Growing up in Canada as a kid in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I always knew about Captain Canuck. When I was in Grade 3 or 4, a friend of mine used to have a yellow T-shirt with the artwork from the first issue’s cover on it that was very cool and the envy of the rest of the boys at Grandview Heights Elementary School. Given my interest in Canadiana as well as comics, you’d think I’d be an expert on this comic.
But the truth is, I have never read a page of Captain Canuck until now. And I have to say thanks to IDW Publishing for putting this one back into print, even though I missed that they’d published it all up until now.
I’m starting with Vol. 2, which just came out, and collects the Captain Canuck Summer Special and issues 11-14. These are from, according to John Bell in Invaders from the North, “the period that saw Captain Canuck become of the finest superhero comics ever published.” And while that claim may be a bit over the top, there’s no arguing that these are some damn fine superhero comics.
The best stuff is in issues 11-13, a three-parter called “Chariots of Fire” (this came out before the 1981 Oscar winning movie of the same name). This story has a dual plot, one in which Canada has, in the 1990s, become a world superpower due to the value of its natural resources and leads the world’s efforts to repel an alien invasion. Meanwhile, Captain Canuck, who exposed the invasion and was set to lead it, stumbles back in time about a thousand years in an encounter with one of the aliens. The modern world believes the good Captain dead and simultaneously mourns him while using his death to rally the world to the impossible cause of defeating the aliens.
Perhaps my favorite part is the segment with Captain Canuck stuck in the past, where he meets up with a tribe of Micmac natives and helps them fend off their own invasion from the Vikings. This art and writing in this sequence is a tribute to the work of Halifax-born Hal Foster on the classic Prince Valiant comic strip and is extremely well done in both regards.
These stories were written by Richard Comely, who created and drew the first Captain Canuck comics in the mid-1970s, but by this point has focused on his talents as a scripter. The art is by George Freeman and Claude St. Aubin, and is really a joy to look at because, when it shines, it’s pure comic book cartooning at its finest.
And there is something Canadian about it — and the only reason I can come up with for this is the similarity in Freeman’s style to the early work of another Canadian artist of the era, John Byrne. And I’m talking about Byrne even pre-Marvel — Doomsday +1 and the other Charlton stuff he did at the time.
The production value on this book also is great. I don’t know if original films were available, but the art is very crisp and clean and the colors evoke the feel of those 1970s comics while also looking modern.
This beauty package, well worth the $24.99, and I’m definitely on the hunt for Vol. 1. All I need is this book, some jelly doughnuts from Tim Horton’s, a two-four of Labatt’s Blue and an Oilers-Flames game on TV and it’ll be like 1981 all over again.
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