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Wednesday, September 01, 2021 

Canada's first pamphlet comic

TVO's got a history article about Better Comics, a series from the WW2 era that was more or less the first official pamphlet comic series published in Canada during 1941, and it spotlighted a guy with a code name reminiscent of one created by Stan Lee in the Silver Age:
While the exchange took place in a March 1941 comic book, the powerful young man in question wasn’t Superman, the Sub-Mariner, or Captain America. He was the Iron Man, created by Vernon Miller, and he debuted in Better Comics #1, from Vancouver’s Maple Leaf Publishing (no, this isn’t the armour-clad character of the same name introduced by Marvel Comics in the ’60s).

According to Hamilton comics historian Ivan Kocmarek, Better Comics #1 was Canada’s first comic book. “[The Iron Man] came from a civilization that had been sunk and now lived in a bubble city somewhere in the South Seas,” Kocmarek says. “He would come up and fight the Nazis and help people out against crime.” The stories in Better Comics #1 marked the beginning of a unique but little-known period of prosperity for home-grown comics publishing in Canada. And this year — the 80th anniversary of the Iron Man’s debut — Kocmarek and a group of comics enthusiasts and researchers are working to commemorate the period and introduce it to a new generation of readers through a symposium and a re-print of Better Comics #1.
How about that, the character's got a code name similar to Lee's creation, yet a background similar to Sub-Mariner and Aquaman's, which drew from the legends of Atlantis. However, there's a historian quoted here who's bringing political correctness into the mix:
Woo, though, is hoping that marking the publication of Better Comics #1 won’t turn into a “rah-rah Canada moment.” The “real challenge with an anniversary like this is to resist the temptation of easy, unthinking commemoration,” he says, adding that wartime comics were often “aggressively racist” and sexist. “As we think about how we integrate this into our idea of an artistic tradition in this country, [part of that is] recognizing the extent to which there are a lot of exclusions there,” Woo says — exclusions that, he warns, still exist in mainstream comics today. When thinking about wartime comics, he suggests asking such questions as: What voices aren't we hearing from? Who is considered Canadian?
Good grief, just what we need, a PC advocate who's watering down what good the stories might've done in speaking out against German fascism for starters during WW2, along with Japan's imperialist forces. Doesn't Sheena, Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl's creation offset the perception of wartime comics as all sexist? It never seems to occur to these people. No, even then, writers of the times weren't saints. But that doesn't mean these classic Golden Age tales don't have what to learn from, and a difference most US comics with questionable character designs for Blacks is that beyond the facial designs, most cast members like Ebony White in Will Eisner's Spirit were depicted as law-abiding and heroic. The professor quoted above runs the risk of condoning censorship of classics with his PC viewpoint.

They do, however, cite another specialist, who says:
For Zachary Rondinelli, an educator and member of the Society for the Promotion of Canadian Comics, asking such questions is critical. “What I think is most important about bringing those early World War II comics back into focus is the idea that we have a new audience, a new group of readers who can bring their world experiences … and start revealing things we might not have seen previously.” Rondinelli, who’s doing a PhD at Brock University focusing on education and comic books, says he and the society are planning a symposium on Canadian comics set to take place in mid-October. According to the society, it will be the first symposium dedicated solely to Canadian comics. “I love the idea that we're opening the floodgates for new interpretation,” Rondinelli says.
But what kind of interpretation? I just hope this doesn't suggest more PC in reverse. Only if they maintain, for example, that fighting against Germany's National Socialists was a justified war, will they be able to convey the history properly. And that way, if they want to add more characters of non-white backgrounds to new stories about these Golden Age tales, they'll be able to deliver it convincingly.

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