What Comics Like Alpha Flight Have Taught Us About Canada
Canada, frozen paradise beyond the safety of America's northern borders. Once more comics fans are invited to visit this land of wonders and mysteries with the latest Alpha Flight series, which relaunches with Alpha Flight 0.1 in comic stores this week.
Now, I know next to nothing about Canada. I assume this is because their trees that would ordinarily be turned into paper and then made into books are instead either burned for warmth, fashioned into log cabins, or squeezed dry to make syrup. But I have read enough comics set in Canada over the years to piece together a fairly accurate picture of what goes on up there. And so allow me to be your guide to Alpha Flight's often bizarre setting with these key facts that we've learned about Canada exclusively from reading comic books.CANADA IS A DEMOCRACY
Alpha Flight 0.1, written by Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente and with art by Ben Oliver, sets up the upcoming conflict the team will face as part of the eight issue series tying in with Fear Itself, which will be written by Pak and Van Lente with Dale Eaglesham on art. A major part of that storyline will involve Canada's newly elected government turning against Alpha Flight and declaring them enemies of the state. That's right, despite what you may have heard, Canada's citizens vote to choose their leaders. They are not, in fact, ruled by a royal family whose descent can be traced back to the White Witch of Narnia and the Snow Miser. Even harder to believe, Alpha Flight 0.1 demonstrates how Canadians have the option to vote for a third party candidate for non-vote-wasting reasons. Their foreign electoral customs aren't yet constructed in a way that ensures the two dominant parties always win, apparently because Canadians are too polite to keep crazy people out of power.
CANADA OFFERS FEW CAREER OPTIONS
Only two career paths seem viable for Canadians: superhero or professional hockey player. This unfortunate economic climate is best demonstrated in Tales from the Farm, the first story of Jeff Lemire's Essex County trilogy. A beautiful tale of a boy who is sad because he wants to be a superhero and goes on to befriend a man who is sad because he can no longer be a hockey player.
Yet even its bittersweet but uplifting conclusion offers more hope than similar slice of life tales from Canada. Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim series, for example, expertly conveys the harsh realities of the lives of twenty-somethings in modern Toronto. Unemployed and therefore condemned to wander aimlessly through life, Scott begins killing people for mere pocket change. Ultimately he becomes obsessed with stealing an American girl from her American boyfriend in the hopes that she will take him away from Canada forever. A devastating condemnation of what awaits any Canadians unwilling to attach blades to either their feet or their hands.
CANADA IS VERY, VERY COLD
In the time it takes me to make this snarky comment about how cold it is in Canada, three Canadians will freeze to death. To survive a climate designed to turn the human circulatory system into one thin, long red-flavored freezer pop, Canadians have been forced to adapt, sometimes physically. Which is why it's not at all uncommon to see Canadians in comics with significant amounts of body hair.
This is an accurate depiction of the amount of body hair true Canadians possess. And while in the States such an appearance would send children shrieking away in terror, in Canada kids are instead encouraged to pat the hairiest among them for good luck.
CANADA HAS A SUSPECT HEALTH CARE SYSTEM
Odds are if you've heard people talking about Canada then at some point or another the term "socialized medicine" has come up. What this is referring to is a series of experiments conducted by the Canadian government, infamous for its many secretive and well-funded military projects. And what it means is that citizens popping into a hospital to get an appendix removed are just as likely to walk out with adamantium bones or full-body super cancer. The system is as slow as it is unreliable, which is why such a simple procedure as a superhero resurrection took five years for Alpha Flight to receive while Captain America only had to wait two.
And there you have Canada. It may seem as far away and as strange as Atlantis or Latveria or the Savage Land, but I assure you it is a real part of our world populated by human beings almost entirely the same as you or I. You can learn more about Canada in the pages of Alpha Flight, available now.
And to any Canadians out there, I would gladly participate in an information exchange to further improve our understanding of each other. But I'm concerned that you've got some strict censorship laws about what I can bring up there. And without the freedom to demonstrate a full range of obscenities, I'm just not sure how accurate a picture of the USA I'm going to be able to give you.
Preview of Alpha Flight 0.1: