Bell Features fonds [textual record, graphic material]
Record Information – Brief1
Bell Features fonds [textual record, graphic material]Hierarchical level:FondsDate:1936-1951.Reference:R492-0-5-EType of material:Textual material, ArtFound in:Archives / Collections and FondsItem ID number:136700Context of this record:
Record Information – DetailsFonds includes:2328 lower level description(s)View lower level description(s)Date(s):1936-1951.Place of creation:No place, unknown, or undeterminedExtent:15 cm of textual records.
2,298 drawings and other material pen and ink, pencil, watercolour.Language of material:EnglishScope and content:Fonds consists of the textual records of Bell Features, arranged in the following groupings: Contest Records, Contracts, Copyright and Trademarks files, Correspondence, and a Record Book. The Contest Records include a scrapbook containing copies of a series of contests run in Bell Features comics as a promotional effort. Included are the contest entries sent in by readers. The Contracts include one contract signed by Adrian Dingle with Bell Features in 1946 and another prepared for the signature of artist and writer Howard Bucannan Cowan, as well as copies of standard contracts pre-signed by Bell. The Copyright and Trademarks material includes blank forms on Bell Features letterhead relating to trademark registration in the U.S. and some 55 Canadian certificates of copyright assigned to Bell Features, indicating the works and the creators 1942-1946 (two are annotated by Leo Bachle). The Correspondence includes a letter sending a copy of a stencil patent to Cy Bell while he was still at Commercial Signs of Canada; Bell Features' correspondence with Archie Comics, documenting the relationship between these American and Canadian partners (largely between Cy Bell and Archie Comics' president Louis Silberkleit) and discussing such subjects as the size of runs, the need to improve the looks of the Canadian issues, visits to Toronto, Bell's misuse of glass negatives, problems of getting right covers on the Canadian issues and the ban on crime comics; correspondence with Close-Up regarding Bell Features' partnership with this other American comic publisher, largely invoices but also including correspondence documenting the overlap with Archie Comics; and a file relating to Rotary Litho's unsuccessful attempts to obtain sufficient newsprint, 1943-1946, including a brief January 1946 outlining the history of Commercial Signs, Bell Features and Rotary Litho with a summary of Rotary Litho's objects and correspondence with the Wartime Prices and Trade Board regarding acquiring newsprint. The Record Book contains a list of artists and their addresses; printing prices; lists of proposed titles ("Extra", "Sharp", etc.); story ideas; a list of copyright titles; a record of paper used by Bell in 1945; information on press; correspondence 1946 re. press; notes re. distribution; list of characters ("Zipp and Zoom", "Jet Man", "Dr. Blue and Blackie", etc.); and a list of humorous strips, war strips and adventure strips, initialled by Cy Bell and John Ezrin.
Graphic material consists of original artwork and related production files and scripts for the Bell Features Comic Book collection, including 380 copies of the original published comic books and 2,298 pieces of artwork for published comics. Works are by Harry Moyer, Adrian Dingle, Leo Bachle, F.G. Kelly, Gerald Lazare, John O'Henley, Lou Skuce, E.T. Legault, Murray Karn, Jack Kingsley, Edmond Good, Al Cooper, Allan Ross Mendes, Robert Patterson Young, Kenneth Ross Saakel, Edward Alton, Howard B. Cowan, Mickey Owens, Melville Crawford, T.A. Steele, Jack Trembley, Avrom Yanovsky, A.W. Nugent, and Manny Easson.
Published comics include the following: Active, issues 1-28 (complete); Commando, issues 1-22 (complete); Dime, issues 1-15, 17-30; Dizzy Don, issues 4-20, 3 unnumbered issues; Joke, issues 1, 2, 4-10, 12-18, 20-26; Triumph, issues 1, 2, 5, 8-31, and 1 unnumbered; Wow, issues 1-10, 12-30; the Brain, issue 1; Doodlebugs, issues 1; FBI, issues 1-2; Jet-Man, issues 1, 10; Johnny Canuck, issues 2; Red Hot, issue 1; Slam-Bang, issue 7; Smasher, issue 7; Terrific, issues 2, 3; and Unusual, issue 1.Provenance:Biography/Administrative history:Bell Features (Firm) : At the beginning of World War II, the Canadian government took various measures to protect Canada's foreign exchange credits. The War Exchange Conservation Act of 1940 outlawed the importation of various designated non-essential goods,including comic books. Cyril Vaughan Bell of Commercial Signs of Canada, which produced advertizing posters and placards in Toronto, was one of a small number of Canadian publishers who took advantage of this ban to create Canadian comic books. With the financial backing of Toronto businessman John Ezrin, Cy Bell and his younger brother Gene turned Commercial Signs of Canada into Bell Features, which published the comic books "Wow", "Joke", "Dizzy Don", "Triumph", "Active", "Dime" and "Commando", featuring characters created by various Canadian artists (for instance, "Dixon of the Mounted" by Edmund Legault; "Nelvana of the Northern Light" by Adrian Dingle - originally created for Hillborough Studios, which merged with Bell Features in 1941; "Johnny Canuck" by Leo Bachle; and "Major Domo and JoJo" by Avrom Yanovsky). Other artists employed by Bell Features were Ted Steele, Murray Karn, Lou Skuce, and Jerry Lazare. The War Exchange Conservation Act was repealed at the end of World War II and American comic books were once again imported into Canada, creating competition for Canadian comics. However, the ban on American comic books was soon resumed, during another exchange crisis in 1947 - but this time Canadian publishers were allowed to reprint American comic books under a licensing agreement. In 1947, Bell Features signed an agreement with Archie Comic Publications of New York to publish "Archie", "Wilbur", "Pep" and "Laugh" comics, using American printing mats and engraver's proofs; they had earlier reached a similar agreement with Close-Up of New York, a related company, for "Suzie" and "Super Duck" comics. Bell Features no longer needed to commission original Canadian work. When crime comics were banned in Canada in 1949, in response to a growing concern that they were linked to juvenile delinquency, it was expected that the market for Bell Features' "soft" comics would grow. However, the ban on American imports was lifted in 1951 and American publishers were once again able to access the Canadian market directly. With the loss of the American mats it had come to rely upon, Bell Features went out of business.Finding aid:Drawings (Electronic) Item-level descriptions available online in Minisis. (Restrictions not set)Textual record (Electronic) MSS2141 (90: Open)
http://data2.archives.ca/pdf/pdf001/p000000665.pdfPublished comic books. (Paper) Finding aid is available in Rare Books. (Restrictions not set)Additional information:General Note:Graphic material received in 1972 from Cy Bell.Custodial history:A portion of the textual material was acquired from Michael Hirsch and Patrick Loubert, both of Toronto, in 1972; the rest of the textual was received in 1997 from John Bell of Ottawa.
The published comic books were transferred from the National Archives to the National Library, Rare Book Room, in 1996.Exhibitions note:Exhibition Title: Guardians of the North: The National Superhero in Canadian Comic-Book Art. Curator: Susan North, Canadian Museum of Caricature, Ottawa, Ontario; 1992.02.06 - 1992.06.05 ("Triumph Comics" no. 26, pp 1-7, 1945, "Triumph Comics" no. 1, August 1941, "Triumph Comics" no. 25, August 1945)Subject heading:Source:Private
Graphic material: Copyright on original artwork Library and Archives Canada; copyright on published comic book material is jointly held by Patrick Loubert and Michael Hirsch and Library and Archives Canada.
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