Comics and Remembering

Comic books are full of wars, real and imagined.  The Marvel Universe has just had another Civil War dividing the superheros, but that is only one of many ongoing struggles in comics.  Superheroes fight against supervillains — human, alien, mutant, or otherwise — that want to conquer and/or destroy us.  Comic heroes fight to defend our cities and save our world.  They fight for truth, justice, and other ideals.  Sometimes, they even fight weird wars.

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Weird War Tales from 1974

The real world is also full of heroes fighting wars and taking part in armed conflict, but they aren’t running around in colourful tights.  They take risks for us with no access to a Lazarus Pit and no chance for a story-line retcon or a mulitverse reboot.  Many have given their lives so that we can live ours.  Remembrance Day, November 11th, is a day when Canada remembers all of her fallen soldiers, no matter when they served or where they fell.  In this week of Remembrance, we look at a comic set in the Second World War and one written during it.

Peter Panzerfaust Volume 1: The Great Escape. Kurtis J. Wiebe and Tyler Jenkins. Image Comics, 2013.

Dragon found this title when the final volume of the series was solicited in the Previews.  In near record time, volume 1 of Peter Panzerfaust made its way to the shelf to hang out with the cats.  The story begins with Peter and a group of orphans — lost boys — trying to make their way from Calais, France to Paris.  Along the way, they meet up with the Darling children: Wendy, John, and Michael.

If you know your Peter Pan, you will catch all of the subtle and not-so-subtle references.  In this regard, it is fun to see how the childhood tale is woven over and through the real world events.  It’s an adventure and a lark that only Peter could lead.  At the same time, these are children in a war zone, trying to survive.  If you remember your history, you know that Paris is not going to be a place safe from the Germans.

The art of Peter Panzerfaust captures the drama of the events.  The words lighten scenes of wartime destruction with some of the magic of Pan.  This is a good book.  I’m not going to rush out to buy the rest of the trade paperbacks, but I expect they’ll end up in Dragon’s hoard eventually.  I want to see how the story progresses to include Hook and Belle and to find out how the orphans survive WWII.

Peter Pan in WWII.  The boy who never grew up.  It might make you think again about the lines from Laurence Binyon’s poem “For the Fallen.”

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
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Peter loved a grand entrance.

Johnny Canuck. Leo Bachle. Edited by Rachel Richey. Comic Syrup Press, 2015.

Many countries have their wartime comics to inspire the nation and to help win the war at home.  Johnny Canuck was Canada’s comic book hero from 1941-1946.  In 2015, a Kickstarter campaign was launched to collect all of Johnny Canuck into one volume and reprint our hero for a new generation.  Thus, was Johnny saved from the perils of fading into history!

Johnny is everything that a war hero needs to be without ever taking a super-soldier serum.  He is handsome and intelligent.  He excels at hand-to-hand combat, never misses a shot, and even punches Hitler a few times.  Johnny also appears shirtless once in awhile and is sure to rescue the damsel in distress.

Reading a Golden Age comic has a whole different feel from modern books.  You sense the underlying propaganda and see the ridiculous heroics, but still you cheer when Johnny wins the day.  You know that with heroes like Johnny, we will win the war.  And we did.

Johnny Canuck was a limited Kickstarter publication, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out.  The collection should be available from Chapterhouse Comics soon.

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A hard right to the jaw. Johnny saves the girl!
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