DINGLE John Adrian Darley
Adrian Dingle used the pseudonyms Darian and Jon Darian.
I’ve never regretted those exciting days of fantasy. The experience has been most beneficial to me as a painter. We had to draw fast and produce for a tight schedule. While I was endeavoring to pull my weight as Art Director for Bell. I was still writing and drawing four or five strips till the wee small hours. We all had dreams although short-lived. Interviewer: Dave Sim. Now & The Times, 1-2, Oct.1973: 27.
Creator of “Nelvana of the Northern Lights”, “The Penguin”, “Sign of Freedom”’ Nils Grant: Private Investigator .
Born 4 February 1911 in Barmouth, North Wales he came to Oakville, Ontario with his parents in 1914 at the age of three.
He worked in an insurance company in Oakville until about 1930 when he quit his job to study art. In 1931 he took the Ontario College of Art summer course studying under J. W. Beatty who was its founder and a close associate with members of the Group of Seven. From 1935 to 1937 he was in England where he studied at Goldsmith’s College of Art and exhibited at the London Portrait Society while working as an illustrator at Stillwell & Darby. Returning to Canada he regularly exhibited his paintings at the Ontario Society of Artists shows, and sold them through the T. Eaton Company Fine Art Gallery. At the same time, his illustrations were appearing in several magazines including the Standard and Star Weekly.
When, World War 2 began. Dingle attempted to join the military but was rejected because of his ear problems. He and several other artists who couldn’t enlist for health reasons organized a large petition volunteering to be war artists. They were more or less ignored probably because there was an abundance of older more experienced artists. .
The market for fine art and for illustrations shriveled as the war effort ramped up and so, having failed to be accepted by the military, Dingle with artists André and René Kulbrach took advantage of the War Exchange Conservation Act introduced December 2, 1940 and formed Hillborough Studios with about $400 from their one and only backer. He was the weak link in the organization. Dingle in a 1973 interview, described him as a “worry wart”. He, according to Dingle, “used to come in every morning and say ‘Well now, fellows, what worries me is this.’”
Quite the opposite, Pat (Dingle), who would become Adrian’s wife, thought organizing the company was a marvelous idea. “Isn’t this great, now maybe we’ll be able to get married.” she recalled during the same 1973 interview. They did get married and Pat recalled “… Adrian took his script along on our honeymoon and worked on the drawings.”
In addition to being the mainstay in the company, for Triumph -Adventure Comics, Adrian as a cartoonist contributed “Nelvana of the Northern Lights”, and a humorous filler called, “The Mums: Maxi and Mini”. He illustrated the stories written by Pat and he drew portraits of military heroes. In a second periodical called Top Flight Comics, Adrian contributed “The Sword Of Destiny”. One can speculate that “Sword of Destiny might have later been resurrected as “Sign of Freedom”.
Pat Dingle along with Doris Slater, who appeared in Anglo-American’s Three Aces Comics and Shirly Ley Fortune who worked for Maple Leaf Comics are the only three female contributors to have their names regularly appear in the 1940’s Canadian comics, although in fact in Anglo-American many unacknowledged women were significant contributors to the features produced by that company.
In 1942, Hillborough Studios was bankrupt, and Adrian was left with a bundle of debts. In the same 1973 interview he commented, “I remember taking all the debts and the broken partnership down to Cy Bell. To my surprise, I found the masthead for Triumph Comics was already made up and ready to roll. He was anticipating me. So he took over all the debts. And I was on salary then. And that’s how I really got started for those few years.”
Triumph-Adventure Comics became Triumph Comics, and Dingle became Bell’s artistic director. Each Monday afternoon the cartoonists brought their finished work to Dingle who checked it for story content, spelling, reproductive clarity etc. He rejected any that didn’t measure up. “We had a lot of young kids coming down who didn’t stand a Chinaman’s chance. And they’d be bringing stuff in and then occasionally one had a spark and we’d cultivate that spark.” “Jerry Lazare, for instance, was quite young. And he, of course, has become a first rate illustrator.”
In addition to editing, “… we were all doing our own thing right from the start, script and drawings as well. We were at it night and day.” In addition to Nelvana, Dingle created “The Penguin” (which was later named Blue Raven) a crimefighter in a birdlike mask dressed in white tie and tails, “The Sign of Freedom” an RCAF pilot turned underground hero and “Nils Grant Private Investigator”.
He also succeeded other artists on “Active Jim”, “Rex Baxter”, “Clift Steele” and “Guy Powers Secret Agent” the last two done under the name Darian. He took on the task of drawing most of the covers either under his own name or under Darian after the principal cover artist Edmond Good left for the U.S. to take over “Scorchy Smith”.
Jerry Lazare said of him, “I think Dingle was a guy who could’ve done a strip in the States and have been successful because he was I think the best of the group.” Adrian Dingle described his own style as “Hurried. No time for anything. I enjoyed trying to break up the pages a bit, having a continuity going through various shapes. And that sort of broke up the monotony of the constant drawing ….”
When the Canadian industry ended at the end of World War Two, Dingle returned to painting full time. He had carried it on part time even when he was editing and cartooning. He developed into one of Canada’s foremost landscape and semi-abstract artists travelling and painting in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Eire, New England and Canada’s Atlantic provinces until his death in 1974. He taught at the Doon School of Fine Arts. He was elected an associate member of the Royal Canadian Academy in 1948. In 1961 he was awarded a life fellowship in the International Institute of Arts and Letters (F.I.A.L.) . In 1967 he was President of the Ontario Society of Artists.
As Dingle later recalled, “… it was an exciting time … we sort of lived the world that we were working in. We got our heroes and heroines into terrible scrapes and had to get them out before the next issue. It would often take a lot of hashing back and forth among a lot of the lads to find out what we were doing so we wouldn’t be stepping on the toes of someone else’s script. So, it was a hectic thing – working right through the night.”
As for the effect this experience had on him as a painter: “Drawing from imagination, if one can call it that, without any time for research has certainly, for me, provided a sort of mental retention by which I can see something and paint it later. Which has been very useful [to me] as a painter. I couldn’t have done it without this sort of experience. It’s very much like court artists of the earlier days before photography, how they’d have to go in and draw like mad. C.W. Jefferys, of course, developed his drawing ability tremendously through his court art work. These things are useful and I certainly don’t regret going through it. It was a very happy five years plus.”
He died from cancer in Erindale Ontario 22 December 1974.
See CANADA POST COMMEMORATIVE STAMPS
BOOK GRAPHIC COLLECTION:
Amazing Adventures in the Life Of Nelvana. Bell Features & Publishing Co., no date. Collects stories from the series “Nelvana of the Northern Lights in the Strange Frozen World of Glacia” Triumph Comics, 8 to 12. Apparently the last story “Nelvana and the Death-Dealing Double.” was included in error instead of “Death From Above” the concluding chapter of the “Glacia” series in Triumph Comics, 13.
Nelvana of the Northern Lights. Ed., Hope Nicholson & Rachael Richey. Nelvana/LAC, 2014. Collected the complete “Nelvana” serial.
PERIODICAL GRAPHIC ANTHOLOGY:
No date is given for Active Comics.
“Active Jim.” Active Comics, 12: 10-13.
“Active Jim.” Active Comics, 13: 52-54.
“Active Jim.” Car., Darian. Active Comics, 14: 53-56.
“Active Jim.” Car., unidentified probably Dingle. Active Comics, 15: 33-35.
“Active Jim.” Active Comics, 16: 9-11.
“Active Jim.” Car., unidentified probably Adrian Dingle. Active Comics, 17: 30-33.
“Active Jim.” Active Comics, 18: 44-48.
“Active Jim and the Mystery Of The Counterfeit Ten.” Car., Darian. Active Comics,19: 51-55.
“Active Jim, Overcoat Racket.” Car., Darian. Active Comics, 21: 54-56.
“The Brain.” Indentified as “P and D” probably a collaboration between Adrian & Pat Dingle. Active Comics, 27: 40-45.
“The Mums, Maxie and Mini.” Car., Jon Darian. Triumph Adventure Comics, 1-1, Aug.1941.: 17, 50 & 63.
|“The Mums, Maxie and Mini.” Triumph Adventure Comics,|
|1-4, Nov.1941: 23, 25 & 39.
1-2, Sept. 1941: 30, 40, 63
|1-5, Jan.1942: 42.||1-6, Feb. 1942.: 53, (lower half).|
“Nelvana of the Northern Lights.” Triumph Adventure Comics, l-1, Aug.1941: 18- 35.
“Nelvana of the Northern Lights: The Devil Ship.” Triumph Adventure Comics, 1-2, Sept. 1941: 1-14.
“Nelvana of the Northern Lights: Cave-in.” Triumph Adventure Comics,l-4, Nov.1941: 40-51.
“Nelvana of the Northern Lights: The Battle of the Arctic.” Triumph Adventure Comics, l-5, Jan.1942: 19- 30.
“Nelvana of the Northern Lights: Icebergs of Death.” Triumph Adventure Comics ,l-6, Feb. 1942:
23- 35. After this issue no date is given.
“Nelvana of the Northern Lights: The Dictator Strikes.” Triumph Comics, no number, 1-13. From
internal evidence this is no. 7.
“Nelvana of the Northern Lights: In the Strange Frozen World of Glacia.” Triumph Comics, 8:1-12.
“Nelvana of the Northern Lights:: In Glacia the Land of Frozen Life.” Triumph Comics ,9: 1- 12.
“Nelvana of the Northern Lights: In Glacia World of Ice – Chapter 3,Vultor the Villainous.” Triumph Comics, 10: 1- 12.
“Nelvana of the Northern Lights: Chapter 4,Vultor’s Plot.” Triumph Comics, l1:1-12..
“Nelvana of the Northern Lights: In Glacia, Chapter 5, The Unmasked Claw.” Triumph Comics, l2:1-12.
“Nelvana of the Northern Lights: In Glacia, Chapter 6, Death from Above.” Triumph Comics, l3: 1- 11.
|“Nelvana of the Northern Lights.” Triumph Comics, no date.|
|l4: 1- 9.||l5: 1- 9.||l6:1- 9.||l9:1- 7.||20:1-7.||23:1-7.|
“Nelvana of the Northern Lights.” Super Duper Comics, 3, May 1947.
No date given for WOW Comics.
“Holy Smokes That’s The Penguin — That Was.” WOW Comics, 19: 1-8.
“The Penguin and the Mystery of the Piano Playing Corpse, pt. 1.” WOW Comics, 22: 1-7.
“The Penguin and the Case of High Grade Murder.” WOW Comics, 24: 1-7.
“The Penguin’s Double Trouble, pt. 2.” WOW Comics, 27: 1-8.
“The Penguin, pt. 1.” WOW Comics, 28: 1-7.
“The Penguin, pt. 2.” WOW Comics, 29: 6-12.
|“Sign Of Freedom.” Commando Comics, no date.|
|.||12: 29-33||14: 43-48.||16: 48-53. 17: 34-39. 18: 51-56.|
“’Scoop’ Hilton.” Car., Unidentified probably Adrian Dingle. Active Comics, 27: 46-51.
BOOK GRAPHIC COLLECTION:
Amazing Adventures in the Life Of Nelvana. Bell Features & Publishing Co., no date.
Redcoat Sailor: The Story of Sir Howard Douglas. Macmillan Co. of Canada, 1956.
Redcoat Sailor: The Story of Sir Howard Douglas. Writ., R.S. Lambert. Macmillan Co. of Canada, 1956.
Tecumtha. Writ., Wallace Havelock Robb. Abbey Dawn Press, 1958.
BOOK TEXT COLLECTION:
Logging With Paul Bunyan. Ryerson Press, 1957.
Logging With Paul Bunyan. Writ., John D. Robins. Ryerson Press, 1957.
BOOK TEXT & GRAPHIC ANTHOLOGY:
Front: Thrilling Stories For Boys. Bell Features & Publishing, no date.
“Buried In The Skies.” Writ., Vic Griffin. Thrilling Stories For Boys. Bell Features & Publishing, no
“Unfinished Business.” Writ., identified as Pat Hamilton but is most likely Pat Dingle. Thrilling Stories For Boys. Bell Features & Publishing, no date.
PERIODICAL GRAPHIC ANTHOLOGY:
|Front: Active Comics, no date.|
|5, No character
9, “Dixon of the Mounted.”
14,“Dixon of the Mounted.”
15, “King Fury and Robot Menace.”
|16, “The Brain.”
17, “The Brain.”
18, See illustration below.
20, “The Panthers.” See THE PANTHERS.
|22, “The Brain.”
23, “Cinder Smith.”
24, “Dr. Blue and Blackie.”
27, “Dr. Blue and Blackie.”
29, No character
Front, Triumph Adventure Comics, 1-2, Sept. 1941.
Front, Triumph Comics, no number, no date. Print. From internal evidence this is no. 7.
Front, Triumph Comics, 12, no date.
|Front: WOW Comics, no date.|
Sergeant John Hannah, V.C.” Triumph Adventure Comics, 1-1, Aug.1941: 36.
Winston Churchill.” Triumph Adventure Comics, 1-1, Aug.1941: 37.
E.S. Fogarty Fegen, R.N.” Triumph Adventure Comics, 1-2, Sept. 1941.:31.
A.G.L. McNaughton, Commander-in-Chief of Canadian Forces.” Triumph Adventure Comics, 1-2, Sept.
Capt. Douglas W. Cunnington.” Triumph Adventure Comics, 1-4, Nov.1941: 24.
General Sir John Dill.” Triumph Adventure Comics, 1-4, Nov.1941: 38.
Sir Archibald Wavell, Commander of the British Forces in India.” Triumph Adventure Comics,1-5,
The Heroic Feat of Sergeant Pilot James Allen Ward V.C. Royal New Zealand Air Force.” Triumph
Adventure Comics, 1-6, Feb. 1942: 22.
John MacMillan Stevenson Patton.” Triumph Adventure Comics, 1-5, Jan.1942: 43.
|“Clue-Catchers.” Writ., Pat Dingle. Triumph Adventure Comics,|
|1-1, Aug.1941: 40-49||1-2, Sept. 1941: 54-62.|
“Clue-Catchers.” Writ., Pat Dingle. under pseudonym, Pat C (Based on story submitted by Fred Butland
of Fredericton, N.B.) Triumph Adventure Comics, 1-4, Nov.1941: 18-22.
“Clue-Catchers.” Writ., Pat C. Triumph Adventure Comics, 1-5, Jan.1942:1-10.
“Clue-Catchers, the Maniac’s Revenge.” Writ., Pat C.. Triumph Adventure Comics, 1-6, Feb. 1942:
44-53 (upper half).
“Hi-jacking Davey Jones’ Locker.” Writ., Vic Griffin. Active Comics, 13, n.d. 36-40.
Front: Maclean’s, 15 Feb. 1945.
WRITER & ILLUSTRATOR:
PERIODICAL GRAPHIC ANTHOLOGY:
Advertisement for crests:
“Would you like to have a FREE Sweater Crest of your FAVOURITE COMMIC BOOK
CHARACTER??? —“ Active Comics, 10: 24-25, 46.
No issue dates given.
“Active Jim’s Monthly Message.” Active Comics, 9: 18.
“Active Jim’s Monthly News Letter.” Active Comics, 10:19.
“Active Jim’s Monthly Message.” Active Comics, 11: 26.
“Active Jim’s Monthly Message.” Active Comics, 12: 40.
“Active Jim’s Monthly Message.” Writ., unidentified probably Adrian Dingle. Active Comics, 13: 16.
|“Active Jim’s Message.” Active Comics, no date.|
|15: 21.||16: 34||17: 16 & 22.||21: 8|
Newsletter News & Views:
No issue dates given.
“Club News and Views.” Active Comics, 10:44-45.
“Club News and Views.” Active Comics, 11:39-39.
“Active Jim’s Club News and Views.” Active Comics,16: 16.
Bell Features & Publishing Co.
“Adrian Dingle.” Nelvana of the Northern Lights. Car., Adrian Dingle. Ed., Hope Nicholson & Rachel Richey. Nelvana Comics, 2014.
“Dingle Adrian (1912 – 1974).” Writ., Peter Harris. The World Encyclopedia of Comics. Ed., Maurice Horn. Chelsea House Publishers, 1976: 208.
Guardians of the North: The National Superhero in Canadian Comic-Book Art. Writ., John Bell.
National Archives of Canada, 1992. A catalogue for the exhibit of the same name.
“A conversation with Adrian and Pat Dingle and Bill Thomas.” Interviewer, Dave Sim. Now and Then Times,
1-2, Oct.1973: 27+.
“An interview with Jerry Lazare.” Interviewer, Dave Sim,. Now and Then Times, 1-2, Oct. 1973: 33.
“The Landscape: Adrian Dingle.” Canadian Notes & Queries, 93, Summer 2015.
“World of Canadian Whites.” Writ., Bill Thomas. Now and Then Times,1-1, Summer 1972: 22.
“Whatever Happened to …?” Writ., Peter Harris. Globe and Mail, 23 Oct.1982: Fanfare 7.
See MUMS: MAXIE & MINI [THE], NELVANA OF THE NORTHERN LIGHTS,
PENGUIN, [THE], SIGN OF FREEDOM, and other Bell Features characters.
Triumph Adventure Comics, 1-5, Jan.1942
Adrian Dingle, Active Comics, 18: cover. One of the finest of the wartime comic covers.
Thrilling Stories For Boys: Front cover.
“Till Infinity, Portugal.” Oil on Masonite 22”X30”. 23rd Annual Sketches Exhibition, June 14 2017, Roberts Gallery, Toronto. This was a show & sale of historical Canadian art.