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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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Food
A Brief History of Poutine
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Walk down a street after a hard night of drinking in Montréal and you’d be hard-pressed not seeing someone gorging themselves on poutine, a high-calorie classic staple of Québécois casse-croûtes—or “greasy spoon”—cuisine.

Just what is poutine, you ask? The delicious Canadian dish is comprised of a holy-hoser trinity of ingredients: French fries, cheese curds, and gravy. Try some yourself and you’ll be hooked. It’s become so popular that it’s readily available at certain restaurants in the U.S. (Lucky New Yorkers can get their hands on some traditional poutine at Brooklyn restaurant Mile End.) Otherwise, the dish has become so ubiquitous in its home province that even McDonald’s and Burger King sell it as a side.

Much like the debate in the U.S. about the origins of the hamburger, poutine has similarly unclear beginnings. The most widespread claim for inventing poutine comes from the small dairy-farming town of Warwick, Québec, where, in 1957, a customer asked restaurateur Fernand Lachance to throw cheese curds and French fries—items the owner sold separately at his restaurant L’Idéal (later renamed Le lutin qui rit, or “The Laughing Elf”)—together in one bag because the customer was in a rush. Legend has it when Lachance peered into the bag after the two ingredients were mixed together, he remarked, “This is a ‘poutine,’” using the joual—or Québécois slang—for a "mess.”

Noticeably absent from Lachance’s cobbled-together recipe is the gravy ingredient, which was added to the mix in 1964 when a restaurant-owner in nearby Drummondville, Quebec named Jean-Paul Roy noticed a few of his diners ordering a side of cheese curds to add to the patented gravy sauce and fries dish at his restaurant, Le Roy Jucep. Roy soon added the three-ingredient item on his menu and the rest is delicious, gravy-soaked history.

Eventually, poutine spread across the province and throughout Canada—with different combinations added to the fries, curds, and gravy recipe—but the original remains the most recognized and honored. It even initially made its way to the United States by way of New Jersey, where an altered recipe known as “Disco Fries” substitutes shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese for the Canadian curds.

But if you ever find yourself in Montréal and have a hankering for greasy food, be sure to order it correctly. Anglophones usually pronounce the word as “poo-teen,” but if you want to pass for a real Québécois, it’s pronounced “poo-tin.”  

This story originally ran in 2013.

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language
15 Colorful Canadian Slang Terms
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Americans looking to take a trip across their country's northern border might find themselves bewildered by some Canadian turns of phrase. It is, after all, a place where people go out for a rip to the beer store and plunk down their loonies to pick up a two-four. Pretty confusing, eh? But fear not. For all you keeners who want to learn how to speak like a Canuck, here’s a handy chart to help you master Canadian slang, courtesy of Expedia.ca.

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