STABLES John “Jack”                                                                                                    Used the pen name Jonn St Ables.

Born 23 December 1912, in Ulverston, England. He and his mother migrated to Winnipeg in June 1919 to join his father and older brother. In 1930, he apprenticed as a sign writer at Eaton’s department store. In 1932, he joined Smith’s Signs a commercial advertising agency. While there he drew advertisements for Salisbury House a restaurant chain owned by Ralph Erwin who had a friend Brock Windsor on who John would later model his character “Brok Windsor”. At this time, he took commercial art courses and irregularly attended art classes. During the Depression of the 1930’s he left Winnipeg for Chicago looking for work but soon returned. In 1938, he began drawing illustrations for Country Guide a Winnipeg agricultural magazine. The following year at age 27 years he was running the display department for Winnipeg’s electric utility.

IN 1941, He left Winnipeg again. This time he set out for Victoria with friend Jack Butler a painter and decorator. They were joined by two other friends Al Watson and Bill Speed whose name would eventually adorn another of John’s characters. In Victoria John and Jack launched a company Stabbut Studios whose title combined their two names. This effort was not successful and they took on jobs painting and sign writing in the ship building industry.

In May 1942, John married Ester Biggar his Winnipeg sweetheart. In an effort to join the war effort as an illustrator, John with Ester left Victoria to stay with her brother in Toronto in order to pursue this goal. While there he met Harry Smith owner of Maple Leaf Publishing. Moving to Vancouver and joining this company, John began producing cartoon stories in 1943, with one of his first creations being “Bill Speed”. In addition to the characters he created including “Brok Windsor” and illustrated for other writers like “Circus Girl”, he became the leading cover artist for Better Comics and Lucky Comics. In 1946, he replaced Vernon Miller as Art Director at Maple Leaf Publishing, but the end was in sight. The company ceased publishing at the end of the year.

Just before the end, Harry Smith organized Maple Leaf Syndicate to sell Maple Leaf Publishing characters as strips to newspapers an effort like Ted McCall’s attempt to syndicate “Freelance”. As far as is known only John’s “Bill Speed” made the transition appearing in The Coastal Weekly News, but of course one newspaper was not enough.

John attempted to make a living freelancing illustrations and working with Harry Smith producing colouring books and. He developed the narrative and characters for a title The Man In The Mushroom Hat. Harry Smith would be the publisher, but it never got to the print stage.

In 1949 and 1950 he worked for Keystone Press Ltd. then moved to California in an effort to find work at the animation studios like Disney or just to work in film. After three months he returned to Vancouver. Then in 1954 he and family returned to the U.S. locating in Washington state, where in the late 1950’s he joined the art department at Boeing Aircraft, producing advertising materials. For his own pleasure he painted in watercolour and mixed media plus some sculpting but did no cartooning. John’s affection for his Better Comics creation can be summed up in 1958 when he became an American citizen. He had the opportunity to change his name and so he added “Brok” as a middle name.

He retired in 1973 and died 31 December 1999 at 87 years old.






Better Comics, 5-10, June/July 1945:“Here’s How To Draw Funny Pictures”:  24.


Better Comics, 3-2, February/March, 1944: “Bill Speed: The Treasure of Tisingal”: 25-32.

Rocket Comics, 5-4, May/June 1945 “Bill Speed: The Green Glint”.

Better Comics… “Brok Windsor…”. Maple Leaf Publishing Co. Black & white
3-6, October/November 1944: “The Tailor’s Treachery Works Backwards”: 2-17.

3-7, December/January 1944/1945: “The Horned Lions of Ganshee Valley”: 2-17

4-8, February/March 1945: “Amush At Magic Springs”: 24-39.*

5-9, April/May 1945: 24-39.*

5-10, June/July 1945: 25-39.

6-1, August/September 1945: 10-17.

*Note volumes 4 & 5 are as shown in Better Comics.



Cover front:

Better Comics, (Brok Windsor).
3-6, October/November 1944.

3-7, Dec./Jan. 1944/1945.

4-8, February/March 1945.* 5-9, April/May 1945*

*Note volumes 4 & 5 are as shown in Better Comics.

Better Comics, 5-10, June July 1945. (Circus Girl).

Better Comics, 6-1, August/September 1945. (Outlaw of Chilcotin).


Article book:

Brok Windsor 1944-1946. 2015:                                                                                                   “Brok Winsor: He-Man in a Halter” Writ., Ivan Kocmarek: x-xi.                                           “The John St. Ables Story” Writ., Peter Hansen: 216-223.