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Mike Aragona - Freelance Writer / Editor

The Last Word

Farewell Johnny Canuck — (May 2003) On Thursday May 8th, 2003, a Great Man passed away.

In total, I may have spent less than a day (24 hours straight) with him in the many years I've known him. But, I have spent many years thinking and talking about those hours and the time we spent over numerous weekends.

In recent years, an attempt was made to try to revive his best-known creation and grant him the status he is due. Now, that legacy of keeping him remembered will fall to his son and fans. The family has asked that instead of sending flowers, donations be made to: the Salvation Army, Diabetes Association or Cancer Society. His son Dan says Les' wish to you would be to Live, Love and Laugh. A LOT!

His Biography From the Guardians of the North web-site:

Leo Bachle was born in Toronto and was educated at Danforth Technical School and the Ontario College of Art. Late in 1941, while a student at Danforth Tech, Bachle was recruited, to work for the Toronto comics publisher Bell Features. In February 1942, Bachle's national superhero, Johnny Canuck, made his debut in Bell's Dime Comics. During the next two years, Bachle would also create a number of other heroes, such as Wild Bill, the Brain and the Invisible Commando.

Bachle's talents were eventually recognized by several American comic book companies, who lured him to New York in 1944. In the 1950s, Bachle left the comics field and became a night-club entertainer, changing his name to Les Barker. He has since appeared in numerous movies and television commercials. Today, Barker looks back fondly on those years when he entertained a generation of Canadian kids (and himself) with the exploits of Canada's second national superhero. In 1995 Canada Post commemorated Johnny Canuck in its Superheroes/Superhéros stamp issue.

The background for his character states:

Leo Bachle's involvement with Bell Features began late in 1941, when, as a sixteen-year-old high school student, he met John Ezrin, Bell's major financial backer. Ezrin noticed Bachle browsing through some Bell comic books and asked the young man for his opinion of the publications. Bachle, an aspiring comic artist who had been drawing his own strips for several years, didn't hesitate to criticize some of the Bell artwork. Ezrin was amused by Bachle's brashness and challenged the young man on the spot to draw an action scene depicting two men fighting. Ezrin was sufficiently impressed by Bachle's drawing that he told him to dream up a comic book character and to bring his idea to the Bell Features office the next day. That night at home, Bachle created "Canada's super hero" – Johnny Canuck. The next day, Ezrin and Bell Features publisher Cy Bell were favourably impressed with Bachle's creation and the young artist joined the Bell team of freelancers.

For more information on Johnny Canuck go to The Guardians of the North web site.

Yes, Superman was co-created by a Canadian.

The second Canadian national comic hero, Johnny Canuck, first appeared in the February 1942 issue of Bell's Dime Comics No.1. Johnny Canuck was created be Leo Bachle when he was only 15 years old. His character had no superpowers whatsoever. As Bachle explained:

I drew Johnny Canuck and he had my face, and everybody at my school ( Danforth Tech) read it, and I was popular. I drew the teachers, and all the kids read the books to see whose name I was going to mention.

Bachle made Johnny Canuck tall, strong, and brave and endowed him with a good right hook. Just as Superman had devoted his attention to the Axis powers, Johnny Canuck was Canada's answer to Nazi oppression. He served as an air force captain and secret agent on the front lines working with partisan and guerrilla forces. Like Captain America, he met Adolf Hitler face to face and almost succeeded in eliminating him and ending the war.

Like Nelvana, Johnny Canuck was one of the Canadian Whites. Canada Post's stamp shows him in color, dressed for action in his air force flight jacket, goggled headgear, and boots as he appeared in the comics. He wears no super hero costume and has no bulging muscles, but he is incorruptible and fearless in his fight for democracy and what is right.

Near the end of the World War II, Bell realized that to compete with the soon-to-be reopened American market in Canada, he would have to shift to color printing. To do so, he borrowed large sums of money and bought the necessary equipment. War had made newsprint scarce, and Bell discovered he couldn't acquire enough paper to print his publications. Between 1947 and 1952 Bell sold all of his equipment and stock, and the original Canadian comic heroes fought their last fight. (Taken from

Back in happier days, here is a photograph of Les and myself from 1997...

Mike Aragona & Les Barker

Rest in Peace, Mister Bachle... I'll always remember you.

(The Last Word (c) Mike Aragona. All rights reserved. No reproduction or retransmission of this article is granted without written permission of Mike Aragona)

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