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All Aboot Captain Canuck

March 1, 2009

Captain Canuck is about to burst back 0nto the comics scene. Canada’s top homegrown superhero, who has fought a troubled losing battle for 30 years, is about to return to print thanks to the publishing company IDW.

I remember Captain Canuck with fondness, but also with a few stomach cramps thrown in. See, I wanted to like Captain Canuck. I really did. So did my handful of comics-buying friends. But in the late 1970s, the comics we liked — the costumed mainstays from Marvel and DC, with those oddball Atlas upstarts thrown in, along with Charlton’s characters and maybe some of those Archie heroes like Steel Sterling — all followed a fairly familiar formula. Some were very good (when John Byrne joined Chris Claremont on Uncanny X-Men, my life’s path was set). Some were pretty bad (I have a file cabinet full of 1970s Action Comics that prove why Superman has never sold as well as people think he does).

Captain Canuck was something completely different.

First of all, he was Canadian, and made in Canada. Richard Comely launched the Captain in a sputtering series of comic books that were like nothing else out there. They were indies before indies were common, which meant the art wasn’t as polished and the stories were a bit stranger. Later issues featured water-colour art. The stories were less about super-heroics and more about international espionage. I bought them when I could, but they were never my favourites; I found the plots hard to follow. I think I even had a couple of posters at one point, though. Those were cool.

If you don’t know about Captain Canuck, here are some notes:

  • His name was Tom Evans, and he gained super-strength after encountering an alien in the wilderness.
  • His adventures took place in the far-flung future: 1993.
  • In the stories, Canada had become the most powerful country on Earth (uh, what?) and Evans was an agent of some SHIELD-like agency.
  • There were no other costumed heroes, although a few others would pop up later.
  • Richard Comely drew the first few issues. Later, George Freeman took over. His art was decidedly ahead of its time, but printers never got the colours right, and everything looked dull and washed out.
  • After the series faltered, it would be years before Comely launched a new version. In the mid-1990s, a new series sparked and failed, this time set in modern times and featuring a business tycoon who adopts the Captain Canuck costume to fight crime. This was also a newspaper strip, strangely.
  • A third series in the early 2000s boasted much better art, but a fairly dull concept — an RCMP officer turned vigilante — and a strange 90s-Marvel-style redesign of the costume.
  • Richard Comely wants to relaunch Captain Canuck as an all-Canadian nutrition bar. Seriously.
  • Nobody seemed to notice that “Canuck” is not exactly a term Canadians like being called.

IDW promises the colour issues have been fixed, and the new reprints will offer up the Captain’s adventure the way they should have been seen. I’ll buy it. I’d like to see how my somewhat more mature mind thinks of those adventures that so confused me as a kid. Maybe this will lead to a Captain Canuck revival. It’d be nice to see.

The books come out as hardcovers and softcovers in June. Also coming from IDW: recoloured reprints of the original Rocketeer series, Dave Stevens’s groundbreaking adventure comics. More fond memories. And another wallet-drainer, apparently.

Didn’t I quit buying comics, like, 25 years ago? Apparently not.

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2 comments

  1. Am I to take from your post that you never really bonded with Alpha Flight?

    I think they didn’t get their 15 minutes of fame until the 80’s so they may have come and gone at a time where they missed your window of active readership.

    I always wondered whether Marvel’s attempt to give Canada their own team of super-heroes really connected.


  2. I enjoyed the first 12 issues of Alpha Flight, but then it got really stupid, and never bounced back. Crap art, for one thing, but when they decided Puck was actually not a dwarf, I gave up.
    Not actually Canadian, though. Americans writing about Canada, which never goes well. Watch for my review of Clive Cussler’s new book for more on that.



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