Lost Heroes: The Untold Story of Canadian Super Heroes (2014, directed by Will Pascoe)


Lost Heroes is an engrossing look at the history of Canadian super heroes.

Starting in the 1930s, Lost Heroes details how Canada’s entry into World War II also led to the first Golden Age of Canadian comic book heroes.  After the passage of the War Exchange Cultivation Act of 1940, many American products, including the comic books that were just as popular with children in Canada as they were in America, could no longer be imported to Canada.  Looking to fill the hole, Canadian publishers put out their own comic books, all featuring uniquely Canadian heroes who fought the Nazis.  Because these books were published in black-and-white, they became known as the Canadian Whites.

The first half of the documentary is about the Canadian Whites and the companies that published them.  Maple Leaf was the home to a hero who dwelled under the sea and who was known as Iron Man.  Cosmo Grant was a Batman-style scientist while Brok Windsor traveled in a canoe.  Anglo-American published the adventures of Commander Steel and Freelance, two international adventurers who aided in the Canadian war effort.  Educational Projects introduced readers to Canada Jack, an ordinary Canadian who fought crime but also taught valuable life lessons.  Most popular of all was Bell Features, which was home to Nelvana of the North (who drew her powers from the Northern Lights), Crash Carson, and Johnny Canuck.  Johnny Canuck’s super power was “being Canadian.”

The stuff about the Canadian Whites is genuinely interesting.  Jack Tremblay, one of the artists of the Golden Age, is interviewed and talks about the experience of being a 16 year-old comic book artist.  (Because of the war effort, many of the Golden Age comic books were written and illustrated by teenagers who weren’t old enough to enlist.)  Along with re-introducing some forgotten World War II super heroes, the documentary also looks at how those super heroes represented Canadian culture and how they helped readers take pride in being Canadian.

The end of World War II also brought about the end of the Golden Age of Canadian comics.  With the war over, the War Exchange Cultivation Act also came to an end and, once again, American comics could be sold in Canada.  The black-and-white Canadian comic books could not compete with the color comic books coming from the States and most of the Canadian publishers closed up shop.  The rest of the documentary deals with the periodic attempts to revive the Canadian comic book industry throughout the years.  Though Captain Canuck it found some brief success in the 70s, it ultimately could not compete with the Marvel and D.C. titles coming across the border.

Much of the second half of the documentary deals with Wolverine and Alpha Flight, both of which were created for Marvel by John Byrne.  Along with being one of the world’s most recognizable and popular super heroes, Wolverine is also Canadian and several people interviewed in the film take pride in pointing out all of the things about Wolverine that identify him as being from Canada, everything from his love of beer to his flannel shirts.  Alpha Flight is less warmly received, with many criticizing it for being more about how Americans view Canada than Canada itself.

Lost Heroes is an interesting and informative documentary.  It examines both the history of Canadian comics and also what those comic book heroes said about Canada’s national identity and its efforts to distinguish itself from its neighbor down south.  The documentary ends with the suggestion that the Canadian super heroes will rise again.  I hope they do.

Great Moments in Comic Book History #31: Tomb of Dracula #43


In Tomb of Dracula #43 (April, 1976), a reporter named Paul Butterworth discovered the existence of not only Dracula but also the people (like Blade, Frank Drake, and Rachel Van Helsing) who were trying to stop his reign of terror.

Paul thought it would make a good story but he knew he needed proof so, when he met Dracula, he was sure to take a few photographs.  The joke was on Paul because vampires can’t be photographed!  When Paul’s editor sees the blank photos, he demotes Paul to doing the helpful hints column.

Not a bad story.  Tomb of Dracula was always at its best when it brought in “normal” characters and allowed them to interact with Dracula and the vampire hunters.  Paul Butterworth never made another appearance but he was still a part of the series’ overall mythology.

However, the thing that made this issue great was the cover.  Illustrated by Bernie Wrightson, this cover may not have much to do with the story but it perfectly captures the feel of Tomb of Dracula.

Previous Great Moments In Comic Book History:

  1. Winchester Before Winchester: Swamp Thing Vol. 2 #45 “Ghost Dance” 
  2. The Avengers Appear on David Letterman
  3. Crisis on Campus
  4. “Even in Death”
  5. The Debut of Man-Wolf in Amazing Spider-Man
  6. Spider-Man Meets The Monster Maker
  7. Conan The Barbarian Visits Times Square
  8. Dracula Joins The Marvel Universe
  9. The Death of Dr. Druid
  10. To All A Good Night
  11. Zombie!
  12. The First Appearance of Ghost Rider
  13. The First Appearance of Werewolf By Night
  14. Captain America Punches Hitler
  15. Spider-Man No More!
  16. Alex Ross Captures Galactus
  17. Spider-Man And The Dallas Cowboys Battle The Circus of Crime
  18. Goliath Towers Over New York
  19. NFL SuperPro is Here!
  20. Kickers Inc. Comes To The World Outside Your Window
  21. Captain America For President
  22. Alex Ross Captures Spider-Man
  23. J. Jonah Jameson Is Elected Mayor of New York City
  24. Captain America Quits
  25. Spider-Man Meets The Fantastic Four
  26. Spider-Man Teams Up With Batman For The Last Time
  27. The Skrulls Are Here
  28. Iron Man Meets Thanos and Drax The Destroyer
  29. A Vampire Stalks The Night
  30. Swamp Thing Makes His First Cover Appearance

Great Moments In Comic Book History #30: Swamp Thing Makes His First Cover Appearance


Swamp Thing made his first appearance in DC’s House of Secrets #92 (July, 1971).  It was a stand-alone story that was set in the early 20th century.  It did not have much in common with the Swamp Thing that was all know today but the issue will always be remembered for its cover, which was drawn by Bernie Wrightson.  The girl who is coming her hair while Swamp Thing approaches was modeled on Louise Jones, who would later be known as Louise Simonson and would become an important comic book writer in her own right.

Previous Great Moments In Comic Book History:

  1. Winchester Before Winchester: Swamp Thing Vol. 2 #45 “Ghost Dance” 
  2. The Avengers Appear on David Letterman
  3. Crisis on Campus
  4. “Even in Death”
  5. The Debut of Man-Wolf in Amazing Spider-Man
  6. Spider-Man Meets The Monster Maker
  7. Conan The Barbarian Visits Times Square
  8. Dracula Joins The Marvel Universe
  9. The Death of Dr. Druid
  10. To All A Good Night
  11. Zombie!
  12. The First Appearance of Ghost Rider
  13. The First Appearance of Werewolf By Night
  14. Captain America Punches Hitler
  15. Spider-Man No More!
  16. Alex Ross Captures Galactus
  17. Spider-Man And The Dallas Cowboys Battle The Circus of Crime
  18. Goliath Towers Over New York
  19. NFL SuperPro is Here!
  20. Kickers Inc. Comes To The World Outside Your Window
  21. Captain America For President
  22. Alex Ross Captures Spider-Man
  23. J. Jonah Jameson Is Elected Mayor of New York City
  24. Captain America Quits
  25. Spider-Man Meets The Fantastic Four
  26. Spider-Man Teams Up With Batman For The Last Time
  27. The Skrulls Are Here
  28. Iron Man Meets Thanos and Drax The Destroyer
  29. A Vampire Stalks The Night

Great Moments In Comic Book History #29: A Vampire Stalks The Night


Now that we are halfway to October, I decided to share my personal favorite cover from The Tomb of Dracula.

The Tomb of Dracula was a comic book that ran for 70 issues, from 1972 to 1979. It was published by Marvel and it’s generally considered to be one of the best of the horror comics. It was also the first comic book to feature the character of Blade, who was later brought to life by Wesley Snipes in one of the first successful films to be based on a Marvel comic.

I’m a Tomb of Dracula fan and a collector. I’ve got nearly every issue of Tomb of Dracula and it’s companion magazine, Dracula Lives. Below is my favorite cover:

Great Moments In Comic Book History #28: Iron Man Meets Thanos and Drax The Destroyer


50 years ago, in Iron Man #55, both Drax the Destroyer and Thanos made their first appearances.

Iron Man #55 opens with Drax the Destroyer being held prisoner on Thanos’s mobile prison planet.  This Drax is far different from the Drax who became famous as a result of being a part of the MCU.  This Drax is a former Earthling who was killed by Thanos but then resurrected and given one mission, to kill Thanos.  There’s nothing funny, not even unintentionally, about his Drax.  Knowing that Drax will not stop until he has destroyed him, Thanos has chained Drax up and spends his spare time taunting him.  Just because Thanos is evil, that doesn’t make him smart.

Drax sends out a mental message to Iron Man, despite the fact that he and Iron Man have never met.  Tony Stark agrees to help Drax because Drax’s messages are so powerful that Tony can’t even attend a business meeting.  After suiting up as Iron Man, Stark flies out to Thanos’s prison planet.  Along the way, Drax tells him the abbreviated details of Thanos’s origin and Thanos’s love of death.

Iron Man’s fist meeting with Thanos is not particularly auspicious.

Thanos thinks so little of Iron Man that he assigns the moronic aliens known as the Blood Brothers to battle Iron Man.  Iron Man is able to free Drax, the Blood Brothers are easily defeated, and Thanos makes a hasty retreat.  Drax thanks Iron Man, shakes his hand, and then heads after Thanos.  And I suppose Iron Man gets back to Earth somehow.

Thanos and Drax were created by Jim Starlin, who wasn’t even Iron Man’s regular writer.  When the planned story for Iron Man #55 ended up running behind schedule, Starlin was assigned to create a filler story.  Thanos and Drax were both characters that Starlin had invented for a planned-but-never-written sci-fi epic in college.  Starlin reused them and their origins in Iron Man #55.

Though thrown together at the last minute, Iron Man #55 predicted the future of Marvel in a way that, even at the time, few realized.  When Starlin took over Captain Marvel, he reused both Drax and Thanos and crafted an epic space opera that was later reused during phase one of the MCU.  For all the credit that was given to Kevin Feige, the Russo brothers, Stan Lee, and countless others, the MCU owes much of its success to Jim Starlin.

And it all began with Iron Man #55 running behind schedule.

IRON MAN #55 (October, 1972)
Writer: Jim Starlin/Mike Friedrich
Penciler: Jim Starlin
Inker: Mike Esposito
Letterer: John Costanza
Editor: Roy Thomas

Previous Great Moments In Comic Book History:

  1. Winchester Before Winchester: Swamp Thing Vol. 2 #45 “Ghost Dance” 
  2. The Avengers Appear on David Letterman
  3. Crisis on Campus
  4. “Even in Death”
  5. The Debut of Man-Wolf in Amazing Spider-Man
  6. Spider-Man Meets The Monster Maker
  7. Conan The Barbarian Visits Times Square
  8. Dracula Joins The Marvel Universe
  9. The Death of Dr. Druid
  10. To All A Good Night
  11. Zombie!
  12. The First Appearance of Ghost Rider
  13. The First Appearance of Werewolf By Night
  14. Captain America Punches Hitler
  15. Spider-Man No More!
  16. Alex Ross Captures Galactus
  17. Spider-Man And The Dallas Cowboys Battle The Circus of Crime
  18. Goliath Towers Over New York
  19. NFL SuperPro is Here!
  20. Kickers Inc. Comes To The World Outside Your Window
  21. Captain America For President
  22. Alex Ross Captures Spider-Man
  23. J. Jonah Jameson Is Elected Mayor of New York City
  24. Captain America Quits
  25. Spider-Man Meets The Fantastic Four
  26. Spider-Man Teams Up With Batman For The Last Time
  27. The Skrulls Are Here

Great Moments In Comic Book History #27: The Skrulls Are Here


Just a few months after introducing themselves to the world, the Fantastic Four appear to be on a crime rampage!  The Thing swims out to an oil rig and knocks it over with one punch.  The Human Torch melts a memorial.  The Invisible Girl steals jewelry.  And when New York suffers a huge blackout, witnesses report seeing an arm stretching it’s way into a powerplant and flipping the off switch!

The Fantastic Four claim that they’re innocent and it turns out that they are.  Four shape-shifting aliens, known as the Skrulls, have traveled to Earth and are pretending to be the Fantastic Four so that the government will turn on them and it will be easier for the Skrulls to take over the planet.  Fortunately, Mr. Fantastic figures out what’s going on.  Not only does he fool the Skrull commanders by showing them back issues of Journey Into Mystery and Strange Tales and saying that they’re actual newspapers about the monsters that exist on earth but he also hypnotizes three of the Skrulls on Earth and convinces them that they are cows.

I’ve always liked the Skrulls and it’s always bothered me that they seemed to lose almost every war that they got involved in.  How could the Kree defeat the Skrulls?  And was it necessary to add insult to injury by having Galactus eat their homeworld?  The Skrulls just could not catch a break and I think that’s one reason why they’ve always been popular.  With their ability to change their shape and adopt the powers of the heroes that they’re imitating, the Skrulls should have been unstoppable.  They should have conquered this planet a long time ago.  But the Skrulls, for all of their powers, could just never seem to get it together.  To paraphrase Uncle Ben, with great power comes truly rotten luck.

Fantastic Four #2 was not only the first appearance of the Skrulls but it was also the first instance of a Marvel super hero team thwarting an invasion of Earth.  (Eventually, Earth being invaded would become a monthly occurrence in the Marvel Universe.)  The issue also introduced a major Marvel theme.  The Fantastic Four may have saved the world from Mole Man just a few weeks before the Skrulls arrived but it didn’t take long for the general public to turn on them.  It was a lesson that would later also be learned by Spider-Man and the X-Men.  The general public is extremely fickle when it comes to its super heroes.

And it all started with four shape-shifters coming to Earth.  The Skrulls may never win but Marvel still owes much to them.

Fantastic Four Vol. 1 No. 2

(September, 1962)

“The Fantastic Four Meets The Skrulls From Outer Space”

Script: Stan Lee
Pencils: Jack Kirby
Inks: George Klein
Letters: John Duffy

Previous Great Moments In Comic Book History:

  1. Winchester Before Winchester: Swamp Thing Vol. 2 #45 “Ghost Dance” 
  2. The Avengers Appear on David Letterman
  3. Crisis on Campus
  4. “Even in Death”
  5. The Debut of Man-Wolf in Amazing Spider-Man
  6. Spider-Man Meets The Monster Maker
  7. Conan The Barbarian Visits Times Square
  8. Dracula Joins The Marvel Universe
  9. The Death of Dr. Druid
  10. To All A Good Night
  11. Zombie!
  12. The First Appearance of Ghost Rider
  13. The First Appearance of Werewolf By Night
  14. Captain America Punches Hitler
  15. Spider-Man No More!
  16. Alex Ross Captures Galactus
  17. Spider-Man And The Dallas Cowboys Battle The Circus of Crime
  18. Goliath Towers Over New York
  19. NFL SuperPro is Here!
  20. Kickers Inc. Comes To The World Outside Your Window
  21. Captain America For President
  22. Alex Ross Captures Spider-Man
  23. J. Jonah Jameson Is Elected Mayor of New York City
  24. Captain America Quits
  25. Spider-Man Meets The Fantastic Four
  26. Spider-Man Teams Up With Batman For The Last Time

Great Moments In Comic Book History #26: Spider-Man Teams Up With Batman For The Last Time


It’s easy to forget now but there was once a time when Marvel and DC would set aside their differences and their heroes (and sometimes, their villains) would team up.  Spider-Man met Superman.  The X-Men met the New Teen Titans.  Darkseid met Galactus.  Green Lantern met the Silver Surfer.  Silver Surfer met Batman.  Actually, a lot of Marvel heroes met Batman, everyone from the Hulk to Punisher to Daredevil to, again, Spider-Man.  It makes sense.  Batman, with his antisocial tendencies and his tragic backstory, had more in common with the typical Marvel hero than with Superman.

These events were never an official part of the Marvel or DC universe.  Both companies eventually developed their own version of the multiverse and it was accepted that the Marvel/DC crossovers all took place in an alternate universe where Gotham City and Metropolis existed alongside Marvel’s version of New York City.  Though these crossovers were not canonical, they always felt like a big deal.  They were a chance to answer the age-old question of who would win in a fight, Batman or Spider-Man.  It didn’t matter that the crossovers usually copped out on giving a definitive answer.  Usually, the heroes would fight to a draw and then team up to battle the real enemy.  That way both fandoms could be happy and there was still a reason to buy the next crossover.

The crossovers are something that will probably never happen again, not with the rivalry between the MCU and DCEU.  It’s too bad because the crossovers were always enjoyable.  The final Batman/Spider-Man crossover was called New Age Dawning and it was published twenty-five years ago, this month.  Batman’s villain, Ra’s al Ghul, poisoned the wife of Spider-Man’s villain, Kingpin.  Ra’s al Ghul thought he could blackmail the Kingpin into helping him sink the island of Manhattan.  Instead, the Kingpin teams up with Spider-Man and Batman to defeat Ra’s plan.  It’s a simple story but it ends on a note of grace, with Batman giving Spider-Man the cure for the poison and then Spider-Man taking it to the Kingpin.  If the Batman/Spider-Man crossovers had to end, that was the way to end them, with two heroes coming together to do the right thing.

Previous Great Moments In Comic Book History:

  1. Winchester Before Winchester: Swamp Thing Vol. 2 #45 “Ghost Dance” 
  2. The Avengers Appear on David Letterman
  3. Crisis on Campus
  4. “Even in Death”
  5. The Debut of Man-Wolf in Amazing Spider-Man
  6. Spider-Man Meets The Monster Maker
  7. Conan The Barbarian Visits Times Square
  8. Dracula Joins The Marvel Universe
  9. The Death of Dr. Druid
  10. To All A Good Night
  11. Zombie!
  12. The First Appearance of Ghost Rider
  13. The First Appearance of Werewolf By Night
  14. Captain America Punches Hitler
  15. Spider-Man No More!
  16. Alex Ross Captures Galactus
  17. Spider-Man And The Dallas Cowboys Battle The Circus of Crime
  18. Goliath Towers Over New York
  19. NFL SuperPro is Here!
  20. Kickers Inc. Comes To The World Outside Your Window
  21. Captain America For President
  22. Alex Ross Captures Spider-Man
  23. J. Jonah Jameson Is Elected Mayor of New York City
  24. Captain America Quits
  25. Spider-Man Meets The Fantastic Four

Great Moments In Comic Book History #25: Spider-Man Meets The Fantastic Four


August 1st is celebrated as Spider-Man Day because Spider-Man made his debut in Amazing Fantasy #15, which was given an August, 1962 cover date despite hitting newstands in June.  Though Amazing Fantasy ceased publication after the 15th issue, Spider-Man was a hit as a character and was on his way to becoming one of the iconic figures of the Marvel universe.

Spider-Man himself would not get his comic book until March, 1963 with the first issue of The Amazing Spider-Man.  The majority of that issue featured Marvel’s newest hero battling the Chameleon, a Russian criminal who was committing crimes while disguised as Spider-Man!  Of course, Spider-Man’s bad reputation didn’t start with the Chameleon.  Especially in the early days of his career, people often assumed that Spider-Man was up to no good.  (Having J. Jonah Jameson as an enemy didn’t help.)  While all the other heroes were celebrated by the public, Spider-Man was always misunderstood.  That’s one reason why readers identified with him.

Before battling the Chameleon, the continually cash-strapped Spider-Man tried to improve his situation by getting a job with the Fantastic Four.

It didn’t go well.  Spider-Man’s idea of a job interview was breaking into the Baxter Building and proving that he could hold his own in battle with each member of the group.  Spider-Man proved that he could fight but Mr. Fantastic was not impressed, telling Spider-Man that the Fantastic Four were a non-profit organization and that picking a fight was not the way to get a job.  Offended, Spider-Man announced that he didn’t need the Fantastic Four and left.  Because Mr. Fantastic and the rest of the Fantastic Four always came across as being full of themselves, I am sure many readers agreed with Spider-Man.  By swinging out of there, Spider-Man let his readers know that he didn’t need anyone’s approval.

Not only did this moment establish who Spider-Man was as a character but it also started a long Marvel cross-over tradition.  Heroes would frequently meet each other, crossing over from book to book.  They would often team up but, before they could do that, they always had to fight over a misunderstanding and trade insults.  The moment that Spider-Man told off Mr. Fantastic was also the moment that the Marvel Universe first truly came to life.

Later, of course, Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four made up.  Spider-Man and the Human Torch co-starred in several issues of Marvel Team-Up.  But most readers will always prefer to remember Spider-Man telling Mr. Fantastic to get bent.

Previous Great Moments In Comic Book History:

  1. Winchester Before Winchester: Swamp Thing Vol. 2 #45 “Ghost Dance” 
  2. The Avengers Appear on David Letterman
  3. Crisis on Campus
  4. “Even in Death”
  5. The Debut of Man-Wolf in Amazing Spider-Man
  6. Spider-Man Meets The Monster Maker
  7. Conan The Barbarian Visits Times Square
  8. Dracula Joins The Marvel Universe
  9. The Death of Dr. Druid
  10. To All A Good Night
  11. Zombie!
  12. The First Appearance of Ghost Rider
  13. The First Appearance of Werewolf By Night
  14. Captain America Punches Hitler
  15. Spider-Man No More!
  16. Alex Ross Captures Galactus
  17. Spider-Man And The Dallas Cowboys Battle The Circus of Crime
  18. Goliath Towers Over New York
  19. NFL SuperPro is Here!
  20. Kickers Inc. Comes To The World Outside Your Window
  21. Captain America For President
  22. Alex Ross Captures Spider-Man
  23. J. Jonah Jameson Is Elected Mayor of New York City
  24. Captain America Quits

Every Generation Gets The Spider-Man It Deserves


August 1st is Spider-Man Day.  Despite this being the day that observes Spider-Man’s first appearance in the 15th issue of Marvel’s Amazing Fantasy, the trash is still being collected and the mail is still being delivered.  Spider-Man Day is a holiday when no one gets any time off.  I’m sure that the web slinger himself would appreciate the irony.

The appeal of Spider-Man has always been that he’s the hero who never feels that he’s done enough.  He’s also the hero who is almost always unappreciated by the rest of the world.  He’s the hero who often resents having to do his job but who still feels a responsibility to try to make the world a better place.  Spider-Man is the superhero that almost everyone can relate to.

As far as television and movies go, every generation has gotten the Spider-Man that they deserved.

The boomers got Nicholas Hammond’s Spider-Man.  Hammond played Spider-Man for two seasons in the 70s.  He was a little boring but, from what I’ve seen, his show has a reputation for being worse than it was.  Like the best of the boomers, Hammond’s Spider-Man could be stuffy but he got the job done.

Generation X got Tobey Maguire, who played Spider-Man in three films that Sam Raimi directed in the aughts.  Like Generation X, Maguire’s Spider-Man was quiet but clever.  Despite his quick wit, he was frequently neurotic and more than a little introverted but he always came through in the end.

Then, Andrew Garfield played the millennial version of Spider-Man.  Angsty and awkward, Garfield’s Spider-Man was aware that society would never fully accept him, both as Peter and as Spider-Man.  At times, it seemed like his every attempt at making things better somehow only made them worse.

And finally, the Zoomers have got Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, an earnest idealist who struggles with the fact that the world is more complicated than it seems.  You can criticize him for being naïve but never doubt the sincerity of his beliefs.

All of the actors who played Spider-Man have done a good job and they all deserve praise.  My favorite is Tobey Maguire but that’s largely because, having been born in ’82, I’m on the dividing line between Generation X and Millennial and I’ve always leaned more towards the Generation X side of things.  Plus, I can relate to this:

Maguire, Garfield, and Holland all came together to appear in the previous Spider-Man film, which I thought was a nice touch.  I just wish Nicholas Hammond had been invited to join them.

Nicholas Hammond, as Peter Parker

Nicholas Hammond, Today

Having an older, perhaps retired Spider-Man joining forces with the Maguire, Garfield, and Holland versions of the character would have provided an extra-dimension to the movie, much as used to happen on Doctor Who whenever any of the previous incarnations of the Time Lord would meet the newest version.

Regardless of who plays him or whether he’s Peter Parker or Miles Morales, Spider-Man remains the hero to whom we can all relate.  Spider-Man is all of us.

Happy Spider-Man Day to all!