Jul 1, 2015

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 127: Captain Canuck #9, April/May 1980

Happy Canada Day!

I thought this comic was appropriate for celebrating the birth of what, in my humble opinion, is one of the greatest nations on the planet. I don't usually get nationalistic, but perhaps today I can be forgive a little bit of love for my country.

Captain Canuck has recently made a return to the comic shop shelves, and I've really enjoyed the two issues that have come out so far. That enjoyment has convinced me that I should perhaps give the older series another look. I remember very early on in my comic collecting life getting a couple of issues of Captain Canuck, probably in a bag of comics my Mum bought me from Biway (that's showing my age!) or something. I also remember that he really paled in comparison with the flashy, super-powered Marvel heroes that infested New York city. Canuck's adventures were less flashy, even when he's plummeting Earthward in a disabled satellite, and seemed to be a bit more personal. Which, if I'm to follow the parallel to its conclusion, seems to be a pretty good way of comparing the two nations. Of course the U.S. comics were flashy and enticing. So, back then, Captain Canuck was an afterthought for me. I think, sometimes, that's just how Canada is perceived, as an afterthought on the North American continent.

I know. Not a particularly wonderful sentiment for Canada Day. But let me continue.

Okay. The nuts and bolts. The artwork by George Freeman is pretty great. Very dynamic, and the style sets itself apart from the aforementioned U.S. superhero comics. Freeman is a master of facial expression, and, actually, of facial distinction. Each character has his or her own way of moving, way of looking. It's also, and I'm not sure how to articulate this really, a style of art that suits the stark landscape in which this particular adventure is set. The art is rugged, perhaps? Or the people and the landscape mesh within the art so well that they look like they belong in the wild, regardless of the red and white long underwear that the noble Captain is wearing. I think, though perhaps a cliche, that that meshing with landscape is an intrinsic part of being Canadian. We have so much landscape, so much variety in our country. For me, having been privileged enough to see so much of the country, internalizing that landscape is a fundamental part of being a Canadian. And Freeman accomplishes this representation of person and place as linked in a lovely manner.

I wish I could say something as positive about Richard Comely's writing, but, to be honest, it's a bit amateur. Comely does not seem to have fully grasped the story-telling capacity of the medium. Text boxes tell us exactly what's going on in the panels, rather than allowing the art to speak for itself. The dialogue of the characters is better, but a little wooden at times. The overall narrative, however, is pretty cool, what little of it I got from reading this single issue. Comely is obviously dedicated to telling a story about a Canadian superhero, dedicated to presenting a specifically-Canadian take on this character that emerges from Modernist America. And, as with Freeman's art, he accomplishes this. My critiques of the writing aside, Canuck comes across as a caring individual, close to his family, in touch with the landscape, and dedicated to doing what's right. I think this is a decent description, for me at least, of what being Canadian is all about. Or it was until our bastard Prime Minister started turning us into a corporate culture (sorry. No more politics, I promise). The newer version of the Captain has retained, as far as I've been able to tell, many of those qualities, while injecting a bit of 21st century spectacle and (sorry Richard Comely) a little more facility with the comic book medium.

What more do I say about Captain Canuck? He represents a vision of a better self, whether that be personally for his creator or for the nation he represents. He doesn't shine as brightly as Captain America or Superman, but neither does the nation from which he hails. Canada has never been about shining more brightly than anyone else. I like to think that we shine just enough to add our light to the light of others, that we work together to create a light that illuminates the world. Maybe I'm very naive in my assumptions about my country, but that's what Canada is, or should be, to me. Not overpowering, not flashy, not out there proclaiming itself as saviour of all. We, like Captain Canuck, just want to help, to foster connection.

That's my Canada, anyway. Happy Canada Day. I'll see you tomorrow.

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