O CANADA! An American Salute to CAPTAIN CANUCK

Because it’s CANADA DAY!


When I saw “Canada Day” on Dan Greenfield’s list of possibilities for July articles, at first it went right past me. That’s probably because I’ve lived within an hour’s drive of Canada my entire life and—Canadians, please forgive me—I’ve always sort of taken it for granted. I have fond memories, though, of taking daytrips into Windsor, Ontario, as a kid with my dad to look for British paperbacks, and I spent my honeymoon in Toronto, but in general it’s always been ”that country that’s just like the U.S.” to me, no disrespect.

But then I remembered something in the dim recesses of my brain: Captain Canuck.

I had exactly three issues of Captain Canuck when I was a kid, no more and no less. Don’t ask me how I got them, because I honestly don’t know. Oh, I mean, I know my dad gave them to me; he got all my comics back then. What I mean is I have no idea where he got them.

There are two theories: One, that the regular newsstand/bookstore he frequented here in my hometown had them, probably something the newsdealer was trying out. Two, he picked them up on one of our trips to Windsor. I lean toward Theory One because I might’ve remembered getting them on a trip, but I don’t. All I really remember is that they came out of nowhere. In fact, just like Captain Canuck himself.

Just the other day, I found those three copies and looked through them for the first time in decades. The first one, Captain Canuck #3, is loose from its covers, which might mean that I read it a lot. The other two, Issues #7 and 8, are intact, but oddly different from that #3 I got.

Paging through Issue #3 brought back so many memories. It was unlike any of the American comics I had. Everything about it was strange, and if I’m being honest, crude compared to what I was used to. The art is of a just-about-professional level, and the writing is dense. Panels are packed with word balloons and the lettering is spotty. The strangeness continued with weird ads for other books from the same publisher, and one spot where the action is interrupted by a commercial and an explanation of who the publisher is. Complete with a “And Now Back To Our Story!!!”

Like I said, strange stuff.

The Captain himself looked cool. I remember liking his very clean, simple uniform. I had no idea who he was or what he could do because for most of the story he’s in a hospital bed after a building comes down on him. From what I understand, the Captain’s real identity hadn’t been revealed at this point, and they make a big deal about it at the cliffhanger when a nurse is told at gunpoint to remove the hero’s mask in the back of an ambulance. The story ends with the exciting blurb, “We Reveal Everything In: ‘Behind the Mask’,” which was presumably in the next issue, which I didn’t get.

Just today, before I sat down to write this, I learned that Richard Comely, Captain Canuck’s creator, actually did just about everything in #3, except the inking. That was partially done by a dude named George Freeman. Remember that name.

Captain Canuck #3 is dated 1975. The next issue I got, #7, is dated 1979.

Captain Canuck #7 is a world of difference from #3. Four years later and Freeman is doing all the art (with Comely writing) and it’s pretty cool. Still a little bit crude but very stylish and engaging. The Captain is now also operating in his civilian identity of Tom Evans, and there’s a lot of slice-of-life stuff in this issue and #8, too. From what I’ve learned, the series was published sporadically, probably due to a low budget at the company.

In all, there is “something” about Captain Canuck. He was a hero who maybe tried harder because he didn’t have the big DC and Marvel bucks. Richard Comely seems to have been a plucky guy who wanted Canada to have a superhero all her own, and, from what I understand, the character became the first successful published hero after the crash of the Canadian comics industry after World War II.

Here today, I’m glad my dad bought me these three issues. It afforded me a look outside the American comics industry and showed me “that country that’s just like the U.S.” could have its own identity in four colors. In fact, I will go on record here and say that Captain Canuck informed my later interest in such things as Alpha Flight—as well as the Guardian/Vindicator, who’s costume could be said to be similar to Canuck’s. Hmm.

O Canada… not only do you have a great anthem, one of the best, but you have a very special national treasure in Captain Canuck.


— Dig These 13 Bountiful BOB KANIGHER BRAVE AND BOLDs. Click here.

— 13 Great TEAM-UP COMICS by MIKE W. BARR. Click here.

When JIM BEARD’s not editing and publishing through his two houses, Flinch Books and Becky Books, he’s pounding out adventure fiction with both original and licensed characters. In fact, he’s put words in the mouths of Luke Skywalker, Superman, Fox Mulder, Carl Kolchak, Peter Venkman and the Green Hornet… and lived to tell about it. His latest pop culture non-fiction tome is Breaking Bold and Brave, available here.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. I lived in southwest Michigan and remember seeing Capt. Canuck comics at Kalamazoo and even in East Lansing. It was sporadic and never bought one. So, Comely Comics is named after Richard Comely. I thought it was interesting name for a comicbook publishing company.

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    • I lived in the SE part of MICHIGAN, I believe issue 1 & 3 were my first finds. Most likely from the spinner at Northside Pharmacy. I never found an issue #2 but I managed all of the remaining issues of their 14 issue run. I sent away for all of their fan club offered swag. I still have a large CC poster framed. I was a huge fan of George’s pencils and was very happy to buy his stuff when he showed up at Marvel.

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  2. The first Captain Canuck I ever read was #9, which I found on the stands in Oklahoma of all places! I guess it was getting better distribution by that point. I remember being blown away by George Freeman’s art, and kept an eye out for future issues, which I managed to do thru the end of the series.

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  3. I discovered Captain Canuck at the Kerr Drugs spinner rack in eastern North Carolina! I bought issue 10 (still my favorite single-issue of any comic ever) and found them regularly there up till the series ended with 14. George Freeman’s art was such a revelation at the time, and I have followed him since, with his work for Marvel and DC.

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  4. I bought a s**t ton of Captain Canuck #1 accidentally in a mail-in auction in the 80’s (dirt cheap still). Happy to send you a copy Dan!

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  5. I’m also in eastern NC, USA, and my first CAPTAIN CANUCK sighting was # 9– also on a drug store rack. It was the first issue thus distributed. Immediately made me a George Freeman fan.

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  6. My grandparents lived in Upstate NY near the Canadian border, and Ican remember occasionally seeing Captain Canuck comics on the racks at stores in their area.

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  7. I’ve met Richard Comely a few yesrs ago at a Con and again not long ago at my local comic shop. He’s a great guy and luckily I had questions, lol. At the Con I got him to sign a vintage Canuck poster I’d gotten from eBay. My first off the newsstand issue was #4 followed by most of the subsequent issues, and I always wondered why I never saw #1-3. Turns out the first 3 were published a few years before #4 with limited distribution. When I last saw Richard I bought an original hand drawn pic of The Captain and had him sign my Captain Canuck Complete Collection TPB.

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