link




C.C. and Kebec - art George Freeman (#7)A BRIEF PUBLISHING HISTORY OF CAPTAIN CANUCK


Kebec's talking about a drug bust...but he might just as well be contemplating the gargantuan task of trying to create the first mainstream Canadian comic book since the Golden-Age of the 1940s.




Captain Canuck was first conceived of by Ron Leishman in the early 1970s, and he shared the concept with his buddy, Richard Comely. Comely ran with the idea (with Leishman's blessing) and by 1975, the 1st issue of Captain Canuck was on the stands featuring the adventures of a super-hero/super-cop in the (then) future of 1993.

The premier issue - cvr by ComelyPublished out of Winnipeg by Comely Comix, with Comely practically everything from the cook to the bottle washer, Captain Canuck tried to distinguish itself from its U.S. competition. Markedly more expensive at 35 cents (U.S. comics were 25 cents) Comely offered glossy, expensive paper, multi-tone, painted colour, and more pages (with two features) plus some odds and ends. Comely was literally years ahead of his time: U.S. comics only started employing quality paper in the 80s and the multi-tone colouring in the last decade.

The staff tripled quickly with the addition of newcomers George Freeman and Jean-Claude St. Aubin, and Comely tried to evoke a humourous, bullpen air in his regular columns, keeping things friendly and personal, reminiscent of Marvel and Stan Lee's soap box. Fans were invited to just drop by, and apparently some did...and were well received.

But costs were high and the production schedule was erratic. There are no cover dates on the 2nd and 3rd issues, but based on comments in the letter columns, the schedule might have been quarterly...or even bi-yearly. Reference is also made to a Times Magazine article that was, apparently, less than flattering.

The early issues were admittedly uneven, but showed a marked improvement in story and art, but Comely Comix folded and that was the end...

until...

He's Back! - cvr by Freeman...1979 when Captain Canuck resumed, this time published by CKR productions in Calgary. The original trio reunited (with the addition of business manager Ken Ryan), and Captain Canuck was back in action. Still more expensive than its U.S. competition (though less so: 50 cents vs. 40 cents), the paper was now conventional comic book paper, but the vivid colours remained, as did the extra pages and back up features. The production schedule was more regular (bi-monthly) and the series gradually became better all around, particularly when George Freeman took over as permanent artist (not just because he was the better, more dynamic artist, but because Comely's scripts improved).Richard Comely and Business Mgr. Ken Ryan (seated)

Subtle changes in content began to take place. Religious references made in the early issues, reflecting Comely's Mormonism, were dropped entirely, and the Captain became more secular. As well, the character went freelance. Story elements also became more flamboyant, relying less on real world spies.

How much of that was Comely's decision and how much might have been imposed upon him, I don't know. Comely left the company shortly before the end. In the pages of the comic, it was said he had left to pursue other projects (and certainly within a year he had launched his political comic Star Rider and the Peace Machine, in which he expounded on his belief in a global conspiracy between Western super-industrialists and the U.S.S.R.). However, in Star Rider a reference is made to his "dismissal" from CKR.

Freeman (who had co-plotted many of the issues) took over the scripting without any noticeable drop in quality.

With #14, an attempt was made to switch C.C. from his future setting to modern times -- a change I regard as ill-advised. C.C. wasn't the most flamboyant of characters, in powers or personality; part of his appeal (and uniqueness) was the science fiction element that distinguished him from Batman or Captain America, and his status as an operative as opposed to a loner. And by this point, the comic had built up a healthy supporting cast and a rogues gallery of villains -- all necessary foundations for an on-going comic. To start from scratch seemed risky.

The final issue - cvr by FreemanConsidered in the context of subsequent events, it was presumably a last, desperate attempt to boost sales by moving the character more in line with U.S. superheroes. It was too little, too late.  Captain Canuck was cancelled for a second time. The claim was that the sales were good, but the costs of producing an independent comic were just too high (U.S. advertisers weren't much interested in hawking their wares in a Canadian comic, and Canadian companies just weren't used to the idea of advertising in that venue). And this was before the boom in direct sales and comic book specialty stores.

Since then...

You can't keep a good Captain Canuck down -- not entirely. In 1993 (ironically, the year in which the first story was set), Richard Comely relaunched Captain Canuck, once again on his own. This was a completely new Captain; it was set in modern times and continued the political  philosophizing of Comely's Star Rider and the Peace Machine, with Captain Canuck battling a global conspiracy. Despite attempts to make use of the internet, and an on-line format (as well as a printed version), this new series folded quickly. Still later, in the mid-2000s, there was a third CC -- subsequently identified as the West Coast Captain Canuck -- with Comely as editor, but with others as the creative forces. Around this time Comely also tried to re-launch his 1993 version in a mini-series, Captain Canuck Legacy. There was also effort to tie all three versions together into a consistent "universe". For more on these guys check out my page on Other Captains

In 2009 it was announced American publisher IDW would be releasing a couple of re-mastered TPBs reprinting much of the original Captain Canuck comics (Comely was going to publish a third TPB reprinting the earliest issues). And the claim was also that the rest of Captain Canuck Legacy would finally see print, too.

Back to the Ultimate Captain Canuck Tribute Page