Top 5 Canadian Golden Age Superheroes
If you’ve ever met me in person, it’s likely that in our first few minutes of conversation I’ve found some way to tell you about my obsession with Canadian golden age comics.
But hey, since most of you haven’t yet had the pleasure, let me fill you in!
In December 1940, Canada implemented a ban on luxury goods, including comic books, imported from the United States during WWII. At the time, comic books were only a few years old, with Superman the best known character, appearing in 1938. Children everywhere were devastated. Unless they were the lucky few who went on vacations to the US, in which case they turned a tidy profit trading off their Superman comics for loose change.
Seeing the opportunity to produce comic books for a captive audience, publishers in Toronto and Vancouver raced to release the first Canadian comic books. Some of these publishers smuggled US scripts from the US, drawing and printing Canadian editions from these scripts. But most of the publishers decided to create their own content using local talent. These ranged in quality, some were created by kids still in high school, others by struggling professional artists. Not all were set in Canada, some of the stories took place conflict overseas and at least one character, Thunderfist, was identified as American (I consider him a reverse Wolverine!)
I’ve been obsessed with these comic books for the better part of the last six years. I wrote my undergrad papers on it, commissioned artists to fill my living room with new art of it, produced a documentary on the subject, and am now finally reprinting the original stories. So let me tell you about some of my favourite characters from the Canadian Golden Age:
1. Nelvana of the Northern Lights
She’s an Inuit demi-goddess who fights aliens and Nazis in a miniskirt, sometimes on the back of a polar bear. When she’s not solving crimes with her RCMP platonic-buddy Corporal Keene that is. In other words she’s all sorts of amazing, and completely patriotically Canadian. And yes, she is putting Hitler in a leglock in the picture below. (PS. check out nelvanacomics.com for more info)
2. Major Domo and Jo-jo
Major Domo is a war veteran who lost his arms in battle, but is still eager to fight the Axis powers. Jo-jo is his assistant, who climbs on his back and uses his own arms for the Major. Still a lot less embarrassing than most jobs I’ve had as an assistant.
3. Speed Savage/The White Mask
Get this, Speed Savage is his civilian name. Speed travels the world as an internationally-renowned race-car driver/scientist/private investigator. Oh, he also transforms into the superhero The White Mask, complete with skull-emblazoned superhero costume. Did I mention he gets all the ladies?
4. The Wing
Trixie Rogers is an overworked comic book artist, but in the evening by aid of a magic cape, she transforms into the sassy superhero Wing. In an even more scandalous costume than Nelvana’s miniskirt, Wing was clad in a backless, strapless bra and granny-panties.
5. Doc Stearne/Mister Monster
For most of his publication history Dr. James Stearne was just your average physician- with the power of instant hypnosis and a Viking sidekick, of course. That is until he decided to diversify his client base into the extra dimensional realm, taking on a garish costume and preparing to fight werewolves and demons as Mister Monster. In one of the strangest examples of cross-border travel, Mister Monster was resurrected as a bumbling superhero in the 1970s by American artist Michael T Gilbert.
These are great characters but they only cover the Bell Features characters. And while Major Domo is easily one of the wildest creations of the time, he is more of a spy than a superhero. May I suggest Black Wing, possibly Freelance (more of a soldier of Fortune) as potential alternates?
Just my personal picks Robert! I found most of the superheroes outside the Bell titles to be significantly less colourful.