Comic creator and artist Richard Comely reports that the original idea for Captain Canuck came form Ron Leishman, a Calgary-based teacher and cartoonist.
He first appeared in the Captain Canuck Issue No.1, July 1975. In addition to the trade copy, a limited signed and numbered edition (1 to 500), now an unavailable collector's item, was printed. Volume 1, Nos. 2 and 3 followed later that year. Although Captain Canuck was popular in both the United States and Canada, difficulties in meeting the high production costs delayed further publication. Issue No. 4 finally was released in July/August 1979 and No.5 in August/September 1979.
According to the early story line, Captain Canuck worked as a super agent for the Canadian International Security Organization (CISO), both alone and with his sidekicks Redcoat and Kebec. His colors, of course,are the red and white of the Canadian flag and throughout his adventures are reminders that he is, indeed, a Canadian hero. References are to Ottawa instead of Washington, Mirabel instead of LaGuardia, and kilometers instead of miles. He respects human values and mankind and does not endanger human life when defending Canada against evil forces. And Captain Canuck always humbly acknowledges and salutes the support of the Supreme Being. Long ago aliens infused Captain Canuck's body with rays that have made him "twice as strong and twice as fast as others" (Captain Canuck Issue No. 5, August/September1979, page 11). However, as ably depicted on the stamp, his rippling muscles would challenge the appearance of any super hero.
In No.5, the issue in which Captain Canuck's origins are revealed, his costume shows the minor restyling that appears on the postage stamp--the red Canadian maple leaf on his mask is larger and the gloves and boots are no longer flared. His mission expanded form protecting Canada to keeping "peace in space and on planet Earth." In No.6, October/November 1979, Captain Canuck's improved costume saves his life--the Canadian maple leaf on his cowl is bullet proof. In 1980 a summer special was produced and additional issues followed up to No. 14 in March/April 1981, the last issue until 1993. According to Comely it is strictly coincidence that the original 1975-1980 stories were set in the near future, 1993, the year the Captain Canuck series reappeared.
In September 1993, Captain Canuck Reborn appeared as Prelude Issue No. 0 to introduce the new series. It was printed in separate French and English versions.
Captain Canuck No. 1, January 1994, appeared in two versions -- regular newsstand and a gold-oriented cover version polybagged with two of four trading cards. This issue also was printed in separate French and English versions. In place of the original Comely COMIX imprint, the hew series continued under the imprint SEMPLE COMICS, so named as memorial to 22-year-old Paul Semple. who was stabbed to death the year before when he rushed to the aid of a woman being attacked by four men in Toronto.
Issue No. 2 appeared in July 1994. The new Captain Canuck has only minor costume changes, but his story line has changed completely. Captain Canuck now is a disguise adopted by Darien Oak, who comes from a wealthy and powerful family. His older brother controls the Oak family empire and is involved in a global conspiracy. Secretly, as Captain Canuck, he exposes the conspiracy, His sidekick Splatter uses a high-powered paint gun to mark wanted criminals caught in the act.l Soon, newspapers are writing about the two masked marauders on the streets of Toronto who paint and apprehend crooks, making the city the costumed crusader capital of the world.
George Freeman, who lives and works as an artist in Winnipeg, did the artwork on a number of Captain Canuck covers and illustrations. He produced the illustration, which originally appeared in Issue No. 7, that was used for the Captain Canuck postage stamp. Richard Comely currently is writing and illustrating the daily comic strip that appears in seven Canadian newspapers. The number of papers carrying the strip is growing, although the market for new strips is depressed and production costs have increased
Some of the early Captain Canuck comics and collateral material are still available from Comely and were used by the author to produce some philatelic souvenirs. Between 1975 and 1995, Comely and the publication moved around to different locations in Canada; these changes are reflected in the return addresses on Comely's commercial envelope designs which the author has turned into first day covers. The history of where Captain Canuck "lived" can be traced by these oversized Canadian covers. These large covers accommodated first day cancellation of the entire booklet pane of ten stamps and also combinations of blocks and singles. Dome of the covers incorporate the popular pog produced by Canada Post.
Captain Canuck is popular in both Canada and the United States, thanks in part to Comely's promotional efforts. The super hero actually has made appearances in a costume that Comely created. Readers are encouraged to join the Captain Canuck Club, to get membership cards, and to wear T-shirt medallions and picture buttons, as well as to collect trading cards and buy other items like those associated with Superman and other comic book heroes.
Two collecting worlds -- philately and ephemera -- collide when heroes of the comics appear on postage stamps. Each can provide collateral material for the other, enhancing collectors' enjoyment of their chosen field. In the words of Captain Canuck. "Seek and ye shall find."
Special thanks to the Canadian National Philatelic Centre for special handling of the first day cancellations on the one-of-a-kind covers described herein. I also would like to thank Richard Comely for providing the Captain Canuck envelopes and collateral memorabilia from which the first day covers could be constructed..
The AuthorLewis E. Tauber, a Canadian freelance writer, collects Sunday and weekday comic pages from the nineteenth century up to the 1940's. Over the years, he has studied comic history and , more recently, Canadian comic book heroes, most of whom have had only a short existence.