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Go to the "Beyond the Funnies" website



Interestingly, Nelvana, Johnny Canuck, Canada Jack and the other Canadian superheroes weren't the only Golden-Age superheroes who failed to survive the end of the Second World War. Even though the post-war decade witnessed a veritable explosion in the U.S. comics industry (it's estimated that at its peak, over 60 million comics were appearing every month), the public's interest in superhero comics declined sharply.(4) As a result, the U.S. comics publishers shifted their focus to other genres, especially horror, crime, war and romance.

In English Canada, the few surviving publishers reprinted and repackaged U.S. comics for the Canadian market, but even this industry would collapse in 1951, when all restrictions on the importation of U.S. comics were lifted. The one English-Canadian publisher that remained after 1951, Superior Publishers, managed to hang on until 1956 only because its comics (with titles like G.I. War Brides and United States Fighting Air Force) were expressly produced for the U.S. market. Superior's demise can be directly attributed to the campaign against crime-comics that was vigorously waged in both Canada and the U.S. throughout the first half of the fifties. The campaign resulted in major changes in the comics industry, including the introduction of the Comics Code, a stringent set of self-imposed content rules that effectively put an end to the lurid crime-, horror- and romance-comics. In Quebec, the only indigenous publisher active in the era was Fides, which from 1944 on issued religious comics featuring U.S. reprints together with some original material.

Just as the last English-Canadian comics publisher of the Golden Age folded, the U.S. comics industry, reeling from the crime-comics controversy, entered a new era: the U.S. Silver Age of Comics, which began with the publication of Showcase (No. 4) in September 1956. What distinguished Showcase was the resurrection in its pages of the Flash, one of the U.S. Golden-Age superheroes. After a hiatus of over ten years, the comic book public – by this time comprised mostly of children – was ready for a new generation of heroes. The Flash was soon followed by a myriad of superheroes, most of them produced by two firms: D.C. Comics and Marvel Comics.

For Canadian kids growing up in the fifties, the comics had been an outrageous mélange of horror, crime, war, Western, jungle, romance, funny-animal, Classics Illustrated, a few superheroes and, in the case of Quebec, edifying French-language comics like Hérauts. For their younger brothers and sisters who came of age in the 1960s, the medium was substantially different. Like the kids of the forties, those of the sixties were treated to a multitude of superheroes. It was the era of the Fantastic Four, Spiderman, Daredevil, the Hulk and the X-Men. (In Quebec reprints of U.S. superhero comics were issued by Editions Héritage of St. Lambert starting in 1965.) However, what all Canadian comic book readers of the 1950-1970 period had in common was a sense of alienation. For English Canadians, comics had become an American medium: the heroes were American, the settings were largely American and even the alluring comic book ads for toy soldiers and sea monkeys were American. Like U.S. television, comics seemed to contain an implicit message: Canada was a backwater bereft of heroes, bereft of guardians. For French Canadians, the medium was also dominated by the European francophone publishing houses.

This situation began to change, though, in the late sixties and early seventies, a period which witnessed the growth of a new cultural nationalism in Canada and the emergence of new underground and alternative publishers in the comics field. This period led to the rediscovery of the lost Canadian heroes of the forties and the rebirth of the Canadian comics industry. What might be deemed Canada's own Silver Age of Comics was about to begin.


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