Owen McCarron and Comic Book World

Auntie Litter…Amazing

In light of my recent post on government or public service comic books, I’ve decided to focus in a little bit more and look at the career of Owen McCarron. Although he’s more well known and searchable on the internet than many other Canadians involved with comics, his company, Comic Book World, is not, which is why I’d like to highlight that aspect of his career.

It is perhaps the most memorable and weighted area of his career. While working in advertising at the Chronicle-Herald limited in Halifax, McCarron also spent his time creating puzzles for the fun and games section of the paper. It was also around the beginnings of his career that McCarron produced the art for some Charlton titles.

In the mid 1960s, McCarron transferred his talent and passion for games, puzzles and comics and created created what became Comic Book World, formerly Comic Page Features. Binkly and Doinkel were just a few characters in his long line of promotional and educational comics. Art very reminiscent of the seventies, I thought of Frosty the Snowman, the soft lines and very colourful style was the appeal for his young audience. Probably the intended goal, his comic company was very successful among private companies and government departments, commissioned to educate children about everything from ethics to safety and sometimes just interesting facts.

The comics were well received among among adults who appreciated the nature of them and the publishing house. One of the only Canadian companies flourishing in the “above ground” scene in the sixties and seventies, McCarron’s only real competition was Ganes Productions by Orville Ganes, located in Toronto. Both were the only successful comic book publishers in an otherwise American-comic-dominated Canada. Despite residing in Halifax, McCarron also received presidential recognition for his contribution to fun and educational comics.

For the most part, McCarron drew, inked and coloured almost all of the comics he produced under CBW and obtained help on several issues from writer Robin Edmiston. The team produced many comics before McCarron went on to produce “Marvel Fun and Games” for Stan Lee in the mid 1970s and some work for DC as well.

Finally, McCarron drew and contributed art to Captain Canuck comics and “helped to inaugurate the Canadian Silver Age of Comics” (Bell 102). He passed away in 2005. Here are a list of titles from Comic Book World as I find them. Also, here is his work on the Halifax Explosion and here is another bio worth reading.

  • Adventures of Binkly and Doinkel, The
  • Adventures of Skoodi the Rabbit, The
  • Auntie Litter Comics
  • Aylmer “Taste of Canada” Comics (with E.S. Pea)
  • Cap’n Bluenose Comics
  • Captain Enviro
  • Colonel Ernie Comics #1
  • Colonel Ernie Comics #2
  • Colonel Sanders Comics #1
  • Colonel Sanders Comics #2
  • Gassy the Elephant Comics #1
  • L’il Easy Saver Comics #1
  • L’il Easy Saver Comics #2
  • L’il Easy Saver Comics #3
  • Wayne & Shuster Comics #1
  • You and the Co-op

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.