Canadian Whites - The Canadian Golden Age Comics

On December 6th 1940, the War Exchange Conservation Act (WECA) was passed to stabilize the Canadian dollar's value by barring non-essential imports from the U.S.A. Having declared was on Germany on September 1st 1939 in response to the Nazis invading Poland, and aware that tight economic controls would be key to winning any war, Canada's Foreign Exchange Control Board had been established within the same month to ration foreign currency. WECA was intended to help minimise the outflow of American currency from Canada by limiting the importing of non-essential goods from the U.S.A. Comics and pulp magazines were amongst the products affected. Naturally this impacted on companies that had been importing such titles. The obvious option was to publish their own comics, and a race began to get beat one another to print first. Most American titles used four colour printing - every page would have four plates of colour (normally black, yellow, cyan and magenta) that when combined could produce all the other colours. However, the process to get it right was costly, time consuming and difficult to master. While covers remained four colour, with the new Canadian producers trying to win the race against one another, some titles cut their interiors down to the simpler two colour option - a black plate plus one additional plate of another colour - but most opted for just black and white. Years later, this prompted collectors of Canadian Golden Age titles to call them Canadian Whites, a term was apparently first used by Patrick Loubert and Michael Hirsh in their The Great Canadian Comic Books study of Canadian titles of the era. Initially it was intended for use specifically to refer to the indiginous black and white comics, over time it has come to be used in the wider form to refer to most any title published between the imposing of WECA and the lifting of said restrictions following the war, including Canadian reprints of U.S. titles published by Bell and Anglo American; later Anglo American moved to full colour, but these titles are still considered "Whites".

The First Four - 1941

Following WECA's implemenation at the end of 1940, four publishers managed to get their first titles out in 1941, one based in Vancouver and the other three in Toronto - Maple Leaf Publishing, Anglo-American Publications, Hillborough Studios and Commercial Signs of Canada (a.k.a. Bell Features).

Maple Leaf Publishing

Founded by magazine seller Harry Smith, the Vancouver-based Maple Leaf Publications tied with their rival Anglo-American in the race to get the first title on the stands, and in March 1941 published Better Comics, which featured Canada's first ever home-grown superhero, Iron Man. Subsequent titles included Bing Bang Comics (launched November-December 1941), Lucky Comics (December 1941) and Name-It Comics (November-December 1941) which became Rocket Comics with #2. Maple Leaf continued publication through the war, and saw WECA end and American comics returning to Canada. In an attempt to compete, Maple Leaf went full colour with the intention of exporting outside of Canada, but they failed to gain a foothold, and folded in late 1946.

Brok Windsor

Black Wing

Iron Man

Sergeant Canuck

Secret Seven


Mono the Air Cobra

Black Knight

Anglo-American Publishing

Anglo-American tied with Maple Leaf by getting their first title out in March 1941, despite having a slight advantage that their title, Robin Hood, was a pre-existing Canadian newspaper strip (Robin Hood and Company) previously published in the Toronto Evening Telegram. The strip's writer, Ted McCall, approached Thomas Harold Sinnott of Sinnott News, who had a printing press able to print comics, and offered him the printing plates for the series, allowing them to rapidly reformat them to publish the strip in tabloid size. While Sinnott enlisted fellow money men John M. Calder, John G. Baker and Edward C. Johnston to finance the company, McCall recruited artist Ed Furness to help him create new strips. After a year of reprints, McCall and Furness' new strips began publication, introducing Freelance, Commander Steel and Red Rover. Anglo-American eventually shut up shop in 1947.

They also licensed the rights to Fawcett characters. Since WECA prevented the comics being imported, Anglo-American took the scripts and had local artists illustrate them. Amongst the characters who turned up, often with Canadian touches added to their costumes, were Bulletman, Spy-Smasher, Captain Marvel, Captain Marvel Jnr and Commando Yank.


Commander Steel

Purple Rider

Red Rover

Kip Keene

Terry Kane

Dr Destine

Hillborough Studios

Hillborough Studios was the third publisher to get a comic to the stands, Triumph-Adventure Comics in August 1941. It was founded by Adrian Dingle and the brothers André and René Kubach, all artists, backed by an anonymous investor. Alongside less memorable characters such as the pilot Spanner Preston and Tang the Wonder Horse, Triumph-Adventure introduced one of the most significant of all Canadian heroes, Nelvana. Hillsborough's limited finances saw their titles only having two-colour covers, andnthey managed to publish only six issues of Triumph-Adventure and one of Top Flight Comics before the company collapsed in February 1942. However, Cy Bell of the rival company Bell Features saw the worth in Dingle's work, and hired Dingle as his art director, adding Triumph (and Nelvana) to his company's line-up.


Commercial Signs of Canada/ Bell Features

Toronto commercial art company Commerical Signs of Canada was established in the 1930s by brothers Cy and Gene Bell. In 1939 artist Edmund Legault suggested they start up their own comic company, but it wasn't until WECA was passed that Cy agreed. Getting additional financial backing from John Ervin, Commercial Signs of Canada became the fourth company to get a comic out, launching Wow Comics in September 1941, featuring the space adventurer Whiz Wallace and pirate cover star Dart Daring. Cy renamed the company Bell Features around May 1942, roughly the same time he hired Adrian Dingle to be his art director. Bell proved to be the longest lasting of all the original four Canadian publishers.

Whiz Wallace

The Penguin

Johnny Canuck

Phantom Rider

Mr Monster

Speed Savage

The Wing

The Brain


Invisible Commando

Super Commando

Captain Wonder

The Wolf

Ace Barton


The Dreamer

Polka-Dot Pirate

The Terror

White Mask

The Whistler

Kerry Dane

Night Hawk

Educational Projects of Montreal

Publisher Harry J. Halperin was a late addition to the Canadian publishing houses with his Educational Projects of Montreal, becoming the fifth to go to print. Unlike his counterparts producing fictional adventures, Educational was intended to teach, and so its titles, notably Canadian Heroes (launched October 1942), featured biographical tales of real life individuals with notable achievements, be they Mounties, inventors, sportsmen, explorers, politicians, etc. However, to boost sales to younger readers looking for larger-then-life exploits, they decided to include one fictional hero. Artist George Rae suggested an adventurer akin to Freelance or Johnny Canuck, and so Canada Jack was born. He even had his own real life fan club, which readers were encouraged to join.

Canada Jack

Feature Publications

In late 1943 Bell Features' Edward Schecter launched the Toronto-based Feature Publications. The sixth Canadian Whites publisher, it ultimately only produced a single title, Lightning Comics, which lasted 12 issues, the last dated December 1944/January 1945.

Captain Daring

Dr. Future



F.E. Howard


Dr. Justice

Superior Publishers

Another Toronto company, William Zimmerman's Superior Publishers had begun publishing pulp magazines shortly after WECA took force, but didn't get into comics until 1944. Unlike many of their competitors, who were devastated when American imports resumed, Superior handled the return better than most, and by 1946 were still active, producing their own material and reprinting American titles, including taking the character Zor from F.E. Howard.


Ghost Woman

Captain Combat


Red Rogue

Ju Jitsu Joe

Sir Guy

Dr. Justice

Magazine Enterprises of Canada


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