The Return of the Cap'n
I've written about Captain Canuck before -- check out my entire week of Canadian goodness here -- and I think you get the idea that I'm absolutely enamored with the idea of a National Canadian Superhero, a comic book character who can somehow boil down to essentials what it means to be Canadian. And, like our comic counterparts to the south, this is true -- only backward. Captain Canuck was patterned to represent Canadian values, and now he's used as proof of those values, in some kind of twisted Disneyworld logic: if Captain Canuck is supposed to represent Canada, and Captain Canuck is "A," then Canada must be "A," as well -- even if the initial premise is incorrect. Captain Canuck was first created by Richard Comely in order to bring together the disparate visions of what a Canadian actually was, and the series tried to foist a Canadian mythos onto the popular culture of the Great White North, much as Canadian Nationalist ideas tried to do back in 1967, with the rise of Expo '67 and the ill-fated "Chimo" greeting. In the irony that we often find ourselves faced with today, the significant replaced the signifier; i.e. the symbol gave meaning to what was being symbolized.
But that's a story for another day. Because today, we have a story that couldn't possibly be tied to traditional, or even subversive, Canadian values. Unless, of course, Canadians are big on aliens that look like wads of splooge:
Yes, this is the story of Captain Canuck's unpublished fifteenth issue. Written and drawn before CKR Productions folded under the absurd conditions of the Canadian publishing industry, this issue would have seen the light of day if Comely and Co had succeeded in their scheeme to sell shares of the "Captain Canuck Corporation" to eager northern kids itching for a fix of down-home superheroics. Sadly, Captain Canuck, though wildly popular, could not make enough money to stay afloat, and the story of "The Stygian" -- no relation to the other Stygian -- would be denied to the kids of the 1970/80's.
Written by creator Richard Comely and the last Canuck issue to be illustrated by George Freeman, the story takes place after Tom Evans -- the good Captain's secret identity -- has been stranded in the "present" of the 1980's following an alien encounter in his future of 1993. In the dead of winter in Calgary, Captain Canuck has taken to construction work to support himself as he, presumably, tries to find a way back to his time. A fellow worker discovers a discarded purse, and, Canadian of upstanding character that he is, Mr Evans heads out to return it to its rightful owner.
Discovering that the purse belongs to a missing woman, he acts on a hunch -- literally, as there is nothing in the comic to indicate exactly where he gets the idea to go traipsing about government labs -- and visits the offices of the Stabler Research Group, where he comes face to face with every Canadian's arch nemesis: the locked door.
On the other side of the door are a group of scientists whose names and personalities are of absolutely no consequence. What does matter is what they've inadvertantly created: THE STYGIAN!
Part being of pure energy, part being of melty-cheese, the Stygian must feed off of the energy of people and electronics to survive. Other than this survival imperative, we don't know much about ol' Styg', but you can bet that if he does this to Captain Canuck:
then he's no damn good in my book.
Canukc, knowing nothing about the type science fiction aliens that he's battled for most of his life, inadvertantly lets the creature loose upon an unsuspecting Stampede City, where it's assumed that he passed up the great untapped potential energy of cow pats, instead settling on the lethargic energy of your average Canadian citizen. After a thrilling* chase throughout downtown Alberta, Canuck seems to be on the brink of finishing the creature off with a good whack on the side of the head with a manhole cover:
Unfortunately for the reputations of the boys in blue everywhere, the assault is interrupted by a group of vigilant police officers, who are far too focused on arresting the man in the arresting pajamas, and not the being of limitless power looming over him.
Our story ends with the Stygian getting away, and the poor boys and girls of 2004 (when this story was finally released to fans for the first time) are left on another cliffhanger that has yet to be resolved. But those aren't the only mysteries we're left pondering; I've got a few questions myself: for one, how does a being created from pure energy succumb to being smacked in thr skull with a steel plate? For two, can anyone in Calgary tell me what these terrifying, lanky giants in the background of this panel are supposed to be?
I'm going to assume they're some kind of artwork, and not, say, the Stygian's terrifying compadres.
Well, there it is -- the last, unreleased issue of the original run of Captain Canuck, killed in its prime by the realities of publishing in Canada. It wasn't lack of interest or sales that did Canuck in -- in 1979, the Captain was the highest selling comic book in all of Canada, as related in Captain Canuck #7, and you can tell from the panels I've reproduced here that Freeman's art was pretty great for an independent book in the late 1970's (or hell, for a comic book period). No, Canada's first and greatest superhero was deep-sixed by a government that, while claiming to value Canadian content, actually created conditions that were anathema to the continued existence of a true Canadian hero.