During WWII, with American comics unavailable due to a wartime embargo on "non-essential mail", homegrown Canadian comic books flourished. Guest author, Ivan Kocmarek takes a look at one of the artists who drew those comics...
Mel Crawford was born in Toronto in 1925 and attended Western Technical-Commercial high school in the High Park area of Toronto.
At 17 he began to draw for Bell Features Publications for a very brief period and illustrated a feature written by Frank Mann Harris called “The Three T’s.” starting in Joke Comics No. 1 (March/April 1942) but it only ran for a couple of issues.
Mel Crawford also seems to have created and drawn the first appearance of “The Young Commandos” in Commando Comics No. 1 (October 1942).
Besides drawing these features he also was assigned a number of fillers such as ads for Triumph and Joke Comics (and other titles),
... contest pages,
... and one-page information pieces.
Before the year was out, Mel Crawford enlisted in the Royal Canadian Navy and this ended his involvement in those early Canadian comics. Once the war was over Mel used his veteran’s benefit to enroll at the Ontario College of Art and Design. Once he graduated he headed for the States and Walt Disney Studios. In the early fifties Mel began working in comic books for Dell such as Howdy Doody,
... Mr. Magoo,
... Raggedy Ann and Andy,
... and Four Color Comics (best known of which were the Santa Claus covers).
He also began to work on children’s books such as the Golden Book series and most of the children’s books he illustrated were for Western Publishing.
In the sixties Mel Crawford was drawing stories for Gold Key titles such as Twilight Zone, Doctor Solar, and Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery as well as Rocky and Bullwinkle and Star Trek.
In 1966 Mel Crawford did art work for Kosher Comics for Parallax Publishers.
In the seventies and eighties, Mel began doing art work for Fleetwood cachet first day covers with series such as “Flags of Canada,” “Flags of the United Nations” and “Seals of the Fifty States.”
He also began to illustrate Sesame Street Books. In 2001 Mel also did a Christmas-themed set of stamps for the Marshall Islands.
Mel Crawford is also known for his fine art painting and after beginning in watercolours his preferred medium became acrylics. He has lived and painted in New England for over 40 years.
All in all, Mel Crawford was one of the most prolific illustrators in comics and children’s books and is now an accomplished and respected painter.
* Ivan Kocmarek will be participating in A Canadian Comics Panel discussion being held at the Niagara Falls Comic Con this Saturday, June 8, 2013 from 12:00 noon until 1:00 PM in room 205 at the Niagara Falls Scotiabank Convention Centre. Topics will include “The History of Canadian Comics” and “What Makes a Comic "Canadian?” as well as "Where Canadian Comics are Today." The panel will also feature Hope Nicholson – Associate Producer of the upcoming Canadian Comics documentary Lost Heroes, Richard Comely – creator of Captain Canuck, and Kevin Boyd – Joe Shuster Award committee member and owner of Toronto’s Comic Book Lounge. This is a knowledgeable and lively group and they look forward to seeing you at the panel!