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Under-representation of Women in Whiz Wallace

© Copyright 2017 Ashlyn Good, Ryerson University


Women have been misrepresented for years in comics, especially during the second world war. They were underrepresented within comics because they were not given credit for everything they did do during the war effort, and should be able to at least have a better depiction of themselves within media if they do not get the credit they deserve in real life.
This exhibit will be exploring the portrayal and interpretation of gender roles in comics during World War 2 in Wow Comics No. 9. The story of Whiz Wallace will be analyzed to demonstrate the struggles between power among the gender roles, the language used to describe and differentiate between characters and their roles, as well as the illustrations used which help to depict the discrimination that is implied within the comic.

 Language and Interpretation of Character

The language used within this issue of Wow Comics is very discriminatory especially during that time period. It is important because it affects the way we interpret and perceive women in the text. In Whiz Wallace, the language that the author has used implies that Elaine is evidently weaker than Whiz and seems to be dependent on him to save her. This allows the audience to interpret her as the lesser gender which is unfair to women because during that time period in real life they were actually quite useful and sometimes even more useful than men. According to the book, The 10 Cent War: Comic Books, Propaganda, and World War 2, “part of the traditional cultural structure placed men as protectors and women as protected” (Kimble, 39). In Whiz Wallace, Elaine is the more vulnerable character and depends on Whiz to save her most of the time.  Elaine is portrayed as this weak woman whom can not seem to defend herself while Whiz is depicted as strong and masculine. This means that gender roles were significant during this time and it is clearly depicted in the story of Whiz Wallace that Elaine was meant to be protected and not the protector because of her gender.

C.T Legault. Panel from “Whiz Wallace.” Wow Comics No.9, Bell Features and Publishing Company, pg. 57. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives.

In addition, another character who is also a woman is portrayed as slightly vulnerable even though she plays a powerful role: the Cobra Queen. She is a very powerful female character in this comic but unfortunately even she ends up depicted as vulnerable and more feminine rather than a strong female character. In the comic, the queen is introduced to readers as sad and void (Legault, 60) and as you continue to read on to the next page, the language used to describe the queen begins to change simultaneously. First she was a queen, then she was “queen-like”, then she became a “beautiful princess”(Legault, 61) and later on, she becomes a queen again. The change in description is significant because this means that the author gradually takes power away from this character and by doing so, exerts power onto the opposite gender almost automatically. Since this character was made more vulnerable because of language used to describe her, it proves that during this time period, men were automatically seen as the heroes or the protectors and labourers. Men are the ones who put in the most work according to the train of thought of other men during that time period and the language used within this comic is used deliberately to create an interpretation about a certain character(s).

Fig. 2: C.T Legault. Panel from “Whiz Wallace.” Wow Comics No.9, Bell Features and Publishing Company, pg. 60. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives.

Illustration and Interpretation of Women

The depiction and illustration of women within this comic is very significant because it adds to how readers interpret their character, especially women. Women are usually highly sexualized within media and it has been this way for a very long time because of the patriarchal society that has impacted it. In Whiz Wallace, the Cobra Queen and Elaine both wear more slim-fitting clothing which exposes more skin creating a more sexualized, alluring appearance which creates a sexualization which brings about the interpretation that women are sexual objects that are portrayed in order to visually please men. During this time period, women were out doing manual labour on the homefront while men were at war. This meant that a change in roles would mean a change in style as well. According to an article written about women during the war, “this change of dress is symbolic of the change in American women’s roles during the war. This adoption of masculine dress, by literally wearing the pants, is an outward expression of the cultural shift in women as homemakers to women as worker”(Hall, 237). Even though women were of great use to the war effort at the time, they were still portrayed as sexual objects with a vulnerable and feminine touch within the comic, especially in Whiz Wallace because even at the end of the comic, the Cobra Queen is clearly attracted to Whiz, even though he is merely an Earthman. Overall, “there are fewer women than men… portrayed as interested in romance or as less-powerful adjuncts to male characters, the women are shown in skimpy clothing and in poses that accentuate their curves while male characters are portrayed as athletic and action-oriented” (Cocca, 7). This demonstrates that women will be seen as lesser than men and the author of the comic has depicted that women are sexual beings which are created in order to please men.


“Mansel in Distress”: Power Struggle Between Genders and Characters

In the comic, there is an interesting power struggle among gender roles within Whiz Wallace, because of the differences and similarities between Elaine and the Cobra Queen, in contrast to Whiz, and his more masculine role. According to the book, Superwomen: Gender, Power, and Representation, “the superhero genre in comics… underrepresents women in position of power, both as real life creators and as fictional characters” (Cocca, 1). In this comic, the Cobra Queen is a strong female character in the sense that she is the one to save Whiz and Elaine from the army of dwarves that were ready to kill them. The Cobra Queen is introduced as a vulnerable character, who is sad and who seems to have a void as though she is missing something, but then she becomes this powerful character who takes charge and gets rid of the dwarves in order to save Whiz and Elaine. She is an interesting character because she is still portrayed as more vulnerable from Whiz even though she saved his life because near the end of the comic, she seems to be attracted to Whiz and it seems as though there could be a sort of love triangle or even a conflict because there is Elaine who also depends on Whiz for protection and potentially attraction. She calls him a “handsome earthman” (Legault, 63), which means that she must be attracted to him in some way.

In contrast, Elaine is portrayed as more dependent on Whiz to protect her because in the comic she does not seem to be able to take care of things on her own without referring back with Whiz. For example, when the couple was getting attacked the army of dwarves, Elaine was not able to handle it and had to wait for Whiz to save her because her character is depicted as weak and vulnerable and clearly unable to handle herself (Legault, 57). They are referred to as a couple in the comic which means there must be some sort of relationship between them and since Elaine depends on Whiz more, this clearly demonstrates that Whiz is the one with the power between the three characters.

Furthermore, Whiz is depicted as masculine and strong which men usually are within media, especially during that time period, which exerts a type of power which is clearly demonstrated throughout the entire story. Even though Whiz is sort of a ‘mansel in distress’ in this comic, he still contains a significant power of the women in the story. He attracts both female characters with his looks which sexualizes the women within the comic proving them to be more vulnerable than men, making them lose their power almost altogether. The characters in this comic struggle metaphorically with power in relation to who is the more dominant gender.



Overall, women are misrepresented within comics as well as during the war effort at that time. In this comic, even though there was more stronger, female character, she was still depicted as vulnerable with very feminine qualities. Then there was Elaine, who was depicted as the typical damsel in distress, awaiting Whiz to save the day. According to the book Superwomen: Gender, Power, and Representation, “the underrepresentation of women… and the repetition of inequalities in fiction… are unacceptable and can and must be changed” (Cocca, 5). This means that women should have been given a chance in real life as well as in the media to show how useful they really were as opposed to weak and useless.

Works Cited

  • Legault,​ ​E.​ ​T.,​ ​et​ ​al.,​ ​editors.​ ​​Wow Comics: No. 9.​ ​Bell​ ​Features​ ​and​ ​Publishing​ ​Company, 1942
  • Hall, Martha L., et al. “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. 232–42. Scholars Portal Journals, doi:10.1111/jacc.12357.
  • “Superwomen.” Bloomsbury Publishing,
  • Goodnow, Trischa, and James J. Kimble, editors. The 10 Cent War: Comic Books, Propaganda, and World War II. University Press of Mississippi, 2016.

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.

Damsel in Distress: Through the Ages

Darline Hasrama


Professor Tschofen

ENG810- 011

Damsel in Distress: Through the Ages


If you have ever seen a movie where a woman is in a problematic situation and she is heroically saved by a man, and you thought “oh, how romantic”, then congratulations because you have been damseled.  This trope of “damsel in distress” has been widespread throughout several media mediums and each brings its own variation of it.


The trope of damsel in distress was most prevalent in Commando Comics issue #20, where it can be observed in a number of stories, particularly in “The Lovely and Unknown Polka.Dot Pirate”.  However, being as this comic issue was published in 1943, it is not the first variation of the trope.

The trope of damsel in distress has had been used for many years and but has surprisingly retained many of its redeeming qualities.  Through watching the films “The Train Wreckers” and “The Black Pirate”, it can be compared that the identifications of an independent woman, an aggressive, dangerous situation, and the inevitable rescue of the woman by a strong man are notable throughout all mediums.


For this research paper I will be comparing the trope of damsel in distress over two silent film mediums, and compare how the trope has either evolved leading up to and including Commando Comics.  The objective of this research is to show how a trope that is considered to be very fluent in characteristics throughout all mediums can potentially differ and grow as the years carry on.  This topic is an important area of research because there has not been much extensive research comparing the trop through the ages.  Most research explains how the trop is normally used to explain a certain message about women and their relationships with men and why these are prevalent is everyday society, however, none of them address their progression.


The first medium is the primary source which is the Commando Comics issue #20.  The trope can be identified in “The Lovely and Unknown Polka.Dot Pirate”.  The second medium is film.  In this case, there are two silent films.  The first is “The Train Wreckers” from 1905, this is the earliest film depiction of a damsel in distress.  The second is a more popular option called “The Black Pirate” from 1926.

Commando Comics:

Commando Comics, no. 20, Jan. 1943, pp. 1-36. Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection, 1941-1946. RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.
Commando Comics, no. 20, Jan. 1943, pp. 1-36. Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection, 1941-1946. RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.

The primary evidence that can be found is in the short story titled “The Lovely and Unknown Polka.Dot Pirate” in the Commando Comics issue #20.  In this story the Polka Dot Pirate is the intended protagonist heroine who saves the day (and incidentally men).  The Polka Dot Pirate figures out how the victim was murdered.  Her smart are noted by the villain who says “she’s wise” (Commando Comics p. 25).  This quote from the villain points out her intellect in figuring out how the victim was murdered.  It seemed that she had won the day but all of a sudden her colleague comes out of nowhere and punches the villain out.  He does this right as the villain is about to leave.  This shows a power struggle and implies that the woman is incapable of defending herself.  Men are presented as a physical dominant force that will overshadow a woman’s intellectual ability to save the day.  This ultimately made the female protagonist look like she needed to be saved from a violent situation by a man.  It is in opposition to the panels where she is taking charge over the speed boat to catch up to the villain while exhibiting serious physical moves, demonstrating her adventurous side when she is pursuing her target.  By having her be a serious heroine who chases after the antagonist, it is a surprise to see that she is eventually overpowered by a man in a physical altercation.  The short story also does not end with her having the upper hand, it ends with her male partner having the upper hand giving the readers the illusion that he is the true hero of this story.

Another feature that accompanies the trope of damsel in distress is the appearance of the damsel.  Women in comic books are normally given a provocative and overtly sexualized outfit for the pleasurable viewing of males.  (Facciani, Lavin) In this particular short story the Polka.Dot Pirate is the only character in the story who is not in regular clothes, instead she is depicted in a superhero costume.  She is wearing a cape and a mask, which is traditional of a superhero.  Her top portion of the outfit is a low-cut and figure hugging top.  There is a deep V cut into her shirt which is a vantage point meant to show off her feminine physique.  Her top also seems to be a crop top, bearing the midriff.  Her superhero outfit seems to be less about actual functionality and comfort which a crime fighting woman should adorn, and more so about sexuality used to point out the heroine’s clear feminine qualities.

Her outfit is misogynistic to overtly point out that the Polka.Dot Pirate is to be associated with sexuality as opposed to saving the day.  Her outfit can be associated with research provided by (Lavin) which shows that women’s outfits were drawn to be more so provocative because it is what men liked to see during the war which explains the Polka.Dot Pirates attire.  It can then be thought of as a reflection of the modern world in 1943.  Women were receiving more recognition for their intelligence and other skills, however, this cannot be socially accepted in the eyes of a working man.  It is then because of the upcoming and modern thoughts of a woman handling more than previously thought was possible, that it had to so forcibly be overshadowed by a man so that men still felt like they asserted dominance over women.

The Train Wreckers:

"The Train Wreckers (1905) - Edwin S. Porter | Thomas Edison." YouTube, Nov. 2012,
“The Train Wreckers (1905) – Edwin S. Porter | Thomas Edison.” YouTube, Nov. 2012,

“The Train Wreckers” is about a woman who falls in love with a train conductor, and so she figures out that his train is going to be overrun by train wreckers and she saves the train.  The second time the train wreckers ambush and tie her up to the railroad, and she must then be saved by the men in the train before she is run over.

The chief evidence that surrounds the trope in this silent film is that after she saves her love and the other passengers on the train the first time, she is applauded and it seems like a great moment for women saviors.  Nonetheless, she is then ambushed and tied up to the train tracks which visually is the most well known trope of a damsel in distress in film culture. (source) It then follows the general script of her very nearly escaping death before being rescued by his friends and she celebrates profusely that her life is saved.

The contradiction of woman saving men and then almost in retaliation man saving women, shows a power struggle of sorts in regards to what gender can superiorly save the other.  It manifests the general ideal that once women can prove they are capable of saving others and being the hero of the day, it is viewed almost as an abomination by men, hence the tying up.

The Black Pirate:

"The Black Pirate (1926) Full Movie [BluTay 720p]." YouTube, Feb. 2017,
“The Black Pirate (1926) Full Movie [BluTay 720p].” YouTube, Feb. 2017,
            “The Black Pirate” which was released in 1926 stars the legendary Billie Dove, a woman who at the height of her fame was dubbed an actress who perfectly depicted the damsel in distress. (Gussow).  She is a princess aboard a pirate ship who was kidnapped by the lead pirate.  When the son, the male savior, takes over the ship for vengeance, he decides that the princess is so beautiful that he simply must save her.

“The Train Wreckers”, without the traditional clichéd tied to the train tracks bit, “The Black Pirate” demonstrates that even in 1926 women were seen as sexualized objects of affection.  Even though the main objective of the movie had no immediate involvement of the princess, her character was a subplot meant to create more content.  Because of her sexualized presence in the film and the male go-getter action of the pirate battles, it can be interpreted as a male centric fantasy. (Lavin)


Comparing the two movies that have 21 years between them, the storyline and trope has definitely evolved to be more plot centric and action based but the roles of the female characters have decreased in function.  The earliest version sees the female character actually playing an active role in saving the men and being the primary hero which is the most similar to “The Lovely and Unknown Polka.Dot Pirate”.  However, the point of the evolution between these 21 years is not only the decreased role of the female but also the transition of the fashion style.  The fashion style is an important evolution because it is a depiction of how significant the image of a helpless woman has been advertised.  Fast forward 17 years and the comic book is a combination of the main attributes of each film as opposed to an evolution in the right direction.

In the comic, the Polka.Dot Pirate includes a brief element of the woman being the primary savior of the man before she is in turn saved.  Since the man was murdered, it is up to her to figure out and apprehend the villain and then for the male companion to save the day.  This is the connection between the 1905 medium and the 1943 medium.  This shows that the aspect of the female savior is a continued trait that comes back and is popularized due to the power struggle that appears between the men and the women where the man seems to get the last say.  In the comic there is also the other element pertaining to how the Polka.Dot Pirate is dressed. (Dunne, Lavin) She is dressed differently than her male counterparts and is seen in short, scantily clad clothes that show off her figure.  This is a connection between the comic medium and the 1926 silent film medium.  This is a principal similarity between the two because it shows how the way the women are portrayed in the eyes of their male creators.  In the 1905 film, the female character is dressed more conservatively to accurately portray the fashion standards of the time.  As the fashion standards evolve so does the visual representation of female heroines who are outshined by men.  The fashion standards could be reflective of the societal values of time.  In 1905 it was very common for women to be wives and homemakers, as opposed to starring in an action films.  In the 1920’s it was more socially acceptable, although still promiscuous to see women in a more bodacious outfit such as flapper dresses.  As the 1940’s roll in, the ladies focused more on comfortable clothes that allowed them to be traditional caretakers as well as a worker.  Even though women had a rougher image due to the circumstances surrounding the era, they were glamourized and sexualized in places where men were able to hold onto the idea of the ideal woman.


The trope of damsel in distress has certainly evolved from 1905 to 1943, but it was because of those earlier adaptions that the trope was able to manifest itself and become a combination of the two different variations.  The comic “The Lovely and Unknown Polka.Dot Pirate” infuses the elements of “The Train Wreckers” by having a female lead be overshadowed by the lesser involved male character and also immerses elements from “The Black Pirate” by having these women dress in scantily clad outfits.  This evolution is an indication that the trope is ever changing but inherently incorporates past themes.







Commando Comics, no. 20, Jan. 1943, pp. 1-36. Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection,

1941-1946. RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.

Diekman, Amanda B and Emily K. Clark. “Beyond the Damsel in Distress: Gender Differences

and Similarities in Enacting Prosocial Behavior.” The Oxford Handbook of Prosocial 

Behavior, 2015, pp.376-386.

Dunne, Maryjane. “The Representation of Women in Comic Books, Post WW11 Through the

Radical 60’s.” PSU Mcnair Scholars Online Journal, Vol.2, no. 1, 2006.

Facciani, Matthew et al. “A Content Analysis of Race, Gender, and Class in American Comic

Books.” Race, Gender & Class, Vol.22, no. 3-4, 2015, pp. 216-226.

Gussow, Mel. “Billie Dove, Damsel in Distress in Silent Films, is Dead at 97: Obituary (obit).”

New York Times, 1998.

Lavin, Michael R. “Women in Comic Books.” Serials Review, Vol.24, no.2, 1998, pp. 93-100.

“The Black Pirate (1926) Full Movie [BluRay 720p].” Youtube, Feb. 2017,

“The Train Wreckers (1905) – Edwin S. Porter | Thomas Edison.” Youtube, Nov. 2012,



Dizzy dons cape of justice

© Jade Maxam 2017, Ryerson University




The crime genre has delighted young and old since it’s appearance in 1841. Stories of mystery and danger draw readers into a dangerous world dominated by the immoral, often following the steps of a single bastion of justice, the detective. Some are professionally employed within the police force, some independent, while others are amateur private eyes in their spare time. However, despite the various backgrounds a P.I may come from, one thing always dominates the genre; violence. Often the detective is put in a position where they perpetrate some form of violence on a criminal or those associated with them. Dizzy Don is no exception. In the Funny Comics with Dizzy Don # 18: Bottled Death the protagonist, Dizzy Don, opens fire on a group of gangsters chasing him through an abandoned mine. This is especially startling given that Dizzy Don is a professional radio show host. He has no direct ties to law enforcement nor does he hold any kind of authority in the instance, however Dizzy Don is pardoned from any kind of charges at the end. The message passed on to the reader by these actions is that when in the pursuit of justice, violence committed by civilians is excusable and is seen as heroic.


American aspirations

Canadian comics while unique in their own rights, are by no means original. Many of the stories or conventions found in Canadian whites are very similar to American comics that would have been found on the market in pre-pulp ban times. By copying the stories and styles, the comic writers may have unintentionally copied American sentiments into the Canadian versions of these comics. Prohibition was a popular topic for movies and comics at the time (Fried, 333), especially within the crime or amateur detective genre. While Prohibition never reached the same magnitude in Canada yet, they topic was easily accessible to those reading the comics because of the heavy influence from the US. The comics were neither censored nor reviewed by any kind of board, essentially allowing creators to broadcast their stories unhindered. Until 1954, commercial American comic books were not subject to any formal censorship organization (Hirsch viii). As a result, all kinds of pro-war and pro-nationalism themes could be disseminated throughout the country since comic books had increasingly larger readerships than newspapers.


The effects of American culture clearly had a heavy influence on Canada and the range of topics covered within comics. The names of Rat Face and Giggling Gerty as well as their caricature style faces are reminiscent of Chester Gould’s comic series Dick Tracy, which was in circulation at the time. Manny Easson follows the same ideology that criminals are the personification of evil, and that evil is not pretty. While the villains of Dizzy Don are not grotesque, they are not attractive in the conventional way (Fried, 335). Rat face’s nose it so pronounced his head is essentially a sideways triangle, while Hamchin is more chin than person. By making these characters strange looking the reader is less likely to sympathise with them, nor reproach them for not behaving in the lawful good manner we come to expect of a protagonist, even in a crime novel, where violence is permitted for the sake of justice. The same can be said for our hero Dizzy Don. His unconventional features, most striking of all are his eyes, make him an odd-looking character. Since he does not look like the square jawed hero of comics, we associate him less with benevolent justice, and thus allow him to commit less than heroic acts.



Violence and P.Is

While both superheroes and detectives have violence in their comics there is often a difference in representation. Super heroes fight with villains, punching, kicking or using weapon. The depictions are often more graphic and direct than in detective comics, in superhero comics the hits are more campy than gritty. Rarely shown is the death of the villain unless it is integral to the plot. Often the villain is captured and sentence to jail time instead. Detective comics on the other hand are less direct, often showing the aftermath of said violence and focusing more on the apprehension. Sometimes the villain is killed in combat by the detective or an assistant. Typically, this is done with a gun, the weapon of choice for private eyes. Dizzy Don follows these conventions as seen when Don is firing the gun into an unseen group of gangsters. It is not explicitly shown that someone was killed in the bullet spray however it is heavily implied that some gangsters are hit, allowing Don and Gerty more time to escape the angry mob. On the second occasion when Don blindly fires his weapon, he empties the gun of all it’s bullets. While their accuracy was lowered the second time due to bright lights, it is still likely that more gangsters were injured. While done by a different gun entirely, justice is achieved when Rat Face kills himself with his pistol to escape the clutches of the police. The ending follows the formulaic story arc seen in Charles Biro and Bob Woods true crime piece Crime Does Not Pay “Crime Does Not Pay was designed to prevent juvenile delinquency. Each story ended with the subject either dead or in jail” (Fried, 339). The death of Rat Face proves that though an individual may not have much power, their actions can still impact the situation. In the end, Dizzy Don is able to defeat Rat Face.

“Dizzy Don fires gun”.Manny Easson. The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don # 18: Bottled Death. Bells Features and Publishing Company Limited




Violence leads to Justice

The necessity of violence for justice was a prevalent view during both the world wars. Many men and women took up arms, many of whom may have been pacifists in previous situations, to protect the ones they love and their way of life. This sentiment can be seen by Dizzy Don when he fires on the gangsters. Dizzy Don is a radio show host and uses his sharp wit as a weapon throughout the comic and one-shot pages.  It is his main form of offense, seen when Dizzy Don is initially captured by the gangsters. He tries to use humour to de-escalate the situation. When that fails he is forced into an abandoned mine shaft where he is bound with lit sticks of dynamite. Once faced with the reality that humour will not help him he chooses a more aggressive approach. The character giggling Gerty facilitates this by first freeing Dizzy Don from his dynamite shackles, then by supplying him with the Tommy gun that he unloads on the mobsters on two separate occasions.


“Dizzy Don runs out of bullets”
Manny Easson. The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don # 18: Bottled Death. Bells Features and Publishing Company Limited

Guns, while not the weapon of choice for many super heroes, were the symbol of justice for the detective. Often relying on wit, and persuasion, the detective would try to outsmart the enemy when confronted, however, in instances when that could not be achieved they did what was necessary. Unlike the true crime comic series Crime Doesn’t Pay, Dizzy Don did not feature “graphic depictions of blood, gunshot wounds, and beaten bodies. Violence was explicit; it was not left up to the reader’s imagination.” (Hirsch empire, 82). Over the top depictions of violence are typical in adult detective novels and graphic novels. Dizzy Don’s creator Manny Easson takes a cue from Will Eisner, the creator of The Spirit, and avoids overtly violent scenes and uses subtler literary devices. “Eisner has depicted the bank robbery with both menace and humor, but without showing bloodshed, injury or death” (Fried, 339). A similar example of this within the comic can be seen where Dizzy Don attempts to use humour to distract the mobsters and convince him to let him go, despite having discovered their illegal alcohol plot. Much like a soldier on the battle field Dizzy Don tries to outsmart the opponent. Dizzy Don chooses to work smarter, not harder, to escape. In war brute strength is not the only asset a soldier has. By outsmarting the enemy, they can do much more damage than could be done with strength alone.






Moral Sacrifice

During the war many sacrifices were made. Foodstuffs that were common place in households had become scarcer. Luxury items were no longer being imported with the same enthusiasm as before; among these luxury products were comics. The idea of sacrifice was the driving force behind the success of war time rationing. Moral sacrifices were being made as well. Killing is difficult for most people but it becomes even harder when the enemy is also human. Many of the hero comics deal with clear cut distinction between good and evil. Detective dramas have a much murkier representation, with the detective sometimes acting as criminal would. The same could be said for soldiers, killing and destroy their enemy’s land much in the same the enemy would do to you. By exposing the reader to more complex representations these comics were subconsciously preparing them for the moral ambiguity of war. Dizzy Don fires at the mobsters out of self preservation as well as moral righteousness. The alcohol Rat Face is manufacturing contains wood alcohol, essentially making his product poisonous. Even though many people have died or suffered serious health problem consuming it he shows no remorse. Following comic book logic those who work for Rat Face are morally wrong and thus their deaths are not tragedies but necessary evils. Dizzy Don did not directly kill Rat Face however he had a hand in the events that led to his death. Soldier fighting in World War II did not directly fight Hitler or Mussolini however their actions would have an indirect effect on those leaders. The kinds of villains a detective often faces are pure humans, those without any biological advantages. They posses no super powers, and are thus grounded in our reality more than a super villain. Batman, whose original comics were more noir than superhero comic, fought ordinary, albeit evil, humans in his early days. Fried analyses the human origins of Batman’s most notable villains, “His best – known villains, such as the Joker and Two – Face, started out as ordinary human beings” (335). Dizzy Don’s villains are human, much the same ways villains throughout history were ultimately human.


Works Cited

Fried, Arthur. “Crime in Comics and the Graphic Novel.” A Companion to Crime Fiction. Edited by Charles J. Rzepka, and Lee Horsley. Wiley-Blackwell, 2010, MLA International Bibliography,, doi:

Hirsch, Paul S. Pulp Empire: Comic Books, Culture, and U. S. Foreign Policy, 1941-1955, U of California, Santa Barbara, 2013, MLA International Bibliography,

Weigel, Richard D. “Dick Tracy and World War II.” Americana: The Journal of American Popular Culture (1900-Present), vol. 12, no. 2, 2013, MLA International Bibliography,

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.

Japanese Representation in World War II Comics -The Funny Comics With Dizzy Don no.17.

© Copyright 2017 Francesca Jamshidy Student, Ryerson University

Japanese Representation in World War II Comics


This digital exhibit intends to analyze the historical conflicts between Canada and Japan During World War II, specifically when it came to the media. The rivalry between Japan and Canada is not discussed often when it comes to World War II, but in this exhibit, I want to shine light on how the unflattering portrayal of Japanese characters in “In the Human Rocket” in the series The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don, is connected to the historical context of the conflict between Japan and Canada during World War II. The tension between Canada and Japan is depicted through Easson’s writing style, the way setting is represented in panels surrounding Japanese people and the Japanese characters physical appearance.

Writing Style in World War II Comics

The introduction to the comic is free of tension. There is a quick introduction to all the characters. This is done in order to familiarize new readers with the who is going to be in the story and what their relationship is to one another, from main characters to supporting characters. Unfortunately, after reading through the comic, it is apparent that there is one character which is excluded from the introduction, and that character is Japanese. Not only is this character not introduced, but he is also referred to as “Tokyo Joe” (13), once he is a named, or noted, character. By being referred to as Tokyo Joe, it is made apparent that his character is being “othered” as this distinction separates him from the other generic Canadian characters. In the 1940’s “younger children were preoccupied with many projects” however, “there was a fear that teenagers might be corrupted by the lack of supervision during the war” (Stranger Ross, et at.). By slipping casual racism into remarks that teenagers read, the creators of these comics were exploiting the impressionable minds of teenagers. This implied that it was okay to grow up believing and repeating racist remarks. An example of this is on page 13 when the only Japanese character is referred to as the “Stooges of Japan”, which was another form of calling him stupid. During the Second World War “Canadian policies emerged from the war… [exemplifying] long- standing racism” (Stranger-Ross, et al.), which later reflected upon not only comics but other forms of media as well. Within Easson’s work, it is evident that racism is encouraged. Tokyo Joe is only given the chance to speak once during the entire comic and the one time he speaks he is grammatically incorrect. Rather than saying “It’s not so easy my friend” instead he says “No so easy, my friend” (13), insinuating that Tokyo Joe is the only character with an accent or an inability to speak without grammatical errors. These details used to write the comic are ultimately meant to show the difference between Japan and Canada. What many Canadians didn’t know according to the article “Government Propaganda Machine Is Now in High Gear” (1940), is that during the time period that the comic issue was made there was pressed censorship. People carefully looked through work from articles to books and continued to do that during the war, in order to make sure nothing was written to comfort the enemy. This showed how controlled the media was during this time period. This also included comics, with this information it now makes sense as to why the only Japanese character was portrayed unfairly by Manny Easson. Japan was considered the enemy that the Canadian Government wanted to scare.

Background Settings

When reading a comic, a character’s physical appearance stands out right away, what many do not realize is that the background and setting of an image can subconsciously manipulate and infer/alter things into a certain perspective. When looking at “In the Human Rocket”, and analyzing the background setting within images, there is an automatic and clear switch between the backgrounds of characters depending on where they are from. Since this essay is examining the relationship between Japan and Canada, the first thing that was automatically analyzed was the background setting behind the only character that was not Canadian. When looking at the background setting of the only character not from Canada within the comic it is quite evident that his ethnicity is overly expressed through his surrounding in order to alienate him from every other character in the comic. Looking at the picture on the

Fig.1. Manny, Easson. Panel from “In the Human Rocket.” The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don, No. 17, April 1945, Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection, RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada, p.13. e011166608.pdf

left (Figure 1) taken from Manny Easson comic “In the Human Rocket” in the series The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don (13), right away one can see that “Tokyo Joe” has a picture of a sun symbolizing the Japanese flag and a dragon on his table cloth, both details placed in the background automatically let readers know that he is from Japan and not like the other character. On the same page in the 4th panel Easson zooms into Tokyo Joe with only the sun beams from the image behind him
showing, nothing more, as if to infer the only attribute and supporting information to him is his ethnicity, leaving readers with only two things, he is the villain in this comic and he is Japanese. What aids this theory that background, and settings are purposely placed and drawn in images in order to support the negative portrayal and alienation of Japanese people in this time period, is that it is an on-going trend, the portrayal in this comic is not an isolated incident, it happened throughout many forms of media. Below on the left there is a propaganda poster found on “Canadian Propaganda Posters” Mystery in History, published online in 2014 this website had posters from Canada during the second World War. Automatically when comparing the comic to this poster (Figure 2)

Fig.2. “This Is the Enemy”, “Canadian Propaganda Posters.” Mystery in History, June 2014, collected at
Fig.3. Manny, Easson. Panel from “In the Human Rocket.” The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don, No. 17, April 1945, Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection, RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada, p.35.

it is glaring to note that they were created by different artists yet they both have the same things in common, the sun rays signifying that this person is of Japanese descent and a negative portrayal of the character/person of Japanese descent. This was clearly not a coincidence but rather a tool to ensure Canadians feared Japanese people. This fear turned into a hatred because during the Second World War since Japanese people were considered the enemy “22,000 Japanese Canadians were uprooted from their homes, separated from their families, and sent away to camps” (Government Apologizes, 1988). Sadly, these people were being punished for simply being of Japanese descent although they were Canadian citizens, and many were even born and raised in Canada that was still not enough. When comparing this to Manny Easson’s illustrations, attention can quickly be brought to the only other image drawn of Tokyo Joe (Figure 3). In this image Tokyo Joe is behind bars (35). He could have been placed in any setting, perhaps at the police station or an interrogation room but instead he is last seen in jail. His imprisonment is a direct correlation to Japanese Canadians being sent to camps because that was a form of their own torture and jail. This is relevant because the jail setting showed a negative portrayal of the only Japanese character within the comic. By having the last image of Tokyo Joe being behind bars it is also arguably a comforting image as he is seen as less of a threat, providing a sense of closure to the previously established impressionable minds, since the enemy is depicted to be “contained”. This ultimately proves through background and setting, Japanese people were being targeted in many forms of media, this comic included, due to the tension between Canada and Japan during World War II.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Physical Characteristics

Unfortunately, things did not simply end with settings and backgrounds but rather got worse when it came to physical characteristics of Japanese people. When looking at “In the Human Rocket” the physical appearance of Tokyo Joe in comparison to everyone else is significantly different, not just in terms of historically accurate physical differences. According to the “Canadian Propaganda Posters,” Mystery in History (2014), stereo-types were exaggerated in the propaganda posters and in the media when it came to Japanese people.

Fig.4. “Tokio Kid”, “Canadian Propaganda Posters.” Mystery in History, June 2014, collected at

This exaggeration can be seen from teeth to eyes, even their ears were made fun of. In the poster above (Figure 4) published by “Canadian Propaganda Posters” (2014), the man shown is by far the most terrifying thing at first sight. When analyzing he does not look anything like a human but instead he is portrayed as an animal. He has sharp pointy fangs, small eyes that need glasses, extremely pointy ears and claws. In addition, once again this poster shows the man has a hat with sun ray beams in order to let everyone who sees this poster know that the terrifying man within this image is Japanese. When analyzing the Tokyo Joe in the comic, differences were noted in comparison to other characters. Examples of this are that out of the two villains in the comic Tokyo Joe is dressed in all black signifying darkness just like all the other portrayals of Japanese people. His mouth if looked at closely can be seen in an upside-down position rather than smiling. If given the chance to smile it could have shown a different outlook on him because people tend to be more appealing and inviting when they smile. But due to his constant frowning Easson was solely able to create a negative atmosphere for his character. Just like the poster he isn’t given a specific age but with the over exaggerated wrinkles one could assume he is prehistoric, lastly, he is the only character in the entire comic given glasses, supporting the stereotype of an inability to see. These physical characteristics are not only disgusting and incorrect, they are also a deliberate way to show that the portrayal of the Japanese culture and beauty is not celebrated but rather mocked.

Conclusion the “So What”

In conclusion, this exhibit intended to analyze how the unflattering portrayal of Japanese characters in “In the Human Rocket” in the series The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don, was due to the tension between Canada and Japan during World War II. The war and the comic connected to one another because they were created during the same time period. It was also intended to analyze how the tension was deep rooted and how due to the negative portrayal of Japanese people, Canada’s fear had quickly turned into prejudice and anger, leading to the horrible events that occurred and affected many Japanese-Canadians. This was shown by many artists in many forms of media during the 1940’s, including Manny Easson’s work. Through his writing style, the way he drew the settings around those of Japanese descent and the overall illustration of Japanese characters, with specific detailing to their physical appearances, his work as well as many others proved my theory that the comic was used in combinations with other media platforms intending to encourage a prejudice against people of Japanese descent. It is also quite evident after analyzing different media forms that Japanese people were villainized whether through animalistic representations to being made the enemy which needed to be put behind bars to ensure a feeling of safety during the hard times when Canada was at war.


 Works Cited

“Canadian Propaganda Posters.” Mystery In History, June 2014,

Cook, Tim. “Canadian Children and The Second World War.” Historica Canada, December 2016,

Easson, M. “In the Human Rocket.” The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don, no. 17, April, 1945, pp.1-35. Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection, 1941-1946. RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.

“Governments Propaganda Machine Is Now in High Gear.” The Toronto Telegram, Canadian War Museum, July 1940,

Stranger-Ross, Jordan., & Landscapes of Injustice Research Collective. “Suspect Properties: The Vancouver Origins of the Forced Sale of Japanese-Canadian-owned Property, WWII.” Journal of Planning History, vol. 15, no. 4, February 2016, pp. 271-89. https://doi-

“Tokio Kid”, “Canadian Propaganda Posters.” Mystery In History, June 2014,

“This Is the Enemy”, “Canadian Propaganda Posters.” Mystery In History, June 2014,

“1988: Government Apologizes to Japanese Canadians – CBC Archives.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, March 2017, japanese-canadians.

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.

Is Food Rationing Funny?

This digital exhibit, analyzing social and economical dynamics of World War II, will focus on a popular series from the Canadian Whites. The comic series that serves as a focal point for this exhibit is The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don, specifically issue #7 “In the Case of the Missing Steak”. This issue is an ideal example as it has elements of both humour, as well as coping with war on the home front. From this comic and these main themes, the main quality or feature of the story I will be focusing on is rationing coupons and their significance throughout the text. First this essay will establish a brief history of the Canadian Whites, as well as elaborating on the role of humorous aspect of the comic series. The humour present throughout the comic can be discussed in relation to the connection between the possible necessity for light hearted humour during a dark time. However, the humour does not extend to the topic of food rationing which is handled in a very serious way despite the humour throughout the rest of the comic. There is an important distinction the be made between the two prominent aspects of the comic one being humour and the second being the rationing coupons. By including research on rationing coupons, and the effect they had on the home front, this essay intends to show how the seriousness that food and rationing coupons were treated with throughout the comic issue is a representation, or evidence of, how serious the concept of food rationing was in contributing towards the victory of World War Two.

Why Comics? Why “The Funny Comics”?
During the war time there was a gap in the market for comics in Canada as comics were deemed non-essential by the War Exchange Conservation Act (WECA). This lead to the creation of the Canadian Whites as a fan base for comics had already been established in Canada leading up to the 1940’s (Boyd). Therefore, The Funny Comics had a well carved out role during war time as making up for the lack of comics being shipped from the United Sates as well as creating an outlet for resilience and individual release through humour (Brown 124). The importance of humour during tough times, such as war, can be described through the effects that humour has on civilians. Humour has been known to serve as “an alternative to violence” because “positive emotions lead to passivity and inaction” (Brown 124). Aside from humour being used to aid in “life challenges” (Brown 125) in general, it is also articulated to be a specific aid during times of war. A study done by Fischer (2002) states that “jokes in war time can function also as a way of releasing fear. For example, in Bosnia testimonies include: “So we laughed a lot during the war. It was our secret weapon”” (Brown 125). This evidence serves to highlight the role humour can play during challenging circumstances, but is the comic “In the Case of the Missing Steak” funny?
The title alone is an indication of the humorous aspect of The Funny Comics, issue #7. There are, however, many more humorous aspects throughout the comic. For example, there are many jokes throughout the comic that play on the fact that one of the main characters, “Bill Canary” is less than intelligent. One example is in the beginning of the comic, where Bill goes on stage and is wearing two different coloured shoes, to which Dizzy Don responds that “when the sponsor advertises you as a wit, he’s only half right” (Easson 3). This play on words in calling Bill a half-wit is just one example of many jokes on his lack of intelligence throughout the comic. Other jokes throughout the comic tend to be puns, specifically about meat which is prime focus of the comic. These jokes include phrases such as “what’s cookin” or feeling like a “cooked goose” (Easson 22,28). Puns such as these are an example of the light-hearted humour which is embraced and used as a “secret weapon” during war.
Following the initial story arch, there is an inclusion of multiple shorter comical plot lines. Preceding these comics is a large, full page spread featuring Hy, the radio announcer, who is seemingly speaking to the live audience. The message included, however, is intended for the reading audience. Hy says “the pages which follow have been created with one purpose in mind “to make you laugh” if you find enjoyment in this book why not pass it on to a friend in our armed forces. It may be just the humor to cheer him up” (Easson 42). This statement is an admission of comical intent for the purpose of cheering up troops in the armed forces; with this intent in mind, why are rationing coupons and the delegation of food not included in the scope of humour?

Food is No Laughing Matter
Any aspect of humour regarding a food shortage is shut down by Investigator Keen when he says “stealing steaks may sound funny. But this is serious business. There’s a black market in meat. The Racketeers get their supplies by stealing them” (Easson 5). There is also an emphasis placed on the ramifications of the meat black market. For example, when the previously established “lesser then intelligent” character, Canary suggests they just go to the black market to buy meat, he is scolded. There is an emphasis placed on this scolding as a fellow character reminds him that it is “illegal” (Easson 6), and the word illegal is highlighted through the use of italics, making it stand out from the rest of the page. This theme is repeated more in the following pane as Dizzy Don, the protagonist, informs Canary that “crooks are stealing meat and selling it to people who are foolish enough to buy it without ration coupons” (Easson 6). This quote is significant as it sends a message, not just to Canary, but also to the reading audience that obtaining food without a ration coupon is both illegal and foolish.
The seriousness of the allocation of food on the home front of the war is reinforced and expanded on upon by Inspector Keen when he says, “if they keep this up, there won’t be enough meat for our workers and soldiers – we’ve got to break this dirty racket up” (Easson 6). This text implies a hierarchy that the soldiers and workers that contribute more directly to the war are more deserving of protein in the form of meat. This further implies that soldiers and workers are more important than civilians. This quote, combined with the previous quotes about food rationing, further villainizes the men stealing meat as well as potentially sending a message to the reading audience in case people had an idea to partake in such illegal activities during the war, this is accomplished by utilizing the comic as a way of evoking a feeling of guilt.

Is Food the Key?
There is more to a war than the physical battle. As previously established, humour served as a “secret weapon”. However, this was not the only weapon featured in “The Funny Comics” (Easson). Food is another, non-violent, form of a weapon identified throughout the comic. “Food Rules” (Mosby 51) were put in place to maintain a fair guide during the war to attempt to avoid malnutrition and illness, specifically in workers and soldiers. These rules were utilized to ensure good health and as Mosby reflects that, “[g]ood health means better work- more work- and the spirit that wins. Eat to keep fit and work to win” (54). In a basic sense, food aids in strength physically. However, food has many other ways in strengthening a community or a cause as well as an individual.

Mosby, the author of “Food Will Win the War: The Politics, Culture, and Science of Food on Canada’s Home Front”, references the Vancouver Sun’s writer Edith Adams as she informed her readers that “[t]he Canadian woman, armed with a knowledge of home nutrition and domestic economy, wields a powerful weapon in defense of her country and democracy. She has been quick to recognize her sacred responsibility” (54). Mosby elaborates by adding that “[t]hese messages of wartime “sacred responsibility” and “patriotic duty” for the family’s health were regularly addressed to “the housewives of Canada,” “homemakers,” or, as the Canada Starch Company referred to them, “Canada’s Housoldiers.” (54). These messages towards women during war time contribute to establishing a feeling of unity on the home front by continuously reiterating the importance of the food in the domestic sphere. By emphasizing the importance of the role of women, even referring to them as their own adaptation of a soldier, or stating that women also have a powerful weapon of defense, conveys the importance of their work. It also brings a sense of unity to the home front by solidifying the unity that the Food Rules created.
Comic books are just one example of a medium used to relay the importance of food during war time. This image (Figure 1) depicts a poster which belongs to a collective exhibit titled “Powers of Persuasion”. The image features text which reads “Save waste fats for explosives. Take them to your meat dealer”. This poster features another way in which food is important to the war. Besides creating unity, and strengthening workers and soldiers, food can also be used to create weapons. This idea reiterates unity as it creates a sense that everyone can contribute, therefore a victory is everyone’s victory. This poster is a piece in a collection gathered to show the psychologic propaganda posters produce. Therefore, by examining this poster with the recognition of its position in a collection with a connecting theme, there are conclusions to be drawn as “trends and patterns emerge” (McCrann 67).
The image in the poster depicts a woman’s hand holding the skillet that holds the grease fat to be used for the explosives. This image represents the idea frequently presented by Mosby that women’s role as a domestic soldier on the home front is in fact imperative to the outcome of the war. McCrann speculates this idea of using posters in an “attempt to involve women in war work” (67). Aside from the literal use of the fat, symbolically, the utilization of the grease can be analyzed to conclude that nothing goes to waste during war time and that every little bit contributes to a victory, which works to solidify the idea of unity as discussed by Mosby.

This exhibit has focused on working in steps to show the evolution of thinking and final thought process, behind the conclusion. In an attempt to answer the question: why are the topics of food and food rationing left out of the scope of humour, there are many steps to reach before a conclusion can be formed. Beginning by establishing that The Funny Comics are indeed funny, as well as analyzing the importance of humour, the focus shifts to the serious tone in the comic regarding food and its rationing during war time. Following this is an analysis focused on the significance of food in the war. Despite the different treatments utilized towards the topic of humour and food in “In the Case of the Missing Steak” (Easson), both humour and food serve as weapons. They both lift spirits on the home front as well as working together to create a sense of unity. This train of thought leads to the answer of the initial question being that humour does not extend to food as to not undermine the efforts put forth by the government to create a unity and emphasize the importance of food as a tool in winning the war, while still utilizing their platform to spread messages regarding food as well as spreading cheer through light hearted humour.

Depiction Of Heroes in Wow comics no. 12 © Copyright 2017 Sebin Kang, Ryerson University

Sebin Kang

Dr. Monique Tschofen            

ENG 810

29 November 2017

Depiction of Heroism in WOW Comics Issue no.12

Heroes have always been known throughout many stories and in real life. It has been established as a real concept without truly knowing what a hero really is. A firefighter, a nurse, and soldiers are all considered to be examples of heroes. Someone who saves or help people is what people generally believe a hero to be, or even something simple as doing the right thing can be considered a hero. For one thing, it is someone who we admire. Superheroes, on the other hand, might be considered something more than a hero, more specifically who can do the impossible. Superheroes or heroes both have similar characteristics, which is that they inspire and influence people. Specifically for people of the younger ages because children are at their growing stages and are prone to be influenced due to their minds constantly evolving and processing new information. The comic that I am analyzing shows how Canadian war heroes are depicted in comic books as superheroes. Superheroes have been present in comics since before World War II and the intended audience for these comics are the children. Real life war heroes inspired high morale during the wartime, and to convey their importance and inspiration to an audience of children, they were turned into superheroes in order to inspire young adolescents to do the same. Superheroes are created to inspire and during the production of this comic, times were difficult for people and the purpose of depicting heroes in comics was made to inspire and give hope to children. It was created with the intent to give positivity and hope to children during challenging times.

The comic that I have been assigned is Wow Comics no. 12, and the specific issue I will be studying on will be my examination of how Canadian war heroes are depicted in comic books as superheroes. In my comic, I have noticed that one of the stories in my comic was titled, Tommy Holmes, and I speculated that there was a reason why the comic was so detailed and once researched, I found that Tommy Holmes is a very real person who had fought in World War I and I found this particularly interesting because there is a reason why this was done so the way it was. Therefore, I will mainly focus on the story of Tommy Holmes and the depiction of the soldiers as superheroes as well as other stories within the comic.

Tommy Holmes and his heroics

Tommy Holmes is represented as the main hero of the story and helps in the contribution of the interpretation of heroes. The definition of heroes is different for everyone but one that is most notable for everyone is that it is someone who is selfless and a good person, as well as willing to risk their own life to save another. The story of Tommy Holmes starts off with a narration describing Tommy Holmes. It explains how Holmes was one of the youngest Canadian soldiers during World War 1 and has served with the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles, Canadian Expeditionary Force. When hearing the word “Soldier”, one understands it is a person who risks their life in order to fight for their country. This comic story dedicates Holmes as a hero in a couple of forms. It begins with the art of the comic and the narratives displaying the hardships of the war. Fallen weapons were shown to delve into the outcome of the war and, heavy rains causing a very dangerous and harsh environment for the soldiers to be in. Not only does this story emphasize on the heroics of Tommy Holmes, it also shows the heroics of all the soldiers. It shows fellow soldiers helping one another through the harsh environment. The beginning of this story already manifests how awful the Canadian wars were. This comic does a good job in the representation of war. Each panel shows the chaos of these violent images. This serves a purpose of showing the realism and to show the audience how horrifying war was through these brave soldiers who fought through the war and gave up their lives. It helps to show the heroics of these soldiers, specifically Tommy Holmes. There are many different types of heroes. Some heroes attack more while other heroes defend more. In my comic, it displays to be an attacker. He ran through the ranks in order to take out the enemies but he does not attack in a way to beat his opponents, he does it in order to defend his comrades. One must first understand basic hero types and why they were created in order to understand them. Superheroes generally have powers. In comics, people know they are superheroes because it is their job to be one. They dress up in costumes and fight crime but in these comics, the soldiers’ jobs are not supposed to be heroes. They do not fight to be known as heroes but fight until the end of the battle. Tommy Holmes does not have powers but he represents one. The comic shows this through Tommy’s real acts in the war. This was also shown in the comic when all his comrades could not do anything against the heavy machine gun fire but Tommy runs through the bullets and takes them down. It shows his bravery and courage and this is a major component in “superheroes”.
Superheroes are known for their bravery and courage and this comic does a good job of representing Tommy Holmes as a “superhero”

Construction of heroes in literature

In every comic, heroes are constructed differently. There is Superman who is considered to have been always good and righteous in every way or Spider-Man who learned through tragedy and became a hero. Superheroes are generally characters who have a well-rounded backstory while heroes can be anyone who does good. Tommy Holmes can also be considered as one. In the comic, the narrative explains who he is right from the start, and continues to tell the audience what he is best known for and what heroic deed he performed.

“Wow Comics, No. 12” , Bell Features Publishing, Canadian Writer’s Comic Book Collection. 1941-1946, RULA Archives & Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada

In these panels, the narrative describes the acts of Tommy with spontaneous words to amplify his heroism. Terms such as “Marvelous” and “Coolness” is used to describe his heroism. On the second panel as well, it describes how “good” he is, defeating Nazis and fighting for his country. When reading and learning about heroes, there are couple things people study. The heroes background is important because it lets the readers know who he is. Every superhero in comics has a backstory and this is one of the main reason why they are so popular. The history allows the readers to see the growth and transformation the character goes through. Using exaggerated words such as “Spectacular” or “marvelous” helps to make the characters greater because the readers are being told who and what attributes to admire. What my comic does in the study of heroes is that firstly they used a real person who was a hero as a character which establishes the term, heroism. They gave the necessary history the audience needed to know to understand this story

Tommy Holmes’ Heroic Acts

. The comic also tends to optimize everything. They build up the character’s good qualities. In the panel below, two soldiers are staring in awe at Tommy for not being able to do what he did. They looked on in “amazement” and this shows how they encourage Tommy’s strength as a hero and this also displays his comrade’s reaction to admiration. Showing reactions also encourage and influence similar to laugh tracks in sitcoms to show the audience what they should be experiencing and doing. In the second panel, the narrative describes his ability to throw a grenade. In normal stories, just stating what is happening is the case but in comics, they make more of the situation. They exaggerate to show admiration. Comic’s make something simple as throwing a baseball into a more magnificent. If one were to look at the image without the narratives, Tommy is just throwing a grenade. It can be compared to a normal person throwing a baseball as such description but the narrative is what brings out the heroism. Comics job is to use both art and narratives to create a unique form of storytelling. Tommy Holmes is written as if he is a superhero due to the narratives. He has no superpowers yet he is looked upon by readers.This comic does a good job of displaying Tommy as a hero.

Comic heroes and the Influence

I have found sources which help inform people of heroism and the influence it has. In the article I have found, there is a passage stating “To understand the process whereby the Canadian comic book industry was repatriated as a part of Canadian nationalism, it is important to consider not only the history of the comic book in Canada but, more importantly, the ways that fan discourses help to shape the recuperation of the Canadian superhero during its second wave of popularity in the post-Centennial period by distinguishing it from superheroes in the United States.” (Making sense of the Canadian Superhero) This passage touches on the fact that fans influence characters in comics. During the times when Wow Comics were created, times were not happy. Comic book industries take notice of the war which influenced the stories they write. The illustrator and the writer knew who Tommy Holmes was and made him into a character because he influenced real people such as his fellow soldiers during the war and so by including him into comics to give the same effect on the audience reading the comics. Realizing the character in the comic was a real person and a hero contributes greatly in the war by influencing people due to admiration. During the war times, there was hardly any hope. The children’s fathers went out to war to fight not knowing if they would come back home to their families. Many supplies were lacking and the food was scarce because they were deposited and scattered in order to aid everyone. “As the war nears its devastating conclusion, both children are forced from the shelter of their families and must struggle to survive amid the rubble of a bombed-out Berlin” (Rennison, Nick. “Children in War.”), this article explains the lacking of supplies and homes children experienced during the war. Times were not simple and happy but more depressed and hopeless. People had to find small joys during the war to keep them positive and comics were the small joys of war. Comics gave joy and small hopes to kids and even adults. The comics also show influence in one of the other stories shown in my comic.

“Wow Comics, No. 12” , Bell Features Publishing, Canadian Writer’s Comic Book Collection. 1941-1946, RULA Archives & Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada

The story is called Whiz Wallace Bombers to Victory. In this comic, a heavy viewpoint of influence occurs when the main character Whiz Wallace, had to leave for the war and his love interest, Elaine Kenyon had to stay behind because she was a woman. When no one was looking, she had an idea to knock one of the pilots, put on his uniform and help fight. This did not go well as her plane crashed but she somehow survived. Although Elaine is a character from the comics, it still represents the realism of influence. Soldiers are depicted as “superheroes” which then influences people to do something and in this case, it influenced a grown woman to do some good. Children are the intended audience and as previously mentioned, kids are constantly growing and learning new information and are easily influenced. Seeing someone do something, can influence children’s behavior and in this case, can also influence children to do good as well. Even in the comic, admiration of heroism influenced the character to do the right thing. Heroes inspire not just kids but adults as well.

In conclusion, I have proved that all these elements were administered to further show the “super” in the heroism of Canadian soldiers in the war. This was shown with the usage of real characters, the comic form of narration, the construction of heroism of comics and the influences heroes have on people. As well as observing and analyzing the comic panels while mainly focusing on the comic form of Tommy Holmes and the way the story was written. This allows us to see the influence “superheroes” have on people through the depiction of soldiers as “superheroes” This is important because influence is a powerful tool and many would not see comic book as an influential tool. Comic books are seen as silly stories with pictures but there is so much more to a comic book than what it implies. Every child grew up admiring someone or something at one point and in this case, comics are the source of inspiration for the stories it tells.


Work Cited

Beaty, Bart. “The Fighting Civil Servant: Making Sense of the Canadian Superhero.” American

Review of Canadian Studies 36.3 (2006): 427-39. Web. 24 Nov. 2017.

“Thomas William Holmes VC.” Lives of the First World War,

Rennison, Nick. “Children in War.” Sunday Times, Jul 30, 2017, pp. 38, Global Newsstream,

Wow Comics, No. 12 , Bell Features Publishing, Canadian Writer’s Comic Book Collection.

1941-1946, RULA Archives & Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada


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.

Post-Victorian Literature and The Importance of Animal Representation in The Peter Rabbit Story Book

© Kristen Zaino 2017, Ryerson University


The Peter Rabbit Story Book is a collection of tales revolving around Beatrix Potter’s original Peter Rabbit short children’s novel. Other authors within the Peter Rabbit Story Book are Linda S. Almond and May Wynne, who contribute four out of the five short stories within the Peter Rabbit Story Book. The 5 short stories are titled: “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” by Beatrix Potter, “When Peter Rabbit went A-Fishing”, “Peter Rabbit’s Holiday”, “Peter Rabbit and the Little Girl” By Linda S. Almond, and lastly “Peter Rabbit’s Wedding Day” by May Wynne. 

“The Tale of Peter Rabbit” from The Peter Rabbit Story Book


The Tale of Peter Rabbit is described as a “conventional canon of children’s literature” ever since its release in 1902 (Mackey, xvi), which is why I have specifically chosen to study Beatrix’s Potter’s ever-changing tale of Peter Rabbit, which has launched a great deal of children’s literature. 

Context: What Exactly Does Animal Representation Mean? 

This digital exhibit will explore literature and the representations animals had within specific contexts, specifically on the Peter Rabbit Story Book. Another novel this digital exhibit will discuss is Winnie-The-Pooh by A.A. Milne, where I will compare and describe the similarities and differences that the animals in each novel represents. The illustrations themselves matter as well, as they were a new way of showing children the tale they are reading. Animals took part in representing things that were unable to be captured by humans. It made the animals more loving, and made children understand the true beauty of nature at such young ages. Growing up reading books on animals or with animals as the main character would entail that individual to have a fondness for these animals.

Children “implicitly and explicitly identify with animals” as they read these novels, positioning themselves “as distinctly human through the mode of their interactions with both lived animals and those depicted in literature” (Ratelle, 1). In other words, children identify themselves with the animals in these books, which is an important way for children to learn things that are not directly caused by humans, such as learning how to respect your parents as Peter Rabbit respects his mother.

Introduction of Analysis

Peter Rabbit is a mischievous baby bunny, who is still naive, adventurous, and very appealing to children. This is evident when Peter Rabbit’s mother tells him not to go into Mr. McGregor’s garden or else he could end up dead like his father, but Peter does not listen to her, and goes on his own adventure, eating all the food in Mr. McGregor’s garden, but then learning his lesson as he is then chased out by Mr. McGregor himself. Beatrix Potter created Peter Rabbit in 1902, and it became clear to children’s book authors that having animals as the main characters representing the children through a relatable animal, such as troublesome Peter Rabbit, was an important feat for other books. 

Importance of Animals in Place of Humans

Literature is a powerful tool. It can ignite emotions in all individuals, helping people to make sense of the world in different ways with different perspectives (Burke and Copenhaver, 2). Children are new to mostly everything in the world, and a good way to get children to understand things are through literature, and through picture books that help set up their perspective of the world. “During the nineteenth century, animal suffering was an appalling constant of both rural and urban landscapes” (Ratelle, 13), so the idea of writing children’s books about animals instead of humans, and showing the new generations why animals are important, was a crucial action to take. These books changed the way generations grew up to view animals, and made other people understand that animals are special as well as humans. 

First Artwork in The Peter Rabbit Story Book

“Children’s books are a more open and obvious mix of artistic, educational, and commercial ideologies” (Mackey, xiv), which is why it is important that children’s literature contains animals for children to learn the important of animals. The illustrations also make up a big part of Peter Rabbit’s popular tale, because of how beautiful they are and how enticing that makes them to the child. Children are very impressionable, and as they grow up reading books such as The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Winnie the Pooh, it is certain they will grow up loving animals. Both The Peter Rabbit Story Book and Winnie the Pooh give great insight to how animals exist and survive in the world they live in. Though these novels are obviously fiction, as animals cannot talk, it is great for children to see rabbits and other animals befriending one another without hesitance, showing that no matter who you are or what you are, you are valid and will find happiness. This is important for children to understand as they will hopefully grow up accepting people of all genders, race, and social classes. “Animal characters as people can add a degree of emotional distance for the reader/writer/speaker when the story message is very powerful” (Burke et. al 9), but it can also be a great way for children to relate to the stories, and learn crucial lessons for the future.

How Peter Rabbit Changed the Future of Children’s Literature

Peter Rabbit was one of the first anthropomorphized characters in a children’s novel, and since the initial release of Beatrix Potter’s tale, many more books have been written, highlighting the importance of anthropomorphism. One of these books that have been incredibly popular as well, is A.A Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, a tale revolving around a sweet, honey-loving bear, and his animal friends in the fictional Hundred Acre Wood Forest. Interestingly, each of the characters all have separate personalities, very distinct from one another, and their personalities match the animal that they are. For example, Owls are independent creatures who are seemingly wise, and that is exactly how Owl in Winnie the Pooh is written. He is seen as a mentor to all the other animals, and as someone who’s advice is most-likely very trustworthy (Eichner, 1).

Winnie the Pooh and friends. Real Caption: Winnie the Pooh turns 90,

It is important for children to see the representation of different personalities, and be able to relate to these animals and find themselves within them. Animal representation is often not as discussed as cultural representation is, such as the gender, race, and class issues a lot of these novels wrote about in the 20th century. “We need to stop thinking about children’s books as child’s play and acknowledge that the body of children’s literature reflects contentious issues that reside in the core of our culture”  (Burke et. al, 6), but at the same time, we have to also realize that the animal represent more than just cultural issues. They represent personal issues, and address mental health issues, such as Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, who is a character that usually isolated himself because he does not think anyone understands him (Eichner, 1). It is important to see this representation in children’s literature because it is common now in the 21st century for children to feel this isolation as well. Without this representation, children may feel even more isolated, and having an animal represent these traits gives a safe but close enough distance between real life issues and fictional issues.


The Peter Rabbit Story Book and the original tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter revolutionized the way authors write children’s literature. Anthropomorphism helps to create a safe distance between the fictional story and the children, but also helps children to relate to these animals and therefore understand the importance of them. In our modern society, anthropomorphism plays a large role in most children literature and other medias, such as TV or movies, where the main protagonists are animals, and the target audience for these movies are children.

Overall, Beatrix Potter revolutionized children’s literature with Peter Rabbit and the illustrations along with the text. She will continue future generations of children, students, and authors to come.

Works Cited

  • Burke, Carolyn L., Joby G. Copenhaver, and Marilyn Carpenter. “Animals as People in Children’s Literature.” Language Arts, vol. 81, no. 3, 2004, pp. 205-213, Research Library

  • Ratelle, Amy. The Anthropomorphized Animal in Children’s Culture, Ryerson University (Canada), Ann Arbor, 2012, ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I; ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global

  • Milne, A. A. (Alan Alexander), 1882-1956 and Shepard, Ernest H. (Ernest Howard), 1879-1976 (Illustrator), Winnie-the-Pooh, Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, Ltd., 1926 (Copyright), Children’s Literature Archive

  • Potter, Beatrix, 1866-1943 and Willis, Bess Goe (Illustrator), The Peter Rabbit Story Book, New York: The Platt & Munk Co. Inc., 1931 (Copyright), Children’s Literature Archive

  • Mackey, Margaret. The Case of Peter Rabbit: Changing Conditions of Literature for Children. Garland Publishing Inc. , 1998.

  • Eichner, Bernadette. “Understanding Your Team: Who’s Who in Your Hundred Acre Wood.” Do Better Hiring – The RecruitLoop Blog, Recruit Loop, 1 Dec. 2016

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 purpose of research, private study, or education.

Racial Opposition In Dime Comics No. 15

© Copyright 2017 Benson McDaniel, Ryerson University

The WECA and the Comic Book Vacuum

In 1939 Germany invaded the Sudetenland; two days later England declared war on Germany and just a week after that Canada declared war alongside the Crown, thus entering what would come to be known as the Second World War. The Canada of 1939 was a small nation, despite its geographical vastness, with a population of just over eleven million, most of whom contributed to a resource economy deeply rooted in agriculture. By the close of the war, Canada had more than a million people serving in uniform (Scott 7). The staggering margin of the nation’s population that were personally invested in the war effort is an indication of the holistic dedication Canada showed during the Second World War. With nearly a tenth of the population serving hands on, Canada, at home and abroad, was truly at war.

War is an investment for any nation, and it is an especially dire investment when a nearly a tenth of a nation’s population is personally serving in the effort. For these reasons, on December 6th, 1940, William Lyon MacKenzie King introduced the War Exchange Conservation Act, or WECA, to protect the Canadian economy and aid the dollar. The War Exchange Conservation Act limited imports, specifically on luxury or nonessential goods, and among the paper products banned from the Canadian border were comic books (Kocmarek 148).

In is within the ensuing comic book vacuum that the genesis of the first generation of Canadian born comic books, the Canadian Whites, is found. In as little as three months, Canadian entrepreneurs mobilized resources and began to create titles in order to fill the empty space on Canadian magazine racks and in the lives of Canadian children. First came Anglo-American’s Robin Hood and Company Comics, soon followed by Maple Leaf’s Better Comics title, which though primarily composed of reprints included the appearance of the first Canadian superhero, coincidentally called Iron Man. That summer, Anglo-American expanded its line to include the Freelance title, and by September, Bell Feature’s Wow Comics and Hillborough’s Triumph-Adventure Comics were also on the stands (Bell 2015). Soon, Canada had a wide range of its very own comic book titles, complete with uniquely Canadian heroes

Among these comic books was Dime Comics, from Bell Features. Dime Comics’ content was a diverse mix of titles, including mysteries, crime stories, single page jokes, comedic strips, and superhero titles, but heaviest on titles focusing on military affiliated action heroes, fighting for Canadian interests abroad. Given that not only was Canada at war but it was that very war which allowed the Canadian Whites to come into existence it should come as no surprise that the ongoing fight features heavily in Dime Comics. In Dime Comics No. 15 alone, six titles, “Rex Baxter”, “ “Hitler” Has… Troubles!!”, “West Wewak”, “Lae Task Force”, “Scotty MacDonald” and “Johnny Canuck”, revolve around the war effort abroad.

“Rex Baxter” sees a heroic RCAF embroiled in a strange plot involving mystical figures and science fiction technology, all of which the title character is constantly looking to apply to the war effort. “West Wewak”, “Lae Task Force” and “Scotty MacDonald” all center on fighter pilots and ground troops attempting to advance through the jungles of South East Asia, while “Johnny Canuck” finds the eponymous Canadian superhero stranded in those same jungles, lost and trying to find his way out. Unfortunately, another primary theme present in most of the content of Dime Comics No. 15, is the racialization of villainous figures. Characters of Asian and South East Asian descent are consistently identified as villainous figures and figures of suspicion and deceit, not because of their geopolitical affiliation but rather because of their racial identity. In fact, these characterizations of racial others are not limited to stories set abroad, embedded in the geopolitical conflicts. Within a Dime Comics No. 15 “Nitro” story, the titular character, the superhero and masked avenger Nitro, identifies enemy figures as villainous and dangerous because they appear to be Hindu. Given India’s place in the commonwealth and its role as an ally to both Canada and the United Kingdom, the role of race as a determining factor in identifying enemy characters is undeniable.

Racialization and Otherness in Dime Comics No. 15

Dime Comics No. 15’s “Nitro” begins unassumingly; Nitro’s mild mannered alter ego, Terry King, receives a visit from a family friend, Carol Fane. Carol informs Terry she has been receiving death threats regarding a ‘Hindoo’ artifact her father, Sidney, has recently recovered from India. Despite the colonial overtones, the first pages of the title are relatively unassuming—that is, until the final frame of the second page, in which Carol is grabbed and hauled into a car by captors whom Nitro characterizes as “foreign looking thugs”. As Nitro begins to pursue the car, he shouts, “OKAY YOU FANATICS GET SET TO MEET YOUR ANCESTORS!” (Lazare 14).

Black and white image, the final panel of the second page of "Nitro", Dime Comics. No. 15
G. Lazare (a). Dime Comics. No. 15
June 1944,Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection, 1941-1946. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada

Here, Nitro could have identified his enemies by their actions—kidnapping a friend, throwing her in a car and taking off, any number of all round nefarious or suspicious behaviors—but instead its their ethnic identity that he identifies them as antagonists.

An identical occurrence can be observed in a military story later in Dime Comics No. 15, “West Wewak”. “Breezy” Bartlett, an RCAF pilot, is flying over the Solomon Islands when he is attacked by a Japanese Zero.  Just before ejecting, Bartlett looses a hail of bullets into the Japanese planes, proclaiming “COME AND GET IT, YOU SLANT EYED BABOONS! HAVE SOME GOOD CANADIAN BULLETS RIGHT IN THE PUSS!” (Legault 20). Later, after seeing an American assault on a Japanese base begin, Bartlett attacks a Japanese gunner, yelling “GANGWAY, YOU ALMOND-EYED LITTLE MEN OF BANZAI!” as he does (Legault 22).

Again, the enemies of the protagonist are not identified as so by their allegiance to enemy foreign powers—their colors, their insignia, their loyalties—things that may evolve and change overtime, things that may be forgotten after the war, things that are transient and not inherent to their identity, but by their racialization. The Japanese enemies of ‘Breezy’ Bartlett aren’t portrayed as his enemies because of their imperial mandate, the cruelty of their policies, or any other more nuanced reality, but because of their features which are inherent to their race: their Asian eyes, their Japanese stature. The message is clear: Bartlett’s enemies aren’t his enemies because they serve the Axis, but because they are the Axis—as evidenced by their racial features.

Later, on page 29 of Dime Comics No. 15, a “Scotty MacDonald” story features the titular hero and an American ally, Jim O’Hara, sent to rescue a Chinese allied agent. Once they’ve rendezvoused with their man, Sin Tong, Jim says to Scotty, “THINK HE CAN BE TRUSTED SCOTTY. [sic] HE’S A MYSTERIOUS LOOKING CHAP. HE MAY NOT BE THE M’COY!” (Cooper 30). One might expect the portrayal of Chinese people in Dime Comics to be more sympathetic, given their role as an ally (not that this prevented racist depictions of Indian people), yet again a character expresses sentiment specifically centering on an Asian person’s appearance. His behavior, his credentials, these things which any reasonable person would judge another person’s character, are secondary to the man’s racial identity. Paired with the racist caricature of Japanese soldiers which follows in the remaining panels of “Scotty MacDonald”, an opportunity for a positive representation of Asian characters is passed upon, and even an allied soldier is portrayed as rather shifty because of his Chinese appearance (Cooper 32).

The final title of Dime Comics No. 15, a “Johnny Canuck” story, offers even more racist caricatures.

Black and white image, the title page of a Johnny Canuck story, Dime Comics. No. 15
L. Bachle (a). Dime Comics. No. 15
June 1944,Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection, 1941-1946. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada

The cover page showcases an immense, menacing face, who’s pierced ears and head wrapping betray his foreign allegiance to readers.  Based off of this cover page, one might assume the Indian man terrorizing the exhausted hero might figure in the story as the primary antagonist, a villain deserving of such a frightening depiction; however, the character in question appears nowhere within Dime Comics No. 15’s “Johnny Canuck” title (Bachle 32). Why then does he populate the cover page? One can only assume because his racialized visage is meant to project villainy, fear and malice, traits that the artist, Leo Bachle, clearly associates with Indian peoples.

The Racial Home Front

What motivated the racist content of Dime Comics No. 15?

While the depiction of Japanese soldiers is abhorrently racist, its genesis is not a mystery. In December 1941, the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii was attacked by the Japanese air force, and alongside the United States and its allies, Canada declared war on Japan. Soon after the attack, the Canadian government used the War Measures Act—in order to declare each and every Japanese citizen—naturalized, Canadian born and immigrant alike—an enemy alien. Even Japanese Canadians who had served in the Canadian military during the First World War were subject to this draconian law (Fukawa, Hickman 68). Basic rights such as habeas corpus were annihilated by enemy alien status. The Japanese had their finances seized and their agency, already limited by racism and prejudice, entirely revoked. Japanese Canadians were then required to register with the RCMP as aliens (Fukawa, Hickman 72). At the beginning of 1942, the eviction and internment began, as Japanese Canadians were ordered to evacuate their homes and report for detention (Fukawa, Hickman 82). During the evacuation of Japanese Canadians from Vancouver, citizens were held in livestock stables and other makeshift buildings in Hastings Park (Fukawa, Hickman 86). By decree, the Canadian government essentially dehumanized the Japanese in every way—they revoked their rights, their status as citizens, and even kept them in holding areas intended for animals. All of this, not because any evidence was ever produced showing any Japanese Canadians held allegiance to Imperial Japan, or that there was any indication of a threat posed by radicals within Canada, but simply because Japanese Canadians were Japanese. Like the Japanese characters demonized in “West Wewak” and “Scotty MacDonald”, their enemy status wasn’t confirmed by any facts, any actions, their character or their conduct, but by their racial status, they Asian appearance.

As vile and reprehensible as they are, the depiction of Japanese people within Dime Comics can be rationalized. The Japanese were the enemy, for geopolitical reasons rather than racial ones, but the conflation of the two is understandable given that the Canadian government quite literally made the same mistake, and with the full power and resources at their disposal, not only treading into racist folly in theory but in action, permanently altering the Japanese population of Canada and leaving scars—financial, racial and yes, physical—that would never fade.

The depiction of racialized figures belonging to allied states, on the other hand, offers no such accessible and understandable explanation. India, as a British Commonwealth nation, was an ally to Canada and the rest of the Allied forces. What then is the source for the bizarre animosity directed to both explicit and implicit Indian and Hindu figures?

The majority of Hindu immigration to Canada began in the 1960s, with droves of professional Indian men and women, along with their families, arriving to find their place in Canadian society. The majority of Hindu immigration before this time occurred in British Columbia, far from the Torontonian home base of Bell Features comics (Coward 3). The west coast location of the pre-war Hindu immigration did not however prevent institutionalized racism from taking place, similarly to how it would take place decades later. Between 1900 and 1908, nearly 5000 South East Asians, mostly Indian peoples, largely Sikhs but Hindus as well, immigrated to BC. Until 1908, this process ran rather smoothly, but after eight years the small, frightened, racist white population pressured the government into taking measures to combat the imaginary invasion, just as the government would combat another imaginary invasion during the Japanese internment. Legislation was passed in 1908 not only to prohibit South East Asian, and specifically Hindu peoples, from voting, serving in public serving, on juries or as school trustees, professing law or pharmacy, working public contracts or purchasing crown timber, but also to prevent any further immigration through “continuous journey” laws (Coward 8).

While it may at times seem random and senseless, the racialization of the South East Asian figures of Dime Comics is not without precedent—precedent laid by the Canadian government itself. The Canadian Whites are as Canadian as any stories come—full of courage, daring exploits, heroism and alliances forged through adversity—but just like the history of Canada, there are negatives present as well: colonialism, racial violence, prejudice and exoticism. The Canadian Whites are spotted, they are flawed, just like Canada itself, and like Canada itself, if we are to move on as a people, we must acknowledge these flaws and seek to understand from where they came and how they might be avoided in the future.


  • Kocmarek, I. “Truth, Justice, and the Canadian Way: The War-Time Comics of Bell Features Publications.” Canadian Review of Comparative Literature / Revue Canadienne de Littérature Comparée, vol. 43 no. 1, 2016, pp. 148-165. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/crc.2016.0008
  • Bell, John. “Comics Books in English Canada.” The Canadian Encyclopedia. N.p., 2 July 06. Web. 22 Mar. 2017.
  • Lazare, Gerald (w., a.) “Nitro.” Dime Comics, No. 15, June, 1944,  pp. 14-16. Canadian
  • Whites Comic Book Collection, 1941-1946. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives
  • Canada
  • Legault, E.T. (w., a.) “West Wewak.” Dime Comics, No. 15, June, 1944,  pp. 20-22. Canadian
  • Whites Comic Book Collection, 1941-1946. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives
  • Canada
  • Cooper, Al (w., a.) “Scotty MacDonald.” Dime Comics, No. 15, June, 1944,  pp. 29-32. Canadian
  • Whites Comic Book Collection, 1941-1946. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives
  • Canada
  • Bachle, Leo (w., a.) “Johnny Canuck.” Dime Comics, No. 15, June, 1944,  pp. 32-35. Canadian
  • Whites Comic Book Collection, 1941-1946. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives
  • Canada
  • Hickman, Pamela and Masako Fukawa, Righting Canada’s Wrongs: Japanese Canadian Internment in the Second World War, James Lorimer and Company LTD., 2011.
  • Coward, Harold G., et al. The South Asian Religious Diaspora in Britain, Canada, and the United States. State University of New York Press, 2000. SUNY Series in Religious Studies. EBSCOhost,

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.

Themes of the Representation of Violence and War through Canadian Identity and the Portrayal of the Axis Powers in Dime Comics Issue No. 22

©Copyright 2017 Abigail Tamayo, Ryerson University.


Published by Bell Features, Dime Comics’ 22nd issue of the Canadian Whites comic books was released in April of 1945. It is one of twenty-nine published comic books issued by Dime Comics from 1942 to 1946 during and after World War Two.

Dingle, Adrian (a). Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features: Cover, Bell Features collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Dingle, Adrian (a). Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features: Cover, Bell Features collection, Library and Archives Canada.

From front to cover, the comic issue contains several action, adventure and science themed stories and includes two activity pages. The stories included in the comic issue are as follows: “Chapt-Nine Conclusion: Rex Baxter and Xalanta’s Secret” written and illustrated by Adrian Dingle, “Chick ‘n’ Fuzz” written and illustrated by Bill Thomas, “Oolay the Eskimo” story by Cal, “Nitro” written and illustrated by Jerry Lazare, “Professor Punk” written and illustrated by Harry Brunt, “Johnny Canuck” written and illustrated by Leo Bachle, “Let’s go back and face the draft, he says there’s a war on here too!” story by Mickey Owens, “The Mongoose” written and illustrated by Bill Thomas, “Firebug’s Fiasco” written and illustrate by Jerry Lazare, “Drummy Young” written and illustrated by Jerry Lazare, “Monster of the Deep” written and illustrated by Fred Kelly, and “Murder Star” written and illustrated by Tedd Steele. Although the comic was released around the end of the war, there were still strong instances of national identity presented throughout the issue which battled the depicted characterization of the axis powers. Within the writers and artists’ representation of violence and war, the differences between Canadian identity and that of the Axis Powers were distinct. Readers can easily distinguish the ethnicity and political positions of certain characters due to the stereotypes we are aware of now, implanted within their words and appearances.

Bell features publishing originated due to the government’s program of “Eliminating non-essentials” (“We Must Do Without”), and their existence contributed to the Canadian Whites’ influence in popular culture during World War Two. Dime Comic’s issue no. 22 manifested Canadian ideologies in its production, becoming a form of Canadian propaganda by perpetuating Canadian identity in the comic through its superheroes and the depiction of an anti-axis powers political view through its Japanese and Nazi-German characters.

Representation of the Axis Powers

The comic issue incorporates various elements of representation when conveying the diverse characters that appear in its stories. A crucial reoccurring essence of representation that is worth observing is how the axis powers are represented in the comic issue. The way in which the Axis Powers are represented provided readers in the 1930s with a manufactured vision of who the enemy was, and when compared to their pre-conceived notion towards Canadian identity it benefited an uplifting movement that encouraged national pride and Canadian nationality as “the good guys”.

Characters in this issue ranged from being Canadian, American, Japanese, and Nazi-German. The characterization of all characters in the issue were done by Canadian writers and artists. The writers and artists of this issue had the tendency to represent “the other” in World War Two, referring specifically to the Japanese and Nazi-German characters in the issue, through the racialization of their Japanese and Nazi-German characters.

In this comic issue, Nazi-Germans appear in the comic issue as unintelligent individuals, at least in comparison to the Canadian characters that appear alongside them. Emphasizing on how ludicrous and ill-advised the Nazi-Germans are in the stories they appear in, provides the reader with a tone-deaf representation of actual Nazi-Germans during World War Two.


Chapt-Nine Conclusion: Rex Baxter and Xalanta’s Secret

Written and illustrated by Adrian Dingle, “Chapt-Nine Conclusion: Rex Baxter and Xalanta’s Secret” is the first comic that appears in the issue. The story features the characters Rex Baxter and Gail Abbot who rescue Zoltan from a Japanese prison camp from the south pacific. The panels on the pages represent various moments in time, first placing the reader in a radio station (Dingle 1-2), then immediately into the action; Rex Baxter running towards a plane and in the sky (3-5), and communication between Americans, Canadians, and Rex Baxter. (6-7)

Within the language of the story, Dingle includes several World War Two slang terms. To refer to a Japanese person; anything Japanese Dingle shortens the word to simply ‘Jap’, however Dingle also makes use of a more offensive term in synonymous to a Japanese person: ‘Nip’ which originates in the 1940s as an abbreviated form of the term ‘Nipponese’. (“Nip3”) Tension had risen in the beginning of 1942 between Canadians and the Japanese since the attacks on Pearl Harbour on December 7th, 1941, resulting in a sense of distrust of Japanese-Canadians which lead to the imprisonment of Japanese-Canadians in internment camps. (Marsh) They remained detained in these camps, located along the pacific coast, for the duration of the second world war until the war ended in 1945. (Marsh)

Dingle, Adrian. Panel from"Chapt-Nine Conclusion: Rex Baxter and Xalanta's Secret." Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Dingle, Adrian. Panel from”Chapt-Nine Conclusion: Rex Baxter and Xalanta’s Secret.” Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

Another offensive term referencing the Japanese is the word ‘squints’, which is a racial reference to the physical features of a Japanese Person.

Dingle, Adrian. Panel from"Chapt-Nine Conclusion: Rex Baxter and Xalanta's Secret." Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Dingle, Adrian. Panel from”Chapt-Nine Conclusion: Rex Baxter and Xalanta’s Secret.” Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Bachle, Leo. Panel from"Johnny Canuck." Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Bachle, Leo. Panel from”Johnny Canuck.” Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Chik ‘N’ Fuzz

Written and illustrated by Bill Thomas, “Chik ‘N’ Fuzz” follows two main characters Chik and Fuzz (notably a racist story due to Thomas’ depiction of Caucasian and African Americans through the two main characters) who are on their way to England when they intercept a Nazi-German submarine and take the opportunity to wreak havoc from within enemy lines. The Nazi-German characters in this story are easy to point out due to Thomas’ use of the characters’ speech bubbles and appearance to convey his Nazi-German representation.

Thomas, Bill. Panel from"Chik 'N' Fuzz." Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Thomas, Bill. Panel from”Chik ‘N’ Fuzz.” Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

Note the emblematic Swastika of the German Nazi party on bands around the arms of the German soldiers. (Jeff) The characters also speak in a thick German accent which Thomas depicts through the intonation of the words he writes in the speech bubbles for the Nazi-German characters. In one frame, the Nazi-German characters appear to “Heil Hitler”.

Although Thomas’ representations of Nazi-Germans are watered-downed versions of real Nazi-German’s during World War Two, the representation provides readers with a basic concept of identifying Nazi-Germans.

Thomas, Bill. Panel from"Chik 'N' Fuzz." Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Thomas, Bill. Panel from”Chik ‘N’ Fuzz.” Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Thomas, Bill. Panel from"Chik 'N' Fuzz." Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Thomas, Bill. Panel from”Chik ‘N’ Fuzz.” Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Johnny Canuck

In his comic, Leo Bachle’s character Johnny Canuck is captured and held captive by Japanese soldiers and is tortured for information. Bachle’s depiction of the Japanese soldiers in the comic reveal a racialized appearance and speech, apparent in how he drew the soldiers and the diction he used in their speech bubbles.

Bachle, Leo. Panel from"Johnny Canuck." Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Bachle, Leo. Panel from”Johnny Canuck.” Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Bachle, Leo. Panel from"Johnny Canuck." Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Bachle, Leo. Panel from”Johnny Canuck.” Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Bachle, Leo. Panel from"Johnny Canuck." Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Bachle, Leo. Panel from”Johnny Canuck.” Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Maximum Advantage in pictures: propaganda as Art and History. From a Poster. This is the Enemy. Public Domain.
Maximum Advantage in pictures: propaganda as Art and History. From a Poster. This is the Enemy. Public Domain.

The dehumanization of the axis powers was not uncommon during the second world war, due to the increasing amount of propaganda posters made by the allies. The appearances of the Japanese were often caricaturized as ghastly monster-like individuals, inflicting malice to instill fear in the audiences the posters were propagandized towards. One American anti-Japanese propaganda poster called “This is the Enemy” shows a Japanese soldier holding a dagger in one hand with sharp-nails on the other, appearing to claw and reach for the woman who is running away in terror.

The Japanese soldier on the poster bears the Japanese Rising Sun Flag on his hat which was Japan’s flag during the late 19th and early 20th centuries but has since then changed due to its connection to the military significance during World War Two, wherein it acted as Japan’s insignia as an allied force of the Nazi-Germans who they shared similar ideologies with. (Kim) The racialization of Japanese persons in propaganda posters utilizes racial stereotypes to distinguish ‘the other’ and inflict fear of ‘the enemy’. This form of propaganda permeates Bachle’s comic, evident in the portrayal of the Japanese characters who are depicted as ruthless, remorseless and violent individuals.


National Identity

Two of the comics in this issue, “Nitro”, and “Johnny Canuck”, feature superheroes highly popularized during World War Two, Nitro and Johnny Canuck respectively, who Guardians of the North listed as members of a group of comic superheroes purposed to personify the Canadian spirit embedded within Canadian identity. Unlike the typical superhero who is characterized to have supernatural abilities, Nitro and Johnny Canuck are uncharacteristically portrayed to use more mundane abilities in battles. Nevertheless, the two share the ability of superhuman strength though in their comics “Nitro” and “Johnny Canuck” have them seen using intellectual based abilities, natural of a regular person alongside their superhuman ability. In Nitro and Johnny Canuck alone, it is evident there is a plethora of representation of Canadian identity which is primarily projected through the superhero’s actions, thoughts and words, and even so far as the way they are drawn by their artist.

Lazare, Jerry. Panel from"Nitro." Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Lazare, Jerry. Panel from”Nitro.” Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

In Jerry Lazare’s “Nitro”, Nitro appears to the reader firsthand as Terry Allen, a regular person who at the crime scene assesses the situation to an officer nearby, revealing his sharp attention to detail when pointing out a piece of evidence went amiss. He then switches into his alias, Nitro, to confront the perpetrator of the crime. He bears a skin-tight costume with the letter “N” on his chest, boots and gloves, and shorts held up with a belt that also has the letter “N” on its buckle.



Lazare, Jerry. Panel from"Nitro." Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Lazare, Jerry. Panel from”Nitro.” Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Lazare, Jerry. Panel from"Nitro." Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Lazare, Jerry. Panel from”Nitro.” Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

Nitro is not only strong physically but mentally too. His enemy (“Curly” Edwards) admits inevitable defeat because Nitro is ‘To wise for his own good.’

In the face of danger Nitro defeats his enemy, showcasing his ability to use his quick wit and intelligence alongside his fighting skills. His contribution to Canadian identity surfaces in his near ‘normality’, emphasizing the concept that having superhuman abilities is not a necessary quality for a person who wants to help in the instance of a crime, rather instead if a person is willing to help and makes the effort of helping someone of authority then that person has done their part. It is a subliminal message of Canadian Nationalism that permeates a lot of the superhero stories produced by Dime Comics. The comic mirrors the implications of Canadian propaganda released during World War Two which focused on a collective group coming together for the greater good- wherein using a nation’s shared strength, intelligence, and the force in unity– Canadians contribute to the war time effort. On the Homefront, Canadians were encouraged to support the Canadian military service men through thriftiness, conservation of food and duel, recycling and reuse of resources, and loans (victory bonds) which would finance the war. (“War and Military”)

Library and Archives Canada. From a Poster. The Men Are Ready...Only You Can Give Them Wings :  Canada's war effort and production sensitive campaign. Public Domain.
Library and Archives Canada. From a Poster. The Men Are Ready…Only You Can Give Them Wings :  Canada’s war effort and production sensitive campaign. Public Domain.
Library and Archives Canada. From a Poster. If You Don't Need it... Don't Buy it. Public Domain.
Library and Archives Canada. From a Poster. If You Don’t Need it… Don’t Buy it. Public Domain.
Canadian War Museum. From a Poster. Save Waste Bones -They Make Glue For Aircraft .. And Are Used For Explosives... Public Domain.
Canadian War Museum. From a Poster. Save Waste Bones -They Make Glue For Aircraft .. And Are Used For Explosives… Public Domain.
Canadian War Museum. From a poster. Invest and Protect. Help Finish the Job. Public Domain.
Canadian War Museum. From a poster. Invest and Protect. Help Finish the Job. Public Domain.
Johnny Canuck
Bachle, Leo. Panel from"Johnny Canuck." Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Bachle, Leo. Panel from”Johnny Canuck.” Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

Guardians of the North refers to Johnny Canuck as “Canada’s superhero.” Johnny Canuck was created by Leo Bachle and was used as a figure of response to the outside threats during World War Two. (Reynes-Chikuma et. al.) Johnny Canuck, also often referred to as Captain Canuck, helped legitimized a pre-conceived consciousness of Canadian identity, reinforcing the perception as Canada as a “peaceable kingdom.” (Edwardson 184) In his article, Ryan Edwardson explains the use of comic books which as a visual medium, encourages the imagination to be used, thus resulting in a conscious construction of the nation and national identity. (185) In issue no. 22, Johnny Canuck is placed under captivity by Japanese soldiers and is tortured for information, but later is thrown into a jail cell where he meets an elderly man who validates his persona as Captain Canuck while also validating the image of Canadian identity.

Captain Canuck became a part of Canadian consumer culture (195), especially as he mirrored Canadian nationalistic values that were propagandized towards Canadians on the Homefront in posters– moralism, natural strength, and self-sacrificing persona to name a few. (186) One artist pointed out the success of using propaganda posters as a tool to send messages, noting the artwork’s ability of permeating a message in an instant and aesthetically pleasing manner, alongside the tendency for posters to be internalized rather than analyzed, made them effective. (“Canadian WWII Propaganda posters”) In issue no. 22, Johnny Canuck exhibits the traits of a selfless hero whose perseverance goes unnoticed.

Bachle, Leo. Panel from"Johnny Canuck." Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Bachle, Leo. Panel from”Johnny Canuck.” Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

Johnny Canuck’s strength is tested here, as he blames his lack of food and water on his being weaker than usual. The elderly man who is with him encourages him to drink the water and eat the bread he has hidden under his bed to help him regain his strength.

Bachle, Leo. Panel from"Johnny Canuck." Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Bachle, Leo. Panel from”Johnny Canuck.” Dime Comics. No. 22, April 1945, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Mental_Floss. From a poster. We Are Saving You, You Save Food. Public Domain.
Mental_Floss. From a poster. We Are Saving You, You Save Food. Public Domain.

When creating most of the propaganda posters made during World War Two, government officials consulted old posters from the first world war and other resources at the Public Archives. (“War and Military”) Johnny Canucks’ need to be fed to maintain his strength mirrors the message of a Canadian propaganda poster that was made during World War One, tiled “We Are Saving You, You Save Food” which also includes the following statement: “Well fed Soldiers Will Win the War”



Bachle, Leo (w, a). “Johnny Canuck”. Dime Comics, no. 22, April, 1945, pp. 23-28. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

“Canadian WWII Propaganda Posters.” Air Museum. N.p., n.d. Web.

Clark, Jeff. Uniforms of the NSDAP: Uniforms, Headgear, Insignia of the Nazi Party. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing, 2007.

Dingle, Adrian (w, a). “Chapt-Nine Conclusion: Rex Baxter and Xalanta’s Secret”. Dime Comics, no. 22, April, 1945, pp. 1-7. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

Edwardson, Ryan. “The Many Lives of Captain Canuck: Nationalism, Culture, and the Creation of a Canadian Comic Book Superhero.” Journal of Popular Culture 37.2 (2003): 184-201. Web. 12 Apr. 2017.

Lazare, Jerry (w, a). “Nitro”. Dime Comics, no. 22, April, 1945, pp. 15-20. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

“Nip3.” Oxford Dictionaries. Accessed 22 March 2017.

Kim, Dongwoo. “Why One Should Never Use the Japanese Rising Sun Flag.” Web.

Marsh, James. “Japanese Internment: Banished and Beyond Tears.” The Canadian Encyclopedia 2012. Web.

Reyns-Chikuma, Chris. “Exploring Canadian Identities in Canadian Comics [Special Issue].” Canadian Review of Comparative Literature/Revue Canadienne de Litérature Comparée 43.1 (2016): 5. Print.

Thomas, Bill (w, a). “Chik ‘N’ Fuzz”. Dime Comics, no. 22, April, 1945, pp. 8-13. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

“War and Military.” Archive. Library and Archives Canada. N.p., n.d. Web.

“We Must Do Without.” Editorial. Toronto Telegram, April 13, 1942. Democracy at War: Canadian Newspapers and the Second World War, Canadian War Museum.

Cupid and Psyche: Romance for the Victorian Child

The Red Romance Book
Figure 1: Cover displays intricate illustration by H. J. Ford, as well as colour corresponding bindings.

© 2013, Nabila Islam

“Cupid and Psyche.” The Red Romance Book. Ed. Andrew Lang. Illus. Henry J. Ford. New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1921. 249-64. Print.


This curatorial is an exploration of the ideologies in the 19th century that influenced and shaped the respective works of Andrew Lang and Henry J. Ford, providing a commentary on their collaborative work on “Cupid and Psyche” from the Red Romance Book.

Andrew Lang

Andrew Lang (1844-1912) was the eldest of John Lang and Jane Plenderleath Sellar’s eight children. Lang’s educational journey includes Edinburgh Academy, University of St. Andrews and Balliol College, as well as a fellowship at Morton College from 1865 to 1874. A Victorian intellectual and classicist, Lang was interested in numerous subjects, such as history, anthropology and psychical research, especially after he moved away from religion, towards mythology and legends.

As a child, Lang read the works of the Grimm brothers and William Shakespeare. As an adult, he wrote articles, literary criticisms, and essays on the varying subjects that interested him. His list of work is extensive, going far beyond fairy tales. Despite his diverse knowledge on a verity of subjects, Lang preferred the romance of folk and fairy tales. However, he is most renown for his collection of fairy tales. Despite having published some original fairy tales, his distinction comes from being a collector and editor of folk and fairy tales from around the world.

Lang’s twelve coloured fairy books became a staple for children, introducing new and old tales, from a variety of sources. With the aid of his wife, who would gather the material, Lang would edit and arrange the tales and H. J. Ford would then illustrate for his books. The physicality of the books increased popularity, each the corresponding colour, with the sumptuous covers typical of the early 1900s. The Red Romance Book, though not part of the coloured fairy book series, holds the same physical qualities (see Figure 1).

Time & Culture Specific

“Cupid and Psyche” is classified as Aarne-Thompson Tale Type 425A, Search for Lost Husband, under the category of “Supernatural or Enchanted Relative,” and sub-category of “Husband,” but it falls under ATU 425B, “Son of the Witch” as well. This tale comes from Apuleius’s version of “Cupid and Psyche;” a tale set within his novel Metamorphosis. Apuleius was a Latin writer and Greek sophist who was a North African native and a Roman citizen. Although Apuleius wrote his novel in 2 A.D., there is evidence of Eros (Cupid) and Psyche in 4th century B.C. Greek art. Apuleius’s version gained popularity during the Renaissance when Greco-Roman antiquities were received by later cultures (Classical tradition), following which the story was retold through various artistic mediums. Apuleius’s tale of “Cupid and Psyche” is similar to a Hittie tale on the god Telepinus from the 2000 B.C. While it is not quite the same, the metaphors and motifs align, suggesting roots as ancient as these Anatolian people from the 18th century B.C.

However, there are differences between Apuleius’s and Lang’s texts. Writing during the Fin de Siècle for a different audience, Lang had to make this tale more suitable for Victorian children. That meant changing the prophesized non-human dragon bridegroom to a monster which shall devour Psyche. Lang downplayed the description of Psyche’s fated husband, which is typical, considering the disapproval Victorian society held for violent content; they felt that such material was unsuitable for children. Lang also removed the section where Psyche seeks retribution from her two elder sisters who caused her to doubt her husband and thus lose him. Such deception and unmerciful deaths would not have been appropriate. However, the most significant difference in the two tales is regarding Psyche’s pregnancy. As Lang is writing a romantic tale for the consumption of children, he eliminated any mention of Psyche’s sexual interaction with Cupid and the subsequent pregnancy.

Joyfully the eagle bore back the urn
Figure 2: Pysche’s final task in Lang’s version of the tale.

On her search for Cupid, Psyche must face trials set for her by Aphrodite. Where Apuleius’s Venus sets four tasks, the fourth being a trip to the Underworld, Lang limits Psyche’s trials to the rule of three. Likewise, Lang shortens the tale by relegating a few paragraphs to Cupid and Psyche’s reunion, Cupid’s request for forgiveness and immortality for Psyche. Apuleius, writing for an adult readership, included a magnificent wedding feast with the gods of Olympus.

Apuleius’s tale was seen as an allegory for immortality granted to the soul as a reward (for sexual commitment). This was later adapted into a Christian allegory. Lang’s adaptation of “Cupid and Psyche” might have provided Victorian children with entertainment; however, it might also have instructed young girls to be good, well-behaved children who trust their parents, and later, their husbands; to remain committed to their husbands in all circumstances.

H. J. Ford

Henry Justice Ford (1860–1941), was quite prolific throughout his career as an illustrator. He is best known for his collaboration with Andrew Lang on the coloured Fairy Books. Ford had an illustrious education, attending Repton School and Clare College in Cambridge (where he attained a background in the classics), the Slade School of Fine Art in London with Alphonse Legros and Sir Hubert von Herkomer’s Art School at Bushey.

Although best known as an illustrator, Ford had wide-spread interests. The fourth of seven sons to Augustus Ford, a solicitor, and his wife, Katherine Mary, he was as interested in cricket as the rest of the Ford family. Ford was able to foster a connection with J. M. Barrie while playing cricket with Barrie’s Allahakbarrie Cricket Club. He was friends with many renowned figures of his time, such as P. G. Wodehouse and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He was a friend of Sir Edward Burne-Jones, a British artist associated with the later phase of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Ford, who also did history paintings and landscapes, was able to exhibit some at the Royal Academy and New Gallery.

A quote from “L. D. L.” in The Times provides a summary of Ford: “The name of Henry Justice Ford was familiar from the 1880s to innumerable children…Every year his inexhaustible fancy produced illustrations, decorative, charming, and sometimes a little alarming, of princes and princesses and fairies, demons, and animals…it is by his illustrations he is remembered, though he never had quite the reputation as an artist he desired, perhaps, because he was reckoned ‘only an illustrator’.”

Victorian Ideals Illustrated

Aphrodite brings Cupid to Psyche
Figure 3: First illustration in the narrative of “Cupid and Psyche.” Fine details reflects Ford’s high art aesthetic.

Despite a constant interest in both fairy tales and the illustrations that go with them, industrial progression brought forth a further interest in traditional folk and fairy tales. Between 1880 and 1900 the illustrations for fairy tales gained a sudden increase in popularity. Britain’s acquisition of Africa and India meant an interest in new stories from other cultures, in addition to the traditional and well-known tales. At this time, H. J. Ford became one of the two most important and powerful illustrators.

Aphrodite finds Psyche's task accomplished
Figure 4: The single colour plate for this tale depicts the major female characters (Aphrodite and Psyche), one with a glow indicating a goddess nature. Reprinting this image in a reduced size means an overflow of details.

Ford consistently produced high quality illustrations of fine and delicate detail, balancing a high art aesthetic with consumerism (see Figure 3). His work combined the realistic and the fantastical, due to thorough research and ability. His coloured plates better display his Pre-Raphaelite influence compared to his black and white work, thanks to the brilliant colouring. However, reprinting the original image sometimes dulled the intense colours in an unfortunate way. The original illustrations were four times the reprinted size, thus his work, full of details, sometimes came off as overcrowded (see Figure 4).

Ford gained painterly knowledge on myths and legends through his association with Sir Edward Burne-Jones, which allowed him to insert such a significant amount of detail in his illustrations. He also did the illustrations on the covers and spines. Characteristic of the period, Ford used the art-nouveau frames on the illustrations and the hand-scripted labels underneath.

Zepyhr carries Psyche down from the mountain
Figure 5: The ideal Victorian femininity displayed in Psyche’s flowing hair and draped clothing.

Throughout their collaboration, Lang and Ford placed a strong emphasis on English femininity, despite the origins of the tales, complicating the image of an ideal woman. There was consideration neither for new readership among the newly colonized nor for any possible appreciation of differing cultures. The illustrations throughout The Red Romance Book depict the ideal beauty from the Romantic era; fair skin, a flowing mass of locks, and draped gowns. Most of the images are ethereal and in the case of “Cupid and Pysche,” almost all the images showcase nature or animals, creating enchanted illustrations. While English ideals regarding femininity and beauty do not affect the reading of “Cupid and Pysche” to the extent as some other tales, superimposing of ideals grounded from the Romantic era and the Pre-Raphaelite aesthetic is significant. Especially once a growing readership is considered, as well as the purposeful neglect of displaying other cultures appropriately.



Works Cited

Anderson, Graham. Fairytale in the Ancient World. Taylor & Francis, 2002. 4 April 2013. e-book.

Merriman, C. D. “Andrew Lang.” The Literature Network. Jalic Inc. (2007).Web. 10 Apr. 2013.

Gollnick, James. Love and the Soul: Psychological Interpretations of the Eros and Psyche Myth.. Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1992. Print.

“H J Ford: Artist.” Look and Learn. Look and Learn Ltd. (2013). Web. 4 Apr. 2013.

“Henry J Ford.” The Wee Web Authors and Illustrators Archive. The Wee Web Authors and Illustrators Archive, n.d. Web. 4 Apr. 2013.

“Henry Justice Ford (1860-1940)” The Victorian Web. The Victorian Web. (2007). Web. 4 Apr. 2013.

Houffe, Simon. Fin de Siecle: The Illustrators of the ‘Nineties. London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd., 1992. Print.

Michalski, Robert. “Towards a Popular Culture: Andrew Lang’s Anthropological And Literary Criticism.” Journal Of American Culture 18.3 (1995): 13. Academic Search Premier. Web. 4 Apr. 2013.

Osgood, Josiah. “”Nuptiae Iure Civili Congruae”: Apuleius’s Story of Cupid and Psyche and the Roman Law of Marriage.” Transactions of the American Philological Association 136.2 (2006): 415-41. JSTOR. Web. 4 Apr. 2013.

Whalley, Joyce Irene and Tessa Rose Chester. “Moonlight and Shadown: 1880 to 1900.” A History of Children’s Book Illustration. London: John Murray, 1988. Print. 127-150.

Ziolkowski, Jan M. “Straparola and the Fairy Tale: Between Literary and Oral Traditions.” Journal of American Folklore 123.490 (2010): 377-97. Project MUSE. Web. 4 Apr. 2013.

view this exhibit on the CLA Omeka site