Canadian Publishers

TCAF Screening — Lost Heroes: The Untold Story of Canadian Superheroes

Poster: Lost HeroesMy TCAF weekend started last night with a free screening of the new documentary, Lost Heroes. The film seeks to bring to light the forgotten history of Canadian superheroes from the Golden Age and beyond. Outside of Canada, the names Alpha Flight and Captain Canuck might ring bells, but Nelvana, Johnny Canuck, Northern Guard, The Wing, Commander Steel, and Captain Wonder might not. Truth be told, many of those names are likely new to Canadians, as well.

The Golden Age of Canadian comics publishing (1941-1946), roughly contiguous to the American Golden Age, was the result of punishing import tariffs and restrictions. During the Second World War, the War Exchange Conservation Act made it all but impossible to import a broad range of American goods and raw materials, including books and comics. The Canadian Whites, so called because they were uniformly black and white (with coloured covers!), filled the gap in the market with original comics created by Canadians for Canadian children, and Canadian reinterpretations of US publisher Fawcett Comics’ popular scripts. And so, for a few short years, a homegrown comics industry flourished.

Nelvana of the Northern Lights, 1941, Hillborough Studios, Bell Features, Adrian DingleThe comics market at the time was aimed at kids and teens, and their love of superheroes meant that the industry needed to create Canadian superheroes. Many were draped in Canadiana, but not necessarily patriotic. Like the Fawcett and Timely comics being published south of the border, Canadian superheroes were either engaged in the war effort, or having fantastical adventures meant to educate and entertain children. Johnny Canuck, originally a lumberjack-adventurer, was reimagined as a teenage soldier with no special powers but plenty of spunk. Canada Jack, also unpowered, was a motorcycle-riding adventurer and badass, who loved kids and always had their backs. (There were t-shirts, a fanclub, the works!) And Nelvana of the Northern Lights, Canada’s first female superhero, was an Inuit demi-goddess who protected the innocent and visited undersea kingdoms, using her powers of telepathy, flight, invisibility, and a heat ray (I’m not clear on how this worked).

After the war, the War Exchange Conservation Act was repealed, and American comics were once again available in Canada. In short order, Canadian publishers shuttered their doors — an all too familiar occurrence for those of us living in the shadows of a cultural and economic superpower — and all those Canadian superheroes went with them.

does important historical work, bringing attention to this era of comics publishing and doesn’t shy away from less pleasant questions like, what happened to all those cartoonists who’d been getting steady work? What happened to the publishers? And rather than leave things there, the documentary looks at the impact of the Canadian Whites through successive generations of Canadian cartoonists, and their attempts to rebuild a community of artists and writers around the superhero genre. Some heroes, like 1960s creation Captain Canuck, have had lasting appeal, even if their books have had trouble finding a consistent audience, while others failed to make an impression entirely. But Canadian cartoonists keep trying, be it a reboot of Captain Canuck or Alpha Flight, or a new maple leaf-draped hero.

Bethany House Publishers When Tomorrow Comes (Canadian West #6)
Book (Bethany House Publishers)

I used to be in that situation

by ats54

In those days, if it were not for bad credit, I'd have no credit at all.
The situation was so bad, that the corner bank would not lend me 32 cents to send a letter to my mother to ask her to lend me more money, for postage stamps, so I could send my MSs in to publishers.
I had a debt forty-seven times my own bodyweight.
I had to turn the situation around. I went to these debt-salvagers, the best in town: Silbermann, Silbermann, Manischewitz und Bocher.
After the initial interview, they told me to leave and never come back.
I was at the end of my wits

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