Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Canada's Secret Weapon

Who's strong enough to protect Canada from the Nazis? Captain Canuck, that's who. According to the online Canadian Encyclopedia (aren't you glad there is such a thing?), his predecessor, Johnny Canuck, was created in the 1860s as a sort of editorial symbol of Canada, a personification that stood up to Uncle Sam and Britain's John Bull.

In 1941 Johnny Canuck became a comic book hero, fighting the Nazis. This was the same year that an American publisher called Timely Comics released the first Captain America comic book.

Later, Johnny Canuck changed to look more like his American counterpart. The Canadian Encyclopedia:
Captain Canuck, a superhero instead of just a hero, was introduced in 1975. He wore red tights and 'electro-thermic underwear' for warmth and on his forehead sported a red maple leaf.
It ain't easy being a Canadian superhero. In a review of a new book called Invaders from the North: How Canada Conquered the Comic Book Universe, by John Bell, comic critic Jeet Heer lists Canada's beleaguered action heros:
Time after time, Canadian publishers conjured up superheroes that supposedly embodied the national spirit. Aside from Johnny Canuck, there is Nelvana of the Northern Lights (a white goddess in a mini-dress who protected the Arctic from “Kablunets, Nazi allies armed with Thormite Rays”), Captain Jack (an all-round athlete who battled Nazi saboteurs), Northern Light (a science fiction hero whose enemies were space aliens), Captain Canuck (who also fought space monsters as well as complex international banking conspiracies) and the similarly monikered Captain Canada (originally known as Captain Newfoundland, he defended the royal family from giant Japanese robots).
Not to mention Northguard, a superhero that filled the Canadian security gap when Captain Canuck was taken out of circulation.

For an excellent online history of Canadian superheroes, visit John Bell's Guardians of the North website.

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