Monday, July 1, 2013

Happy Canada Day!

Today Canadians around the world celebrate Canada's 146th birthday. And to celebrate here at WGTB, we've decided one of our "Top Five" posts is in order. This time it's Canadian characters in comics and hopefully there's a little something here to teach you about comics and that great country situated on the northern portion of North America.  

Quebec City's famous Chateau Frontenac as depicted in the splash of Captain Canuck #11 (Sept/Oct 1980)
 Let's begin...

5) Joe Shuster

We start our list with Superman co-creator Joe Shuster. Okay, we know it's a stretch to say this flesh and blood fellow and the first artist of the superhero responsible for defending "truth, justice and the American way" is a Canadian character, but we'll argue this by way of Toronto. Joe Shuster was born in Toronto and lived in Canada's largest city until he moved to Cleveland  when he was ten. Before moving, Joe worked as a newsboy for the Toronto Daily Star and used its former King and Bay street headquarters as models for the Daily Planet building in Metropolis. In his waining years he would also speak fondly of his Toronto roots and this is undoubtedly a source of pride for any comic loving Canadian. Joe Shuster: 5th on our list of Canadian characters in comics.

Toronto-born comics legend Joe Shuster, co-creator of Superman, holds a copy of Action Comics #1 (June 1938)
And from the Man of Steel's latest book, Superman Unchained #1 (June 2013)
4) Northstar & Aurora 

Alpha Flight's Quebecois contingent, the twin siblings Northstar and Aurora have long been two of Marvel's most innovative characters. Northstar was one of the first openly gay characters in comics, coming out of the closet in the early 90s and getting married in Astonishing X-Men #51 in June 2012. Aurora, on the other hand, has long battled various forms of mental illness, her own mutant powers manifesting as a teenager during a suicide attempt. These important and thoughtful attributes have meant that Northstar and Aurora have been two of Marvel's guiding lights (sorry I couldn't resist!) since first created in 1979 and have undoubtedly helped many young readers on their own journey of self discovery. As such, they get 4th place on our list today.   

Northstar and Aurora in Alpha Flight Vol. 1 #1 (August 1983)
3) Captain Canuck 

Captain Canuck is the ketchup chips of Canadian comics: invented in Canada; usually found only in Canada; and mostly red. Invented by Winnipeg's Comely Comix in 1975, Captain Canuck was published periodically (and with some very large gaps) between 1975 and 2004. The Captain inhabited a world where contact with extra-terrestial life gave Canadian Tom Evans space-born powers and much of the book's backdrop featured space and futuristic themed stories. The character has recently found new life in the form of an animated series which will debut today at the Silver Snail in Toronto. If you'd like to learn more about the latest incarnation of a Canadian funny book institution, please watch this YouTube video or visit this site.

Captain Canuck kicks robot butt in Captain Canuck Vol. 1 #11 (Sept/Oct 1980) 
 2) Vindicator/Heather McNeil Hudson 

The longtime leader of Alpha Flight, Vindicator was vaulted into the position when her husband died in an early issue of John Byrne's run on Alpha Flight. Never the shrinking violet, Heather Hudson threw herself into the role, taking up the mantle of Alpha Flight leader with gusto, soon becoming an important leader in her own right. This made her -- in a similar vein to her colleague Northstar -- a trailblazer as the first female leader of a major Marvel group. Because of this, she is a close second to the top Canadian character, someone Hudson counts as a close friend... 

At the funeral of James Hudson as depicted in Alpha Flight Vol. 1 #13 (August 1984)

Vindicator kicks butt and cracks wise in Alpha Flight Vol. 1 #89 (October 1990)
1) Wolverine 

...the Wolverine! One of the most popular characters in all of comics, this Canadian is the "best at what he does" and instantly recognizable not only to comic fans, but in wider popular culture as well. Created by the legendary Len Wein in October 1974, Wolverine was originally intended to be a one off character in an Incredible Hulk story. But the character proved to be too good for just one arch and a year later would resurface in Giant Sized X-Men #1, soon becoming an integral part of the X-Men line-up. He would also go on to star in a number of titular series, cartoons and even two feature films, one of which will be released later this month. Wolverine is hands down one of Marvel's most popular characters and in 2011 was named by IGN the 4th best comic book hero of all time, behind only Superman, Batman and Spider-Man. That is fine company and worthy of top pick in WGTB's Top Five Canadian characters in comics. Happy Canada Day, everyone!    
Wolverine a.k.a. Logan in Wolverine Vol. 2 #1 (Nov. 1988)
Wolverine in Alpha Flight Special Vol. 1 #1 (June 1992)

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