Public Service Comics

Binkly, Doinkel, Sniffer the dog and R. Pugsley de Pugh.

Just about any major institution needs to connect with its people. This holds true for the Canadian government, and what better way than to create public service or promotional giveaway comics that are horribly awkward and so straight edge that no one wants to read them? I guess they’re not all bad, but here are some of the ones I’ve come across thus far.

The Adventures of Binkly and Doinkel. The three issues that were released were meant to teach kids about the dangers of household substances like cleaning solutions. Initially Owen McCarron did the art based on Noreen Young’s design and Robin Edmiston did the writing. For 1974, the colour comic was pretty appealing, despite the fact that it was sponsored by the government and educational.

Does not do it justice.

It impressively took one issue to screw up. Technically two, as the second issue made no reference to the first for continuity’s sake, or just general tastefulness, labelling the aliens “Binkley” and Doinkel. To make it worse, the art in the second issue was inconsistent to say the least. It was like the artist, Diane Demerais, was nine and was not shown the original cartoon. The comic was so different from the first it almost doesn’t merit being called the second issue.

The third, as you can see, looks a lot like the first. I’m unsure who the artist was, it could have been McCarron, but there was definitely an effort made at continuity. The comic makes reference to Noreen Young’s character designs as they did in the first and the story is greatly improved. Although it doesn’t give credit on the actual comic, it looks as though this comic was produced by Comic Book World as well.

As you can see, there are only slight differences.

As for the storyline, it remains relatively the same. The aliens are getting into trouble with the household products and the dog, Sniffer, attempts to teach them about how dangerous chemicals can be. The issues were released in 1974, 1978 and 1981. As much as I give this comic a hard time, it’s important to remember that is was released in a period of relatively little Canadian work done for children and it had a purpose other than creativity or entertainment. Really, one and three were pretty good.

Next, the Amazing Spiderman. The series was funded and produced under the direction of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police with the cooperation of the Alliance for a Drug Free Canada. This is a pretty big one, and well funded, so needless to say, the government of Canada cut a deal with Marvel to make the educational comics appealing.

The only cover McFarlane did for the series.

Released from 1990 to 1993  was a series of 5 comics in which Peter Parker makes his way to Canada time and again to cover Canadian events like the stampede and science fairs, all the while gracefully teaching young Canadians valuable life lessons about drugs, bikes, and honesty. Sometimes the lesson isn’t very well hidden. Issue number four sees Parker at the stampede battling the Frightful Four. The lesson is located in a couple of one page comics interspersed throughout the main story, and they have about as much to do with spiderman as spiderman has to do with bicycle safety.

I would have loved to have received one of these as a kid. The cover of number one, pictured left, features the work of none other than Todd McFarlane and you can see one of the kids is wearing an Oilers jersey. On issue three, the Blue Jays. It’s this kind of stuff that is just enough Canadiana without being too patriotic or cheesy.

Batman: A Word to the Wise

Finally, DC will not be left behind. Here is a comic sponsored by Zellers to support and promote the cause for literacy in Canada. All funds from this comic went to ABC Canada. Basically, Batman chases the Joker from Montreal to Toronto and there is a lesson in there somewhere about reading. Again I find myself, wishing I had this as a kid, just to link my favourite superhero to Canada. This might just be a hangover of me wishing vainly as a child that not everything came from the US.
Either way, here was the first part to my entry on some public service comics.

Kevin Kurytnik

Business As Usual – Video 2010

It’s pretty interesting to go through some of the older zines from the 80s and 90s and stumble upon some that exceed the typical standards of zine culture. Today I stumpled upon a zine entitled “ARG: Apocryphal Restituion Guild”. This zine, created and produced in Calgary in 1989 by Kevin Kurytnik, was not only one of the better zines I’ve seen as far as physical appearance and production quality went, but also the content. Later Kurytnik later produced “UGH! Undulating Gods in Heat!”

The editor and greater contributor of content to ARG, Kurytnik’s illustrations and dark humour are more subtle and dry than the genre typically produces. His simple but detailed black and white drawings attract the attention of any reader and pair up remarkably well with the content and style of his writing.

Although Kurytnik strayed from the comic world, he was able to carry out his creations and ideas in animation. From ARG, Kurytnik published “Mr. Reaper’s Really Bad Day” which he later turned into “Mr. Reaper’s Really Bad Morning”; a short film that he directed and co-wrote with Carol Beecher. You can see it here:

Here is a link of his other accomplishments if you’re interested in learning or seeing more. Kurytnik is now an instructor at Alberta College of Art and Design and here is his faculty profile.

Andromeda (Comic)

1977. A great year for Canadian comics, but it’s about to get better as the beginnings of Volume 2, and I think the only volume, of Andromeda is released.  This sci-fi fantasy series was created at the peak of an era that produced many science fiction anthology magazines. While slightly more expensive to find online, there were only six issues ever published. Alternatively, you could probably find some cheaper ones in bargain bins at cons and shops. Interestingly, the publisher of the comic, Andromeda Publications, was owned by none other than Ron Van Leeuwen, or the well known and ever present Silver Snail Comics in downtown Toronto.

Andromeda arrived around the tail end of Canada’s Underground Comix era but the influence is apparent in many of the comics. Filled with mature comedy, the comics are of high quality and are for the most part printed in black and white.

It is important to note that Andromeda is not entirely Canadian. For example, the second issue features a story by Arthur C Clarke while the sixth issue is completely dedicated to the writings of Alan Dean Foster. Much of it is though, including production, writers and the earnest artists, a lot of them fresh from Sheridan. Andromeda features some of the best Canadian talent such as Ken Steacy, Dean Motter, Gene Day, Don Marshall and AE Van Vogt. There is also an exceptional adaptation from bpNichol. 

Here are the issue breakdowns.

Volume 2 No 1

  • Cover: John Allison
  • Back Cover: Paul Rivoche
  • Frontispiece: “Amber” by Robert MscIntyre
  • The Man Who Walked Home: James Tiptree (Original); John Allison (Adaptation); Jim Allison and Tony Meers (Artists)
  • The Escape and Pursuit of Jeanne d’Arc: Dean Motter (Writer and artist)
  • A Day At YGSRD’s: Jason Ross (Writer and artist)
  • CerebralSwamp: Don Marshall (Writer and artist)

Volume 2 No 2

  • Cover: Don Marshall
  • Back Cover: Dean Motter
  • Frontispiece: Robert MacIntyre
  • Contents: Paul Rivoche
  • Process: A.E. Van Vogt (Writer); Dean Motter (Artist)
  • The Hidden Diaries: Jeffrey Morgan (Writer); Ken Steacy (Artist)
  • Shawn of the Ruins: George Henderson (Writer); Gene Day and Jim Beveridge (Artists)
  • The Dark Side of the Moon: Tom Nesbitt and Nick Poliwko (Artists and Writers)

Volume 2 No 3

  • Cover and contents: Paul Rivoche
  • Back Cover: Don Marshall
  • Frontispiece: Rob MacIntyre
  • Wirely L. Wiremire: Tom Nesbitt
  • Exile of the Aeons: Arthur C. Clarke (Original); b.p. nichol (Adaptation); Paul Rivoche (Artist)
  • Here’s Mudin Yer Eye!: Don Marshall

Volume 2 No 4

  • Cover: Ramy Bar-Elan
  • Frontispiece: Rob MacIntyre
  • Contents: Paul Rivoche
  • Narrowland: Jack Vance (Original); b.p. nichol (Adaptation); Tom Nesbitt (Artist)
  • For Tomorrow We Die: Brian Lee and Marc Griffiths (Artists and Writers)
  • Space Stuff: Tom Nesbitt

Volume 2 No 5

  • Cover: John Allison
  • Frontipiece: Rob MacIntyre
  • Contents: Paul Rivoche
  • The Big Hunger: Walter M. Miller (Original); b.p. nichol (Adaptation); Tony Meers (Artist)
  • Klang Klang: Derek Carter
  • The Visit: Don Marshall
  • The Bellergon Version: b.p. nichol (writer); Tom Nesbitt (Artist)

Volume 2 No 6 – Alan Dean Foster Special Issue (All written work by him)

  • Cover: Tom Nesbitt
  • Contents: Ken Steacy
  • Back Cover: Peter Hsu
  • Why Johnny Can’t Speed: Peter Hsu (Artist)
  • Where Do You Get Those Ideas?: Paul Rivoche
  • The Metrognome: Tom Nesbitt
  • Thrust: Don Marshall

All Canadian Beaver Comix

I like her bed…

Lewd, vulgar and hilarious. This is one of the best comics that I think has ever come out of Canada. Published in 1973, All Canadian Beaver Comix is the product of Canadian underground comix geniuses Brent Boates, Rand Holmes and Falcioni. The comic book is a collection of their work that was originally published by the controversially left newspaper the Georgia Straight, in Vancouver, BC and was distributed in both the US and Canada. The paper is also the publisher of this comic as well as comics by other artists and more of Holmes’ work.

Along with its already bawdy nature, one of the more notable comics in the book is Holmes’ humourous criticism of the controversial excerpts on homosexuality from the book Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Too Afraid to Ask). The progressive comic aggressively uses both comedy and satire to break down barriers about sexuality while also just being very comfortable with the topic.

The contents are:

  • Hold Hard (Inside Cover intro) features character Emmanual Cunt by Falcioni
  • Vito Yaruntski in The Fatal Orgasm by Brent Boates
  • “Now How Did That Grab Ya” filler by Falcioni
  • Harold Hedd’s Bike Song* *As sung to the tune of the…”Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” by Rand Holmes
  • Introducing Quantum Quackster in “Quantum Pulls a Fast One!” by Falcioni
  • The Origins of Beaverman by Brent Boates
  • The Continuing Adventures of Harold Hedd by Rand Holmes
  • Kuolu Kala by Tapani Knuutila
  • Buckets of Saliva by Brent Boates
  • Beaver Comix add (Back cover).

Sadly the comic only lasted one issue, perhaps as just a stand alone collection. For further reading of Holmes’ work see the book The Artist Himself: A Rand Holmes Retrospective which includes both biographical information and some reprinted comics.