The 7 Most Canadian Superheroes Ever

Long before Deadpool graced the big screen with his anti-hero sarcasm and quips about Canada, there were Captain Canuck and Northstar, Canadian superheroes who used their powers to fend off American influence, battle Nazi invaders, and more. The Canadian strain of superhero often has its roots in well-known national stereotypes—nature, wildlife, indigenous culture, hockey—but they’re a part of the pop cultural history of the country, and live on in the pages of comic books and movie screens across the border as well. Heck, even the prime minister is about to get comic book treatment.

1. CAPTAIN CANUCK

Dressed in a red-and-white body suit covered with that familiar maple leaf, Captain Canuck is the cult favorite of Canadian superheroes. He was created by cartoonist Ron Leishman and artist/writer Richard Comely in 1975, and first appeared in Captain Canuck #1. The original's alter ego was Tom Evans, a secret agent with superhuman powers who lives in the futuristic year of 1993 where Canada is the most powerful country in the world (hey, we can dream, right?). The comic never took off, and despite a few attempts at resurrecting it with new Captain Canucks, the series seemed destined to fade away into the Great White Graveyard of forgotten superheroes. But a few years ago, a fan raised more than $50,000 Canadian through crowdfunding to bring Captain Canuck back to life. In 2013, Chapterhouse Studios released Captain Canuck as a cartoon web series voiced by actor Kris Holden-Ried and featuring Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany as the character Redcoat. Not exactly world domination, but at least it’s not cable.

2. NORTHSTAR

Leave it to Canada to have the first openly gay Marvel character. Northstar, whose alter ego is the French-Canadian Jean-Paul Beaubier, was created by Chris Claremont and John Byrne and first appeared in the X-Men series as a member of Alpha Flight, a team of other superheroes that served as Canada’s answer to The Avengers. Like the X-Men, Northstar was a mutant born with superhuman powers such as speed, flight, and the ability to harness and project photonic energy blasts. These powers also made him into a champion skier, but after the thrill of the slopes got old, he joined a Quebec separatist terrorist organization and later the Alpha Flight team.

Byrne says he always intended on some level for Northstar to be gay, but it took 13 years for the character to come out, large due to Marvel’s reluctance to showcase gay characters. In 1992, Northstar officially came out in an issue of Alpha Flight. In a historic issue of Astonishing X-Men in 2012, Northstar married his partner, Kyle Jinadu. It was the first depiction of a same-sex marriage in mainstream comic history. 

3. GUARDIAN

Guardian might be the closest thing Canada has to Tony Stark and Iron Man. Created in the ’70s by John Byrne, the comic tracks the life of James Hudson, an engineer with American-Canadian Petro-Chemical who develops a super suit with super powers that is supposed to help with mining exploration. But when he learns that his evil boss, Jerome Jaxon, is intending to use it as a weapon of destruction, Hudson leaves work with just the power-controlling helmet and heads up Department H, a secret arm of the Canadian military. He also enlists the help of his former secretary, Heather McNeil, whom he later marries and recruits to be a part of his Canadian superhero squad, Alpha Flight. Their first task was to try and capture Wolverine, who had left the fledgling Alpha Flight for the X-Men, but the mission was unsuccessful. Byrne’s Alpha Flight would go on to include other notable heroes such as Puck, Aurora, Sasquatch, and Northstar. 

4. SASQUATCH  

If Guardian is Canada’s answer to Iron Man, then Sasquatch is the closest thing to the Hulk north of the 49th parallel. Born Walter Langkowski, a former football pro and admirer of Dr. Bruce Banner’s work, he attempts a similar gamma ray exposure experiment in order to give himself super strength. Instead, the rays open up some sort of mystic barrier that exposes him to “The Realm of the Great Beast,” which essentially transforms him into a big, old, hairy, Canadian Big Foot. Unlike Banner, who lost control of his own mind in the form of the Hulk, Langkowski was able to maintain his own personality and intelligence while in the form of Sasquatch. 

5. NELVANA OF THE NORTHERN LIGHTS

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One of Canada’s first superheroes was an Inuit woman, who even predated DC’s Wonder Woman by a few months. Nelvana of the Northern Lights made her debut in an issue of Triumph-Adventure comics in 1941 and was created by artist Adrian Dingle, who was inspired by tales of Canada’s Arctic region. Often described as an Inuit demi-goddess, she was the daughter of a mortal woman and Koliak the Mighty, King of Northern Lights. Nelvana drew her superpowers—which included flight, invisibility, and super speed—from the lights themselves, and used them to ward off everything from mammoth men to Nazis. 

In 1995, Nelvana was chosen among fellow superhero stars Superman and Captain Canuck to be featured on a series of stamps issued by Canada Post. In 2013, Canadian comic book historians Hope Nicholson and Rachel Richey launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to republish Nelvana of the Northern Lights in a single volume.  

6. WOLVERINE

Unlike Captain Canuck, who wears his True North heritage proudly, Wolverine’s Canadian history is a little less overt. Fans of the X-Men series know that the Marvel antihero was born in Cold Lake, Alberta as James Howlett, later known as Logan. The character first appeared in The Incredible Hulk in 1974 as the antagonist. He was created by writer Len Wein and Marvel art director John Romita Sr. (assisted by editor Roy Thomas) and was first drawn for publication by Herb Trimpe. Aside from being a part of the mutant X-Men squad, he’s also joined forces with Alpha Flight and The Avengers. He’s known for being a badass, having super-healing powers and retractable claws, and is one of Marvel’s most popular characters of all time. It also doesn’t hurt that actor Hugh Jackman’s rendition of him may have been the best part of the earlier X-Men movies. 

7. DEADPOOL

While Deadpool’s Canadian origins aren’t immediately known, Marvel has listed his birthplace as “unrevealed location in Canada.” The character first appeared in The New Mutants #98 in 1990, and his alter ego is Wade Wilson, a mercenary assassin created by artist/writer Rob Liefeld and writer Fabian Nicieza. Like Wolverine, Deadpool has the superhuman powers to regenerate any damaged or destroyed cellular tissue. The comic character doesn’t do much to acknowledge his Canadian roots, but in the movie, he claims to be from “Regina, Saskatchewan,” the city “that rhymes with fun.” It’s an old joke that didn’t amuse the mayor of the town, who immediately rebuked a proposal to build a Deadpool statue in his honor. 

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18 Smart Products To Help You Kick Off Summer
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iStock

Whether you’re trying to spiff up your backyard barbeque or cultivate your green thumb, these summertime gadgets will help you celebrate the season from solstice to the dog days.

1. ROSÉ WINE GLASSES; $60

Rosé Wine Glass
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Wine not? When the temperature rises and beer isn’t your thing, reach for the rosé. Riedel’s machine-blown SST (see, smell, taste) wine glasses will give the sparkly stuff ample room to breathe, making every refreshing sip worthwhile.

Find It: Amazon

2. NERF N-STRIKE ELITE SURGEFIRE; $25

Nerf SurgeFire
Hasbro

Why It’s Cool: The N-Strike Elite SurgeFire (say that five-times-fast) sports a pump-action rotating drum for maximum foam-based firepower and holds up to 15 Nerf darts in its arsenal.

Find It: Hasbro Toy Shop

3. BUSHEL & BERRY PLANTS; $34

plant
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: You don’t need to have a green thumb to create a brag-worthy garden this summer. Besides producing snackable mid-season berries, these open-growing bushes can be planted immediately for easy set-up to make you look like a botanical pro.

Find It: Amazon

4. INFLATABLE DONUT; $17

Doughnut float
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: When the only dunking you’re doing is taking a dip in the pool, a 48-inch inflatable donut is the perfect way to stay afloat.

Find It: Amazon

5. STAR SPANGLED SPATULA; $21

American flag spatula
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: O say can you see by your grill’s charcoal light / Meats so proudly we cooked ... with a star spangled spatula. Depending on the specific model, these all-American grilling tools (designed in New Jersey and made in Chicago) are made of a combination of walnut and stainless steel or nylon. As an added bonus: 5 percent of the proceeds go to the Penn Abramson Cancer Center.

Find It: Amazon

6. MLB HOT DOG BRANDERS; $8 AND UP

MLB San Diego Padres Hot Dog BBQ Brander
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Take your hot dogs, sausages, brats, and more out to the ballgame without ever leaving your grill. These branders from Pangea Brands are dishwasher-safe and made of ceramic-coated cast iron.

Find It: Amazon

7. UNA GRILL; $139

grill
MoMA Shop

Why It’s Cool: This portable charcoal-heated grill is as efficient as it is stylish. The compact size lets you cook at the park, after hitting up MoMA, or anywhere in between.

Find It: MoMa Shop

8. HAMBURGER GRILLING BASKET; $21


Why It’s Cool: Made of steel and finished with a non-stick coating, this grilling tool flips four burgers at once and maintains perfect burger proportions to guarantee nobody stays hungry for long.

Find It: Amazon

9. COPPER FIRE PIT; $121

metal fire pit
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: The grill isn’t the only place for a roaring fire this summer. This 100 percent solid copper fire pit makes for the perfect gathering spot at your next BBQ, or just to warm up after a cool summer evening.

Find It: Amazon

10. BENDY STRAW POOL NOODLE FLOAT; $10

Bendy Straw Inflatable Pool Float
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Inflatable pool floats shouldn’t be boring, and this bendy straw float definitely does not suck. This unique spin on traditional pool noodles is sure to make for some cheesy jokes, but at least you’ll be comfortable floating in the pool or at the beach.

Find It: Amazon

11. GRIDDLER DELUXE; $111

Cuisinart GR-150 Griddler Deluxe
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: If you’re looking for some serious panini power, this griddler offers up a versatile lineup of six cooking options in one. And with dual-zone functions you can sling burgers while searing filets and sautéeing vegetables all at the same time.

Find It: Amazon

12. VINTAGE SNOW CONE MAKER; $30

Vintage Snow Cone Maker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: With its old-timey design, dual cone shelf, and endless flavor options, this snow cone maker is guaranteed create a cool treat.

Find It: Amazon

13. DACHSHUND CORN ON THE COB HOLDERS; $7

Dog Corn Holders
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: While meat-lovers will inevitably scarf down a lot of hot dogs this summer, vegetarians who happen to love another kind of dog will be smitten with these stainless steel, Dachshund-shaped corn on the cob prongs. They’re a fun spin on a summer grilling favorite.

Find It: Amazon

14. ICE CREAM SANDWICH MAKER; $16

Ice Cream Sandwich Maker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Four sandwiches are better than one, especially when they're of the ice cream variety. Make four ice cream sandwiches at once with this homemade spin on a classic cold treat.

Find It: Amazon

15. UE WONDERBOOM; $68

Bluetooth speaker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Besides delicious food and great company, some memorable tunes are required for the quintessential barbeque. This portable bluetooth speaker offers up some booming sound in a small package, and with a battery power of 10 hours on a single charge you can keep the party going all night.

Find It: Amazon

16. ROLLORS GAME; $38

Rollors Backyard Game
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: When you’re sick of bocce, hate horseshoes, and you’re over cornhole, you might want to take up “rollors,” a family-friendly game that combines your favorite traditional backyard festivities into one game for people of all ages.

Find It: Amazon

17. HAMMOCK; $174

hammock
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Rest easy knowing that this 100 percent hand-woven and hand-dyed cotton hammock contributes to artisan job-creation in Thailand.

Find It: Amazon

18. VSSL SURVIVAL ESSENTIALS; $59

Emergency Survival Tent Outdoors
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Compact, convenient, and durable, the VSSL Shelter can come in handy when things don’t go quite as planned. The device—which features a lightweight emergency shelter all within the handle of a compact, weather-resistant aluminum LED flashlight—is designed to keep you safe under the worst conditions.

Find It: Amazon

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Illustration by Mental Floss. Image: Rischgitz, Getty Images
11 Things You Might Not Know About Johann Sebastian Bach
Illustration by Mental Floss. Image: Rischgitz, Getty Images
Illustration by Mental Floss. Image: Rischgitz, Getty Images

Johann Sebastian Bach is everywhere. Weddings? Bach. Haunted houses? Bach. Church? Bach. Shredding electric guitar solos? Look, it’s Bach! The Baroque composer produced more than 1100 works, from liturgical organ pieces to secular cantatas for orchestra, and his ideas about musical form and harmony continue to influence generations of music-makers. Here are 11 things you might not know about the man behind the music.

1. PEOPLE DISAGREE ABOUT WHEN TO CELEBRATE HIS BIRTHDAY.

Some people celebrate Bach’s birthday on March 21. Other people light the candles on March 31. The correct date depends on whom you ask. Bach was born in Thuringia in 1685, when the German state was still observing the Julian calendar. Today, we use the Gregorian calendar, which shifted the dates by 11 days. And while most biographies opt for the March 31 date, Bach scholar Christopher Wolff firmly roots for Team 21. “True, his life was actually 11 days longer because Protestant Germany adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1700,” he told Classical MPR, “but with the legal stipulation that all dates prior to Dec. 31, 1699, remain valid.”

2. HE WAS THE CENTER OF A MUSICAL DYNASTY.

Bach’s great-grandfather was a piper. His grandfather was a court musician. His father was a violinist, organist, court trumpeter, and kettledrum player. At least two of his uncles were composers. He had five brothers—all named Johann—and the three who lived to adulthood became musicians. J.S. Bach also had 20 children, and, of those who lived past childhood, at least five became professional composers. According to the Nekrolog, an obituary written by Bach’s son Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, "[S]tarting with Veit Bach, the founding father of this family, all his descendants, down to the seventh generation, have dedicated themselves to the profession of music, with only a few exceptions."

3. BACH TOOK A MUSICAL PILGRIMAGE THAT PUTS EVERY ROAD TRIP TO WOODSTOCK TO SHAME.

In 1705, 20-year-old Bach walked 280 miles—that's right, walked—from the city of Arnstadt to Lübeck in northern Germany to hear a concert by the influential organist and composer Dieterich Buxtehude. He stuck around for four months to study with the musician [PDF]. Bach hoped to succeed Buxtehude as the organist of Lübeck's St. Mary's Church, but marriage to one of Buxtehude's daughters was a prerequisite to taking over the job. Bach declined, and walked back home.

4. HE BRAWLED WITH HIS STUDENTS.

One of Bach’s first jobs was as a church organist in Arnstadt. When he signed up for the role, nobody told him he also had to teach a student choir and orchestra, a responsibility Bach hated. Not one to mince words, Bach one day lost patience with a error-prone bassoonist, Johann Geyersbach, and called him a zippelfagottist—that is, a “nanny-goat bassoonist.” Those were fighting words. Days later, Geyersbach attacked Bach with a walking stick. Bach pulled a dagger. The rumble escalated into a full-blown scrum that required the two be pulled apart.

5. BACH SPENT 30 DAYS IN JAIL FOR QUITTING HIS JOB.

When Bach took a job in 1708 as a chamber musician in the court of the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, he once again assumed a slew of responsibilities that he never signed up for. This time, he took it in stride, believing his hard work would lead to his promotion to kapellmeister (music director). But after five years, the top job was handed to the former kapellmeister’s son. Furious, Bach resigned and joined a rival court. As retribution, the duke jailed him for four weeks. Bach spent his time in the slammer writing preludes for organ.

6. THE BRANDENBURG CONCERTOS WERE A FAILED JOB APPLICATION.

Around 1721, Bach was the head of court music for Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Köthen. Unfortunately, the composer reportedly didn’t get along with the prince’s new wife, and he started looking for a new gig. (Notice a pattern?) Bach polished some manuscripts that had been sitting around and mailed them to a potential employer, Christian Ludwig, the Margrave of Brandenburg. That package, which included the Brandenburg Concertos—now considered some of the most important orchestral compositions of the Baroque era—failed to get Bach the job [PDF].

7. HE WROTE ONE OF THE WORLD'S GREATEST COFFEE JINGLES.

Bach apparently loved coffee enough to write a song about it: "Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht" ("Be still, stop chattering"). Performed in 1735 at Zimmerman’s coffee house in Leipzig, the song is about a coffee-obsessed woman whose father wants her to stop drinking the caffeinated stuff. She rebels and sings this stanza:

Ah! How sweet coffee tastes
More delicious than a thousand kisses
Milder than muscatel wine.
Coffee, I have to have coffee,
And, if someone wants to pamper me,
Ah, then bring me coffee as a gift!

8. IF BACH CHALLENGED YOU TO A KEYBOARD DUEL, YOU WERE GUARANTEED TO BE EMBARRASSED.

In 1717, Louis Marchand, a harpsichordist from France, was invited to play for Augustus, Elector of Saxony, and performed so well that he was offered a position playing for the court. This annoyed the court’s concertmaster, who found Marchand arrogant and insufferable. To scare the French harpsichordist away, the concertmaster hatched a plan with his friend, J.S. Bach: a keyboard duel. Bach and Marchand would improvise over a number of different styles, and the winner would take home 500 talers. But when Marchand learned just how talented Bach was, he hightailed it out of town.

9. SOME OF HIS MUSIC MAY HAVE BEEN COMPOSED TO HELP INSOMNIA.

Some people are ashamed to admit that classical music, especially the Baroque style, makes them sleepy. Be ashamed no more! According to Bach’s earliest biographer, the Goldberg Variations were composed to help Count Hermann Karl von Keyserling overcome insomnia. (This story, to be fair, is disputed.) Whatever the truth, it hasn’t stopped the Andersson Dance troupe from presenting a fantastic Goldberg-based tour of performances called “Ternary Patterns for Insomnia.” Sleep researchers have also suggested studying the tunes’ effects on sleeplessness [PDF].

10. HE WAS BLINDED BY BOTCHED EYE SURGERY.

When Bach was 65, he had eye surgery. The “couching” procedure, which was performed by a traveling surgeon named John Taylor, involved shoving the cataract deep into the eye with a blunt instrument. Post-op, Taylor gave the composer eye drops that contained pigeon blood, mercury, and pulverized sugar. It didn’t work. Bach went blind and died shortly after. Meanwhile, Taylor moved on to botch more musical surgeries. He would perform the same procedure on the composer George Frideric Handel, who also went blind.

11. NOBODY IS 100 PERCENT CONFIDENT THAT BACH IS BURIED IN HIS GRAVE.

In 1894, the pastor of St. John’s Church in Leipzig wanted to move the composer’s body out of the church graveyard to a more dignified setting. There was one small problem: Bach had been buried in an unmarked grave, as was common for regular folks at the time. According to craniologist Wilhelm His, a dig crew tried its best to find the composer but instead found “heaps of bones, some in many layers lying on top of each other, some mixed in with the remains of coffins, others already smashed by the hacking of the diggers.” The team later claimed to find Bach’s box, but there’s doubt they found the right (de)composer. Today, Bach supposedly resides in Leipzig’s St. Thomas Church.

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