The True North

Cover By Dave Sim

In September of 1987, the RCMP seized 192 comics from a comic book shop called Comic Legends in Calgary, Alberta. They also charged owners Julie Warren, Darren Ott and Dale Clarke with circulating obscene materials. The comics in question were adult comics and were never intended for children, nor were they sold to children. The reason for the search and confiscation of the comics was that a 14-year-old boy purchased a copy of Warlock 5 by Aircel Comics, and his mother complained. Warlock 5 was not a comic that was seized that day.

When comic artists caught wind of this, as they would, they were outraged. As a result, Paul Stockton (Of Strawberry Jam Comics), Leonard S Wong, Liz Schiller and Derek McCulloch formed the Comic Legends Legal Defense Fund (hereafter CLLDF). In order to raise funds for Warren, Ott and Clarke, CLLDF published an anti-censorship comic book anthology called The True North. Despite the unfavourable circumstances with which it was created, the comic book is an excellent testament to the conviction of the comic book industry both in and outside Canada. It also features a fantastic array of Canada’s writers and artists, as well as some Americans, spanning from from style to era and genre.

Unfortunately, all three shopkeepers were convicted with a fine of $5500. Although they did appeal with the help of CLLDF, the result was only a reduced fine.

In 1991, the CLLDF published True North II, a second anthology collection, again anti-censorship, and again, a great collector’s item. What I love most about these comics is the sampling of so many different Canadian writers and artists. Here is the contents of each book and there are some useful links at the bottom of the post.

True North

  • Anti-Censorship Propaganda – Chester Brown
  • Reid Fleming – David Boswell
  • One Romantic Evening – Jeffrey Taylor
  • Ronald and the Ducks – Ron Kasman
  • Starbikers – Ronn Sutton
  • The Life and Times of Tomas De Torquemada, Grand Inquisitor – Kent Burles
  • A Little Thought About Comics – Ty Templeton
  • Dan Panic: Think Allowued Talk – Greg Holfeld
  • It Comes Down to This – Nick Burns
  • A Suburban Nightmare – Michael Cherkas and Larry Hancock
  • Real Life – M.A. Bramstrup and Monique Renee
  • Comic Books – William Van Horn
  • Dan Day Pinup – Dan Day
  • A True Story – Bernie Mireault and Joe Matt
  • Counterblast – Nick Burns
  • Warning – George Metzger
  • Wizard Pinup – Ron Kasman
  • Media Violence – Mark Shainblum and Gabriel Morrissette
  • Centerspread: Manunkind – Matt Wagner
  • -And So It Goes – George Freeman
  • Beware of…They! – Rodney Dunn
  • Jail for Joe – Dave Darrigo
  • Freedom of Choice Hot Tub – Todd McFarlane and Terry Fitzgerald
  • Edgar the Common Sense Elephant – Seth
  • Defenses of Clay – Rob Walton
  • Malcom and Eric – Ian Carr
  • Vox Populi – Richard Taylor and Mark Askwith
  • Bizarre Taste with Asta Roid – Gordon Derry and Adrian Kleinenberg
  • Rosebud – Derek McCulloch and Simon Tristam
  • Other Artists – Dave Sim, Gerhard
True North II
  • Lethargic Lad – Greg Hyland and John Migliore
  • Bachelor Party or The Road Not Taken or Just Another Male Fantasy – Dennis Eichhorn and Carel Moiseiwitsch
  • R.G. Taylor Pinups – Richard Taylor
  • How These Bastards Operate – Ron Kasman and Gabriel Morrissette
  • On Being Eurasian – Theresa Henry
  • The Weird Canadian Artist – Chester Brown
  • Prescription For Ignorance – Diana Schutz and Monty Sheldon
  • A Public Disservice Message – Roberta Gregory
  • Random Pornography – Darren Raye and Sean Scoffield
  • Saved – Seth
  • The Steel Brood – Kent Burles
  • Surgie Center Tales of the Existentialist Private Eye – Ty Templeton
  • Big Boss Barney – Sylvie Rancourt and Jacques Boivin
  • Reflections – Denis Beauvais
  • Little Zemo in Censorland – Richard Pace
  • Statue of Liberty – Jeffrey Morgan
  • The Censors – Stephen Bissette
  • Revenue Canada – Leonard S. Wong
  • Jungle Rescue – Ronn Sutton
  • The Eye of the Beholder – Deni Loubert
  • Tierra de Pajaro – Gilbert Hernandez
  • May 29th 1988 – Joe Matt and Bernie Mireault
  • Reid Fleming – David Boswell
  • Tales of the Censor – Janet Hetherington
  • Words and Thoughts – Toren Smith and Tomoko Saito
  • Potato Man – Todd McFarlane
  • The Raven – Patrick McEown
  • Three Card Monty – Derek McCulloch and Simon Tristam
  • Benefit – Rick Trembles and Bernie Mireault
  • Stupid Fucken Dumbass Censorship – Rick Trembles
  • Those People! – Reed Waller and Kate Worely
  • Blank – Tom Grummett and Roger Williamson
  • Captain Censored Vs. Dr. Goingtoofar – Al Roy and Max Douglas
  • Corpus Delicti – Jerry Prosser and Matt Wagner
  • Other artists – Dave Sim, Gerhard, Kelley Jones, Moebus

More recently, an American man was charged with possessing child porn when Canada customs agents discovered manga scans on his laptop. Both The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) and CLLDF have both decided to support the case. If you want to donate, you can go to their site. Here is a great new and informative promotional flyer as well. Here and here are further resources.

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.