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As noted, the Northern Light, Captain Canuck and the other national superheroes of the seventies and eighties were preceded by several less-than-serious characters. The first of these satirical figures, Gary Dunford's Captain Canada, didn't appear in the comics, but rather was the star of a series of outrageous adventures that were aired irregularly on CBC Radio's Gerussi! during the 1969-70 period. Captain Canada (played by Allan McFee) together with his Ukrainian sidekick, Groon (Gerussi), spoofed many aspects of Canadian life during the early Trudeau era and enjoyed an enthusiastic following. Gerussi's audience, it seems, couldn't resist listening to McFee unctuously deliver lines like the Captain's advice to Western Canada: "Think bilingual thoughts. Be bicultural in your daily life. Speak in two languages out of both sides of your mouth. Remember, Canada is more than just a country ... it's a branch plant."


Given the success of Dunford's superhero as well as the growth of the underground-comix movement in North America during the years 1970-72, it was inevitable that a Canadian national superhero spoof would appear in comic book form. What was not inevitable was the excellence of the rendition when it did appear.

While centres of the Canadian underground-comix movement developed in Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto and Saskatoon, one of the most successful titles of the period appeared in Ottawa. This was Fuddle Duddle, a newsstand satirical magazine published by Jeffrey R. Darcey (JRD Publishing) in Ottawa. Issued in a format that was reminiscent of the U.S. periodical Mad, Fuddle Duddle more closely resembled the adult humour magazine National Lampoon in content. Like the other underground titles, Fuddle Duddle (named after Prime Minister Trudeau's euphemism for a common expletive) recognized very few taboos. As in other fields, the late sixties and early seventies in the comics milieu were a time when authority was being challenged, and the first target of rebellion for comic artists was the repressive code that had been imposed in the fifties. Jeffrey Darcey recognized the creativity and energy that were being unleashed in the medium and soon formed a team of young comics creators to target Canada's sacred cows.

Among the Ottawa-area artists and writers whom Darcey enlisted to work on Fuddle Duddle were Mark Lloyd, Dave Morris, Peter Evans and Stanley Berneche. The latter two (who had attended Mount Allison University together) comprised the magazine's chief creative team and would co-create the first comic book national superhero to appear in Canada since Nelvana's final appearance in 1947. Like Dunford, they could not resist the name Captain Canada (theirs was the third of at least five Captain Canadas that have appeared in various media).

Berneche and Evans' character debuted in 1972 in Fuddle Duddle (No. 4) and only appeared in one more issue, as the magazine folded later that year after issue No. 5. In a sense, their Captain Canada was as much a spoof of U.S. superhero comics (his first adventure was dedicated to Stan Lee of Marvel Comics) as it was of Canadian attitudes. Dressed in red-and-white tights and sporting moose antlers on the cowl of his costume, the Captain was an elemental figure, owing his origin to a karma-charged meteor that had crashed into the fertile muck of the Canadian northland. Apparently, the muskeg surrounding the meteor crater retained special powers and was thus regularly ingested by Captain Canada (in Astérix-like fashion) to sustain his super-powers. Assisting the Captain in his adventures was his costumed sidekick, Beaver Boy, whom the Captain had rescued following a plane crash. Fed magic muskeg, the boy became super-brilliant, providing the team with something the brawny Captain clearly seemed to lack: brains. Cap and Beav were also joined by a young woman named Pam.

In their first adventure, Cap, Beav and Pam do battle with the villainous Media Master who, of course, is bent on world domination and who, before he is defeated, threatens to broadcast the Captain and Pam (a student of the media specialist McViewin) into the void of space. In their next adventure, which focusses on the 1972 election (in which JRD publishing actually tried to run Captain Canada as a write-in candidate), the trio undergo a transformation, becoming even more the products of their changing times. Cap, who was decidely oafish in his first adventure, is transformed in this second story into a right-wing Neanderthal. Beav, now sans costume, is a long-haired subversive, and Pam has become a flower child. In this outrageous yarn, Cap storms through the Ottawa counterculture, beating up "commie" freaks and getting himself arrested. Duped by a group of anarchists, he almost blows up the House of Commons and then goes on a hippie-bashing rampage, which begins with his immortal battle cry (later printed in John Robert Colombo's first book of Canadian quotations) – "Beavers Up!" The story ends with Prime Minister Trudeau rescuing Cap from arrest and praising Canada's superhero guardian as "an involved Canadian."

Both the second Captain Canada adventure and a third, unpublished story (now held by the National Archives of Canada) were comic-art tours de force. The writer Evans and the artist Berneche combined to create graphic narratives that were chock-full of anarchic energy, and yet also tightly crafted. Berneche especially revealed himself to be a comic book master, despite the fact that he was then a very young man. In fact, following the demise of Fuddle Duddle, one of the most-often asked questions among knowledgeable fans of Canadian comic art was "Whatever happened to Stanley Berneche?" The answer, it turns out, is that he became a successful computer-graphics and animation artist, and abandoned the comic-art field. Now, nearly thirty years later, those who remember his exceptional work on Fuddle Duddle still hope for his eventual return to comics.


Just as Captain Canada disappeared from view, a group of young Montreal comics creators were working on Quebec's answer to Captain Canada – Capitaine Kébec. The four key figures in this coterie, L'Hydrocéphale entêté, were Jacques Hurtubise, Pierre Fournier, Gilles Desjardins and Jean Villecourt. Like their English-Canadian counterparts, who were caught-up in the early 1970s explosion of underground comix and early alternative comics, the Hydrocéphale group was participating in what has come to be called the Spring of Quebec Comics (les bandes dessinées or BD for short). Assisted by a federal Opportunities for Youth grant, Hydrocéphale embarked in 1972 on an ambitious series of projects, including two magazines, an artists' cooperative (Les Petits Dessins) and a Quebec comic-art exhibition. While Hydrocéphale would cease to exist after a few years, Fournier, Hurtubise and one of their chief collaborators Réal Godbout would figure prominently in the development of Quebec comic art during the seventies, eighties and nineties.

One of the two magazines issued by Les Éditions de L'Hydrocéphale Entêté was Quebec's first national superhero comic, Les Aventures du Capitaine Kébec, which appeared in the fall of 1973 and which received significant national media attention. Although a number of different artists and writers assisted with the production of Capitaine Kébec, the chief creator was Pierre Fournier. Like Evans and Berneche (the latter was a friend of Fournier's), Fournier utilized his character both to spoof the U.S. superhero genre and to poke fun at his own society. Unlike Captain Canada, however, Capitaine Kébec was not preceded by a number of serious Quebecois superheroes. In fact, even though, Éditions Héritage has long issued translations of American superhero comics in Quebec, the genre has had little appeal for Quebec's own comic book publishers and creators. (Nevertheless, it should not be forgotten that two francophone artists, Jean-Claude St-Aubin and Gabriel Morrissette, contributed substantially to the creation of two of the leading English-language heroes, Captain Canuck and Northguard, and to the development of these two superheroes' respective Quebecois confreres, Kébec and Fleur de Lys.)

Another major difference between Capitaine Kébec and Captain Canada was evident in their attitudes towards the counterculture of the late sixties and early seventies. Whereas Captain Canada saw himself as a member of the Establishment, having nothing but disdain for hippies, Capitaine Kébec was himself a "freak." Sporting long hair and a beard, the Capitaine pieces together a costume consisting of welder's safety goggles, an aviator's helmet, a Saint-Jean-Baptiste sweater, sneakers, a watch without hands, and a towel for a cape. As for his powers – super-strength, super-speed and the ability to fly they mysteriously arrive after he has engaged in some meditation and other counterculture activities.

Although the Capitaine has probably appeared in more different titles than any other national superhero in Canada (many artists have paid homage to Fournier's character by working cameo appearances of the Capitaine into their strips), he has only had two full adventures, separated by more than a decade. In his first adventure, from Les Aventures, the counterculture superhero is pitted against an Establishment super-villain – a Montreal cop who has assumed the identity of Frogueman. Dismayed by the erosion of respect for authority in the new Quebec, Frogueman attacks the youthful Capitaine, shooting him with a powerful pea-soup gun. However, before Frogueman can polish off the Capitaine, Quebec's national superhero is rescued by his young Anglo admirer, who then turns over the unconscious Kébec to a mysterious stranger.

Unfortunately, Fournier was never able to finish the first Kébec story, but he did return to the character eleven years later in issues Nos. 5-7 of the Quebecois BD magazine Titanic. By that time, Fournier was collaborating with Réal Godbout on one of Quebec's most successful strips, Red Ketchup (a spin-off from their earlier strip Michel Risque); however, he couldn't resist the opportunity to have another go at the Capitaine. In returning to the character, Fournier brought to his creation both a new sophistication and a decidedly eighties spin.

Even though the Capitaine's Titanic adventure also involves a super villain – in this instance, Dr. Bébitte – the focus of the story is not on the Captaine, but rather on a TV journalist named Josée, who sets out to prepare an item on Kébec for the programme Profil . Although Josée has difficulty contacting Kébec, her research for the programme suggests that he is almost a natural force and that the current Capitaine Kébec is merely one of a line of such national superheroes stretching back to the 1920s. Eventually, however, Josée does meet Kébec, but he is injured in the struggle against the villainous Bébitte, so that Josée herself must don the Capitaine Kébec uniform and continue the battle. The episode ends with Josée defeating Bébitte and then discovering that the torch has been passed on to her – she has become Capitaine Kébec, Quebec's superhero guardian.

Although Fournier has not done a Capitaine Kébec story since 1984, it is very probable that he will eventually return to his superhero in the future. He has, however, had some further involvement with the national-superhero sub-genre. In 1988-89 he assisted Mark Shainblum and Gabriel Morrissette with the production of the three issues of Northguard. Today, he is working primarily in the Quebec television milieu and in animation.

While Captain Canada and Capitaine Kébec represented the most significant satirical visions of Canadian national superheroes in our comics, a handful of similar figures have also appeared, including Owen McCarron's Captain Canada, Robert Schoolcraft's Capitaine Québec and Langlais, and John Bell and Owen Oulton's Captain Canduck.(7) In addition, during the past few decades, many of Canada's political cartoonists have utilized national superheroes to lampoon the country's politicians. Unable to spoof an existing Canadian superhero who would be recognized by most newspaper readers, the cartoonists have, instead, drawn on our national iconography to invent their own Captain Canadas or similar figures. Thus, a form of comic art that was in part an outgrowth of our national tradition of political cartooning has, in turn, influenced that tradition. (Interestingly, during the mid-1990s, Northguard's creators, Mark Shainblum and Gabriel Morrissette, collaborated on Angloman, a comics narrative that utilized superheroes to satirize Quebec and Canadian politics.)

However, while our political cartoonists increasingly spoof national superheroes, since the early eighties, Canadian comic artists intent on satirizing the superhero genre have generally chosen to focus on non-national characters. Chief among these satirical heroes are Dave Sim's Wolveroach, John MacLeod's Dishman, Bernie Mireault's the Jam, and Luc Giard's Ticoune, Ze Whiz Tornado.


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