Dr. Monique Tschofen
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.
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
. 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.
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.
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.