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Go to the "Beyond the Funnies" website


Beginning with the latter part of Captain Canuck's run, the 1980s were to witness a new maturity in the national-superhero field. In addition to Captain Canuck, the decade saw the emergence of two alternative visions of a Canadian national superhero: Captain Canada and Northguard.

While none of these heroes thrived in the nineties, our national-superhero tradition was celebrated in 1995, in a very successful Canadian postage-stamp issue. As a result, several of the heroes have become national icons. Clearly, the groundwork has been laid for a more lasting vision of a Canadian national superhero for the new millennium.


Starting with issue No. 7, a new team became responsible for Captain Canuck: Richard Comely as the chief writer, George Freeman as the main artist, and Jean-Claude St-Aubin as both a co-inker and the major colourist. Perhaps their finest effort was the story "Chariots of Fire," which ran in Captain Canuck (Nos. 11-13).

In "Time Factor," the second part of the "Chariots of Fire" saga, Comely not only explored Canuck's origin (like the Northern Light, Canuck had acquired his superpowers as a result of an alien encounter), but he also attempted to redefine the character by bringing Canuck backward in time from the 1990s to the 1980s.

In these three pages based on Comely's "Time Factor" script, Canuck encounters Nyro-Ka, the alien who inadvertently gave the Canadian superhero his powers by exposing him to Zeta rays. A struggle ensues and Canuck and the alien plunge into a time portal. Canada and the world assume that the Canadian costumed guardian is dead and mourn his loss. In reality, Canuck has begun an adventure in time, arriving in the year 1040 in the land of the Mi'kmaq ["Micmacs" in the comic–Ed.].

Much to the regret of comics readers, Captain Canuck disappeared after issue No. 14, depriving Canada of one of its most compelling visions of a superhero. Much of the strength of that vision derived from the unrestrained heroism that the artist George Freeman brought to his portrayal of the character.

In 1993 Richard Comely tried to resurrect Captain Canuck, giving him a new identity (Darren Oaks) and pitting him against a bizarre international conspiracy. Regrettably, this new Captain Canuck lacked the appeal of Freeman and St-Aubin's classic version. After appearing in a few comic book issues and a short-lived comic strip, the new Captain Canuck, like his predecessor, vanished.


For a short time in the early 1980s, the departure of the original Captain Canuck left Canada with only one national superhero: Captain Canada, who had been preceded by a number of satirical namesakes. Created by the father-and-son team of Geoff and Scott Stirling, Captain Canada debuted in 1980 in the St. John Sunday Herald's strip "Captain Newfoundland".

Captain Canada's adventures have not been confined to newspaper strips. He has also appeared on televison and made numerous public appearances. In addition, the character starred in Atlantis, a colour graphic novel. The chief artist on both the novel and the earlier strip was a U.S.-based comic artist, Danny Bulanadi.

In this page from Atlantis, Captain Canada flies past the Peace Tower after waging a fierce battle with a giant robot that has wrecked part of downtown Ottawa. In the accompanying text, his creators glowingly point to the character's identity with "the spirit of Canada."

Captain Canada is only one character in a complex universe of superheroes that the Stirlings have created. Among Captain Canada's many associates is a Quebecois superheroine called Mademoiselle. In this poster, the U.S. illustrator Boris Vallejo depicts her in a decidedly surreal fashion.


Captain Canada was soon followed by a team of Canadian superheroes (who appeared in the U.S. comic book Alpha Flight) and by what is possibly the most mature vision of a Canadian national superhero: Mark Shainblum and Gabriel Morrissette's Northguard.

In the one Northguard adventure published to date, a young comics fan named Phillip Wise becomes a superhero and then finds himself plunged into a murky world of political intrigue. What distinguishes the story is the realism and sophistication that Shainblum and Morrissette bring to their depiction of the character.

In "And Stand on Guard," the first chapter of Northguard's novel-length adventure, Phillip Wise is drawn into a vortex of violence involving the menacing right-wing organization ManDes (Manifest Destiny). Armed with a powerful cybernetic personal-weapons system called the Uniband, the bookish Wise confronts agents of ManDes in the streets of Montreal. These three pages show the young Canadian hero thwarting an attempt to assassinate P.Q. leader René Lévesque at a rally in the Montreal Forum.

In his battle against ManDes, Wise is joined by a martial-arts expert named Manon Deschamps, who eventually becomes the superheroine Fleur de Lys. In contrast with Wise, Deschamps is a superb athlete. She also represents the most fully realized serious rendition of a Quebecois national superhero yet published.

While Northguard represents a first-rate version of a national superhero, there is another approach to the depiction of such figures. Unlike the earnest Phillip Wise, some of his fellow superhero guardians are irreverent types designed to poke fun at our notions about heroism and national identity.

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