Oh, Canada: Superpowers North of the 49th

Ah, the glorious beginning of summer: barbeques, fireworks, patriotism, and a statutory holiday from work. I’m speaking, of course, of Canada Day. What? You thought I was talking about some other day? I spent Sunday watching topless drag queens spraying parade floats with water guns (at Toronto Pride), I don’t know what you did.

And in honour of the Truth North Strong and Totally Kick-ass, let’s talk about Canadian superheroes. There’s the regional supes like the Halifax Explosion, and then you’ve got a classic homegrown roster here, going all the way back to Johnny Canuck and right up to fan favourite Wolverine and the newly explosive Deadpool.

Nazis. I hate Nazis.

Johnny Canuck was a dimestore comic book hero who got his start in Victorian-era political cartoons and was revamped during the forties as a WWII teenage wunderkind who single-handed spanked the pants off the Nazis. Like Captain America of the time, Johnny could be found slapping cartoonishly disfigured Hitlers across the comic book covers of the country. While his tow-headed aw-shucks do-gooder never actually had any super-powers, with the mighty ability to be Canadian he apparently won the War one-handed, eh.

First Flight

But when you’re talking Canadian supes, you’re talking Alpha Flight. This team was first assembled in the late seventies as the northern version of the Fantastic Four. In fact, that’s the backstory: James Hudson, Genius Scientist, reads about Richards and Co. and decides it would be a pretty sweet thing to duplicate with his wife and a couple of hosers. He takes on a super-powered suit and the name Guardian, and recruits a team of Canucks from across the country. With names like Sasquatch, Aurora, Northstar, Shaman, and Snowbird, the creators didn’t leave any doubt as to who these guys were fighting for.

Alpha Flight was rebooted in 2004 with Sasquatch in the lead and a new roster which included Centennial and Major Mapleleaf, who has, hands down, the most Canadian handle of any of them. The Canadian government (the Marvel version, at least) has always had a slightly different approach to superheroes than the (again, Marvel version of) the American government. Our defense department created Department H: a not-so-secret secret agency located smack dab in the middle of Ottawa. That’s like Nick Fury landing his giant S.H.I.E.L.D. airbase in the middle of the Washington Mall. Oh, and it’s shaped like a giant H. Seriously, we have a guy named Major Mapleleaf. We are not winning awards in creativity.

Before They Were Big, They Were Canadian

And yeah, I was talking about that Wolverine before. Before he waltzed off down south to join the X-Men, Wolverine (a unwilling graduate of the Weapon X program) was an agent for the fledging team led by Hudson. One of Alpha Flight’s first missions was to reclaim him as an asset for the Canadian government. It didn’t actually work out all that well. But that’s okay, we got to keep Northstar.

Northstar. Oh, that boy is near and dear to my heart. A Quebequois orphan with a very close relationship to his twin sister, Jean Paul Beaubier is as queer as a three dollar bill. Of course, back when they first appeared in X-Men in 1979, Marvel wouldn’t touch that with a ten-foot pole. The creators of the original Alpha Flight have admitted that they originally designed the character to be gay but knew that any explicit mention of it would never see the light of day from a publisher. Now, however, he is happily (and openly) canoodling with an array of Marvel hunks, including the shiny metal Colossus.

The one to keep your eye on is Deadpool. This merc with a mouth (and a massive crush on Bea Arthur) has been around since the early nineties, but is getting more and more popular. In addition to the crazy-good (but sadly, finished) Deadpool and Cable title and regular cameos in other storylines, he currently has two of his own titles going, Deadpool and Deadpool Corps. He’s been part of every major superhero team in the Marvel universe, from Weapon X to S.H.I.E.L.D. to Six Pack to the Avengers to the X-Men (probationary). Deadpool is a giddy paradigm onto himself. And – he won’t forget, and neither should you –100% Grade Eh Canadian.

And while we’re on the topic of great Canadians: Mom, it’s okay. You can comment on my articles and identify yourself as my mother. I don’t mind.

Who’s your great Canadian hero? Along with Major Mapleleaf and Sasquatch, what other super-powered wonders could the Great White North be hiding?

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