Orion: The Canadian Magazine of Space and Time

I know subject of my last few posts blur the areas I’m trying to cover, but I really want to state the importance of including all related and important material on the subject for future reference.

In 1981, a Science Fiction fanzine was published, a publication hand in hand with the comics industry at the time. Orion Magazine: The Canadian Magazine of Space and Time was first published in the summer of 1981 by Discovery Publications in Montreal, Quebec. This exceptional magazine was published and edited by a young, 18-year-old Mark Shainblum. His intent, very clear not to alienate other nationalities, was to provide a fanzine that fairly examined most English speaking science fiction and comics output, but of course, Canadian based. That said, the magazine was definitely Canadian content heavy. 

Accompanying letter.

The first issue is perhaps most noted for Shainblum’s article on Captain Canuck and an interview with Richard Comely. Sadly, the inaugural issue of this series was already printed and ready to be shipped around the same time CKR Productions ceased publishing. In order to remain topical, Discovery included this letter also provided here by Mike Sterling.

Orion #1 contains several other timely references including a rare article on small time zine publisher Kenny Moran Comics out of Winnipeg, Manitoba and a comic entitled Captain Chinook by Captain Canuck artist Claude St. Aubin. Otherwise, the fanzine is 36 pages, oversized, black and white with colour cover and mostly a compilation of reviews, interviews, poetry, etc. at .

The second issue was almost double the length at 64 pages and slightly larger than the first. As far as luck goes though, it didn’t fair much better. Shortly after giving a long, in depth interview to Shainblum for the magazine, Gene Day passed away at only 36. Fortunately, Orion wasn’t already printed and Shainblum was able to explain that it was one of Day’s last interviews. Like the first issue, the second contains several excellent supporting pieces including a comic by Geof Isherwood called White Thunder and a Captain Canuck parody comic called Captain Canduck.

Orion only saw two printed issues before retiring in 1982. This was not the end though. In 2004, Shainblum resurrected Orion digitally with Comicopia for six more issues, all of which can be read here. Should you want a copy of the earlier Orion issues, you may be able to aquire copies directly from Shainblum himself.

Until then, here is the content of the first and second issue.

Orion #1

  • Quantum (Editorial) – Mark Shainblum
  • The Definitive Batman – James J.J. Wilson
  • Broadening Horizons: First Encounter with The Spirit – Mark Shainblum
  • Captain Canuck: The Triumphant Return of the Canadian Hero – Mark Shainblum
  • World of Elzon: Imaginitive but… – Mark Shainblum
  • Update (News from the World of SF) – Michael Gilson
  • The Wager – Michael Gilson
  • Ode to a Super Hero – Mark Shainblum
  • “Orion Interview” A Conversation with Richard Comely – Mark Shainblum
  • “Viewpoint” Commentary – Michael Gilson
  • Software: Harlan Ellison reviewed – James J.J. Wilson
  • The Ubiquitous Captain Chinook – Jean-Claude St. Aubin
  • “MediaViews” Galactica: What Happened? – Michael Gilson
  • Books: North By 2000 – Review by Mark Shainblum
  • Pharma – Mark Shainblum
  • The Riddle – Rhonda Kert
  • Afterburn: Closing Commentary – Mark Shainblum

Orion #2

  • Quantum (Editorial) – Mark Shainblum
  • Orion Response (Letters)
  • Comicswatch (Reviews)
  • An Interview with Marv Wolfman – Mark Shainblum
  • Another Interview – Gabrielle Morrisette
  • The Loneliness of the Long Distance Writer – Lesley Choyce
  • White Thunder – Geof Isherwood
  • The Last Interview: A Conversation with Gene Day Mark Shainblum
  • Fanwatch (Fanzine Reviews)
  • Captain Canduck – John Bell (Words) Owen Oulton (Art)
  • …And the Canadian Way? – Christine Kulyk
  • Books (Reviews)
  • Brass Orchids (Column) – Lisa Cohen
  • Afterburn (Closing Commentary) Mark Shainblum
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Comic Book Confidential

If you are a fan of comic books as a art form, then chances are you’ve come across Comic Book Confidential. This documentary illustrated the history of comics with a special focus on the more recent developments at the time. The documentary, released in 1989, excellently highlights many of the milestones in American comics history and continues to be a relevent reference.

Comic Book Confidential was co-written and directed by Canadian documentarian Ron Mann of Sphinx Productions. In 1988, Sphinx Productions released a promotional comic as a companion to the film under Sphinx Comix. The majority of the 16 page comic is devoted to biographies of the creators referenced in the film, but there are quite a few small aspects of this comic that make it a gem. To begin, the comic is immediately recognizable by Chester Brown’s cover art. He also does a single page comic just inside the front cover. This is one of his many pieces that seem to pop up all over the place during this time.

Another aspect about the book that I love is that it included some work by bpNICHOL in the last year of his life. He worked as a consultant on the book along with Mark Askwith and is credited with writing the narrative captions. And last but not least, the lettering was done by forever true and consistent Ron Kasman. I didn’t have many problems finding my copy, and although it was originally free, you’ll have to pay a bit for it now.

Canadian Superhero Webseries

For the most part, my blog covers any and all kinds of Canadian comics. On this post I’d like to take a step back and look at another form of the genre: webseries. Recently there have been a couple of great Canadian products in this format regarding superheroes, here is a VERY brief glance at each.

Heroes of the North: Based out of Montreal, Heroes of the North is an award winning series spread across many forms including webisodes, comic books, a novella, among other mediums. One of the purposes of this web series was to bring attention to some of the great heroes in Canada’s history. One of these is Fleur de Lys from my last post about Northguard! The story takes place in present day alternate Canada, and revolves around the legacy of scientific development under Hitler.

Tights and Fights Comic Book.

Tights and Fights: Tights and Fights is another transmedia series focused on superheroes. This one, based out of Toronto, is more of a comedy about Canadian superheroes and has been running since 2010. They’re currently on their second season and a pretty big hit.

The Undrawn: The reason that I write this blog now, is that another webseries is in production, but desperately needs funding. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, Canada’s history of comics is riddled with underfunding. Let’s not see this happen again! This series, while perhaps a bit more crass that the above two, is definitely hilarious and looks w. The series plans to release 6 episodes. Check out the fundraising campaign on kickstarter here! And watch more teasers in the updates tab!