This is a review of the original Captain Canuck issues 1-4, originally published in the late 1970’s.
It was in the late 1970’s – 1975, in fact – that Richard Comely founded Comely Comix and brought to the world Captain Canuck. Now, I say that he brought it to the world, but he really only brought it to Canada; Captain Canuck never really took off in the United States.
Issues 1-4 of the original series were, in fact, three different stories, but I like to lump them together because, amongst them, they show a beginning, middle, and end; in fact, if issues #4 was the final one, it would have served well as a finale and closing chapter.
In creating Captain Canuck, the character, Richard Comely set about in creating, perhaps obviously, the Canadian version of Captain America. Captain Canuck, the character, is physically strong, morally proud, and never afraid to put himself in harms way to stand up for others and defend the innocent. The Captain Canuck Universe (a term never used in the comics, but used by me to differentiate the term from the character) Canada is portrayed as having become one of the most important nations in the 1990’s due to it’s vast mineral wealth and human capital.
Comely really has his work cut out for him. The first issue is full of fast paced adventure and, despite the preachiness of some panels, is admirable for being an early use of multimedia: several panels in the comic combine both comic art along with real world photography:
Technology has improved since the 1970’s, but Comely’s attempt was really on the cutting edge of comic creativity at the time.
Captain Canuck is not alone in his crime fighting. In fact, every storyline sees the Captain escape mortal danger only with the help of other people, some of whom are ordinary people who are inspired enough to step up to be hero’s. In the first issue it’s a friendly Inuit, while in the fourth it’s a nurse who finds herself every bit as much a captive as the Captain and bail’s him out of danger at least once.
Introduced in issue 2 are two of who will be the Captain’s closest allies: the red-coated Redcoat and blue-coated Kebec, two of C.I.S.O.’s super agents. I actually really like Redcoat and Kebec; they are not simply side-kicks and are well suited to holding their own in a crisis. From a political standpoint, I admire Comely’s intention of showing French and English hero’s actually being heroic and standing side by side as not only colleagues, but as friends.
Issues 3 and 4 are a two part story. By the end of issue 3 it is apparent that Richard Comely is really still learning comic book storytelling. He has a very ambitious mind but the story telling and art seem a little rushed. Granted, comic book story telling in the 1970’s as a whole was a lot different than what it was today, but there is a distinct, notable, positive improvement between issues 3 and 4. A lot of that probably has to do with the fact that they were published three years apart. Publishing comics is expensive, and Comely Comix was a victim.
That said, issue 4 is my personal favourite of all the original 14 + Summer Special issues. Not only does it finish up the story started in issue 3, it introduces Mr. Gold as a long-term villain, it shows the Captain’s ingenuity at getting himself out of a pinch, and it’s filled with some really good humour that does not distract from the story (a problem that had plagued the earlier three issues).
It also shows the Captain’s moral strength and resolve to never abandon a person in need.
The art is better, the flow of the story is better, and the printed colours are better. It shows that Mr. Comely had three years to work on it! It was three years well spent.
Issue 4 was printed in 1979; I think 40 years is a reasonable length of time in that “spoilers” are no longer a concern. The storyline sees Captain Canuck, real-named Tom Evans, abducted to a South American Incan city which had been turned into an illegal munitions factory, with the nurse who had been trying to assist him in the hospital the previous issue (it seems to be a constant refrain of the Captain getting beat up and needing help).
Note the use of firearms; Canuck is not so dead-set against guns like Batman that he’s not afraid to use them to save his own life! Also note the blonde nurse not backing down, either. The two of them work together – as a very good team, in fact – to both destroy the factory and escape in a grand Indiana Jones style:
One of the items that appealed to me most with the story was the one page epilogue: the nurse and the Captain share a tender moment with the Captain – in civies and jeans – explaining he doesn’t yet understand how he feels and he needs to clear his mind, then rides off into the sunset on a motorbike.
Overall, I am very glad that issue 4 was published. Issues 1-3 not only leave on a cliffhanger, they leave on a cliffhanger that seemed rather forced; issue 4 was proof that Comely was able to produce a high quality, well written comic story that really nicely fused both action and humour.
Captain Canuck in his 1970’s version lasted 10 more issues plus a Summer Special. Ultimately, the Captain Canuck brand was “reborn” in the early 1990’s as “Captain Canuck Reborn,” which lasted only 4 issues (0-3). I have issues 0 and 1. eBay apparently has issue 3, and it isn’t cheap. Then came the “West Coast Captain Canuck” in the Captain Canuck Unholy War miniseries, and then Chapterhouse Comics in 2015 began a new set of stories. With the exception of two issues (Reborn 2 and 3), I possess them all. More reviews to come!