Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Invaders from the North: How Canada Conquered the Comic Book Universe

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Invaders from the North: How Canada Conquered the Comic Book Universe

Article excerpt

John Bell, Invaders From the North: How Canada Conquered the Comic Book Universe (Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2006), 190pp. Cased. $40. ISBN 9781-5500-2659-7.

Superman might have been the creation of a Canadian but the USA has been the main creative and commercial driving force in the world of comic books and superheroes, many of which have since become big screen icons. Despite this, the story of Canada's involvement in the genre is worth telling. It centres on the golden age of comics (1941- 46), which saw the birth of a number of Canadian comic heroes.

Comic strips ('funnies') had become a regular feature of North America's daily papers by the 1920s, but the first real comic books did not appear until the early 1930s. Right from the start the market was dominated by the USA. However, the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, the putting of Canada on a war footing, and the need to conserve vital US dollars (which resulted in the banning of US comics north of the border) inadvertently triggered the growth of a home-grown comic industry.

A handful of companies based in Vancouver and Toronto rushed to fill the void. The first title to hit the newsstands was Better Comics, which featured the first Canadian superhero, the Iron Man, a superstrong man who lived alone in a sunken city but returned to the surface world to fight the Nazis, but did not possess any noticeably Canadian characteristics. The absence of a Canadian identity also characterised Canada's second superhero, Freelance, whose powers were limited to an exceptional athleticism but who similarly battled the Axis menace around the world.

The first Canadian superheroine was Nelvana of the Northern Lights, who could fly and travel at the speed of light. …

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