'Comic Book Collector' virtual event showcases Canada's history in comics

The 'Comic Book Collector' virtual event is part of London's Words Literary Festival. It features a chat with Eddy Smet, a retired Huron College professor, along with comics researcher Ivan Kocmarek about history of Canadian comics and comic book culture.

The event starts Sunday afternoon and will highlight Canada's contribution to comics.

Comic book display of Eddy Smet's books at Museum London (Submitted by Josh Lambier)

Comic book fans can look forward to the 'Comic Book Collector' virtual chat on Sunday afternoon. 

The event is a part of London's Words Literary and Creative Arts Festival and will feature a chat with Eddy Smet, a retired Huron College professor, along with comics historian Ivan Kocmarek, about history of Canadian comics and comic book culture. 

Smet used to own a comic book store in London, Ont., from 1979 to 1986. He has donated 10,000 comic books which are now a part of the 'Dr. Eddy Smet Comic Book Collection' at Western Archives, on display at Museum London from November 5th to 14th. 

The event's host Diana Tamblyn told CBC's London Morning that the chat is a great way for youth to learn about Canada's "golden age" of comics during World War II, and how they've contributed to the country's history.

"We need to know about our Canadian identity and what stories we told. It's important, and a really interesting period of history," said Tamblyn, who has been a part of the industry for over 40 years. 

The Golden Age of Comics 

The Canadian War Exchange Conservation Act of 1940, during the second World War, prevented luxury goods being imported into the country, including comic books.

"None of the famous comics we have today like Superman, Batman, Captain America, etc. were available in Canada during all of World War II," said Tamblyn. 

This lack of supply created a market for Canadian writers and artists to showcase their talent created a flourishing industry which was given the name of 'Canadian Whites'. These included Better Comics No. 1, which was the country's first ever comic book series, published in 1941.

It wasn't until after the war, in 1946, when the act was repealed and American comics made their return back into the country, pushing out the sales of Canadian comics.

However, according to Tamblyn, Canadian comics are still relevant. "I don't think there's ever been a time other than now, when Canadian comic books have been more celebrated, renowned and putting out better work than almost anyone else in the world."

Comics as a medium to tell all types of stories

Tamblyn highlights how pervasive comics are in our world with the influence they have on pop culture. "I don't think you can go to the movies without seeing the latest Marvel or DC movie, it continues to dominate across the globe in billions of dollars," she added. 

A display of Eddy Smet's collection at Museum London (Submitted by Josh Lambier)

"People have discovered that comics are a medium, they're not a can tell any story in comics and there's something in these comics that resonates with people."

Tamblyn says there are various genres of stories that can be told through comics including science-fiction and fantasy, while also tackling major world issues.  

She believes that these stories have been relevant for decades and will continue to be for generations to come because there's a great depth in graphic storytelling in today's world. 

Tamblyn hopes that event on Sunday gives people a chance to look at some of the rare collections by Eddy Smet and take a piece of history with them. Anyone looking to join the webinar, can register here.