Inspired by a relative’s Second World War experience, a fourteen-year-old Canadian living in London, England, has turned the tale into a recently published graphic novel. Theo Behe based Johnny Recruit on the story of his great-great-uncle, Albert Houle, an air force ace from Massey, Ontario, near North Bay. Behe is the youngest comic creator ever signed by the independent British publishing house Markosia.
Behe’s family returns to Ontario every summer. That’s where he heard stories from his grandfather, Donald Houle, about his great-great-uncle Albert, who flew with the Royal Air Force and the Royal Canadian Air Force during the war. “I’m pretty proud of his heroics,” said Behe. “Bert” Houle, as he was known, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1942 and a subsequent bar in 1944 for acts of valour.
Behe gathered more inspiration for the graphic novel during a family trip to Dieppe in northern France in 2020 that brought the war to vivid life. “You could see where the gunners were and how the beach sloped up. You could see the path they’d have to take.” Dieppe was the site of a major Allied raid in August 1942 that left nearly one thousand Canadians dead and nearly two thousand as prisoners of war.