Northguard

Issue three of the original series.

 New Triumph Featuring Northguard will be one of the most remembered comics in Canadian history. This is not only because the hero dons the national flag, or the book’s preoccupation with Canadian acceptance of national heroes, but because it was created and published by two very talented men, Gabriel Morrissette and Mark Shainblum. Morrissette and Shainblum published the comic through their own publishing company, Matrix Graphic Series, based in Montreal. They are also responsible for publishing Canuck Comics and Mackenzie Queen.

New Triumph was published irregularly for five issues from September 1984 until the summer of 1986, and all except the first book were forty pages long with an added mini-comic of Bernie Mireault’s The Jam. The comic featured consistent black and white art by Morrissette with art assists by Bernie Mireault, Geoff Isherwood, Jacques Boivin and Jan Harpes.

However, 1986 was not the end for Northguard. In 1989, in cooperation with Caliber Press, the first five issues were re-released as a trade under the imprint “Matrix and Caliber Press”. The book was 144 pages in black and white. Importantly though, it included a foreword by John Bell which again addressed the issues surrounding Canadian national heroes and the even greater irony of the comic’s publication being resumed by an American publisher.

For resume it did! In the same year they published the trade, Caliber Press published three final issues entitled Northguard: The ManDes Conclusion. These were published between 1989 and 1990, and, like the title suggests concluded the series.

Fleur De Lys appeared on some special edition stamps in the 90s.

The story follows 20-year-old Phillip Wise and his part in a private corporation’s plan to defend Canada from American radicals. You can see a greater description here, although be wary of spoilers. What the comic prides itself on is its superhero realism. Wise’s powers are not magical or supernatural, they’re technological. They come from an attachable device. Likewise, Northguard’s partner, Fleur-De-Lys, is a Tae Kwon Do instructor and Steel Chameleon has a built-in holographic disguise tool. This same idea can be applied to their enemies which are political and religious radicals and not superheroes. This superhero comic could almost be described as science fiction.

This brings me to another aspect of the comic I really enjoy which is the interchangeable English and French. The story uses both as it takes place in Montreal. It also references separatist politics but addresses the desire for an amicable relationship between French and English Canada through Northguard and Fleur-De-Lys (Manon Deschamps). The comic has great depth, giving the reader many ideas to consider. An excellent read and not terribly hard to find, but can also be purchased as e-comics.

I’m going to go ahead and take this opportunity to plug Lost Heroes, an upcoming documentary on Canadian superheroes. It will include this and so many more of Canada’s superheroes from the past to the present. Here is their website, Facebook page, twitter.

Advertisements

Mackenzie Queen

Cover of Issue 4 by Stephen Bissette.

Mackenzie Queen is a five issue limited series written and drawn by Bernie Mireault. Although much of the story was completed in 1983, it wasn’t published until 1985 when Grabriel Morrissette and Mark Shainblum’s Montreal based publishing company Matrix Graphic Series picked it up. The five issues ran irregularly until 1986.

Although the title suggests otherwise, the story is actually science fiction, reminiscent of A Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Mackenize Queen is chosen by “the brotherhood” to save the world against the Ice Men who, having destroyed their own planet, would take Earth for themselves. Queen is assisted by an seven-foot tall alien called Ududu, who is a friendly carnivore and who also provides much of the comic relief for the story.

Interestingly, this series has lots of fun bits including a bathroom copy Love and Rockets, published letters from John Bell and Rick Taylor, and some great comic shorts from Jacques Boivin. Also, I loved seeing advertisements for Renegade Press’ Wordsmith and Ms. Tree, the support of which is very characteristic of Canadian comics. In issue three there are pictures of the supporting cast with accompanying comical blurbs for each including Mireault, Morrissette, Shainblum and Boivin, who was apparently 333 years old at the time.

Although the first issue has slightly awkward scripting, Mireault recognizes this citing “It has some rough edges, but keep it anyway”. Stephen Bissette also contributes with some great cover art on books four and five and Jan Harpes also contributing art in book three. Mireault’s art is wonderful and consistent and the final product, all five issues, make an excellent series. Mackenzie Queen is a really great, original story and one of the few that actually got published through to the end, so grab it if you see it, you won’t be disappointed!

The True North

Cover By Dave Sim

In September of 1987, the RCMP seized 192 comics from a comic book shop called Comic Legends in Calgary, Alberta. They also charged owners Julie Warren, Darren Ott and Dale Clarke with circulating obscene materials. The comics in question were adult comics and were never intended for children, nor were they sold to children. The reason for the search and confiscation of the comics was that a 14-year-old boy purchased a copy of Warlock 5 by Aircel Comics, and his mother complained. Warlock 5 was not a comic that was seized that day.

When comic artists caught wind of this, as they would, they were outraged. As a result, Paul Stockton (Of Strawberry Jam Comics), Leonard S Wong, Liz Schiller and Derek McCulloch formed the Comic Legends Legal Defense Fund (hereafter CLLDF). In order to raise funds for Warren, Ott and Clarke, CLLDF published an anti-censorship comic book anthology called The True North. Despite the unfavourable circumstances with which it was created, the comic book is an excellent testament to the conviction of the comic book industry both in and outside Canada. It also features a fantastic array of Canada’s writers and artists, as well as some Americans, spanning from from style to era and genre.

Unfortunately, all three shopkeepers were convicted with a fine of $5500. Although they did appeal with the help of CLLDF, the result was only a reduced fine.

In 1991, the CLLDF published True North II, a second anthology collection, again anti-censorship, and again, a great collector’s item. What I love most about these comics is the sampling of so many different Canadian writers and artists. Here is the contents of each book and there are some useful links at the bottom of the post.

True North

  • Anti-Censorship Propaganda – Chester Brown
  • Reid Fleming – David Boswell
  • One Romantic Evening – Jeffrey Taylor
  • Ronald and the Ducks – Ron Kasman
  • Starbikers – Ronn Sutton
  • The Life and Times of Tomas De Torquemada, Grand Inquisitor – Kent Burles
  • A Little Thought About Comics – Ty Templeton
  • Dan Panic: Think Allowued Talk – Greg Holfeld
  • It Comes Down to This – Nick Burns
  • A Suburban Nightmare – Michael Cherkas and Larry Hancock
  • Real Life – M.A. Bramstrup and Monique Renee
  • Comic Books – William Van Horn
  • Dan Day Pinup – Dan Day
  • A True Story – Bernie Mireault and Joe Matt
  • Counterblast – Nick Burns
  • Warning – George Metzger
  • Wizard Pinup – Ron Kasman
  • Media Violence – Mark Shainblum and Gabriel Morrissette
  • Centerspread: Manunkind – Matt Wagner
  • -And So It Goes – George Freeman
  • Beware of…They! – Rodney Dunn
  • Jail for Joe – Dave Darrigo
  • Freedom of Choice Hot Tub – Todd McFarlane and Terry Fitzgerald
  • Edgar the Common Sense Elephant – Seth
  • Defenses of Clay – Rob Walton
  • Malcom and Eric – Ian Carr
  • Vox Populi – Richard Taylor and Mark Askwith
  • Bizarre Taste with Asta Roid – Gordon Derry and Adrian Kleinenberg
  • Rosebud – Derek McCulloch and Simon Tristam
  • Other Artists – Dave Sim, Gerhard
True North II
  • Lethargic Lad – Greg Hyland and John Migliore
  • Bachelor Party or The Road Not Taken or Just Another Male Fantasy – Dennis Eichhorn and Carel Moiseiwitsch
  • R.G. Taylor Pinups – Richard Taylor
  • How These Bastards Operate – Ron Kasman and Gabriel Morrissette
  • On Being Eurasian – Theresa Henry
  • The Weird Canadian Artist – Chester Brown
  • Prescription For Ignorance – Diana Schutz and Monty Sheldon
  • A Public Disservice Message – Roberta Gregory
  • Random Pornography – Darren Raye and Sean Scoffield
  • Saved – Seth
  • The Steel Brood – Kent Burles
  • Surgie Center Tales of the Existentialist Private Eye – Ty Templeton
  • Big Boss Barney – Sylvie Rancourt and Jacques Boivin
  • Reflections – Denis Beauvais
  • Little Zemo in Censorland – Richard Pace
  • Statue of Liberty – Jeffrey Morgan
  • The Censors – Stephen Bissette
  • Revenue Canada – Leonard S. Wong
  • Jungle Rescue – Ronn Sutton
  • The Eye of the Beholder – Deni Loubert
  • Tierra de Pajaro – Gilbert Hernandez
  • May 29th 1988 – Joe Matt and Bernie Mireault
  • Reid Fleming – David Boswell
  • Tales of the Censor – Janet Hetherington
  • Words and Thoughts – Toren Smith and Tomoko Saito
  • Potato Man – Todd McFarlane
  • The Raven – Patrick McEown
  • Three Card Monty – Derek McCulloch and Simon Tristam
  • Benefit – Rick Trembles and Bernie Mireault
  • Stupid Fucken Dumbass Censorship – Rick Trembles
  • Those People! – Reed Waller and Kate Worely
  • Blank – Tom Grummett and Roger Williamson
  • Captain Censored Vs. Dr. Goingtoofar – Al Roy and Max Douglas
  • Corpus Delicti – Jerry Prosser and Matt Wagner
  • Other artists – Dave Sim, Gerhard, Kelley Jones, Moebus

More recently, an American man was charged with possessing child porn when Canada customs agents discovered manga scans on his laptop. Both The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) and CLLDF have both decided to support the case. If you want to donate, you can go to their site. Here is a great new and informative promotional flyer as well. Here and here are further resources.