CAPTAIN CANUCK -- in Prose: The Paperback Novel Adventures

Captain Canuck is, of course, a comic book character, born, bred, defined, (and re-defined) within the four-colour medium. Elsewhere on this site I look at the animated webseries incarnation, and have a page reflecting on the occasional rumours of a possible live-action film.

But there's another medium -- that of prose (ie: words without the pictures).

In a way, the superhero genre began in prose -- at least in so far as the antecedents of the genre lay in pulp fiction heroes like Doc Savage, The Shadow, Zorro, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and The Gray Seal.

Perhaps one of the first times a comic book character looped back into prose was in the 1940s novel, The Adventures of Superman by George Lowther (which I believe was aimed at young adults, but still a novel-novel). In the 1960s there were a few children-aimed prose books featuring characters like Batman and the Green Hornet.

But familiar comic book superheroes took their first sustained plunge into prose in the late 1970s when Marvel Comics (through Pocket Books) released a series of prose novels featuring Spider-Man, the Hulk, Iron Man, Dr. Strange, and others. Some written by established novelists, others by familiar comic book writers, these waffled between being youth-aimed and grown up novels (Len Wein's Hulk novel, The Stalker from the Stars, had a kind of young adult vibe, but arguably The Marvel Superheroes, an anthology of four novelette/novella-length tales boasted a more adult tone; since those are the only two I've read from that series of books, I'm not sure where the others fell). Around this time there was also Elliot S! Maggin's two Superman novels, The Last Son of Krypton and Miracle Monday (original plots despite the movie tie-in covers).

The next big push came in the 1990s and has continued to this day, albeit with some waxing and waning and rights shifting between publishers.

They range from adaptations of actual comic book epics like Infinite Crisis and Wolverine: Weapon X (possibly beginning with The Death and Life of Superman which capitalized on a notorious storyline that made headlines in the mainstream press but would've been too bothersome and difficult for a non-comics reader to collect in its serialized comic book form -- and scored adapter Roger Stern a New York Times best seller) to those using all-original plots featuring Spider-Man, Batman, the X-Men, etc. Usually they are based upon the comic book mythology but, with the popularity of film and TV incarnations, some novels draw upon those versions instead (such as C.J. Cherryh's Lois and Clark: A Superman Novel rooted in the popular 1990s TV series). A few books -- like Tracy Hickman's Batman novel Wayne of Gotham and Kevin J. Anderson's Superman/Batman team-up, Enemies & Allies, and the various Martin Greenberg edited Further Adventures of ... anthologies -- play a bit fast and loose with the mythos to offer their own unique takes on the characters.

Which brings us to -- CAPTAIN CANUCK.

When Chapterhouse Comics acquired the rights to C.C. and started publishing both a re-booted version of the character, and new comics featuring the classic character (the one I mostly focus on with this site) an early project that was announced was a line of Captain Canuck prose novels. Presumably uncertain of the market viability (and profit margins) of such an undertaking, the company solicited fan fiction submissions involving any or all versions of the character, offering to publish the best (but with no mention of any financial compensation).

But it would be a year or more after first announcing the enterprise that the first Captain Canuck novel finally hit the shelves: THE TERROR BIRDS by Neil Dougherty set within the milieu of the current, modern version of the character. (The book available from Chapterhouse and on-line book sellers).

And so far that seems to be it.

Apparently weak sales may have left the publishers a bit sceptical of the whole concept, at least temporarily. Though whether that was due to a lack of commercial viability (trying to market a line of prose novels featuring a character who teeters on the edge of obscurity even in comics) or simply problematic marketing, I'm not sure. Certainly I've come across few on-line reviews of the book -- and getting the book in the hands of reviewers would be an important step in publicizing it. As well, after the on-line promo initially suggested the idea for the book line was inspired by cheap, 1970s paperback novels (in a sense that era's equivalent of the old pulps) Captain Canuck: The Terror Birds hit the shelves in a more up-scale trade paperback format.

And as for the one, the original, Captain Canuck?

Okay -- here's where I have to confess something: I wrote a Captain Canuck novel -- tentatively titled The "I" of the Needle.

I mean, when Chapterhouse sent out the call for submissions, how could I not rise to the challenge and put my money where my mouth is? After all, I've been a Captain Canuck fan since the 1970s. I've maintained this website for years (and, as a quick perusal will show, I've thought about the property wa-ay too much). Plus -- I'm a fiction writer myself, with a few dozen published short stories -- and even a few e-books I've put out (including some featuring Canadian super heroes!)

And at one point the early word I heard was my book was, indeed, going to get published. Needless to say: I was tickled pink! But, alas, that's looking as though it won't happen because, as mentioned, it looks as though Chapterhouse may have lost interest in the prose idea.

But I had a lot of fun throwing the book together. And I do mean throw together. I wanted to capture a sense of a pulp adventure, so I deliberately wrote with a kind of wild abandon, hopefully keeping the pace up, tossing in chapter-ending cliff hangers, and trying to make it twisty-n'-turny enough that the reader would be genuinely curious to see where it was all headed. Drawing upon the original series it featured C.C., Redcoat, Kebec, and Stardance. I deliberately wanted to mash up the comics' disparate aspects: superhero adventure, James Bondy-y espionage, and science fiction in one story -- here involving C.C. sent to investigate the grand opening of a space elevator (yup, that's a real concept) that someone may be trying to sabotage. And I tied it all up in a plot involving paranoia and conspiracy (since those were recurring themes in the old comics). Plus I topped it off with a little pathos and a hint of romance.

And where would a comic book adventure be without a little retconning (ie: retroactive continuity)? So I decided to explore a bit of the character's backstory (accepting my book could be considered apocryphal), trying to thread together parts of his past hinted at in different issues that didn't fully seem to gel. Namely how did his brother Mike (first referenced in #5), Blue Fox (#1), Redcoat and Kebec (#2) all fit together in the character's development?

Oh, I'm not saying it was a "great" novel. That wasn't my goal. I was just trying to write an enjoyable page-turner -- an airplane read, if you will. The sort of thing that keeps you turning the pages while on a trip or lounging on a beach -- even if you forget about it two days after you finish.

But, alas -- it's looking like I'll never know if I succeeded (or whether my attempt at filling in the character's origin matched with other fans, or whether they'd say "Huh? That's stupid!")

But -- who knows? I suppose the future is never certain. (And if you're interested, I do have some published superhero-themed stories utilizing my own creations here). If Chapterhouse doesn't do anything with it, maybe I should post it on-line as fan-fiction, or offer it as a free PDF or something if anyone is curious to read it. (The reason I've spent so long detailing an unpublished book is because I thought it might make a unique bit of trivia -- since it's not like anyone else would write about it).

Anyway, that's just my little look at Captain Canuck in prose -- with, obviously, a heavy helping of personal anecdote!