Qatar is not the place to really go looking from Graphic Literature in the vein in which I am interested in at this time. I therefore headed to Quebec. I thought about provinces in China, but I thought a little closer to home would be easier. Have I ever told you how foolish my ideas can be?
Did I tell you I tried creators from Queens, New York? Not so easy either.
Canada went through some interesting things during WWII much like other parts of the world. Oddly US books were banned from being imported for economic reasons, but could be reprinted. This allowed for a Golden Age of comic books in Canada. Canada also went through the 1950s censorship issues much as the rest of the various Western Hemisphere.
I want to start today with a man named Joseph Michel Roy (1921-1996), better known as Mike Roy or Michael Roy. Researching about artists born in Quebec had been tough until the wee hours and I found this man. And did I find a creator or what?
Born in Quebec he headed south where he ended up in New York at the School of Industrial Art, also known as the High School of Art and Design. For those outside of the United States, think ages 14 or 15 up to around 18. The school produced several comic artists from this time period. During Roy’s particular time he was the first to get the break.1
In 1940, while still in school, Roy writes, pencils (draws), and inks the short story Tigerman2 in the comic book Daring Mystery Comics3. Daring Mystery Comics was produced by Timely Comics, the predecessor to Marvel Comics.4
According to a high school friend of Roy’s, another Timely Comics artist Allen Bellman, he recalls Roy working on a Sub Mariner comic will still in high school, although it is not mentioned in a list of his works. The incident sticks in Bellman’s mind because Roy was then a big shot and hero because he had actually done what they all wanted to do.5 One thing to keep in mind is, Roy went to work for Bill Everett as his assistant and that may be why we don’t see Roy’s name on work for that particular issue. Or it could be that issue has slipped through the cracks.6
Roy did a lot of Timely books, Captain America #60 being of course being of interest to me where he had the lead story. But there were later books I found insanely amazing to find he worked on. Jackie Gleason and the Honeymooners from the 1950s. The Twilight Zone from the 1960s. Buck Rogers and the 25th Century in 1980.
Mike Roy’s Comic Strips
Roy has a tie to one of the most famous detectives in literary fiction, Mike Hammer. No, you won’t see Roy given credit for Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, but you will find his name with the comic Mike Danger in 1947, the first go round of Mike Hammer. It failed and Spillane, in three weeks, turned out I, the Jury.7
We then find Roy on The Saint comic strip which began it’s run on Septemeber 27, 1948, written by Leslie Charteris. Yes, The Saint as in Simon Templar with George Sanders in the old movies and Roger Moore in the TV series.8
Then we see him once again, in the detective genre with the Nero Wolfe comic strip from 1956 to 1958.9
Mike Roy’s Native American Interests
Mike Roy was very interested in Native American culture. His strip Akwas from the 1960s showed this. It was set historically pre Columbus. He attempted to keep the strip in print by giving her super powers toward the end but it didn’t save it.10
Screaming Eagle, a graphic novel was Roy’s final work, published in 1998 after his passing.
“SCREAMING EAGLE tells a mythical version of Native history—from the early pioneering days to the end of the Indian wars. Not coincidentally, that period coincides with the life of the story’s fictional hero.
At the onset, white trappers shoot a bald eagle, then the boy Screaming Eagle. The eagle’s and boy’s spirits merge and Screaming Eagle comes back to life. He now has the power to turn into his namesake guardian spirit.
Screaming Eagle becomes the focal point for this simplified version of events. He’s there to counsel people in war and peace. He’s the embodiment of all the great Indian leaders, from Tecumseh to Geronimo.”~Robert Schmidt.11
To end I will mention a creative duo specifically for Canadian Graphic Literature. writer Mark Shainblum and artist Gabriel Morrissette. They are at least close to today but their work on specifically and obviously Canadian superheros is why I want to mention them.
The two created Northguard, an almost accidental hero in the fact he was really just doing his job and ended up being a costumed hero. The book was a serious effort during the 1980s to have home grown superhero comics with heroes having Canadian identity throughout, not just in name only. He also had a partner called Fleur de Lys from the emblem on the Quebec flag. The two appeared on Canadian postage stamps.12
There are successful Canadian comics but rare. With the amount of American comics and with a population that cannot support so many comics it’s difficult to create and maintain a publishing system. There are efforts and I may talk about them another time. But that’ all for today.
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Click the link below to learn about comics in the Philippines. Did WWII help or hinder their comic book culture? How about the rule of Marcos?
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8 The Roger Moore Handbook-Everything you need to know about Roger Moore. By Emily Smith Page 418. Tebbo Publishing Feb. 28th 2013