Alpha Flight Of Fancy: When Will Canada’s Great Creators Get A Crack At Canada’s Greatest Super-Team?
Canada is comics’ secret super-power. As far back as 1938, when Toronto-born Joe Shuster created Superman with Cleveland’s Jerry Siegel, Canada has been a vital partner -- a Wild Child to America's Sabtretooth. (Age of Apocalypse version.)
”We have so many great artists and writers to choose from, it’s such an embarrassment of riches,” says Ty Templeton, a writer and artist who has worked for most major publishers and on most big name characters, and who knows just about everyone in the business. When he says Canada's creative community boasts an embarrassment of riches, he knows what he's talking about. So on this beautiful and proud Canada Day, we at ComicsAlliance have to ask; why hasn't a Canadian creative team ever taken on Canada's best-known superhero team, Alpha Flight?
Alpha Flight first appeared in X-Men #120 in 1979, created by series artist John Byrne to provide a set of worthy opponents for the X-Men as they tussled over who got to keep Wolverine. (Winner gets massive franchise success for the next several decades.) The team of Guardian, Snowbird, Shaman, Sasquatch, Aurora, Northstar, Marrina, and Puck, was not meant to stick around -- but in 1983 Marvel editor Jim Shooter convinced Byrne to launch an ongoing series. Byrne wrote and drew the book for its first 28 issues.
Byrne was a natural fit because he knew Canada well. He wasn't born there -- and he doesn't live there now -- but he lived there for much of his childhood and young adult life. Byrne reportedly doesn't claim Canadian nationality now, but he created a team of heroes that many Canadians are very proud of.
As best as we can determine, only one Canadian in the past 35 years has been billed as one of the regular lead creators on an Alpha Flight book, and that was Dale Eaglesham in 2011. Other Canadians have only written or drawn the team on a fill-in basis or outside the lead book. That seems a baffling state of affairs. Alpha Flight is a team that sometimes struggles to stand out alongside the X-Men, the Avengers, and the Fantastic Four. What sets it apart is that it's Canadian.
So why not let an all-Canadian team take a crack at it? Canadians know what makes Canada great, a lot of them love these characters, and the talent available is staggering.
We asked a few of our favorite talented Canadians in the industry to nominate the peers who they would like to see take the reins of an All-New Alpha Flight — if they couldn't do it themselves.
“If you’re getting Canadians to do anything in comics, your only real choice is Darwyn Cooke," Templeton told CA. "He’s one of the best on Earth, and he’s ours. My second choice, simply because I love her work, would be Kate Beaton. Seriously… wouldn't an Alpha Flight that is constantly brooding and being difficult about manners be just wonderful?”
Templeton also mentioned Marco Rudy, Nick Bradshaw, Marcus To, and Ramón Pérez — who dug out some of old Alpha Flight fan illustrations from 1997 for us just to show how much he loves the team.
J. Bone threw some more names into the ring. “I’m gonna say, besides myself, that [Jetcat creator] Jay Stephens and [Superslackers creator] Steve Manale would do my kind of Alpha Flight. Steve and Jay have the right sense of the characters, and a humorous approach that I think would bring something new to Alpha Flight. Plus I know they love the Alpha Flight.”
Jim Zub, author of Skullkickers and the forthcoming Image series Wayward, said One Soul’s Ray Fakwes would be his pick for the job. “Ray’s introspective characters and creepy twists could bring added depth and complexity to the Alpha Flight concept. He knows how to build solid stories and keep readers guessing.”
As for art, Zub thought Stuart Immonen might be lured away from All-New X-Men for an Alpha Flight series. “Stuart’s incredible range and rock solid storytelling is an asset to any comic series he’s involved with. Stuart would be a stellar choice to bring Canada’s premiere super team to life on the page.”
Kalman Andrasofszky knows the size of Canada's talent pool better than most. The sometime Marvel cover artist is currently writing and drawing a revival of one of Canada's other great heroes, Captain Canuck -- whose red-and-white maple-leaf costume is sometimes confused for Alpha Flight's Guardian. Captain Canuck was created by Richard Comely and Ron Leishman in 1975.
In putting his protect together, Andrasofszky has filled a metaphorical rolodex with the names of Canadian creators who he'd like to see provide back-up stories for Captain Canuck's new adventures. Unlike Alpha Flight in the past, Captain Canuck in the future will be an all-Canadian production.
Digging in to his list of names, Andrasofzky suggested The Comeback’s Ed Brisson, or Kill Shakespeare’s Conor McCreery & Anthony Del Col, as possible Alpha Flight writers, and Steve McNiven or Stuart Immonen as artists, with Travis Charest or Fiona Staples on covers.
“There is no one in mainstream superhero comics better [than Immonen],” says Andrasofzky. “Stuart is a proud Canadian and is very conscientious about authenticity in every scene he draws, which would mean an Alpha that is set in a recognizable Canada for the first time since Byrne.” As for McNiven, Andraszofsky says that in addition to being a great artist, he needs to make amends.
“He murdered the original Alpha Flight with Bendis way back in New Avengers, remember that? I think he has some atoning to do, and his redemption could start right here.”
Another Canadian hero enjoying a revival dates back farther than either Alpha Flight or the Captain -- and she was one of comics' first female superheroes. Nelvana of the Northern Lights was created in 1941 by writer/artist Adrian Dingle when wartime paper shortages prevented American comics from entering Canada. Researcher Hope Nicholson is such a fan of Canada’s golden age heroes that she was instrumental in bringing Nelvana’s adventures back into print. If she got the chance to bring back Alpha Flight, who would she recruit?
“There’s so much amazing talent in Canada! I’d love to see Marco Rudy’s take on Alpha Flight," Nicholson says. "Artistically, I was blown away by his work on Marvel Knights: Spider-Man, and really would just love to see more of his work in the marketplace.
“At the heart of Alpha Flight though, the stories are all about relationships, there’s the love and grief shared by the husband-wife team of Vindicator and Guardian, the tempestuous sibling dynamic of Northstar & Aurora, and the bitter father-daughter bond between Talisman and Shaman. So, ultimately my choice is the Canadian husband-wife superteam, the Immonens.”
Kathryn and Stuart Immonen would surely create a great Alpha Flight, and with three votes in his corner, Stuart Immonen could be the favorite — but if he doesn’t want the job there’s an extraordinary line-up of creators who could take his place, if only Marvel would give Alpha Flight another chance! Most readers probably don’t realize just how many of their favorite creators are Canadians. (Because the writers don’t type “aboot”, and the artists manage to keep the cheese curds and gravy off the page.)
Many of the creators I spoke to would obviously jump at the chance to take on the project, but I did specifically ask them not to nominate themselves. Of course, there's at least one Canadian who knows how to be rude.
“Obviously I would write it,” says Sex Criminals co-author Chip Zdarsky. “As a Canadian and a man who has read some comics I think I’m the perfect choice to chronicle the adventures of fan favourites such as Pucky, Furry Hulk, Captain Canada and all the rest of the beloved, high-selling characters.
"And for artist I’d choose Ramón Pérez so I could ruin his career.”
We would read that. Even if only to be polite.
Happy Canada Day, readers!