Writer Created Canadian Advertising Comic Books
by BK Munn
The writer and cartoonist Robin Edmiston died June 9 in Halifax.
If you owned a “made in Canada” comic book during the 1960s and 1970s, chances are it was an advertising freebie written by Edmiston. Together with his partner artist Owen McCarron, Edmiston was responsible for churning out dozens of made-to-order pamphlets for a plethora of clients, including minor celebrities and governments, used to sell everything from shoes, to snowmobiles, to environmentalism.
Kenneth “Robin” Edmiston was born January 7, 1931 in St. John, New Brunswick. In 1951 he joined the staff of the Halifax Herald in the advertising department where he met Owen McCarron. Besides his work providing graphic design, illustration, and production for the paper, McCarron also provided cartoons, puzzles and rubrics for the puzzle and childrens pages. In 1965 McCarron got the idea to start his own company, producing promotional and educational material for private clients. Together with Edmiston, McCarron started Comic Page Features, and began packaging supplemental material for the Herald’s weekend sections. When the company turned its attention to stand-alone giveaways for other clients, eventually changing its name to Comic Book World, Edmiston wrote and sketched lay-outs for a wide array of comic book stories that McCarron would then illustrate.
Together, the pair created comic books, colouring books, puzzle books, and magazines for over a decade, during a period when comic book production in Canada was mostly dominated by the subcultural, adult-oriented Undergrounds. Clients of Comic Book World included the Government of Nova Scotia, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Ski-Doo snowmobiles, Aylmer’s Jam, and Gulf Oil. They also produced comics for Canadian celebrities Wayne & Shuster, and the magician Raveen. Titles included Captain Enviro, Auntie Litter, Colonel Sanders, Skoodi, Nova Scotia’s Joseph Howe, Raveen and Sons Unlimited, The Adventures of Binkly and Doinkel, L’il Easy-Saver, and many others. In addition, the company produced collections of cartoons by the Chronicle-Herald’s editorial cartoonist Bob Chambers. Edmiston’s scripts for these projects were inventive and humourous, with a knack for making even serious subjects like ecology and onerous businesses like the oil industry relatable for children.
The partnership dissolved when McCarron left to produce similar products for Marvel Comics and Whitman Publishing, including the creation of the fondly-remembered Mighty Marvel Superheroes Fun Book. Edmiston retired from his job at the Chronicle-Herald in 1991.
Edmiston is survived by three daughters. Donations in his name can be made to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.