BARKER, Les (1926-2003)

Leo Bachle a.k.a. Les Baker (1926 – 2003)

Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005

In late 1940, John Ezrin, the manager of Bell Features, found a brash, unimpressed, young boy skimming through the company’s comics. Ezrin challenged the youth to come up with something better and the next day, Leo Bachle walked into the offices with the first sketches of Johnny Canuck! The spitting image of his handsome young creator, Johnny debuted in Bell’s Dime Comics number one, dated February 1941. Johnny’s first adventure brought him face to face with Hitler and instantly made Dime Comics Bell’s top-seller.

Johnny made mincemeat of Hitler’s elite guards, declaring, “The Germans had better make stronger rope if they want to hold Canadians captive!” Leo became one of Bell’s key artists, drawing characters like Wild Bill, the Invisible Commando, Chip Pipher, Southpaw, Super Sub and the Brain. Leo’s success opened the door for Bell to hire a cadre of young artists, including Ross Saakel, Ted Steele and Jerry Lazare. But it was Johnny Canuck who was considered so invaluable to the war effort, the government refused to grant Leo a visa to move to the States until he’d completed a backlog of adventures!

Johnny Canuck remains Leo’s most enduring creation. In 1995, years after Leo had changed his name, given up comic books for a lifetime of touring and performing around the globe with his unique comedy act, “Quick on the Draw”, Canada Post honoured Johnny with his own postage stamp. Leo Bachle passed away in May, 2003.

Biography compiled by Rob Pincombe

4 thoughts on “BARKER, Les (1926-2003)

  1. He named me Leo Bachle Jr.,I found out I was his son this feb. Have now visited over half of my new found bros, and sis’s. I found My full sis and reunited w/her this week. It was the first time meeting. She had looked for me 40yrs. She didn’t know my adopted name. She learned of me when my adoptive father flew up to canada to see if he could adopt her at 6, due to cost to adopt accross boarder, it didn’t happen.
    But her undying love drove her to go to extreme lengths to find me, but she didn’t know my adopted name, even though she came to the city I was at several times. I found her, and I love her with all of my heart! We were always connected.

  2. Les Barker was a guest on the SS Norway in Norway at least 30 years ago and he gave me a signed picture of a viking cartoon. Is this collectable.

  3. Probably worth more as a sentimental keepsake Kathleen, but you could try eBay to see if there are any potential buyers. Is it a signed original drawing, or a copy of a drawing that has been signed?

  4. He actually drew it in front of me. I was one of the audience and I was sitting right on the front row.After he had drawn it he ask if anyone would like to have it, I jumped up and said yes of course. I brought it home to the USA and had it framed immediately and it is in the same condition as it was back then. I live in Norway at the present time but brought it with me, I thought a sketch of a little Viking was most appropriate to have on the wall here.

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