Derek of Bras d'Or: Cape Breton's Violent Real Life Superhero

Last year, I talked at length about Nelvana of the Northern Lights, a Canadian Golden Age star who has since gone on to get her entire run in Triumph Comics Kickstarted into an archive volume (COINCIDENCE? Yes, probably). But she wasn't the only heroic strip in that book. For all her charm, Nelvana falls into that unusually common trope of Canadian superheroes being First Nations. I don't begrudge any minority their heroes, but in American comics at least, ethnic diversity in the few Canadian superheroes we're allowed is disproportionate. Alpha Flight featured three Native heroes in its first two years, but only two French Canadians, for example. For the longest time, DC's only Canadian hero was the Flying Fox from Young All-Stars (he's First Nations), and the current Justice League Canada introduced two Canadian-born heroes, one of which is, you guessed it, First Nations, and none of which are French Canadians. But if you want to talk about the real minority, it's Maritimers! It's like the map starts with Montreal and moves its way west, sometimes. Sure Marrina was hatched in Newfoundland, but comics always seem to skip the bits between Quebec and NF! So let's fix that right now with a Triumph star from Nova Scotia. Not exactly a superhero, but at least a folk hero:
As you can read here, Derek is based on Angus MacAskill, still the record holder for tallest "true giant" (i.e. not afflicted by some form of pathological gigantism), AKA Black Angus. In his youth, he became known for various feats of strength, kind of like a Maritimer Louis Cyr, and eventually joined a circus and toured the world alongside Tom Thumb, a performer whose shtick you can imagine. The comics imagined his adventures as a youth. In his second appearance (Triumph #3, 1941), for example, a cocky big-city wrestler goes out to Bras d'Or to challenge Derek, who takes a "violent dislike" to him:
HOLY CRAP! Guy then gets effortlessly flung into a pile of lumber. This may or may not be a reference to Angus' first recorded feat of strength, breaking a man's jaw at a dance when he was a mere 14 years old, but the real Angus was reportedly then found praying for the man's life when he'd failed to wake up. If Derek feels any remorse for his temper, we're not privy to it. The next day, the community holds its Highland Games and Derek, of course, excels, breaking every record. The day's festivities are interrupted when a prize bull goes mad and starts charging a child in a bright red tartan, and Derek saves her.
Derek 1, bull 0. You'd think this would be the end of it, but once a mad cow, always a mad cow, so Derek does the... umm... humane thing:
OH GEEZ! Was that necessary?! Cripes! It's kind of creepy how Derek then walks away, avoiding the crowd surging onto the fairgrounds. Derek would go on to fight Nazis, robbers and swordfish(!) in a few more issues before being replaced by other features. But definitely one for a Canadian League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.


Jeremy Patrick said...

Shocked you would forget about Major Leaf, whose mother was French-Canadian:

Siskoid said...

Hm... Does fanfic count?

Cuz I gotta say, I once set up a superhero PbeM set in my home town, and it became the headquarters of four teams: Justice League, Teen Titans, Defenders and Hero Hotline. And those were FULL of Canadian heroes, from right here in the Maritimes.

Jeremy Patrick said...

As a certain person once said, "They're all imaginary stories." Whether done for fun or profit, it's always interesting to see what people have come up. So I say, bring us your super-hero Maritimers!

Siskoid said...

I wrote a short piece about the experience:

And you commented on it Patrick!

Jeremy Patrick said...

Obviously, I intentionally forgot that post so that I could re-experience the joy of reading it again for the very first time.


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