We've decided to let the insidious Steven Saunders have his own column here at CB. He assures us that we will regret this decision. Until then, enjoy!
So, there I was, talking to Nick of this here website and he reminded me—yet again—that I should finally start writing one of these things. “Okay, fine,” I told him, “But you had better follow through on the canned meat payment plan this time. Or else, sir.”
I’m Steve Saunders, and you may know who I am. You may not. You may be an otter. Who knows, really? But you’re reading this and I’m wasting your time; thus, I’ll get to the point.
Notice how I just used a semi-colon. That’s how I roll.
How Steve Rolls
Comics Bulletin has given me a variety of topics to pick one from, and I’ll run through them real quick, with almost real-time deliberation, and more commas, probably.
The Topics That Could Have Been
The Return of Extreme Studios/The New Image Renaissance
I like Image. Erik Larsen always doles out good advice and he’s really opinionated. I like Erik Larsen and his glorious bald head. Though he could be confused with a non-magickal Grant Morrison, right? Hey, Extreme Studios has to do with Rob Liefeld. I interviewed him once. A really nice guy. I was torn to pieces in a Newsarama thread as a direct result of not being asshole enough to him. Hee hee, I messed with that thread a little. Shhh—journalistic integrity, Steve!! Still, Liefeld’s art is still… weird. Nice guy, though. We both love Simon Bisley. I don’t really feel like researching this subject to make nerds happy. I’ll leave that to someone vastly more qualified, like Chris Arrant. He writes real good. Though, maybe for the next STD I can write about the comeback of Valiant Comics. It’s weird to think David Lapham, one of my fave writers, got his start (I think) there…
You are probably anti-surprised that I’m a huge fan of David Lapham.
Paul Cornell's Recent Decision to Insist that Industry Panels at Conventions Be 50/50 Male/Female
What the heck does this even MEAN? I’m down with the ladies getting some equal action… and I’d really like to see that tranny who does Conan art be on a panel. How would they fit it, anyway? Male or female? Gender or sex? What about hermaphrodites, Mr. Cornell? Are you related to Chris Cornell? I may be confusing the reader with using “you” to address Paul Cornell. I love your Doctor Who stuff, but I think I’ll pass on this one.
How Canada is Treated in Comics
I’ll probably go with this one. I think I can even work in a John Byrne joke or two. It’s been too damn long since the nuclear neckbeards of his forum have had a go at me.
What? Not the flag of Canada?
The New 52 Creator Exodus
There’s an exodus? Really? Huh. The only 52 book I’m reading is Swamp Thing, and that’s only because 1) I love Swamp Thing and 2) artist Marco Rudy and writer Scott Snyder are kicking ass. The whole creative team is aces. The only Exodus on my mind is the band… which I’m listening to right now.
Comic Book Valentine's
Might be too late for this, Nick [ed. note- These suggestions were sent back and forth between Steve and myself a couple weeks ago]. I made my girlfriend strawberry and tapioca pancakes for VD. Later we watched Pathfinder whilst eating cherry vanilla frozen yogurt with Magic Shell on top. Or whatever passes for Magic Shell in godddamned Canada. I am not ashamed to admit I love Pathfinder. I mean, who doesn’t want to watch Judge Dredd kick the shit out of historically inaccurate Vikings who moonlight as roadies for GWAR?
Best I could do in 3 seconds.
What Digital Comics Might Mean for Indie Creators
This is a good one. If only I didn’t have the opportunity to mock my new home on native land. Digital comics are awesome, and you can even read some of my comics in digital form. It means more money and exposure for indie creators. And being an indie creator is rad… and hunger inducing.
Dark Knight Rises, Amazing Spider-Man and the Advent of the Gritty Comic Book Film
I feel the best comic book adaptation films are A History of Violence, Hellboy, Ghost World, and Iron Man. I liked The Dark Knight, but not as much as I loved Hellboy. I guess this means making things gritty that weren’t gritty before? I once heard Garth Ennis say that if he wrote Captain America he would have Cap selling crack on the street corner. I dunno, Garth, that’s kinda weird. Can it be Superman instead? What? Fuck no, sir, I’m not arguing with you. Captain America pimpin’ hard and slingin’ crack it is! I like my fantasy escapism to be grimdark and gritty-licious. Your mileage may vary, but I still say Green Lantern needs more orphanage-explosion scenes. Passing on this one.
Why not Spiderzoid, maybe?
The Future of Single Issues in the Trade Era
These have all been good subjects, Nick. I like you. I like the cut of your jib. Your eyes really twinkle in the moonlight [ed. note- It's a medical condition. I have bioluminescence]. As for singles—comic book single issues, that is—I have no real opinion. But I would rather get cheap single installments of my comic-drugs in digital format and pick up a trade to toss on my bookshelf to impress my friends. I only buy hardcopies to impress my friends. Kinda like how I do with role-playing books. Oh, but I do love reading Elephantmen in hardcopy. The Elephantmen trades: Collect them all or I’ll hunt you down and carve “Richard Starkings” into your genitals with a rusty Swiss Army knife corkscrew. Please don’t make me do that, as I am excessively lazy. Anyhow, I’ll pass on this one, too, a great talking-point though it is.
Okay, ready? Nick, cue some triumphant music. Now, you, dear reader, can cue up whatever you want. It could be soft jazz or Cat Rapes Dog or Estonia polka. It makes no difference, so long as you are happy.
Your Cue Music:
And Now, the Topic Steve Chose:
HOW CANADA IS TREATED IN COMICS
Canada: The final frontier for sane people. Many Americans and people from those other countries that have names and stuff tend to think Canada is this country full of flying laser-eyed polar bears, dog-sled teams dragging mobile igloo weapons platforms, and socialized medicine (maybe TOO fucking crazy, I know). Canada has also been co-opted by American media, be it for comics like Alpha Flight or filming everything Bulgaria won’t let them use their country for. In fact, I can recall Canada being the place where most compact discs seemed to come from, along with every industrial band that wasn’t German or Belgian. Canada was one of those counties I had heard of as a kid, and had talked about it to other NATO kids whose parents wore that kooky maple leaf on their uniforms. I would also ask hockey fans about Canada, since they were 90% likely to be Canadian themselves. I was also a huge fan of John Byrne’s Alpha Flight, and he must have been Canadian, right?
Byrne’s middle name is Lindley? He MUST be Canadian.
All joking of Byrne aside, I loved his work. But did it capture the spirit of Canada? When I was nine years old I would have jumped up and down emphatically screaming “yes." As a 36 year-old American transplant to Canada, I would say “I haven’t read any Byrne since his Star Trek run a few years back—liked it—and I can’t be arsed to re-read old Alpha Flight”, or, in short “I dunno.” I seem to remember, though, that older Alpha Flight was more about being somewhat offbeat with “Canadian” versions of American superhero tropes, and maybe a few hilarious gags regarding Canadian stereotypes. Also, Northstar was the first gay superhero most people knew of. A gay Canadian superhero. That’s like saying “Canadian Canadian superhero” to Americans. Right?
And everyone though Sasquatch would be the gay one.
Or maybe he was the stalkery one.
Thinking of all that brings me to the newer Alpha Flight—sorry, OMEGA Flight that Mike Oeming headed up… Isn’t Mr. Oeming American? Well, he does live in Seattle. And that’s basically Canada. I should know, as I’m from Seattle and I wake up every day having to remind myself that it is NOT Ravenna outside my home. It’s scary, thinking you live in Seattle, when you live in Canada and this part of Canada is so much like Seattle… What’s that? Oh, yes, so Mike Oeming wrote Omega Flight, which was pretty cool, but it didn’t seem to resonate with readers, from what I understand. I mean, for one, they had an America living in Freedom™ Land writing the book. Scott Kolins, the incredibly gifted artist on the title is also American. It’s not that they need to be Canadians. That kind of absolute criteria would be absurd, and would be akin to demanding I be German because I write so much about Germany and ze Germans (I did grow up there—another story to be told). But not many, if any, Canadians have written Alpha Flight at all. Seriously, go look it up. Sure, Bill Mantlo should be considered an honorary Canadian solely based on the fact he wrote ROM and Micronauts, the Canadians of crossmarket tie-in toylines… but there is a dearth of Canadians on THE title of Canadian superhero comic books. To quote a famous Canadian we all know and love: “Weird… or what?”
I may be shirking my serious comics journo duties here, but I didn’t notice one Canadian artist or writer on Alpha Flight [ed. note- the most recent Alpha Flight series did feature Canadian Dale Eaglesham on art duties]. I could be wrong, and I invite you to let me know just that (it’ll make me fondly remember the ATR days!) if I am indeed hideously terriwrong [ed. note- Steve is indeed hideously terriwrong, see above]. Where are the Canadian creators of the Canadian superhero team book, man? No, Simon “Terribly and Tranformersly Awesome” Furman is British. I don’t think Byrne identifies with being Canadian, either. Though I guess he is. Not picking a fight here, Byrneies; I just don’t think he’s a maple flag waving, beaver scalping, hockey-blooded Canadian anymore.
What, Nick? Fine! I’ll bring up Wolverine. It’s one of the ways my ex-wife got me to move to this moose-ridden paradise in the first place. “Oh, Steven, now all of your Wolverine t-shirts will be ironic.” I must have loved her, because I tried not lecturing her too
often about her frequent misuse of the word “ironic”. Wolverine is Canadian. He’s even from (SPOILERZ) Alberta. His name is James Howlett, which, aside from being a terrible pun of some kind, is a totally Britsy-fitsy name of Canuckistani extraction. The thing is: he’s not Canadian at all. He’s more like an angry Alaskan from Eastern Europe, constantly saying “bub” like a drunken Rumanian. No Canadians say “bub.” Seriously. Okay, my time machine isn’t working, so I can’t go back thirty years and see if Canadians were saying “bub” back then, in the olden, my-iPod-runs-on-steam-power times. What the hell do you want from me anyway? I’ll make you a sandwich. That’s it.
The single worst moment in Canadian history
I should get on target so that I don’t lose you in my attempts to be witty.
Since moving to Canada, I have realized the following:
1) Canada is not a socialist paradise. In fact, it’s not too different than the States.
1a) Except for Quebec, which isn’t too different from backwoods France.
But classy backwoods.
2) Canadian women are hot.
3) Canadian men really fucking love hockey and facial hair.
4) Canadians are terribly misrepresented in media such as movies and comic books.
5) Canadians are some of the toughest, nicest, and best people in the universe.
6) Poutine is awesome.
I’m researching Canadian Comic Books right now, and the first place Wikipedia takes me is to Dave Sim. This line says sums (Sims?) it up: “A pioneer of self-published comics and creators' rights, Sim is best known as the creator of Cerebus the Aardvark, a comic book published from 1977 to 2004…”. And yet when anyone brings up Mr. Sim, they just go on and on about how insane or misogynistic or strange he is. Same goes for John Byrne, actually, except replace “misogynistic” with “douchebaggy.”
Is there some kind of conspiracy against Canadian comics creators going on?
Let’s keep digging deeper, and by “digging deeper” I mean “reading more of this Wikipedia article”.
Oh, hey, I didn’t know Hark! A Vagrant is Canadian. Neat.
It would appear that Canada, while full of exceptional talent, can really only claim bragging rights for Scott Pilgrim.
As an avid reader of war comics, I can personally attest to the fact that Canadian Forces of any era are hardly ever mentioned. Keep in mind that the Canadian military is, and always be, a scary collection of badasses.
Shit’s gettin’ Riel.
But you don’t care, eh? I’m doing Canadian marginalization right now. Just look at my spelling. Just look at who I’m primarily addressing. That’s right: Americans. I know for a fact that there will be many Canadian readers, but I also know that there’s gonna be a lot more Americans stopping by. This might explain how Canada in comics is treated: Like shit. Or, more accurately, like some hilarious joke at which hack writers such as myself can poke fun. It’s not that Canada is ignored; it’s simply patted on the head and told to consume American versions of what should be their media. Can you imagine the outrage over on the World’s Largest Aircraft Carrier* if an American version of Judge Dredd happ—oh, yeah, that did happen. And people thought it sucked giant sweaty sheep balls.
(*This joke never gets old, amIright?)
In case you missed it: England.
I suppose the other point that needs to be made is: It simply doesn’t have the market power to support it. You know most hockey players are Canadian, but did you know that most NHL teams are in the States? More than one Canadian has expressed their concern that their country is being stolen by the “assholes down under us”. Canadians are also more nationalistic and patriotic than ever. This is great to see. It’s not so great to see when you’re the only American at a Canadian pub, however.
Canada, it would seem, is angry. Pray hockey isn’t on when they spot you.
Shit. He saw you.
Now, as I was writing this verbally swerving, hastily written piece of verbosity, I asked some Canadian comics fans what they thought. More than one opined that they miss the Alpha Flight from the 80s and how Canadians were treated in it. One person tried to argue that comics transcend nationality and that they don’t care where comic characters are from. I think that particular person missed the point—but it was a nice sentiment. Certainly fodder for a future STD.
Myself, I may have completely overlooked it, but I also notice a lack of Canadian problems and distinct Canadianisms in so-called Canadian superhero comics. How come no one watches Shaman at the mall to see if he’s shoplifting? Is Major Maple Leaf tazing the shit out of people? Can we have Master Corporal Kali? How about Vancouver Lee, who drives a super race car? I notice Murmur isn’t wearing Glitter Boy armour… why?
All in all, I think Canada could be treated better in comics. Naturally, I’m speaking only of North American comics. And 2000 AD, I guess, but I don’t think Canada is covered much in Tharg’s Hallowed Halls. I suppose Canada, a multi-ethnic country of 34,748,000 people, could use a little better exposure and awareness. Especially from the United States. It’s not just Canada, either. Quick, name a comic about Germany, or has Germans, that doesn’t have Nazis in it. Or a Russian in comics without vodka.
Stereotypes abound, but we can work on seeing said stereotypes diminished in favor (sorry: FAVOUR) of real Canadians doing real Canadian things. They would be polite things, don’t worry. Let’s bring Alpha Flight back with a Canadian creative team. Let’s make Canadians who pick up issues of Captain America (and there are quite a few of them) demand that Guardian get an arc focused on him. Let’s make US Agent the SIN Agent.
This was the second link on Google for when I typed “Canadian superheroes” into a search. Kinda sad, honestly. Canada is way cooler than all that.
And yes, I knew Deadpool was Canadian. I would be heavier with the Canadian jokes if I wrote Deadpool. I would be so heavy with them you would rename me Jabba Blimp and then ask me to write more comics, since rapid weight gain is a good measure of a comic book writer’s success.
Someone out there just got pissed off.
Seriously speaking, there ought to be more and more positive representations of Canada in comics. Hell, let’s get some positively awesome negative representations, too. Picture this: A gritty Marvel or DC superhero team book set on the mean streets on Winnipeg.
What, you think that’s funny? Go to Winnipeg. When you’re able to stop leaking from all the knifeholes, you may then laugh a bit at your preconceived notions. When I say a dude can be totally scary being a hustling First Nations (Canadian for “Native American”) gang-banger, I am not kidding. Not one bit.
Now give that gang-banger laser-eyes and a flying bear. And an army of zamboni riding homeless glue-huffer zombies.
Now put a creative team on that book comprised of some of the best talent in the comics industry, who happen to be Canadians. My personal choices for the book are Francis Manapul on art and Howard Wong on writing duties.
Canada is treated like the slightly brain-damaged, but excessively cordial cousin of the US in comics. It has to stop. If only for my own well being and need for new and fair things. So what if it’s not a huge seller.
It’ll probably sell better than Hellblazer.
Eat It, Steve.
Alrighty, I’m done writing this. I think I ran out of steam a few minutes back. I hope some of you and Nick enjoyed reading through it. I also hope this made you think a little about the Biggest Little County on Earth, Canada.
O Canada, see you in the funny pages.
Please note: I’m a bit sad I refrained from a joke involving Beta Ray Bill being Canadian. I would also like to thank my girlfriend for reminding me about zambonis. She also just told me about the maple syrup scented money “Because we’re classy like that.”
Steven G. Saunders, who does enjoy the pretentiousness of using his middle initial as often as possible, has done many things, some of them being things you may know of or have been interested in. He’s written reviews, conducted interviews, shamelessly handled All The Rage for a year, has written and created some comics, has blogged like everyone else, has edited books and magazines, and has even been in a podcast or two. You can see what he’s doing and how you can murderously stalk him here.