The 11 Greatest Canadian Superheroes
In honor of the new Justice League United series from DC Comics, we take a look at some other great Canadian superheroes.
A piece like this could easily turn into the 10 best members of Alpha Flight...plus Wolverine, but where’s the fun in that? So, this list will consist of some of the great forgotten Canadian heroes published exclusively in Canada alongside some of the cooler members of Alpha Flight, because let’s face it, Alpha Flight is, was, and will always be awesome. So pop open a Molson and join us for our celebration of the heroes to the North!
What’s cooler than a gamma powered Canadian Bigfoot? Pretty much nothing. Walter Langowski was a brilliant scientist who bombarded himself with Gamma Rays in order to replicate the accident that created the Hulk. Langowski postulated that the Aurora Borealis (didn’t he play Angel?) caused his transformation into an orange furred monstrosity rather than a green goliath. Turns out, Sasquatch was a product of Langowski’s machinery opening a gateway to the Canadian “Realm of Great Beasts,” which makes Sasquatch a part of ancient Northern folklore. Plus, John Byrne just could draw the hell out of Sasquatch, making Langowski one of Marvel’s most impressive visual characters at the time.
In 1940, the War Exchange Conservation Act was passed to preserve the value of the Canadian dollar. As a result most non-essential U.S. imports were banned, including comic books. U.S. comics and super-heroes were rather popular North of the border, so many Canadian comic book companies attempted to fill the void with their own home grown super-heroes. One such stalwart was Sgt. Canuck, a bad ass Mountie who fought such diabolical villains as the Skull. In another world, Sgt. Canuck could have become the Canadian version of Captain America, but alas, America periodicals were soon allowed back in and most Canadian heroes were abandoned. Most copies of Big Bang Comics have been lost, so the story of Sgt. Canuck has been lost to the fogs of time, but just one look at that uniform and manly chin tells historians that Sgt. Canuck was a Canadian to be reckoned with.
He had the gall to ride across the great Western tundra wearing a purple scarf and yellow shirt, how badass is that? The Purple Rider shows how strong the idea of cowboys and frontiersman were in the Americas during comic’s Golden Age, as Canada was just as Western preoccupied as the U.S. While America had Tom Mix, Kid Colt, and the Whip, Canada was blessed by the Purple Rider and his signature battle cry “Scramble, Pard! Tally HOOO!” One would not think there would be many opportune times to belt out a good “Scramble, Pard! Tally HOO!” but the Purple Rider proves otherwise.
Not much is known about this gaudily clad hellion, but just one look at her crime fighting garb, and wow...this lady is nuts. Her real name is forgotten to time, but the Polka Dot Pirate was the ever watchful protector of Queen City. So, I guess she didn’t do much pirating, but lots of protecting. Did the criminals have to head out to sea before she could spring into action? Whatever the case, the Polka Dot Pirate is one of the most noticeable Canadian heroes of yesteryear. Imagine being a Canadian criminal captured by the Pirate, “The Polka Dots came out of the darkness, she was a demoness, at least 5’3, and she was a pirate…in polka dots!” Canada rules.
Puck is one of the most memorable and enduring Alpha Flight members. He is one of the few dwarf action heroes in modern fiction and his friendship with Wolverine has given the character depth and purpose. Eugene Judd was once a pulp like adventurer who was cursed by an entity called the Black Razer to live his life as a dwarf. Before the curse, Judd was pals with Ernest Hemingway and was also a loyal Canadian soldier. After the curse, he was wracked with agony and had to live his life in a body not suited to a life of adventure. Yet Puck endured, continuing to fight the good fight and eventually joining Alpha Flight. He even died and went to hell but was freed by his drinking buddy Wolverine. Upon his return to the land of the living Puck became a founding member of the new Uncanny X-Force.
According to Sunday Comics Debt, this is the origin of the character known as Red Ketchup:
Born an albino, Steve Ketchup was the son of Polish immigrant, a violent alcoholic who beat his son regularly to "educate" him. He used to force Red to play chicken with oncoming trains to help him "become more of a man." and would beat Red if he dodged the train too quickly. His father suffered a massive stroke after beating Red's older sister for her hippy lifestyle. As soon as Red was sixteen he enlisted to get away from his father, and was sent to Vietnam, where he became heavily decorated. After the war he joined first the Detroit police force, and then the F.B.I.
In the Bureau, he swiftly established a reputation for being extremely violent, but terrifyingly effective. "Red" Ketchup, as he had become known, was investigating the drugs trafficker Raul Escobar, when he was exposed to a mixture of drugs including cocaine, and somehow became nearly invulnerable. Since then his boss in the F.B.I., Edgar G. Sullivan, has employed him on the most dangerous missions that the agency encounters, including tracking down Elvis, taking on a cloning racket, and going to Hell.
Red Ketchup was raised by neo-Nazi, abusive father who made him play chicken with trains. He was hocked up on a LSD/cocaine like drug that made him immune to pain. He was Lobo/Wolverine/Punisher clone goofed up on bath salts and given full license to fight crime and corruption. He’s Red Ketchup and he needs to be seen to be believed.
This one is pretty awesome. A top secret Canadian think tank called Progressive Allied Canadian Technologies (PACT) created a personal weapons system and wanted it to be wielded by special agent Karl Manning. When Manning was murdered, PACT had to find someone with the same brainwaves as Manning. They discovered Philip Wise, a video clerk and comic book fan. He agrees to wield the system if they let him wear a costume, and thus the first superhero is born. Many consider Northguard to be one of the finest Canadian comics in history and with an origin like that, we have to agree.
This one is a bit strange and a whole lot of amazing. Captain Newfoundland was one of the heroes featured in the Captain Newfoundland comic strip and later starred in his own graphic novel with a cover by none other than Boris Vallejo. Captain Newfoundland was part of a race of aliens who came to Earth and founded Atlantis. Originally called Captain Atlantis, Captain Newfoundland met Leif Erickson, who came with his Vikings to explore the remaining tip of Atlantis. Erickson wondered what the land would look like in the future, and the mysterious Captain Atlantis showed him the future world of Canada.
In modern times, Captain Atlantis took the name Captain Newfoundland and became a protector of Earth and Canada. He granted powers to other beings including Captain Canada. Wow, right? The character went on to star in the Captain Newfoundland and the Tip of Atlantis TV movie, which was a cross between Superman, Dr. Who, and awesome disco beats. Don’t believe me?
He went on to become a spokescharacter for a television station and is really just too incredible to describe in full. He was joined by a pantheon of heroes that fought with Captain Canada and tutored him. Like Mademoiselle, Captain Freedom (who looks like if Captain America and Hawkman collided at great speeds), the Golden Dove, and the heroic spirit of Japan, unironically named Japan. Reportedly creator and television mogul Geoff Sterling actually believed that Newfoundland was a remaining part of Atlantis and used the character to spread his theories. Whether this is conjecture or not, Captain Newfoundland is one of the purest and strangest symbols of Canadian super-heroism in the modern era.
In the distant future, the year 1993 to be precise, in a world where Canada has become the most powerful country in the world according to the strip, Captain Canuck rose to become the greatest hero of Canada. There were three separate versions of Captain Canuck, the first was a young man given powers by an alien ray who was encouraged by the Canadian government to be the living embodiment of Canadian pride (I guess the Polka Dot Pirate was busy). Through his many iterations, Captain Canuck has garnered a bit of a cult following and has endured the test of time by appearing many different times for many different companies over the years. He is often mistaken for the Guardian of Alpha Flight fame, but Captain Canuck is a unique and distinct character that has been a cult loved staple of the independent comic scene for years, recently culminating in a great reprint volume from IDW.
From his first appearance with his twin sister Aurora at his side, Jean-Paul Beaubier was one of the standout members of Alpha Flight. Northstar was a self-centered ass but possessed a great love for his troubled sister. He was a roguish, charming rake of a hero who demanded the reader’s attention whenever he was on the page. For years, John Byrne and other writers dropped hints that he was gay, but Marvel never fully put Northstar’s sexuality on display, until the well-meaning but clumsily executed Alpha Flight #106. Since then, Northstar’s sexuality has not been the focus of the character but the background as he has become a member of the X-Men and recently celebrated one of the first gay marriages in mainstream comics. It isn't his sexual orientation that makes Northstar so great but his complex and sometimes troubling personality combined with his unique power set and loyalty to his friends and family that makes him one of Canada’s greatest superheroes.
Aw, the heck with it. We all know how the most insanely popular Canadian super-hero is and he deserves a mention!
He’s been a member of 7,641 super-hero teams, he’s starred in multiple hit films, he’s the most popular member of the X-Men, and he has been the singularly most beloved badass of the past quarter century, and stand up proud our neighbors to the North, he’s all yours! Wolverine is pure Canadian; he makes Bret “The Hitman” Hart look like a native of Kentucky. In fact, when Wolverine first appeared, he did so as an agent of the Canadian government, taking on the Hulk and Wendigo. When the X-Men was relaunched as an international team of mutant heroes, Marvel needed a Canadian, and there was Wolverine just off his battle with Hulk, popping a Molson and ready to go. Wolverine’s Canadian descent allowed Marvel to introduce Alpha Flight and that pretty much brought Canada into the wide tapestry of the Marvel Universe. So here is a salute to Canada, the country that gave us a character that is responsible for half the books currently being sold on today’s market!