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Canadian Superheroes

Metro takes a look at our homegrown superheroes.

Captain Canuck's look updated for new generation

When it comes to updating a disco-era comic book character for an action-filled generation, you need to make some crucial changes.

“These days, the whole idea of a superhero in tights doesn’t really exist,” said Fadi Hakim. “You do need boots, you need armour. You need that sort of thing.”

Hakim is one of the creative minds behind the revamped Captain Canuck, a red-and-white clad superhero who first leapt — he doesn’t fly but he has superhuman strength — from the comic book pages in 1975.

The series was temporarily shelved in 1976, but was back in stores from 1979 to 1981. A second version of Canuck appeared in 1993, then a third in 2004, but these were both limited runs.

Fast forward a decade, where the highest rated films chronicle the ka-pows, whacks and prak-praks of the X-Men, Justice League and Dark Knight, and the time appeared right for Canuck to reemerge from the Canadian wilderness of forgotten superheroes.

A new five-part web series featuring Canuck wrapped up this week (more are planned), a live-action suit has been unveiled for public appearances, and the film rights have been bought by Minds Eye Entertainment. Fans are even creating their own art based on the characters in the series.

“He is a boy scout that is a little apologetic and tongue in cheek,” said Hakim, president of Captain Canuck Inc. and owner of Toronto’s Lakeview Restaurant, about this new incarnation.

You see those qualities in the first episode of the web series. Canuck weaves his way through a Canada Day crowd on Parliament Hill in a rush to defuse a bomb. “Sorry, miss,” he says to a female fan before interrupting a Platinum Blonde concert to locate the explosive.

“Exploring Canadian identity is amazing,” said Hakim. “It is very simple to play on that dry sense of humour that is almost clichéd, but we Canadians hold that dear, and it is important to us. That is what Captain Canuck is.”

It was that representation of Canadian identity that first attracted Hakim to the character. He was six years old when he came across a Canuck comic at the Dixie Flea Market near Toronto Pearson International Airport. The ’70s comic followed the adventures of Tom Evans, a secret agent living in a futuristic 1993, who gains supernatural powers after an encounter with extraterrestrials.

“I had my own money, 25 cents, and I bought Captain Canuck No. 1,” he said. “I didn’t remember reading the story but I do remember getting as many issues as I could. He was a patriotic character. He was vibrant. And then ‘Canuck,’ I didn’t really know what ‘Canuck’ meant.

“I had my own money, 25 cents, and I bought Captain Canuck No. 1,” he said. “I didn’t remember reading the story but I do remember getting as many issues as I could. He was a patriotic character. He was vibrant. And then ‘Canuck,’ I didn’t really know what ‘Canuck’ meant.

“I was born here, but am first generation, and, you know, singing O Canada in class, and the flag, and to see that in a comic book ... It puts things in perspective.”

Hakim went from buying Canuck comics to introducing the character to a new generation after he met Richard Comely, the comic’s creator. Hakim wanted to use the superhero’s likeness on his restaurant’s menu and approached Comely to see if he would allow it.

“I took a chance and emailed Richard and I couldn’t believe it when he got back to me,” said Hakim.

When the license for Captain Canuck became available, Hakim acquired the rights. One of the first people he brought onboard to revamp the character was Paul Gardner.

“As a kid, I came from Scotland and I discovered the comic,” said Gardner, creative director at Captain Canuck Inc. “I had Captain Britain over there, and they didn’t have it here. Then, I saw Captain Canuck on a shelf, picked it up and fell in love with it. My way into Canada was sort of through the comic book.”

The first question they asked themselves is what they would keep from the original series. “It went from being a fantasy — the big blue sky — to how do we do this practically so we don’t have fans hate us,” said Gardner. “It takes a village to raise a child; it’s the same as taking a property like this.”

While they changed the suit, and switched the gender of the character Blue Fox from male to female, they stuck to the spirit of Captain Canuck as a big boy scout with a conscious.

“We wanted to make this all inclusive, we wanted to make sure we stuck to our female audience and brought a bit more balance to the characters,” said Gardner. “There is a big female audience.”

“There are no big breasts, there is none of that nonsense,” said Hakim. “So far, so great. We are growing it slowly, we are keeping it independent to the point where we have enough of a following we can take it to a bigger audiences.”

Voicing the Captain

In the web series, Captain Canuck is voiced by Kristen Holden-Reid (Lost Girl, The Tudors), with Paul Amos (Lost Girl), Laura Vandervoort (Smallville) and Golden Globe nominee Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black) also lending their voices to characters. The five episode series can be viewed here

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