Collection F 2015.003 - Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection

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Title and statement of responsibility area

Title proper

Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection

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  • Textual record

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Reference code

F 2015.003

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Statement of scale (cartographic)

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Dates of creation area


  • 1941-1946 (Creation)
    Bell Features and Publishing Company Limited

Physical description area

Physical description

181 publications

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Administrative history

This Toronto based publishing company was founded in 1939 under the name Commercial Signs of Canada by Gene and Cy Bell. They began publishing Canadian comic books in 1941, when the War Measures act limited the importation of luxury goods (including comic books) into the country. These publications were black and white, with full colour on the cover only leading to the term "Canadian Whites" being used to describe Canadian war-era comics. Located on York Street, the company published bi-monthly variety comics with Canadian characters and stories written and illustrated by Canadian authors and artists. Titles included "Active Comics", "Commando Comics", "Dime Comics", "The Funny Comics", "Wow Comics", "Joke Comics", and "Triumph Comics". Commercial Signs changed its name to Bell Features and Publishing Company in 1942, when Adrian Dingle and his Hillborough Studios joined the company, brining with it the Triumph-Adventure comic and the first Canadian female superhero, Nelvana of the Northern Lights. When trade restrictions ended in 1945, and American comic books returned to the Canadian market, the company faced difficult competition and circulation dropped. The company eventually closed in 1953.

Custodial history

Donated to Ryerson University Library and Archives from a private donor in 2014.

Scope and content

Fonds consists of 181 comic books, produced in Canada, mainly during World War II, after the War Exchange Conservation Act (WECA), on December 2, 1940 classified American comics as "luxury goods" and limited their importation. Generally referred to as the "Canadian Whites" (due to the fact that the comics were black and white, except for the covers), the comics were published by Commercial Signs of Canada, which consisted of brothers Cyril (Cy) and Gene Bell, with investor John Ezrin. Publication began in the summer of 1941 and included titles Wow Comics, Active Comics, Dime Comics, and Joke Comics. '

In the winter of 1942, Commercial Signs absorbed another publishing house, Hillborough Studios, and renamed the company Bell Features. The acquisition brought the "Triumph Comics" title, and two more, Dizzy Don Detective (later retitled The Funny
Comics), and Commando Comics, soon followed.

When WECA was repealed in June of 1944 and American comic books were once again available to Canadians, Bell Features attempted to remain competitive by expanding their market into the US and the UK, and by publishing some titles in colour. Due to a lack of available newsprint, however, the company shifted its focus on Canadian content and began reprinting American titles.

Source: Scanlon, Meaghan. (10 July, 2015). Written, Drawn and Printed in Canada ---- by Canadians!”
Bell Features, CanCon, and the Perception of Comics in Postwar Canada. Presentation for SHARP Montreal.

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Individual comic books in the collection are catalogued in the University Library catalogue. They can be found by doing a keyword search "Canadian Whites".

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

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Restrictions on access

Open. Records are available for consultation without restriction.

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Finding aids

Associated materials

Bell Features Collection, located in Library and Archives Canada, many issues are digitized. Online finding aid with links available here:

Walker, Alan. The Canadian whites : Historical perspective by Alan Walker. Toronto : Bell and Howell, 1972

Hirsh, Michael and Loubert, Patrick. The great Canadian comic books : historical perspective by Alan Walker ; designed and illustrated by Clive Smith ; afterword by Harold Town. Toronto : P. Martin Associates, c1971.

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