Category Archives: Triumph

Canadian Identity in Triumph Comics #18

© Copyright 2017 Gillian Dizon, Ryerson University


The comics published by Bell Features during World War II are a cultural backbone for what a given society at the time wanted to define as the nationalistic ideology of Canadian identity. Thus, superheroes, their sidekicks and their antagonists came to fruition to address these behaviours or characteristics for all audiences. Generally speaking, if one were to consider these superheroes and their journeys as an example of perfection and goodness, then their antagonists must serve as a way to illustrate to the readers what is considered evil or antithetic to Canadian identity. Tasked with motivating young Canadians during the war effort, the various heroes of Triumph Comics #18 (Ace Barton, Captain Wonder, and Nelvana of the Northern Lights) of Triumph Comics #18 (1944) are often antagonized by villains who are marked by cultural or ethnic stereotypes of Japanese, German and Indigenous people. Understandably, two of these cultural groups derive from the countries the Allies have been warring with during WWII, however, villainizing entire populations of people to young readers would have deleterious effects – especially since many of these ‘villains’ had resided within Canadian borders. This exhibit will analyze the nature of what the writers of Bell Features has decided was necessary to frame Canadian identity and the problems that arise from poor, stereotypical writing.

Comics: Mythology for Kids!

Comic book superheroes are ultimately symbolic. During the golden age of comic books, these characters are meant to embody the ultimate moral good. Understanding the influential power within comic books as something that is akin to mythology would best describe why the portrayal of these characters are so effective and why nations contextually accepted these portrayals – no matter how problematic – at the time of their publishing. As Bart Beaty describes in The Fighting Civil Servant: Making Sense of the Canadian Superhero (2006) that heroes “serve to protect the national interest within superheroic narratives, but they also serve to illuminate national interests in the real world as iconic signs” (428). Beaty further demonstrates that as contemporary mythologies, the actual construction of a hero draws largely from classical mythology (The Fighting Civil Servant: Making Sense of the Canadian Superhero; 2006, 428).

The heroes of Triumph Comics (1944) are no exception to the methods of mythology-based creation. Nelvana of the Northern Lights (Triumph Comics, 1944) created by Adrian Dingle is an example of the “man-god” (The Fighting Civil Servant: Making Sense of the Canadian Superhero; 2006, 428) trope. The first recognizable thing about Nelvana is that she is first discovered by soldiers as a polar bear mounted, otherworldly, magical apparition within an aurora borealis (Triumph Comics #18, 1944, 2). Between Nelvana, Ace Barton and Captain Wonder (and briefly, Speed Savage), all three embody the classical heroic attitude Beaty describes as “a dedication to the principles of justice” (The Fighting Civil Servant: Making Sense of the Canadian Superhero; 2006, 428). For Nelvana, her single in this issue of Triumph Comics has allowed her to speak only twice in the comic and yet the only words she tells to the group of men she had just saved from wolves was a vow that she will protect them from the horrors of their enemies (Triumph Comics #18, 1944, 9). As for Captain Wonder and Speed Savage in a collaborated issue, the White Mask is described as a “two-fisted, gun packing aid to JUSTICE!” (Triumph Comics #18, 1944, 52) while Captain Wonder shames a man for betraying his country for his own profit (Triumph Comics #18, 1944, 29). Finally, for Ace Barton’s issue, he is described to be an ace pilot for the R.C.A.F. who tirelessly fights the Japanese despite being outnumbered and stranded (Triumph Comics #18, 1944, 38-44). All four of these superheroes serve as an example of classical heroes found in myth who are enhanced beings with an inherently morally good heart.

Antagonists: The Japanese

Now to examine what Triumph Comics had understood the Japanese to be at the time of their comics’ conception. As previously stated, the Japanese and the Germans are vilified because they are part of the Axis Powers and have generally become a real life menace for countries that fight for the Allies. On top of crudely drawn features, throughout the entire issue of Triumph Comics #18 (1944) racial slurs such as “Japs” (Triumph Comics #18, 1944, 9) and “Yellow Peril” (Triumph Comics #18, 1944, 42). But to really drive home the concept of these people as monsters, the artists have depicted these people with less than human features and behaving in an animalistic manner (Triumph Comics #18, 1944, 42).

Figure 1. The “Japs” from Ace Barton. Triumph Comics #18, 1944.

There’s very little difference in the Japanese antagonists in this issue of Ace Barton. The bigger antagonist has slightly more depth as a double agent for the Japanese army but is still drawn in a way that makes him resemble a monster and with no exposition about his character as anything more than a villain. A moment later he commands hordes of Japanese soldiers (pictured above) to chase Ace through the jungle like a pack of dogs (Triumph Comics #18, 1944, 40-43).

On a visible and symbolic level, readers of this issue of Ace Barton can sympathise with Ace in comparison to the Japanese not only because he is the hero of this narrative but because he is simply more human in his behaviour. In an article entitled Aboriginality and the Arctic North in Canadian Nationalist Superhero Comics, 1940-2004 (2005), Jason Dittmer and Soren Larsen “Given the visual nature of most superhero media, this reductionism also requires this coherent subjectivity to occupy a specific body, one that is gendered, raced, and super-powered” (53). From a careful observation of this issue, the authors of Ace Barton had intended their young audience to take the Japanese is expendable, traitorous or hostile. Regarding Beaty’s work, he describes that the pantheon of Canadian superheroes “illustrate a set of tensions that surround the intersection of popular culture and federal institutions within Canada” (The Fighting Civil Servant: Making Sense of the Canadian Superhero; 2006, 427). Given the history of Japanese internment camps during this time period, stripping the humanity from the Japanese isn’t a taboo subject for the 1940s.


Figure 2. Captain Wonder vs. Nazis. Triumph Comics #18, 1944, pg. 29

In Triumph Comics #18 (1944) Nazis are an often central antagonist appearing in Captain Wonder, Captain Wonder Meets Speed Savage and one-off strips between the larger comic issues. In this publication’s single of Captain Wonder, unlike the Japanese of Ace Barton (Triumph Comics #18, 1944), the Germans are drawn not in animalistic or monstrous ways but rather as menacing people. However, they still exhibit the same behaviour of having no real, in depth motives besides a need to destroy and kill. Since the Germans are a main opponent for the Allies, and therefore Canadians, in WWII, wartime comics are quite active in heavily vilifying the Nazis. In fact they are shown to be an even more fearful antagonist than the Japanese because in the each of the Captain Wonder issues, the Nazis have infiltrated into Canada and successfully killed many civilians (Triumph Comics #18, 1944).

To contrast these Germans against the Canadian superheroes would be presumably an easy task because of how evil they are; but arguably, this places Canadian protagonists into becoming just as unrealistically good. In Beaty’s article he elaborates that when it comes to Canadian comic culture “Canadian superiority [is] rooted in historical circumstance” (The Fighting Civil Servant: Making Sense of the Canadian Superhero; 2006, 434). There is no way of defining moral rightness for the heroes of Triumph Comics #18 (1944) without having to use blatant, one dimensional comparison. Dittmer and Larsen would regard the power in representation because when considering countries as imagined communities, “that power is just as manifest in

the everyday production of national representations as it is in the enforcement capabilities and reifications associated with the organizations dedicated to government” (Aboriginality and the Arctic North in Canadian Nationalist Superhero Comics, 1940-2004, 2005, 54).

Nelvana …and then the rest of the Natives

The most interesting meta-literary comparison between racialized heroes and villains would be how the authors have depicted Indigenous people.

Figure 3. Nelvana of the Northern Lights in Triumph Comics #18 (1944)
Injun Moe (Figure 4.). From Triumh Comics #18 (1944)

Arguably, the most visual difference between Nelvana and Injun Moe would be how closely Nelvana is drawn to possess Euro-centric features. Injun Moe however, has darker skin for being printed on colourless pages and his hair is tied into braids, adorned in feathers. Since Nelvana is made to fit the heroic, white-centric ideal of Canadian patriotism, she is allowed to be characterized with positive, protagonistic traits associated with her other superhero counterparts as she is seen saving Canadian soldiers from wolves (Triumph Comics #18, 1944, 8) and swearing to them that she will protect them from harm (Triumph Comics #18, 1944, 9). Injun Moe is racialized ridicule as he is seen taking hyper-literal meanings from other characters such as the bird pictured in the above panel (Triumph Comics #18, 1944, 21). The next single within this issue, TANG! (Triumph Comics #18, 1944), also depicts Indigenous antagonists; this time, an entire tribe who ambush a white man and his fellow white sidekick, apparently justified by a cry from a Native chief that “the white men want to disturb [their] peace!” (Triumph Comics #18, 1944, 14). These characters, unsurprisingly, have are draw with ethnic features and traditional dress in comparison to Nelvana. In these three singles, Indigenous people have ranged from heroic, stupid and hostile.

Dittmer and Larsen have addressed this issue regarding Nelvana’s key to heroism as being tied to whiteness and that her ethnic culture isn’t addressed at length (Aboriginality and the Arctic North in Canadian Nationalist Superhero Comics, 1940-2004, 2005). Thus, Nelvana stands as a symbol of the Canadian North more than she is a positive representation of Indigenous people. From another author, Sherrill Grace, Dittmer and Larsen refer to her work to describe this fraudulent sense of cultural representation “that these countervailing ideas are integrated into a powerful discursive formation that ultimately privileges Canada’s southern urban interests over those of northern residents” (Aboriginality and the Arctic North in Canadian Nationalist Superhero Comics, 1940-2004, 2005, 55). Nelvana would have a stronger, more positive impact as a Native character if it weren’t for her imposed whiteness and that every other poor, appropriated depiction of Native (or generally non-white, non-Canadian) people appear in all the major comic narratives of Triumph Comics #18.


What is even more unclear about trying to tie Canadian identity to these heroes is also exhibited in an article by Ivan Kocmarek who writes in Truth, Justice, and the Canadian Way: The War-Time Comics of Bell Features Publications (2016) where Adrian Dingle, the creator of Nelvana of the Northern Lights, that the stories in Triumph-Adventure Comics will “all have a Canadian background” but “ have no indication or assumption of anything “Canadian” in their stories” (150). With that in mind, how can these comic books, which are made to drive the ideology of Canadian identity, be impactful and clear to impressionable, wartime readers? The culture of Canada continued to be undefinable because it is lost within the exaggerated characteristics of their superheroes and supervillains and not honed to any real culture within Canada but is instead framed around defaming other cultures. All in all, this comic book, despite how much it lacks in meaning, serves as a touchstone for the mindset of authors and culture-creators within 1940s and a foundation for better comics to proceed.

Continue reading Canadian Identity in Triumph Comics #18

Triumph Comics #19: The Distortion of The Publics Perception Of Women Through Media in the 30s and 40s

© Copyright 2017 Daniel Jonoski, Ryerson University


 Comic books in the 1940s featured a multitude of issues and problems that were alive and well during that time period. The comics would display social themes and hegemonic beliefs regarding certain genders, races and ideologies. In Triumph Comics #19 published in the year 1944, female characters’ perception and persona are altered and distorted specifically in the featured comic “Tang” by Rene Kulbach and “Capt. Wonder” by Ross Saakel. Why this is a prominent theme will be discussed further below as well as the implications as a result of it. The way this comic represents women is in such a way that it begs the question as to why they are shown this way, what are the reasons for it? It is obvious that the ways women are portrayed in the comic are not even remotely close to how they are in real life; justification is not needed for that. However, the cultural perception of women and the propaganda/media that was present at that time helped pave the way for comic book writers to write female characters into their stories the way that they have, this being in a distorted, unrealistic and misrepresented sort of way.


The Cultures Perception

 For Triumph Comics #19 the cover page art or featured comic is “Tang”, written and illustrated by Rene Tulbach. The comic strip features the main protagonist Buddy Breckenridge and his Indian friend named Scout; their goal in this issue is to retrieve the stolen property papers that belong to a woman, Indigenous peoples being the ones who stole the papers. Upon encountering the woman, she is shown as helpless, defenseless and unable to fend for herself, and must be saved by the man. The cultural perception of women during the 1940s “was exemplified by the traditional gender constructions of men as producers and providers and women as wives and mothers” (Gourley 12). The public’s perception and portrayal of women is that of someone who would typically stay inside and provide and take care of her children, “The cultural perception was a woman’s ultimate goal was to be married and to have children, to have her life revolve around domesticity” (Gluck 4). The point being made here in terms of a connection with comic books is that illustrators and creators latch on to these social norms and construct their characters in their stories based on the cultural perception of that gender. During the 1940s the public perception of them was not that they were strong, capable and intimidating, it was the complete opposite. As a result of this cultural perception, the same type of stock female characters arise in many of the stories that were constructed during that given time period. The terms “stock” and “static” are useful words that help indicate how females are presented and displayed in these comics. If they were not at home and had to work “out” they “were often able to secure jobs in stereotypically feminine employment, such as domestic service, clerking, secretarial work, and teaching” (Cardinale 22) and “Job placement only became problematic with work that was considered masculine” (Hall et all. 233). Women would have this perception put upon them by the general public and as a result, these comics display a persona and perception that is distorted and essentially multiplied x10 (meaning their perceived traits) to the point where their portrayal would be nothing like how they actually are. The way in which women are perceived stems from how they are brought up, “women were raised at the time to behave, dress, and act in a certain (feminine) way”(Hall et all. 235). This is why many of these female characters that are present in this comic are shown almost as an accessory and a side character (apart from Nelvana) and are not the main focus of the text.



The female character in “Tang” who gets her property papers stolen is referred to as “girl” in the first panel she is presented in. It is evident based on the illustration of the “girl” that she is in fact not a girl at all; she is drawn as a woman. This is where the distorted vision comes into play. When you invision a “girl” or think about a “girl”, you think of terms like “vulnerable” and “weak”, young girls are not as strong and capable as they are when they are older. This is why the creator chose to call the female character a “girl”, because it is more believable in terms of the plot and progression of the story. But it is odd as she is clearly drawn as a woman, as shown in the picture below. It is more believable for

Creator: Rene Kulbach
The “Girl”

something like this to happen for a “girl” rather than a grown woman. The line, “I’m on my way to take charge of it” (Dingle et all. 11) is used by the female character. The ironic aspect of this line is that in terms of the comic strips plot; the female character is ultimately not the one to “take charge of it”. The character that ends up taking charge is Buddy Breckenridge, male essential character. Females “were denied access to “the front”, to “combat” so that men can claim a uniqueness and superiority that will justify their dominant position in the social order” (Enloe 15). This is what happens in this comic strip, the female character essentially takes a back seat to men just as it was in society during that time. The perception that is put upon females during the 1940’s allowed the comic book creators and illustrators to present characters such as the “girl” in “Tang” in such a way that was unlike how they actually were. A big part is the cultures perception during that time; these comic book creators gave into these unrealistic and distorted ideologies regarding women and put them into their stories.



Further evidence of a distorted female character is evident in the comic strip “Capt

Creator: Ross Saakel
Female leaping into Capt Wonder’s arms.

Wonder”. Upon seeing the gorilla escape and attack the city, the female character, who has no influence on the actual outcome of the story, leaps into the arms of Capt Wonder and eventually faints. It is said that “women were often reminded of their secondary status” (Brenneman 21) meaning that this perception of the being known as “secondary” gets displayed first hand in Triumph Comics #19, specifically with regards to the female who faints. “Tool” is a good term to describe female characters in 1940s comics; all they did was help bring out the reason for the existence of man during that time. Women during that time contributed to the war effort in small as well as large ways, whether that is true or not is being questioned, it is the fact that they are presented and shown in such distorted ways in the forms of media present during World War II and it begs the question as to why this was a thing in the first place. The same stock type of female character appears here once again; she is unable to do things herself and must be saved by the male protagonist. This is a reoccurring theme in

Creator: Ross Saakel
The female fainting.

these comics during this time. This proves once again the idea of how the cultures perception influences the ways in which the creators of these comics write these female characters into their stories. If the general public is lead to believe that this type of distorted persona is the norm then that is how these comics are created and accepted. Cultural Perception is everything.



 During World War II the use of propaganda was heavily influential as it would be seen everywhere you would go. The issues displayed on these posters would include a variety of things pertaining to bother genders. The use of the propaganda was a way of swaying the public to do certain things or think a certain way about the given subject that was in the poster. The use of film was a heavy influencer in terms of the perception of women. Just like the comic books, film makers were also persuaded to believe these notions of women and further helped bring to light this fake perception of women that everybody during that time seemed to be gravitating toward. For women, propaganda and other forms of media (ex. film) that pertained towards them changed leading from the 30s into the 40s. It went from showing them in roles “that did not allow them to take charge of their own destinies. Women had to rely on men to come save the day” (Brenneman 21). This would be right before WWII and eventually lead into it. These “propaganda messages instructed women how to behave at home and asked for women as volunteers and workers” (Brenneman 22). The propaganda and films that were present at that time helped the general public create this vision of how women are and how they should be and normalized it to the point where it can be considered okay and acceptable to be shown in a comic. It went from that to eventually showing them as “valiant, patriotic caretakers, volunteers and workers, all of whom have the ultimate priority of helping the war effort in whatever ways they can” (Brenneman 21). But this preconceived notion that was loosely based off of the posters and films that were already present for some time made that culture believe that this is how women should be and how they actually are. The point of “Women had to rely on men to come save the day” (Brenneman 21) overlaps completely with the plot from the Capt Wonder comic strip. The “damsel in distress” falls into the mans arms and must be saved from the danger. The comics are a direct representation of the misrepresentation of the women during that time. These notions and ideologies of how women should be and act is just a fabrication done by media (meaning film, comics, propaganda). In World War II propaganda, “Women, incapable of protecting themselves, serve as the grounds on which to persuade men to exert their masculinity and vanquish the enemy” (Kumar 298), this being much like the comic strips that were created which the likes of Buddy Breckenridge and Capt Wonder showing off their masculinity in order to save the female.



The same regurgitated female characters appear in the vast majority of comics during World War II that showcase a female character. They have the same characteristics and it is those characteristics that are distorted, unrealistic and misrepresented. Through cultural perception that is heavily influenced by the use of media, comic book creators create these female characters that are unlike how females actually were in real life. Secondary, Static and Stock are indicators, which describe the type of character that a female was in 1940s comic books. 1940s comic books are a direct representation of how the general public thought during that time and what there views and ideologies were. Even though propaganda geared towards women changed over time, that perception of them as being weak and essentially second to men stayed the same. This was as a result of the media previously associating them with terms like that and causing people to believe and be persuaded by it, forming these distorted visions of women.


Works Cited

  • Gourley, Catherine. Rosie and Mrs. America: Perceptions of Women in the 1930s and 1940s. Minneapolis: Twenty-First Century Books, 2008. Print.


  • Gluck, Sherna Berger. Rosie the Riveter Revisited: Women, the War, and Social Change. Boston: Twayne, 1987. Print.


  • Hall, Martha L., Belinda T. Orzada, and Dilia Lopez‐Gydosh. “American Women’s Wartime Dress: Sociocultural Ambiguity regarding Women’s Roles during World War II.” The Journal of American Culture, vol. 38, no. 3, 2015, pp. 232-242.


  • Brenneman, Brianne. “‘Morale Boosting Necklines’ and Other Forms of Support: Propaganda Aimed at American Women in World War II Films.” Film International, vol. 13, no. 4, 2015, pp. 20-22.


  • Kumar, Deepa. “War Propaganda and the (AB)Uses of Women: Media Constructions of the Jessica Lynch Story.” Feminist Media Studies, vol. 4, no. 3, 2004, pp. 297-313.


  • Enloe, Cynthia H. Does Khaki Become You?: the Militarization of Women’s Lives. Pandora, 1988.


  • Dingle, Adrian, et al. Triumph Comics: No. 19. Bell Features and Publishing Company Limited, 1944.


 Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.

Superheroes as a Spokesperson to Children through the Visual Indistinct illustration of Soldiers in the 13th Edition of the Triumph Comics

© Copyright 2017 Julia Cicchelli, Ryerson University


The Second World War was a global war that occurred from 1939-1945.  It was branded as the most widespread armed war in history and directly involved over 100 million people and over thirty countries, including the United States of America, Germany, and Canada (Encyclopedia of Espionage).  During this time, wartime legislation banned “foreign periodicals” (Loubert and Hirsh) from entering domestic countries and as a result the United States of America was no longer allowed to provide Canada with popular periodicals such as magazines and comics that Canadians relied on for entertainment (Martin and Sarfati).

The absences of these comics lead to the creation and the short lived success of the Canadian Whites.  The “whites” were a lineup of comics written, drawn and published by Canadians in the 1940s (Loubert and Hirsh).  These comics monopolized the superhero comic genre, which was a sensation during this time, and illustrated a diverse range of heroes that ranged from unworldly and magical, such as Nelvana of the Northern Lights, to more realistic heroes who were “everyday men “such as Ace Barton or the Black Avenger.  These comics also included Canadian advertisements promoting subscriptions to other comic issues created by the “whites” as well advertisements for toys about war that directly targeted children reading the comics.

There are numerous papers and articles that examine the relationship between war and its effects on children as well as articles and papers on children and their relationship to comics but I was not able to find any scholarly works that examined war related comics and their effects and relationship with the children who made up their target audience.  Therefore I want to use my paper to explore how these comics portrayed superheroes as “every day men” and left them visually indistinct so as to generate the widest possible range of kids to see themselves in their heroes.  I want to juxtapose this to the use of advertisements promoting toys about the war that targeted children.  I believe that these comics used superheroes as a hard hitting spokesperson to children in order to fulfill the need to recruit fresh soldiers for the war effort in addition to fulfilling the economic needs for profit and the entertainment needs of children.

The Changes to Everyday Life Caused By WW2:

The six year long war brought many changes to the Canadian lives and families impacted by the Second World War.  The majority of adult men present in a child’s life were recruited and posted across seas in order to serve in the armed forces, which left many women to enter the paid work force to sustain the economic needs of their family in addition to allowing them to contribute to the war efforts. The Canadian Historica Encyclopedia provides an explanation regarding the many Canadian families that dealt with shortages in sugar, meat, butter and gasoline which lead to rationing coupons being issued in order to provide a fair share to all (Cooke).

In addition, there were housing shortages in larger Canadian cities which forced working class families to house together with other families (Cooke).  Ian Cooke examines in his article “Children’s experiences and propaganda” how children were “bombarded with propaganda encouraging them to be on the lookout and avoid careless talk that could aid enemy spies hiding in their communities” (Cooke).  Schools focused their teachings on lessons about the “famous battles occurring overseas, war heroes, and warships and aircraft bombings that were devastating cities” (Cooke) in order make children aware of the global happenings as well as the threats that they were vulnerable to.

Basically, children were living in fear for their loved ones fighting across seas as well as their own safety.  In addition to this fear instilled into them, children were given increased responsibilities and roles as a result of the gaps left by their absent parents and siblings, leaving them to balance more chores, look after siblings, and taking on employment at ages as young as ten.

 The Role of the “Whites” for Entertainment:

The Canadian comics illustrated in the “Whites” were able to fulfill the entertainment needs of children in a time where entertainment was scarce in addition to being a beacon of hope in a time where children were feeling helpless and hopeless.

The comics were filled with stories of superheroes fighting against and defeating foreign enemies, who were illustrated as Nazi Germans and Japanese soldiers, in order to represent real enemies who were actually fighting against Canadian soldiers in the war.  Superhero stories followed heroes such as the Black Avenger and Ace Barton.  The Black Avenger was a British spy who, in this particular issue of the Triumph Comic that I am analyzing, was hired to rescue a fellow spy who was captured and being held in a Nazi camp.  Ace Barton on the other hand was an English R.A.F. pilot who was captured in this issue by Nazi soldiers and was being tortured by them in order to reveal where he hid some African diamonds that he was transporting to England.  Both the Black Avenger and Ace Barton are successful in escaping from the Nazis by over powering and out thinking them and successfully completing their task. These heroes are depicted as bold and adventurous soldiers who bravely fight against German Nazis in unrealistically glamorized battles that result in their continuous and therefore impending victory.

In a time where children were robbed of their childhood and forced into being responsible, working individuals, these comic heroes represented a way of escape in the sense that it allowed the child to enjoy childlike entertainment.  As Avrom Fleishman argues in his paper “The Genre of the Good Soldier” war related comics provide children with glamorized war stories and an image of “golden soldiers” (Fleishman) which allowed children to slip off into an imaginary world in which they did not have any responsibilities to uphold.  These responsibilities and any war related worries were put at ease by the image of these “golden soldiers” (Fleishman) who would protect them unfailingly from the foreign threats.

In addition to children needing a form of entertainment,   children were also feeling helpless and hopeless, buried under their constant fears for the safety of their loved ones as well as themselves.  By creating this image of a “golden soldier” (Fleishman) these comics were able to create an illusion that the war was not as bad as they believed it to be and it was something that Canadians were going to emerge victorious from because heroes like Ace Barton and the Black Avenger were fighting on Canada’s side.  Comics could be understood as a beacon of hope for these children who desperately needed something to hold on to.

“Every Day Men” as Heroes to Recruit New Soldiers to the War Force:

The two heroes that I mentioned previously, the Black Avenger and Ace Barton, were both depicted in the comic as a realistic, though glamorized representation of real life heroes.  Both heroes were soldiers who possessed no unworldly powers, instead they simply relied on their physical abilities and minds to successfully beat their enemies.  Both heroes are shown to be strong and rely on their muscles as well as war artillery to fight off threats in addition to their quick wit to think their way out of tough situations.  However neither hero was indestructible and both were as vulnerable to the physical threats of a gun or another man’s strength as any man would be.

Since both heroes possessed realistic abilities both relied heavily on their access to war weaponry, such as guns and planes in order to assist in their defeat of their enemy.  By giving these soldiers realistic abilities, children reading the comic could easily interpret the actions of their heroes as something plausible for them to recreate, which encourages their desire to become a soldier so that they too could become just like their heroes.

“Ace Barton”. Comic from Triumph Comic. 13 edition, 1943.

In addition to the heroes possessing realistic abilities, the comic illustrates both the Black Avenger and Ace Barton as visually indistinct as possible.  The Black Avenger wears a black mask over his entire face which leaves his identity a mystery while Ace Barton is drawn so simply in comparison to the detail given to the faces of the German Nazi soldiers, making him look compatible with any man.

By illustrating both heroes in such non distinct ways, the comic is able to mythologize these heroes as “everyday men” by generating the widest possible range of children who see their dads, their brothers and themselves in their heroes. Doing so again creates an illusion that children can easily become just like their heroes, which encourages their desire to embody the actions and position of their heroes by becoming a soldier.

Toys about War, Conditioning Children but also Profit for Economic Needs:

Machin and Leeuwen explain in their paper “Toys as Discourse: Children’s War Toys and the War on Terror” that war related toys became a popular discourse during WW2 because they “allowed children to enact with the discourses and values of war in play while also making a profit”.  Additionally, Machin and Leeuwen explain how Canada’s economy during the Second World War was not as disastrous as the First World War but any war leaves a country in economic debt and creates shortages and the need to ration.   Therefore selling these war related toys was able to allow toy companies to create a profit, keep people employed within the company which allowed them to be able to sustain their lives as well as their families.

Within the thirteenth issue of Triumph Comics, two advertisements were found immediately after the Black Avenger and the Ace Barton comic, advertisements selling toys about war.  The first advertisement shows what is called an “Identoplane Kit” which is a plane set made up of twenty four different war planes that children were encouraged to construct and play with.  The other advertisement was for the new “Commander” a wooden toy gun that made a real bang as to fully represent an actual gun.

“The New Super Commander.” Ad in Triumph Comics, 13th ed., The Canadian White, 1943, p. 39.

Both of these advertisements targeted children and promoted them purchasing and playing with these war related toys in order to become “young commanders”.  These two advertisements are the only of the eleven advertisements included in the comics that promote war related toys for children and are conveniently located directly after the stories of soldier heroes who are reliant on such tools in their adventures.  This placement led me to believe that these ads were knowingly placed here because toy companies understood that children would want to re-enact the actions of these heroes, who relied on guns and planes and children are led to believe that in order to become like these heroes they too need to use and become familiar and knowledgeable in such tools in order to properly and effectively embody their heroes.

Therefore I understood this as another form of conditioning children by making them aware of the tools that they will need to become familiar with in addition to making them play soldier as prep for becoming actual soldiers/ real life heroes like the Black Avenger and Ace Barton.


The Canadian Whites were an important addition to Canadian life during WW2, particularly for the children who read these comics.  These comics acted as a source of entertainment in a time where entertainment was scarce as well as a beacon of hope that allowed children to escape from the realities of the war.  The depiction of soldiers as heroes who claimed no unworldly superpowers in addition to their illustration as visually indistinct generated the widest possible range of children to see themselves in their heroes.  The comics used these heroes as spokespeople to children in order to encourage them at an early age to want to be active members in war, like their heroes.  Doing so fulfilled Canada’s need to recruit fresh soldiers to the war effort in addition to fulfilling the entertainment needs of children.

The juxtaposition between these comics and the advertisements promoting war related toys was essential not only in conditioning children to enact the discourses and values of war through play but also as a way of profit to support economic needs created by the war.  Therefore the overlapping of social and political needs for fresh soldiers for the war effort, the economic needs for profit and the entertainment needs of kids were all represented in these comics and through these “everyday” soldier heroes.



Work Cited

Armstrong, Martin. “Propaganda & Children : Always the First Target of Leaders.” Blog. Armstrong Economics. N.p., 3 May 2014. Web. Accessed March 6 2017.

Fleishman, Avrom. “The Genre of ‘the Good Soldier’: Ford’s Comic Mastery.” Studies in the Literary Imagination; Atlanta, Ga. 13.1 (1980): 12. Web. Accessed March 18 2017

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