OTD: Canada bans import of comic books

On today’s date in 1940, the Government of Canada banned the import of comic books, paving the way for the development of home-grown war-time heroes such as Johnny Canuck.

Rather than rely on U.S. imports to aid war efforts, a previous personification of Canadian culture was re-invented during the Second World War. The fictional lumberjack first appeared in political cartoons dating back to 1869, when he was portrayed as a younger cousin of Uncle Sam and John Bull, who were personifications of the U.S. and Britain, respectively. A hero without super powers, Johnny Canuck was strong, brave and passionate about Canada.

RECREATED IN THE MIDST OF WORLD WAR

In 1941, John Ezrin, of Bell Features, saw a young boy browsing through a comic book at a newsstand. The boy—16-year-old Leo Bachle—was critical of the artwork and drew an action scene on the spot. Ezrin, who was impressed with the boy’s work, asked him to create a character by the following morning. That night, Johnny Canuck—Canada’s second national superhero—was born.

On Oct. 2, 1995, Canada Post commemorated Johnny Canuck alongside four other comic book superheroes in a five-stamp set (Scott #1579-83). Johnny Canuck is depicted as he appeared in the comic books: he’s dressed in a flight jacket with goggles, leather headgear and boots. The 45-cent stamp (SC #1580) was printed by Ashton Potter and designed by Louis Fishauf based on Bachle’s drawings.

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