EDUCATIONAL PROJECTS INC. Location: Suite 301 Medico-Dental Building, 1396 St. Catherine Street, Montréal. Manager: Harry J. Halperin.
Contributor: Sid Barron, Joan Cassidy, G. Edelstein, Harry J. Halperin, Herschel, Joseph Hillenbrand, George M. Rae, A.K., B.W.W., Neda L. Bassette, Harry Brunt, Charles Clay, Daisy Cook, “DEZ”, “D.M.H.” D.S. Daniels, Ding, Magdalena Eggleston, “F.K.”, Rose Halperin, Helen Jacobs, Fred Kelly, Leison, M.J.H., M. Martin, Morton, E. Tepner, Heather Tinkoff, Tipton, S.R. Taviss, B. Warshaw, Waldo, Young Robert, “Zangy”.
Character: Ace Deacon, Bert Beaver, Bos’n Bill, Canada Jack.
Feature: Books You’ll Like, Heroes All …, How Your … Goes To War, Just Kiddin Around, Music Nook, R.C.M.P., Service Snickers, Sport Stars, Stamp Corner, Story/History of Canada, World of Tomorrow, Wood Junior Craftsmen Carving, You Too Can Be An Artist.
“With the dawn of a new day young Canada may now look to the future with a sense of “What can I do to make this a better world in which to live.” “Canadian Youth And The Future.” Canadian Heroes, 5-3 June 1945: inside back cover.
Operated by Harry J. Halperin, Educational Projects’ major if not only purpose was to publish the periodical called Canadian Heroes, the most fascinating of the wartime Canadian comic books. It was distinctive if not unique in the industry. Unlike its competition, Educational Projects’ first goal was the character building of its readers through instruction and information. Profit seems to have been relegated to a support role for this objective.
Even its beginning was different. Unlike the other Canadian publishers of wartime graphic periodicals, this effort was not simply an opportunistic response to the Mackenzie-King government’s imposition of the War Exchange Conservation Act in December 1940 although the act likely gave the final boost that Educational Projects needed to get it started. The concept for Canadian Heroes originated about 1937/1938, and about three years of research went into its development until finally the first issued appeared in October 1942.
To call Canadian Heroes a “comic book” is to misclassify it. Educational Projects was more accurate when it subtitled Canadian Heroes “The National Magazine For Young Canadians.” To find anything that parallels Canadian Heroes you have to move three maybe four decades to the latter part of the 20th century where you find children’s magazines like the Owl family of publications and the Canada History Society’s Kayak, but even these periodicals are not as comprehensive in the information, instruction and advocacy of Canadian Heroes.
Canadian Heroes was almost completely factual. The largest portion of it could be called graphic journalism, composed mostly but not entirely of true wartime stories from the Canadian armed forces featured under storytellers “Ace Deacon” and “Bos’n Bill”. There were biographies of military, cultural and sports figures. There were histories like Rae’s R.C.M.P. stories and the “Story/History of Canada”. Readers were given information and instruction in features, like “Books You’ll Like”, “Music Nook” “Vacation Hints.” Canadian Heroes went very much further than its sister publications in exhorting its young readers to support the war effort, using features like “Bert The Beaver”.
There were no fantastic, or super hero stories in Canadian Heroes. “Canada Jack” was the only fiction item and it is best described as realistic fiction. It sometimes strayed into the crime and espionage genres but it was also a vehicle for instructing readers in how to help the war effort and offered cautionary tales. Canadian Heroes one fault was that it tended to be too instructive which must have hurt its popularity.
None of its sister publications were so completely Canadian. “Johnny Canuck” notwithstanding, other periodicals were diffident about exposing their Canadianess. Most of their heroes had either obscure backgrounds or were American or British. It’s clear that the publishers of Canadian Heroes had no such inhibit6ions. They were comfortable with actual heroic acts by actual Canadians. Even “Canada Jack” had all of his adventures in Canada. Canadian Heroes seems almost unCanadian in its Canadianess.
Few wartime youth publishers had any reader fan clubs. Canadian Heroes not one but two: Bos’n Bill’s Club and “Canada Jack Club” which were associated with characters in the magazine. Bell had “Active Jim” and “Active Jim’s Club” but this character and club were not integrated like “Canada Jack” and the “Canada Jack Club”. Nor did the Bell club engage its fans to the degree that Educational Projects did (See CANADA JACK and CANADA JACK CLUB). Both the “Bos’n Bill’ and “Canada Jack” clubs had contests that tended to test their readers knowledge.
The contributors to Canadian Heroes were fairly typical of the industry. Sid Barron, George M. Rae and Joseph Hillenbrand were as good as any in the business. Hillenbrand had a more static style than either Barron or Rae, but that should not disguise the fact he was an excellent illustrator. Otherwise the quality of illustration was as uneven as you find elsewhere. Unfortunately, the cover illustrators were never identified. Although it is likely that Sid Barron and George M. Rae were the principal illustrators, there is plenty of evidence that lesser talents were also involved. The writers are, today, mostly unknown. The extensive use of initials prompts one to ask if they were newspaper journalists using Canadian Heroes as a source of supplementary income.
Canadian Heroes suggests that Educational Projects either had or quickly developed close ties with the Mackenzie-King Government. The periodical contains multiple letters from government members exhorting readers to be good citizens, and on occasion messages from them were included in features like “Bos’n Bill.”
Probably as an income supplement, Educational Products also published a line of colouring books called “Famous Stories In Paint Books”. The stories were adaptations based on classical stories such as “Robinson Crusoe”. The two intact books listed below were written and illustrated by Rose Halperin and Sid Barron. Educational Projects also operated a mail order retail service for the books that appeared in “Books You’ll Like”, and for Classic Comics. How was this possible since U.S. publications were supposed to be banned?
Canadian Heroes left the market in October 1945, well before Anglo-American, Bell Features or Maple Leaf Comics. One might well ask, why? The standard answer is the return of U.S. coloured comic books, and this is possible, but it leaves the question why so much earlier than the other publishers?
A major factor could have been competition from the other Canadian companies. In a nation with a post war population of only about twelve million, there were four companies. Besides Educational Projects there were two in Toronto, the centre of the Anglophone market, and one in Vancouver. In addition all of these other companies had multiple titles. In this competitive market colour could have very well have been the decisive factor, but it would have been colour from the Canadian competition rather than the U.S. Anglo-American introduced colour into its comics in March 1945. See ANGLO-AMERICAN PUBLISHING LTD.) Bell Features owner Cy Bell had brought in a colour printing press from Chicago and was attempting to convert to colour. (See BELL FEATURES AND PUBLISHING Ltd.)
Another factor could have been the loss of talent, a problem that Bell Features also seems to have been experiencing. Sid Barron’s work disappeared from the pages of Canadian Heroes about the time The Star Weekly hired him. At the same time, the participation of George Rae and Joseph Hillenbrand declined. The visual attractiveness of the magazine suffered as a result. But perhaps we should look at the fact the war in Europe ended in May 1945, and Canadian Heroes ended with the October 1945 issue. Was the most important factor, that Educational Projects lost the predominant source of its real life adventure stories and the prime purpose – supporting the war effort – for its existence and just couldn’t find powerful enough replacements?
In spite of its early demise, Canada Heroes remains arguably the most remarkable graphic publication of the wartime period. Its sister publications are wartime artifacts principally of interest to collectors, but Canadian Heroes goes further and is an excellent source of information about the Canadian wartime experience.
The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. Adapt., Rose Halperin. Illus., Sid Barron. 1944.
Treasure Island Paint Book. Adapt. Rose Halperin. Illus., Sid Barron. no date.
Part of a series “Famous Stories In Paint Books” that also included, Aladdin and the Magic Lamp, Dicken’s Christmas Carol, My Own Paint Book, Alice In Wonderland, The Three Musketeers, Tinker Tiny and Tumble, Under The Big Top, Grimm’s Fairy Tales etc. See below.
Action Stories Of The Mounties. Compiled by cartoonist George M. Rae. 1944.
Canada Jack, 1-1. Compiled by cartoonist George M. Rae. no date
Picture Book Annual. A compilation of features from Canadian Heroes. no date.
Famous Adventure Stories, 1-1. Details unknown.
1-1, October 1942.
1-2, Nov./Dec. 1942
|1-3, January 1943.
1-4, February 1943.
1-5, March 1943.
2-1, May 1943.
2-2, June 1943
2-3, July 1943.
2-4, August 1943.
2-5, September 1943.
2-6, October 1943.
3-1, Nov./Dec. 1943
|3-2, January 1944.
3-3, February 1944
3-4, March 1944.
3-5, April 1944.
3-6, May 1944.
4-1, June 1944
4-2, July 1944.
4-5, November 1944.
|4-6, Dec./Jan. 1945.
5-1, February. 1945.
5-2, Mar./April 1945
5-3, May/June 1945.
5-4, July/August 1945.
5-5, September 1945.
5-6, October 1945.
Content Miscellaneous [Canadian Heroes]:
Advertisement: 2-6, October 1943: “Anniversary Offer.”: Back cover. 3-1, Nov./Dec. 1943: “Free Canadian Heroes for the next 5 months”: 17. 3-1, Nov./Dec. 1943: “Christmas Offer”: Back cover. 3-5, April 1944: “Free Canadian Heroes for the next 5 months”: 25. 3-6, May 1944: “A Special; Introductory Offer”: 64. 4-1, June 1944: “Famous Stories In Paint Books”: 32-33.
Anouncement: 5-1, February 1945: “Boy Scout Week.” Car., J. Hillenbrand: 33.
Award honour: 5-1,February 1945: “Cornwall Badge Winner (The Victoria Cross of Scouting): Ralph Moses.” Cart., J. Hillenbrand: 20. 5-1, February 1945: “Cornwall Badge Winner (The Victoria Cross of Scouting): Robert Oke, Moncton.” Cart., J. Hillenbrand: 57.
Biography: 1-1, Oct. 1942: “Canadian Prime Ministers: Sir John A. Macdonald.” : 54-58. 1-1, Oct. 1942: “Jean Mance: 1606-1673.” Story by Mrs. Georgina Robbins: 23-26. 1-2, Nov. 1942: “John McCrae: The Soldier Poet.” Car., Jack Green: 36-37.
Contest: 3-6, May 1944: “Nation-wide essay contest.” 5-5, Sept. 1945: “Sports Contest: Send in your vote for the twenty most prominent athletes in Canadian history”: 49. 5-4, July 1945: “Sports Contest”: 17. 3-3, Feb. 1944: “Victory Calendar”: 23.
Information: 1-1, Oct. 1942: “Vitamins.” Contributor, unidentified: 39-41. 3-3, Feb. 1944: “Cuba” Writ., Morton. Illus., Neda Bassett: 47-50.
Letters from: 1-2, Oct, 1942: J. Thorsen, Dept. of National War Services: I.f. c. 1-6, Apr.1943:. Louis St. Laurent, Minister of Justice: I.f.c 2-6, Oct. 1943: W. P. Mulock, Postmaster General. I.f.c. 3-3, Feb. 1944: John A. Stiles, Chief Executive Commissioner, Boy Scouts Assoc: I.f.c. 3-4, March 1944: A.L. Macdonald Minister of National Defence for Naval Services: I.f.c. 3-6, May 1944: Ian Alisttair Mackenzie, Minister of Pensions and National Health: I.f.c. 5-1, February: 1. 1945: H.J. Cody, President Boy Scout’s Association 5-4, July 1945: 1. D. Wilson, High Commissioner For New Zealand in Canada. *Inside front cover.
Journalism: 1-1, Oct. 1942: “Hero of the Wildflower: George Charrier ….” Car., Jan. 11-12.
Guardians of the North: The National Superhero in Canadian Comic-Book Art, Writ., John Bell. National Archives of Canada, 1992. Print. A catalogue for the exhibit of the same name.
“Our First Birthday.” Canadian Heroes, 2-6, Oct. 1943: Inside back cover.
“Whatever Happened to …?” Writ., Peter Harris,. Globe and Mail, 23 Oct.1982: Fanfare 7.
The principals of Education Projects goals for youth, Canadian Heroes, 1-1, Oct. 1942: Back cover.
“Bos’n Bill.” Car., Sid Barron. Canadian Heroes, 1-6, Apr. 1943: 32
(Notice the quote from the Honourable Angus L. MacDonald incorporated into the story which suggests a close association between Educational Projects Inc. and the Mackenzie-King Government.)
Canadian heroes, 5-1, February 1945: 20.
Another example of how Educational Projects went out of their way to honour youngsters even when they were not part of the “Canada Jack Club” and present them as role models to others.
Notice how as early as the D-Day Normandy Landings in World War 2 Educational Projects starts shifting its covers towards civilian themes.
But not completely.
Canadian Heroes, 3-1, Nov./Dec. 1943: Back cover. Print.
Canadian Heroes, 4-1, June 1977: Back cover.
For Action Stories Of The Mounties, cover, see R.C.M.P.
Covers of two of the colouring books produced by Educational Projects Inc.
Illus., Sid Barron.
Illus., Sid Barron