Saturday, June 08, 2013

The Artists of the Canadian Whites: Jack Tremblay (1926- )

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...

Like a good number of artists who worked on those Canadian war-time comics, sometimes popularly and affectionately called “Canadian Whites,” Jack Tremblay was born outside of the country in Providence, Rhode Island in May of 1926. His family moved to Fort William (now called Thunder Bay) and finally, when he was eight, the family settled in Montreal.

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In the fall of 1941, Jack Tremblay entered a drawing contest that was announced in Wow Comics No. 2 (Nov. 1941) and three issues later in Wow Comics No. 5 (Feb. 1942). His name received special mention as one of the winners, garnering him a shiny new pair of roller skates.

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With his name known to Bell Features through the contest, Tremblay mailed them in a sample of a strip called “Crash Carson” that he had been working on during the previous winter.

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Three issues after he had won the contest, his work was published in Wow Comics No. 8 (May/June 1942) just around the time he was turning 16.

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At this time Jack had just begun his first year of art school at Ecole des Beaux-arts in Montreal and studied there with Stanley Collins and Alfred Pellan. “Crash Carson” ran for about a year-and-a-half until Wow Comics No. 16 (Aug./Sept. 1943).

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In October of 1942 another of his strips entitled “Wings over the Atlantic” began in the first issue of another Bell Features title called Commando Comics

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He drew this feature for two more issues until it was handed over to Andre Kulbach in issue No. 4 (March/April 1943).

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After turning 18, Jack Tremblay began training in the Paratroop Corps of the Canadian Forces from September 1944 to September 1945 but the war was brought to an abrupt end with the Atomic Bomb before he could see any action. In the late forties he worked at ad agencies as a freelance artist. In 1955 he adapted and illustrated Ten Canadian Legends (A Story from Each Province) published by Brunswick Press out of Fredericton.

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In the sixties, Jack Tremblay wrote and illustrated eight of the 12 books in the series The Story of Canada for Brunswick books again...

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... and illustrated Harvey H. Smith’s Shelter Bay for McClelland and Stuart as well as illustrating Gregory Clark’s prose for the newspaper supplement Weekend Magazine.

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In the seventies, under the name Jean-Jacques Tremblay, he began serious painting and had his first solo exhibition in 1976 at Galerie LIbre in Montreal just when he turned 50. His paintings sold well. It’s significant to note here that many of the “Canadian Whites” illustrators eventually became accomplished fine artists after their “apprenticeships” in those Canadian war-time comics (Adrian Dingle and Gerald Lazare — the latter featured in a blog here last year, are the best known examples of this.)

Today, in his late eighties, Jack Tremblay is continuing to produce art and employing computer graphics as his main vehicle. His son, Rick Trembles, is a successful and well-known Canadian illustrator out of Montreal.

* 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!

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  1. Rick Trembles2:51 PM

    Nice article, Ivan. Thanks very much for this.

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  2. Anonymous2:06 PM

    Is there a list of the books he illustrate. At the Historical Society in my town, they have 17 orginals from a book named Shelter Bay, signed by a Jack Tremblay. I wondered if it was the same person, cause there areto be a lot of Tremblay in Quebec.

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