Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Heroes Of The Home Front

Being deeply interested in Canadian comics history, I backed this crowdfunding project shortly after its launch, hardly needing to give it a second glance in deciding to do so. I'd come across the campaign 's founder's name (Ivan Kocmarek) in the past and the possibility of acquiring up to 300 pages of historical data about 40s Canadian comics publisher Bell Features was too good to pass up.

It is now in its final week and I am truly hopeful that it will meet its funding goal. As I find out more information about it, it becomes quite clear that a great deal of time and effort went into the project and that it is an extreme labour of love.

My initial concern, partially caused by the image of Nelvana on the campaign page, was that I would be purchasing material I already owned from supporting prior reprinting efforts (such as the Nelvana and Johnny Canuck books at the left of the page). I didn't want to pay for a 300 page book just to find that only a couple of dozen of them are new to me.

I referred back to a First Comics News interview with Mr. Kocmarek which put that concern to bed. I've copied Kocmarek's answer to a question about content below. It describes the book better than the Kickstarter campaign page does, in my opinion.
...The book is about the art and artists who worked for Canadian WWII comic book publishing company, Bell Features Publications, which was based in Toronto and which put out original Canadian comic book material between 1941-46. 
The book is a 300-page 9” X 12” volume that reproduces more than 150 pages of original art from the Bell Features collection held by the Library and Archives of Canada in Ottawa. It also reproduces an additional 25 Bell Features original art pages from private collections. Each of these original art pages is reproduced as a full 9” X 12” page in the book and have never been reproduced in this way before. 
The rest of the book is text with photos sharing some of the backstory of the artists who made those pages. There are about 30 sections in the book each one about a different Bell Features comic book artist. The basic structure of each of these sections is: 
-A backstory on the life of the artist 
-An index of his/her work for Bell Features 
-An interview with the artist where possible or an interview with a direct family member. 
-Pages reproducing a selection of that artist’s original page drawings for Bell Features.
Kocmarek states in no uncertain terms in an answer to another question later in the interview that there are no reprints in this book. In effect, this is an encyclopedia specific to that publisher, or at least its talent.

If you have an interest in classic Canadian comics, characters, or creators, I hope you are supporting this project, or will now choose to do so. Instead of duplicating past reprint effort, it appears that this book will serve as a great to complement to them.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Thunder #5 Now Available From Two Gargoyles Comics

In my previous post (August 22nd, chronogically) I mentioned coming across a few surprises from Indyplanet, among them an addition to the Group Of Seven series. The other major one was a print version of Thunder #5 being available.

The book has gone through a number of changes since the last issue was released, including a new artist (Myk Emmshin) and a name change for one of the characters. Nonetheless, this issue continues the story begun in the previous four, but is a bit of a transition issue. Thunder's training continues, he plans a return to Asgard and Vancouver begins to react to the superhero activity within city limits. Here's a glimpse at the new-look Thunder.

Now even though I happened to see the book on IndyPlanet, I would avoid buying it from them unless you plan to do so in digital format. The shipping costs from print books are simply brutal.

When I pointed this out on Twitter recently, writer Michael McAdam offered to ship the books to me if I bought directly from him. There's still a cost involved, of course, but it is reduced significantly.

I doubt McAdam offered this to me because I'm particularly awesome (though it's entirely possible). I'm sure the offer applies to any potential customer. So if you decide to get your hands on individual issues of Thunder, go straight to the source or contact McAdam through the Two Gargoyles Twitter account.

And coincidentally, as I was confirming Two Gargoyles Twitter account name, McAdam happened to post a picture of a new promotional poster for Thunder. Have a look below, and Mike, if/when you read this, remind me to add one to my order when I get Thunder #6 from you some day.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Group Of Seven Returns!

Indyplanet, the online print-on-demand store, has not always been easy to deal with. They were a great resource five years ago when I started looking much harder for Canadian characters in comic books, but ordering from them was quite painful.

Actually, it was impossible; their website would not accept my orders. They've improved, but past experience has caused me to neglect to review their new offerings.

I took a look at them this past weekend and found a few surprises, none larger than the fourth issue of Group Of Seven being available.

This is rather appropriate for the remake of this site as Group Of Seven was one of the first books I found on Indyplanet in 2012. At that time, issues one and three were available. Two was not, but it joined the party a few months later.

Five years have passed and now the story continues. You can purchase the fourth issue individually, or in a compilation of the material released to date.

Just in time for Canada’s 150th birthday, comes the Group of Seven Trade Paperback! This volume collects all four issues of the first book of The Group of Seven, complete with new content.  
With the mysterious return of Canada's founding father, John A. Macdonald, Canada is elevated to a new age of independent national growth, bringing with it a heightened sense of unrest. There have been many assassination attempts on the Prime Minister's life as a result of his revolutionary agendas. Many of these attacks have employed super-humans, resulting in the government's ever growing dependency on Canada's Premier Super Team, The True North Guardians. However, while an appointed meeting between the Prime Minister and the Maple Leaf takes place to discuss the growing superhuman threats, The True North Guardians are eliminated in one fell swoop.

I haven't read these in a while (five years between issues will do that) but I recall that the tone was edgier and darker than the cover and preview art might suggest. Not all these Canadians are polite and friendly. :-) The team has a lot of history and baggage.

Speaking of preview material, I just noticed that the first issue is available for free download so if you want to sample the book, you should be able to do right here.

See you again in 2022, GoS? ;-)

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

CCBA Card Set Forthcoming!

The following information is copied from a Facebook post from earlier today by the Canadian Comic Book Alliance.
Soooo you like Canadian Comic Books? Well you wouldn't be a fan of this page if you didn't! What about trading card? What if the trading cards featured characters by the creators that are members of the CCBA? Well hang onto your beaver pelt hats because coming very soon is exactly that...the first series of CCBA trading cards! Keep your eyes peeled for more information but for now feast your peepers on the triptych checklist cards for the set with art by Justin Shauf and colours and layouts by Donovan Yaciuk! This scene features many characters from the CCBA roster and is actually taken from an upcoming team up comic featuring a plethora of the characters from across the CCBA!!

That last bit about the team up might be the best part. Lots of familiar faces up there, but I admit I'm drawing a blank on the lady second from the right...

Monday, June 19, 2017

Mr. Monster Action Figure Available Later This Year?

How sweet is this thing?

Fresh Monkey Fiction has had some past Kickstarter success with its Amazing Heroes line. They are planning another wave of twenty or so characters, including Mr. Monster.

Toronto's Fred Kelly created Jim Stearne in, I believe, 1946, and the character first appeared in Triumph #31. Stearne then appeared as Mr. Monster in Super Duper #3 the following year.

And...That was about it until Michael T. Gilbert created his own version of the character. Gilbert's wrote the tales of Jim Stearne's son, Strongfort. He fleshed out Jim's background a fair bit as well, though he made him an American that traveled to Canada (as opposed to being Canadian born, raised and educated) in the process.

Still, at his root, Mr. Monster is among the first Canadian superheroes and getting an action figure of him would be a real treat. FMF's next Kickstarter campaign is said to be launching "later this summer" and I very much plan to participate.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Canadianas' Sesquicentennial Struggles

I must admit, when I first saw the announcement below, I thought it was a joke. It was posted on artist Sandy Carruthers' Facebook page.
Coming July 1st: The new adventures of Canadiana! Written by the amazing Mark Shainblum (creator of Northguard to name a few) and illustrated by me! I'm very stoked to see her return (since 2006!), and will post more info/website at a later date!

It's not that the notion of Canadiana's return is so ludicrous, mind you. Quite the opposite.  I've enjoyed her all-too-few appearances to this point. And it has long felt like her return was simmering (at low heat, granted) and just waiting for the right time to happen.

It was more a matter of the above image being a Canadian spin on an old Captain America comic. And when writer Mark Shainblum referred to the cover in a comment to the above post, he called it an "in-joke". This caused me to think that we were just being offered a pin-up of the character inspired by a classic cover. But subsequent comments by Shainblum seem to support that we will indeed have new Canadiana material on July 1st. So...Yay!

Are you new to Canadiana? If so, several of the pages of the web comic, which ran from about 2003 to 2006, are posted on Mark Shainblum's deviantart page so there's your opportunity to educate yourself a bit.

The entire story, at least to the point it had reached (I have 33 pages stored), was posted on a site called Comic Dish for a while but that now appears to have gone dormant. Perhaps her revival will cause those to resurface as well. In the meantime, here are the first two pages by way of introduction.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Early Look at Northguard, Volume 2

Being that I found the image on the Chapterhouse Publishing website, I don't think it's wrong or even premature to share it.

The fan favourite super-spy returns! Still reeling from the events in Captain Canuck, Phil Wise is struggling to adapt to civilian life. But when Phil is marked for death by the deadly assassin Wolf, Northguard is thrust back into action! 
Written by Anthony Falcone
Illustration by Giovanni Valletta
Cover by Alex Perkins
This was the last book listed in the "coming soon" section and is apparently available for pre-order. You'll probably have to wait a while though because even its solicitation text has yet to be released to media.

In all likelihood, the book will be promoted as a September release in a few days. Whether it's actually out on time is a whole other issue. Still, cool to see.

I took a look at Giovanni Valletta's Twitter feed and a couple of months ago he shared the following image, describing it as work being done for Chapterhouse.

I'm going to take a shot in the dark and assume that this is "Wolf" from the book's description above.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Black Scorpion Collected

Redbud Studio is not based in Canada (I believe they are in Colorado) but they recently sent out feelers about a project they are considering taking on which initially involved a Canadian publisher. The following was posted on Facebook on June 3rd:
The Black Scorpion was a 3 issue mini-series written by Ron Fortier & David Darigo (sic) under a pen-name back in the 90s. We're giving some thought to putting them all together in one volume and making the collection available. Any thoughts?

The Joe Shuster Awards website offer a very thorough biography of Dave Darrigo, including his time as publisher under the Special Studio banner in Brantford, Ontario. It was during this period that Black Scorpion was published. All three issues appeared in 1991.

Darrigo co-wrote the stories with Ron Fortier using the name George Stryker. That name was a not-particularly-subtle nod to The Green Hornet's creators, George Trendle and Fran Stryker. Fortier had written Hornet for Now Comics for some time but that gig had come to an end. Black Scorpion is essentially Darrigo's version of the Green Hornet so few people could be better suited to help write the character than Fortier.

To be clear, for those unfamiliar with the character, Black Scorpion is not identified as being either Canadian or American. I had to refer back to my post about him in my previous blog to be reminded that he operates out of a town called Ravenia. I do seem to recall that some of the names of buildings or streets seemed to have a bit of a Canadian sound to them, however.

If you have any interest in an arguably-Canadian version of The Green Hornet, then I would suggest you head on over to Redbud Studio's Facebook page and make them aware of it. Apparently the project would involve a significant amount of work and Redbud will only follow through if interest appear to be high. At the very least, it would be the restoration of a book created predominantly by Canadian talent at the time.