HILLBOROUGH STUDIO Location: 64 Grenville Street Toronto. Owner operator: Adrian Dingle+
Character: Billy Arthur: The Sword of Destiny, Clue Catchers, Derek Of Bras d’Or, Happy Holden, The Mums: Maxi & Mini, Nelvana Of The Northern Lights, The Rapier, The Searunners. Spanner Preston, Tang, Trigger Dunston.
With the outbreak of World War 2, the market for fine art – portraits and landscape – shriveled up as financial resources were diverted to the war effort. Many artists, including Adrian Dingle and his associates applied to be war artists but the openings were few and quickly filled by established artists like members of the Group of Seven. It was then that a small group around Dingle decided to take advantage of the limitation the War Exchange Conservation Act had put on the import of U.S. nonessential goods and go into the graphic periodical business.
Hillborough Studio launched Triumph Adventure, 1-1 August 1942 and so became the second Toronto company to get its product on the market. It preceded Bell Features WOW, 1-1 by one month.
The core group for Triumph Adventure, included, writer H.B. Ohrt. and illustrator Léon James doing “Spanner Preston: Spies of the Airways”, writer Frank Brookwood and illustrator René Kulbach doing “Tang: The Story of the Western Range”, Adrian Dingle the mainstay, cartooned “Nelvana”, and a filler “The Mums: Maxi and Mini”. He illustrated “Clue Catchers” written by his wife Pat Dingle who based them on submissions from readers and he drew portraits of military heroes. Around this core were occasional players such René’s brother André Kulbach, the writer/illustrator team of Glen Guest and A.L. Alexander who did the short lived “Derek of Bras d’Or” and a promising cartoonist H. Caulfield who joined the team in the dying days of the company and produced “Escape” and Commando”. Writer H.B. Ohert replaced Frank Brookwood as storyteller on “Tang”. As additional creators joined the Studio Dingle’s filler features, “The Mums” and the portraits decreased in frequency.
Hillborough began a second periodical called Top Flight Comics which used mostly different artists. The features included “The Rapier, by Clayton Dexter, “The Searunners” and “Trigger Dunstan” by Hunter Barker “Happy Holden” by Jack Loudon and Caulfield, and “The Sword Of Destiny” by Adrian. The last two individuals being the only artists to appear in both periodicals.
The weak link in the team was an unnamed investor who, provided about $400 in capital and who according to Dingle in a 1973 interview by Dave Sim, “… was a worry wart and used to come in every morning and say ‘Well now, fellows, what worries me is this.’”.
Hillborough was able to publish six issues of Triumph-Adventure Comics and one issue of Top Flight Comics before it succumbed. The last issue for both periodicals was February 1942. In the same 1973 interview Dingle 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.” That issue of Triumph, as Triumph Adventure was now called, was both unnumbered and undated but probably came out in March 1942, since there is an advertisement in the magazine for Dime, 1 which is dated as Feb. 1942.
Only Adrian and the Kulbach brothers crossed over to Bell Features. Hunter Barker, H. Caulfield, Clayton Dexter, Jack Loudon, H. B. Ohert and Léon James did not make the transition. Since their material was better than what replaced it, in the new Triumph Comics it can only be assumed the choice was theirs. “Clue Catchers” written by Pat Dingle did not move to Bell Features which is not surprising since she remarked in the 1973 interview that she didn’t like writing. Top Flight Comics did not make the transfer either.
The overall quality of Triumph suffered in the transfer but for Cy Bell it was definitely a coup. He doubled his staff of accomplished artists as Dingle, René and André Kulbach joined Lou Skuce, Edward Legault and recently arrived Edmond Good on the Bell Features staff. He gained an Artistic Director who had extensive visual experience. He gained two established serials “Nelvana” and “Tang” plus an additional title. One competitor was eliminated while Bell’s position against his other major competitor Anglo-American was greatly strengthened.
It is sad that Hillborough didn’t survive. During its existence, this artist driven company had already made significant contributions to the wartime graphic heritage, and had it continued undoubtedly would have contributed a great deal more.
PERIODICAL GRAPHIC ANTHOLOGY:
Top Flight Comics, 1-1, February 1942.
|Triumph-Adventure Comics. Black & white interior.|
1 -2, September 1941.
|l-3, October 1941.
l-4, November 1941.
l-6, Feb. 1942.
Triumph Comics –Adventure, l-6, Feb. 1942 was the last issue published by Hillborough Studio.
Triumph Comics, no number, no date was the first issue published by Bell Features & Publishing Ltd.
Guardians of the North: The National Superhero in Canadian Comic-Book Art Writ., John Bell. Ottawa, National Archives of Canada, 1992. A catalogue for the exhibit of the same name.
Now and Then Times,1-2, Oct. 1973: “A conversation with Adrian and Pat Dingle and Bill Thomas.” Writ., Dave Sim: 27+.
Globe and Mail, 23 Oct. 1982: “Whatever Happened to …?” Writ., Peter Harris. Fanfare 7.
Triumph-Adventure Comics, l-1, August1941.
Triumph-Adventure Comics, l-5, January1942.
This advertisement appeared on the back cover of Triumph Adventure Comics, 1-5, January 1942.