Who's Captain Canuck?

Who's This? Remember when Nelvana hijacked Who's This? Well, it's Captain Canuck's turn! Because every nation deserves a superhero wrapped in its flag.
The facts: After the 1940s, there were no homegrown Canadian superheroes until the 70s, the most enduring of which has been Captain Canuck. Created by cartoonist Ron Leishman and artist/writer Richard Comely for the latter's own indie imprint, Comely Comix, Canuck started life in his own eponymous series in 1975. Set almost 20 years in the future when Canada had become one of the world's most powerful nations (sorry, Cap, I've been to 1993, and your future didn't come to pass), the book went on hiatus after three issues and popped back up in 1979 under the CKR banner, concluding in 1981 with 11 further issues. A final, 15th issue wasn't published until 2004 as a limited edition. Of course, Comely did return to the concept a number of times before that, with a different guy in the suit (and sometimes a different suit). The original Captain Canuck was Tom Evans. The second, Darren Oak, appeared in the Captain Canuck Reborn 4-issue mini (the real 1993), and unfinished Legacy (2006). David Semple was a bike-riding Cap in Unholy War (3 issues 2004, a fourth in 2007).
How you could have heard of him: IDW did come out with collections of some of this material, but fans might also check out the 5-episode animated web series, available here!
Example story: Captain Canuck #1, "Arctic Standoff" (1975) by Richard Comely with Dave Abbott
Later issues, drawn by George Freeman, were much less amateurish than what you're about to see, but there's something I find very cool and interesting in Comely's first effort, in particular his use of photo montage, and markers to do the color. For example, here's the first page, on which some random dude about to be blown up by Canada's enemies (the USSR?) chilling in his Arctic monitoring base.
Canada and the U.S. scramble jets, while the enemy makes contact. "Canada's new leaders" may or may not be of Soviet origin. Maybe they're just two guys with the power to threaten us with THERMO DESTRUCTION!
We're Canadian, we can't abide the heat! We can't let these two guys thermo! Call in the superheroes! And we do seem to have more than one. Also, read how things have changed in the last 18 years.
Captain Canuck and Bluefox, two super-agents working for CISO (the Canadian International Security Organization), jump into a personal subway tube that shoots them to the northern tip of Quebec, where they board a quinjet, which brings them to a snowmobile with which they will make the rest of the journey to the damaged base. It's like the Amazing Race Canada without the stupid bit in a New Brunswick Dairy Queen. Also: With awesome anime transport.
Bluefox is really edgy. He paws his laser gun when Cap isn't looking, thinks dark thoughts when riding their tandem snowmobile, and disappears when Cap is forced to fight a stray polar bear.
Well, you sort of knew something like this had to happen in every Canadian comic at some point, right? Cap's Canadian bacon is saved when a friendly Inuit, not Bluefox, shoots the bear dead. Cue clumsy collage techniques and Cap's FOURTH consecutive mode of transport.
The sequence also reveals Canuck is bilingual, because yes, if you're going to represent my country, you better speak both English and French. Thankfully, Utak speaks one of the official languages and helps them get to the base. Once Utak leaves for whatever seal-clubbing activity he's late for, Bluefox shows his hand and knocks Cap upside the head. When he comes to, he's under watch by a lot more than two Commies. Like, at least six, if we include Bluefox. Seems like we "capitalists have mismanaged [our] huge supply of resources for much to long [sic]". The Lenin-looking bad guy wants to indoctrinate us as soon as possible because communist methods  "will save the whole world!" He's WRONG, says Canuck, "by taking away ones' free agency, you put an end to real happiness and progression!" Given that the character's creators were Jehova's Witnesses (Comely talks about  it in the text page), Canuck's talk of indoctrination makes me arch an eyebrow, but I won't comment further. The comic certainly doesn't feature religious content (well, one line, wait for it). It's a simple action story. See?
Though Canuck takes a gun away from a guard and grabs the Soviet commander, he's too late to stop Bluefox from pushing the button that activates the countdown to THERMO DESTRUCTION. Bluefox is shot in the back and killed (so much for Christian values), with 90 seconds on the clock. 90 seconds to what?
NOT THE PRAIRIES!!! Consider that Comely was from Manitoba. Still, if it were me, my first reflex wouldn't be to aim a missile strike at the Maritimes. I mean, would Ottawa even care? So Canuck uses his great strength and resolve to pull big electric cables and shorts out the countdown. Hurray! Here comes the CISO cavalry to mop things up.
Oh yeah, it's the future and we were promised jet packs. Captain Canuck saved the day, but remember: "God was helping us." So Canuck is religious, that's no problem. It's not like his powers COME from God (aliens rather). Can't a creator let his faith inform his character's own? Sheesh. I do find it intriguing that the next decade's Canadian super, Northguard, is specifically Jewish. American supers don't show their faiths nearly as much. For Comely, it seems an extension of his own faith to at least acknowledge it. For Northguard, I know the creators wanted to craft something more realistic and textured than most superhero comics. It seems a bigger deal now than it probably did then.

In the 70s, Canadian superheroes became obsessed with the concept of providing Canada with a national hero that would represent, in look, power and attitude, the country's characteristics and values. The Northern Light was the first, in the early 70s, followed by Captain Canuck and Captain Canada. John Byrne's Alpha Flight, with its similar design ethos, showed up in Uncanny X-Men at the end of the decade, and in the next, we had Northguard and his sidekick Fleur-de-Lys, in a politically more realistic Canada, but nevertheless attired in the country's regalia. Canada's homegrown heroes HAD to be recognizably Canadian; we were denied anything else. It's as if all American superheroes had to be Captain America.

Who else? I'm looking for issues of New Triumph where Northguard's adventures were published. Maybe one day I can talk about this seminal 1980s Canadian hero. Kickstarter just told me Brok Windsor's Golden Age collection has reached its goal, so he'll probably show up in these pages first.

3 comments:

Craig Oxbrow said...

It amuses me that everyone in that first picture looks like they're wearing jammies and/or dressing gowns.

Siskoid said...

An attempt at fall coats or something. Or it's Winnipeg on a lazy Sunday.

Craig Oxbrow said...

Best wrap up warm!

 

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