Cover of 2016’s Archie Meets the Ramones # 1. Cover art by Gisèle Lagacé. Image source from a long-ended internet auction.

Imagine my surprise when, earlier this year, I stumbled across an all-female Quebecois rock band from the early 1990s called “Barbarella.” This is a different band from the Dutch all-female dance-pop trio of the same name that was performing in Europe around the same time. Obviously, the namesake for each of these bands is the character of the same name that first appeared in a graphic novel by French comic creator Jean-Claude Forest and later popularized by the 1968 Jane Fonda film. The famed English New Wave band Duran Duran also takes its name from a character found in Forest’s work.

The Quebec band Barbarella had a short, but memorable run, released a self-titled album on CD and cassette and produced a couple of music videos for their songs “Harley Davidson” and “Oublie-Moi.” Lagacé was the band’s bass player for their entire run.

Cover of the Québécois all-female rock group Barbarella’s self-titled album from 1991. Gisèle Lagacé was the band’s bassist and is pictured here on the right with her hand on her hip. Image sourced from a long-ended internet auction.

So, in Gisèle Lagacé we have a former rock star who would later become a successful comic book creator who would briefly draw comics about rock stars (both fictional and based on real people). It’s a fun full circle situation that most people in the comics community who I have spoken with aren’t even aware of. If any of my readers have a copy of Barbarella’s self-titled album or saw them in concert back in the day, let me know in the comments section.

When I wrote about the emergence of comic fanzines in Ontario during the late 1960s last June, I briefly mentioned Dave Darrigo and Craig Bernhardt’s five-issue series Heroes and Rubber Cop (aka H.A.R.C.) and Bernhardt’s one-shot Sensational Display with Ron Davis. These comic fanzines are so rare that I have only ever seen a copy of H.A.R.C. # 4, which I purchased several years ago. The only reason why I know these six comics exist is because of the research of John Bell. Earlier this year a copy of Sensational Display surfaced on eBay for a high price, but due to the down market, it stagnated. Eventually, the seller slowly started lowering the price until it sold for just $40 USD on April 26. I missed out on this listing but saved some pictures for my files. This comic may not surface again and I am kicking myself for not paying closer attention. April was a busy month…

Cover of 1969’s Sensational Display one-shot, Artwork by Craig Bernhardt and Ron Fisher. Image sourced from eBay.
Back cover of Sensational Display. Artwork by Ron Fisher. Image sourced from eBay.

April brought a major development for fans of bandes dessinées québécoises, as a cult character from the Canadian Silver Age is now starring in his own cartoon series. After being stuck in development hell for a decade, Red Ketchup is airing in French on Télétoon in Quebec and in English on Adult Swim throughout Canada.

The series was created by Corus Entertainment and was directed by well-known filmmaker Martin Villeneuve and seems to stick to the source material. Steve “Red” Ketchup is an albino with distinct red hair who was empowered by chemicals. Red Ketchup is a violent and ruthless FBI agent who effectively hunts down Russians during the Cold War.

Cover of 1983’s Titanic # 1 starring Red Ketchup. Image sourced from a long-ended internet auction.

The character was created in 1982 by future Canadian Comic Book Hall of Fame inductees Pierre Fournier and Réal Godbout (the latter of which is involved in the new cartoon) as a supporting character for their popular “Michel Risque” comic strips that appeared in Croc. The character would subsequently appear in the series Titanic in the mid-1980s. The Red Ketchup comics have been reprinted in graphic novel form many times and became popular in Europe. Red Ketchup continues to be one of the key characters from this era of BDQ, and now becomes one of the only characters from the Canadian Silver Age to have an animated series.

Here’s a link to the English-language trailer.

A screen capture from the new Red Ketchup animated series. Image sourced from IMDB.

Let’s talk about Newfoundland. It has been more than four years since my two-part series about Geoff and Scott Stirling’s characters Captain Newfoundland and Captain Canada were released in March and April 2019. These two articles continue to be among my most popular and I still receive fan mail about them regularly. Last fall, Xtra Magazine used some of my material (with permission) as part of a story by Rhea Rollmann, who describes finding solace in the gender fluidity of Captain Newfoundland while growing up trans in Newfoundland.

When I first wrote those columns, I had found evidence that a third issue of the series called The Legend of Captain Atlantis was released in 1989, but was unable to verify its existence at the time. Since then, I have been contacted multiple times by readers of Forgotten Silver sharing pictures of their own copies and I have seen several copies of the comic come to market. I actually wrote about this back in June 2021, in a column called “Lockdown Loose Ends.”

Indeed, copies of all three Captain Newfoundland copies have surfaced on eBay recently. The final sale prices for each comic are evidence of the weakness in the collectibles market right now. The most surprising result is this mid-grade copy of Captain Newfoundland # 1 that sold for only $66 USD on April 14th. Given that this comic was selling for as much as $500 CAD during the height of the pandemic, this was a shockingly low price for such a desirable comic book.

Image of the copy of Captain Newfoundland # 1 that sold for only $66 USD on eBay on April 14, 2023.

The same eBay seller also had a copy of Atlantis and The Legend of Captain Atlantis (the latter of which was signed by artist Danny Bulanadi) available at auction. Both comics ended without a bid but were sold via Best Offer on April 20th for $65 USD and $100 USD respectively. Both are reasonable prices for these comics.

This copy of Atlantis sold on eBay on April 19, 2023 for $65 USD.
This copy of The Legend of Captain Atlantis sold on eBay for $100 USD on April 19, 2023. This is a bit higher than I would normally expect this comic to sell for, but it is signed by artist Danny Bulanadi.
The Danny Bulanadi signed interior page of The Legend of Captain Atlantis, as noted above.

Unfortunately, the interior artist of the three Captain Newfoundland comics, Danny Bulanadi, died on November 3, 2022. However, his death has led to a newfound appreciation of his work and I have been fielding more fan mail about Captain Newfoundland over the past six months than has been the norm. One person who reached out to me is former Overstreet advisor, Guillermo Fong, who has a large collection of Bulanadi’s original Captain Newfoundland artwork, which he acquired at some point in the late 1980s or early 1990s.

Fong sent me some photos of the original Captain Newfoundland artwork, but he is planning to release a video about them soon on his YouTube channel “Land of Misfit Comics,” where he and his son upload videos about the history of comics using items from their collections. As such, I will not share the images he sent me today but will link to the video once he releases it.

There is something that Fong shared with me that took me by surprise (as if having a large cache of original Captain Newfoundland artwork was not surprising enough): there is a “gold” edition copy of The Legend of Captain Atlantis. He had pictures to back this up, which sent me down another rabbit hole.

Cover of the “gold” edition of The Legend of Captain Atlantis with distinctly different artwork by Boris Vallejo. Image courtesy of Guillermo Fong.
Back cover of the “gold” edition of The Legend of Captain Atlantis. Notice that the website “captainatlantis.com” is noted at the bottom of the picture. Image courtesy of Guillermo Fong.

There is a website, “captainatlantis.com,” written on the back of this graphic novel. I fully expected this website to be defunct when Fong sent me these photos. However, not only is it active, but it’s also current and the “gold” Legend of Captain Atlantis graphic novel is available for sale on the website. In fact, it’s the only thing available for sale on the website. I haven’t had a chance to dig too deeply into this, but I hope to do so sooner than later. Either way, this comic is back in print.

Still on the topic of Newfoundland, a new book, Off-Panel: A History of NL Comix, by freelance journalist Elizabeth Whitten about the development of comic books in the province has been in the works for some time. It has just been revealed that the book will be released in September by Engen Books. Whitten was supposed to appear at Geequinox in Halifax at the end of April but was forced to cancel at the last minute due to flight issues. I have been following her work since last year and, hopefully, she will get a chance to talk about her stuff again at another convention in the region soon.

Whitten’s research first came to my attention earlier this year, but she had already been promoting her research on CBC a year ago. For me, Whitten’s work has already bore fruit, as the CBC article I just mentioned revealed a two-comic series from the Canadian Silver Age that was not on my master list. Going further, this series predates Captain Newfoundland # 1. The series is Zeitgeist by Wallace Ryan and Gerry Porter, which was a fantasy anthology. The first issue was released in 1979, while the second issue came out in 1980.

Cover of 1979’s Zeitgeist # 1. Cover art by Gerry Porter. Image sourced from Gerry Porter’s website.

I had inadvertently come across both Gerry Porter and Wallace Ryan in the past but never made these links. Porter was an important part of the St. John’s art scene for several decades before his death from brain cancer in 2016, but he didn’t really dabble in sequential art after Zeitgeist, so when I came across his work in the past it was not in terms of his brief foray into comics. In fact, his premortem party “Gerrypalooza” was covered in the regional news at the time.

Fortunately, Porter’s website is still active and well-maintained. The website serves to keep his memory alive and presents a great amount of information about his work. His comic output is presented for all to see, which is a rare treat for a sleuth like me. Porter’s comics follow his character Ira Zappa, who is something of a philosophical anti-hero who embarks on space fantasy-oriented adventures. Porter first drew the character for a publication called The Viking Voice in 1976.

Cover of 1980’s Zeitgeist # 2. Cover art by Gerry Porter. Image sourced from Gerry Porter’s website.

Wallace Ryan continues to be involved in comics to this day, which is why I have come across his work in the past. A few years ago, a friend of mine presented me with two comics from 1990 by Ryan and Todd Lidstone: Toxic # 1 and 2. This short-lived series was released under the imprint Island Comics and featured artwork by both creators (with a two-page strip by Gerry Porter in the first issue). The comics feature several shorts that spoof well-known comic or literary characters, including “Bag Man” which is a parody of Swamp Thing, the “Forgery Four” making light of the Fantastic Four and the private detective “Sherlock Platypus.”

Cover of 1990’s Toxic # 1. Artwork by Fox Lidstone. Image from my personal collection.

When these issues of Toxic were first presented to me, the only information I could find about Ryan and Lidstone involved comic work that was more recent. As far as I could tell, Lidstone had moved to Halifax around 1993, working on a series called The Dark for Continüm Comics until they went out of business during the 1990s comic market collapse. Lidstone seemed to disappear from the scene afterwards. However, thanks to Whitten’s research, I have since learned that Lidstone stayed in Halifax, is now known as Fox Lidstone, and is a semi-professional Harrison Ford cosplayer. The funny thing about this is that I have interacted with Fox (dressed as Indiana Jones) at an event in the past and had no idea that he was one of the trailblazers of the Newfoundland comic book scene!

Cover of 1990’s Toxic # 2. Cover art by Wallace Ryan. Image from my personal collection.

Ryan on the other hand has stayed in comics all of these years and continues to be extremely active in the Newfoundland comic scene. He also is quite active on YouTube through his channel “In the Library of Graphic Literature.” One of Ryan’s videos from 2019 goes into great detail about Zeitgeist and is extremely informative. You can see it here.

If you made it this far, thanks for indulging me in a bit of “Spring cleaning.” One of the most exciting things about conducting research and presenting finds about the Canadian Silver Age is finding new leads with the realization that they don’t necessarily tie up loose ends. Instead, they can just as often open up new doors and lead to new questions. In many cases, these new leads come in tidbits that aren’t as easy to present to readers as my usual articles. That said, it is a good exercise for me to present some of these small bits from time to time: not everything can always be presented in a neat and tidy package.

Next month will be my 50th edition of Forgotten Silver. It’s hard to believe that I have been writing for Comic Book Daily since 2018. I have a much bigger update on an old favourite planned for next month, but I don’t want to give too much away. The piece from Quebec that I mentioned earlier in this column will have to wait until sometime in the summer.

By the time my next article comes out, we will be on our way home from the ECCE. Save the date and stop by to say hello if you can make it to Moncton this year. I hope to see you there.

brian Campbell
brian Campbell

Dr. brian Campbell is an Anthropologist based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. His PhD research focused on the used-goods trade in Halifax. Dr. Campbell is co-owner of East Coast Toys and Games, one of Atlantic Canada's largest eBay stores specializing in pop culture collectibles. Dr. Campbell left academia in 2019 to focus on his business. During his spare time, he researches Canadian comics that were released between 1960-1990.

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Ron Kasman
Ron Kasman
11 months ago

I hadn’t seen a copy of Sensational Display in, I think, 54 years. Thanks for putting it up.