DC Comics announced Friday morning that “Justice League of America” is headed north next spring, taking on the new title of “Justice League of Canada” following “Forever Evil.” To add to the Canadian cred, the series will be written by Toronto-based Jeff Lemire, who’s joined on the series by British artist Mike McKone.
Appropriately enough, the news first broke in the Toronto Star, and DC is set to expand on the concept at Fan Expo, the annual pop culture convention taking place this weekend at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. While not much is known about the membership of the team, it’s been revealed that the group will include one brand-new Canadian hero, along with reintroducing DC mainstay Adam Strange, now Canadian in New 52 continuity.
All this got us thinking: Who are the top Canadian superheroes in comics? A few are obvious and have made a major impact on the industry as a whole, while others are primarily known in their home country but are still a significant part of the Canadian pop cultural landscape. Here’s our take on the top 10 Canadian comic book heroes. [Staff writer and resident Canuck Jeffrey Renaud contributed to this article.]
10. Booster Gold
Booster Gold is one of the most uniquely beloved superheroes in DC’s pantheon, and his partnership with Blue Beetle helped define Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire’s lighthearted (and still fondly remembered) “Justice League International” in the late ’80s and early ’90s. But he doesn’t rate higher than No. 10 on this list because his Canadian-ness is a new wrinkle to the character, having been established with the onset of The New 52.
In fact, Booster’s nationality appears to be something of an open question. DC editor Eddie Berganza announced the character’s new citizenship at Fan Expo 2011, but last year Booster creator Dan Jurgens claimed on Twitter that he was in fact not Canadian, citing that it had never been mentioned in a story.
Until DC chooses to directly clarify this issue — and that may be a while, since Booster Gold isn’t regularly appearing in a book right now, following a guest stint in “All-Star Western — this entry merits an asterisk. Yet with a newly announced “Justice League Canada,” DC seemingly has a sound opportunity to definitively establish which of their characters are Canadian — and keep in mind that Booster’s from the 25th century, likely a drastically different geopolitical climate.
9. Northguard/Fleur de Lys
The mid-1980s were an important time for comic books, with stories like “Watchmen” and “The Dark Knight Returns” pondering the very nature of superheroes.
The “Northguard” series took a similar approach. Introduced in 1984 by writer Mark Shainblum and artist Gabriel Morrissette, Northguard was presented as a Canadian superhero reflecting contemporary times. His crimefighting associate Fleur de Lys — named after the symbol found on the Quebec flag — was even featured on a Canadian stamp in 1995.
“Northguard” was published in America in 1989 by Caliber Comics, but it’s been a long time since new material was released featuring the characters — about 20 years. (Ripe for a relaunch, maybe?)
8. Johnny Canuck
If you need any proof of Johnny Canuck’s superhero credibility, he personally fought Adolph Hitler, much like Captain America. If you need any proof of his Canadian credibility, well, his name is “Johnny Canuck” and he appears on one of the current logos for the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks.
Johnny Canuck has roots in political cartoons, as something of a Canadian equivalent of Uncle Sam. Much like Sam, he made his way into comic books during the Golden Age. Recently, the character was revived — along with a host of other Canadian superheroes — in the Moonstone Publishing series “Northern Guard,” written by Ty Templeton, himself Canadian.
Nelvana of the Northern Lights has an important place in comic book history, as one of the first female superheroes, predating even Wonder Woman by a few months.
The character was first seen in 1941, and was represented as a mythological Inuit protector, with telepathic and flight powers. Like Johnny Canuck, she helped fight Nazis during World War II, but has been mostly absent from publication for the past few decades.
6. Alpha Flight
Marvel’s Canadian content was bolstered in a big way with the debut of Alpha Flight in 1979’s “Uncanny X-Men” #120, an entire team of Canadian superheroes created by John Byrne.
Alpha Flight is regularly positioned as the country’s top superteam, and has over the years included uniquely Canadian heroes like Vindicator, Guardian, Sasquatch, Northstar, Aurora, Puck (currently seen in “Uncanny X-Force”), Snowbird and Shaman — the latter two depicted as members of Canada’s aboriginal population.
Following an initial 130-issue run from 1983 to 1994, Marvel has revived the “Alpha Flight” concept on multiple occasions, most recently for eight issues in 2011.
Deadpool’s back story is intentionally convoluted, with plenty of doubt cast over the years on who exactly “Wade Wilson” is, and whether or not Deadpool really is Wade Wilson at all.
But a few things are clear: Deadpool is incredibly popular, currently appearing in both his solo book and “Thunderbolts,” as well as recently starring in a well-received video game. And despite whatever origin uncertainty may linger, Marvel’s official Wiki calls him Canadian, and he self-identified as Canadian as recently as issue #3 of the current “Deadpool” series. So, yeah. Canadian.
4. Scott Pilgrim
While not a “superhero” in the classic sense, Scott Pilgrim certainly undergoes a heroic journey in Canadian cartoonist Bryan Lee O’Malley’s six “Scott Pilgrim” graphic novels. He fights six evil exes in the name of true love, in a story that was adapted into a 2010 cult-favorite film, “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.”
Both the “Scott Pilgrim” comics and movie juxtaposed the over-the-top action with various real-world Toronto venues, like Honest Ed’s, Second Cup, Lee Palace’s and Pizza Pizza.
Northstar stands apart from his Alpha Flight teammates for a couple of reasons. Aside from his membership with the Canadian superteam, he also has a long history with the X-Men, currently appearing in the “Astonishing X-Men” series, and set to be a primary player in the November-debuting “Amazing X-Men” book from Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness.
He also holds an important place in mainstream comic book history as one of the few openly gay superheroes. Last year’s “Astonishing X-Men” #51, by Marjorie Liu and Mike Perkins, depicted Northstar’s wedding to his boyfriend, Kyle Jinadu — which attracted both mainstream publicity and protests.
2. Captain Canuck
Captain Canuck -debuted in 1975, and thus hasn’t been around as long as other uniquely Canadinan heroes like Johnny Canuck or Nelvana. Yet the character was clearly published as a patriotic icon — Canada’s answer to Captain America — down to the costume which strongly resembles his nation’s Maple Leaf-adorned flag.
Captain Canuck received his powers — super-strength and super-speed — from contact with aliens. But the character also has staying power, with various incarnations and revivals following the initial comics from Winnipeg-based Comely Comix. Recently, there have been rumors of a feature film, and an Indiegogo-funded webseries launched this year.
Marvel Comics’ Wolverine — nicknamed “The Ol’ Canucklehead” — is not only the most famous Canadian comic book character, but one of the most famous comic book characters, period.
Wolverine appears in a lot (a lot) of comic books every month, and has so for years. Plus, he’s got six big-screen appearances — including this summer’s “The Wolverine” — under his belt, and at least one more (2014’s “X-Men: Days of Future Past”) on the way, along with multiple animated incarnations under his belt.
Through it all, he’s retained his distinctly Canadian roots — he’s named after an animal found in northern Canada, after all — even if he’s been portrayed on-screen for the last 13 years by an Australian.