Thursday, June 06, 2013

The Artists of the Canadian Whites: Oscar Schlienger (1905-1991)

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...

Oscar Schlienger was born in Basel, Switzerland in 1905 and he received some training at the Cole des Beaux-Arts in Geneva in portrait painting. He emigrated to Canada and settled in Montreal in the summer of 1930 and worked there as a commercial artist until moving to Toronto in 1938. In 1939 he oversaw the installation of murals in the Canadian Pavilion at the 1939 World’s Fair in Chicago.
Being a teacher of art always seemed to be at the forefront of Oscar Schlienger’s life and during the war years he taught classes alongside A. Y. Jackson and Charles Comfort.


At this time he also began to produce editorial cartoons for the Globe and Mail newspaper.

In 1942 he briefly drew some stories for Bell Features Publications . He created two features, “Lucky, the Unbeatable, and his Sport-Escapades,” that began in Joke Comics No. 2 (May/June 1942) and ran until issue No. 5 (Nov./Dec. 1942).


This was the story of a young man who got himself into jams during different sport situations.



The second feature, again in Joke Comics, was the Munchausian Colonel Braggart, beginning in issue No. 3 and running to issue No. 6 (Jan./Feb. 1943).


This dealt with the huffing and puffing fantastic storytelling of a walrus mustachioed colonel and his improbable adventures. The strangest of these is the incredible sequence of the good Colonel diving “through” a lion.


Oscar Schlienger continued to do editorial and political cartoons throughout the war.



After the war (from 1947 to 1950), Oscar Schlienger worked as an instructor of the Ontario Group of Artists at Gordon Payne's Studio in Toronto. In 1950 he and his wife moved to Peterborough where he continued his passion for teaching at the Haliburton School of Fine Art, Sir Sanford Fleming College and evening classes at North Hastings High School. His work for a twenty year period at his studio in Peterborough was perhaps his most fruitful period of painting.




In 1959 he was unanimously elected to the prestigious Ontario Institute of Painters which included among its other members former Canadian war-time comics artist Adrian Dingle.



In 1970, three years after the death of his wife, Suzanne, Oscar Schlienger moved to Bancroft. Oscar Schlienger died on Remembrance Day 1991 at the age of 87.


* 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!


  1. This is a very informative post. I'm working on transcribing a three-year correspondence between a young couple during WWII, all handwritten and enclosed in the original postmarked envelopes. Many times the girlfriend enclosed comics and jokes from the newspaper. The humor is not the kind that today's readers would find all that funny. I find that SO interesting that society's tastes have changed over the years in what we deem funny.

  2. Extremely interesting stuff, Leif! Do you know if anyone has ever done an in-depth "coffee-table" style book about our homegrowm comics up here in Canuckistan? There seems to be new anthologies of older comics material coming out every few weeks and I'd love to see someone tackle this topic!

    Thanks for the great info.


  3. Thanks for your comment, Katherine. Yes, it's always fascinated me as well how humour is ever-evolving. The slap-stick style so popular back in those days seems almost weird and pointlessly painful when you see it from this distance. No doubt modern humour would seem just as bizarre to people from that era. Sounds like you've undertaken a very interesting and no doubt time consuming task!

  4. Huw; as far as I know there is only one coffe table-style book available - and it's long out of print. The Great Canadian Comic Books (I have a copy). There are currently four copies available on at this link:

  5. And here he is teaching art in Toronto with another Bell alum, Adrian Dingle, in 1965!,188071

    James Jensen

    1. Hi James,
      I am currently working on a book about the Schneider School of Art that you have pointed to in your email. Do you happen to have any information Adrian Dingle or other artists that taught at the school? Thanks.