Comic Review: WarBears #1 (Dark Horse)

Dark Horse has released the first issue of WarBears, a title set in Canada in the 1940’s, written and drawn by two Canadian creators. Writer Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid’s Tale, […]

Dark Horse has released the first issue of WarBears, a title set in Canada in the 1940’s, written and drawn by two Canadian creators.

Writer Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid’s Tale, Booker Prize, Giller Prize, Arthur C Clarke Award, etc) and artist Ken Steacy (Marvel, DC, Eclipse, Comico, NOW) have teamed up to bring us a tale with a historical context.

Back in the 40’s, while Canada and the US fought together as allies in WWII, paper rationing prevented American comics from being shipped to Canada. So, Canada started making their own comics. These black and white comics were written and drawn in Toronto, usually by young creators just out of art school. The books quickly became popular due to the shortage of American superhero books.

WarBears takes this basic framework and runs with it. It’s Toronto in 1943, and we get to know young Alain Zurakowski, who is applying to draw comic books for Canoodle Comics. The names are fictional, but the rest of the situation is real; the fledgling comic book business in Canada is a shoestring operation. Unheated offices, fast deadlines, and publishers who throw their weight around. That sort of thing, eh?

The story progresses with Alain quickly getting his bearings in Canoodle. and making a few bucks to help out his parents. But it ain’t all hunky dory, buddy. There is some inner office drama to be had.

Atwood and Steacy treat this all very nostalgically, with lots of period references to 1940’s Toronto. The flavour could be seen as being a bit staid. There’s no attempt to rock the boat here in dialogue or visuals. The concept of the comic being about 1940’s comic creators is taken seriously, and this gives it a ‘stage play’ feel. The characters, settings, drama, and conflicy are all on the level, and Alain’s poses and expressions help to telegraph what he is thinking. What you see is what you get. It’s well drawn and coloured by Steacy.

Of special interest to Canadian readers, there are plenty of offhand references to places throughout Canada that don’t typically get the comic spotlight.

So there you have it, fellow Canadians and armchair travelers from around the world; world-class writing talent penning a tale about 1940’s comic books!

Dark Horse, WarBears #1$4.99 for 32 pages of Canuck content. Not rated, assume Teen.

Alan Spinney

About Alan Spinney

After a career of graphic design, art direction and copywriting, I still have a passion for words and pictures. I love it when a comic book comes together; the story is tight, and the drawings lead me forward. Art with words... the toughest storytelling technique to get right. Was this comic book worth your money? Let's see!!