CANADIAN WHITES

CANADIAN WHITES

This designation is given by collectors those comic books published in Canada for about five years from early 1941 into 1945-46.

On December 2, 1940 the Canadian Government passed the War Exchange Conservation Act whose purpose was to conserve Canadian currency for the purchase of military materiel from the U.S.A. In order to do this the government banned all non-essential imports including bananas and comic books. The unexpected result was the birth of a Canadian comic book industry.

The chief initiators of this new venture were portrait and landscape painters Adrian Dingle and the Kulbach brothers (Hillborough Studio), Ted McCall a writer and journalist (Anglo-American Publishing), Vern Miller a cartoonist (Maple Leaf Publishing) and Cy Bell a businessman (Bell Features Ltd.) but even in this last case it would be easy to argue that the real initiator was the cartoonist Edmund Legault who later disappeared into the military and has never really been given his due. The origins Educational Products are uncertain but it seems that this company which had a broad line of products including colouring books based on classic novels like Robinson Crusoe and Treasure Island simply added the comic book Canadian Heroes to its product lines.

The achievement of these companies was truly astounding. At the beginning in 1941 there was no business structure, no pool of comic book talent and no expertise in printing and publishing comic books. Within a few short years there were three major comic book companies, a pool of reliable talent and printing and publishing that could be depended on. The assembly of a talent pool was all the more remarkable because it was being continually drained as individuals left the industry to join the armed forces. In 1945 Anglo-American took the final step and moved into colour with Bell Features close behind. In the five turbulent war years the Canadian comic book industry had moved from being non-existent to being capable of producing colour comics. Obviously these companies were looking to a future in comic book publishing.

When the import restrictions were lifted the deluge of U.S. titles shattered the tiny Canadian market into fragments. The U.S. companies of course could survive in such an environment. Their talent, production and overhead expenses were already covered by the U.S. market. Even their distribution costs were alleviated because the comic books could be shipped with other U.S. magazines. In short the U.S. comics entering the Canadian market were virtually expense free. In contrast this fragmented market had to produce enough revenue to cover the talent, production, overhead and distributions costs of the Canadian companies. It was simply no contest.

One might ask why the Canadian companies didn’t enter the U.S. market. The indications are they attempted to do just that. The scanty evidence that exists suggests that the U.S. companies successfully blocked their efforts..