Monday, September 27, 2010

Reader's Diary #652- Richard Comely (author) and George Freeman (illustrator): Captain Canuck Vol. 1

It was not quite two years ago that I began my love affair with the graphic novel. In hindsight it's a good thing I started with Seth's It's a Good Life if You Don't Weaken. Had I started with Comely and Freeman's Captain Canuck, I'm afraid my graphic novel appreciation would have come to a screeching halt before it even began.

It's that bad. Worse than that bad. It's so bad I'm thinking of compiling a list of the worst books I've read since I began this blog back in '05 and I have to say, Captain Canuck is a strong contender to top that list.

Where to begin. Actually, that's a perfect place to start: the beginning. Unfortunately, the IDW Publishers couldn't figure out that basic concept. Captain Canuck came into being in the 70s and IDW has decided to unleash those first issues back into the Canadian wild. Except Volume 1 begins with issue #4 and continues to issue #10. Volume 1 begins with issue 4. What the hell happened to issues 1-3? And shouldn't those be in Volume 1?

Ah but that's the least of the problems. A few points should be discussed: the colouring, the artwork, and the writing.

In Richard Comely's introduction to this volume, he seems to focus a disproportionate amount of discussion on the colouring. According to Comely, he and Dick Thomas "came up with a technique that allowed for a wider colour range, colour blending and gradient tones." It was revolutionary, apparently. The colours, yes, were decent, and I can't fault the book on that front. Dang, looks like the Worst Book Mine Set Review Award may be slipping from Comely and Freeman's grip. But wait!

The art work by George Freeman, depending on the frame you're looking at it, might appear like any average superhero cartoon. If you can get past the stupid costume that is. White briefs? Sure they're a bit embarrassing, but come on, all the superhero guys wore those in the day. Maybe not white, but it's part of the Canadian motif, and the tights underneath will catch the skid marks anyway. No, the worst part is the head covering with the maple leaf on the forehead. I think it was Douglas Coupland who lamented how hard it is for Canadian kids to draw their own flag in school. The maple leaf is hard to draw and it's not any easier for Freeman, I suspect. The only consistency in it from one frame to the next is that it looks like a blood stain seeping through a bandage. The other character faces, I actually liked, especially in their 70's cheesy way. However, some of the postures are just grotesquely bad. There's one scene (p. 68), in which Captain Canuck's upper half aggressively confronts a man across a desk. His lower half, however, seems be headed out the door.

But the worst, the absolute worst, critique has to be of the writing itself. The spelling and grammatical mistakes (ex. their's) cannot even distract from how bad it is. Captain Canuck, who got his superhero strength from an encounter with aliens (unlike me who only ended up with Alien Herpes), so rarely exhibits any special power that I found myself forgetting what his powers were. And fighting drug dealers? A super-villain would have been nice.

Then there's the narration that needlessly describes scenes we can interpret quite easily for ourselves. In one panel, a fist is shown across Canuck's face, with blood squirting from his lip, and the narrator tells us, "But as he turns, Leavitt strikes hard!" In another Canuck is shown leaping through the air, his feet making contact with a couple of soldiers, and the word "Phwam" is emblazoned across their chests. Gee, what's going on there? "Before another word can be uttered two soldiers are downed in one swift move off his steed!" Which brings me to the next problem: the ridiculous amount of exclamation marks and appeals for our excitement, "In the next second the two brothers become a magnificent fighting duo!" Let me decide that! Or "What happens next can be described in a word...MAYHEM!" If it reminds you of Adam West era Batman, then clearly I haven't been harsh enough. I couldn't even enjoy this on a camp level. References to Churchill and Labrador, characters named Kebec and Redcoat, and a futurist Canada (well, okay, it's 1994 but they'd predicted Canada would be the world's superpower), far from inspiring any nationalistic pride, simply made me embarrassed that we ever produced something this terrible.

In Newfoundland, millionaire/crazy guy/founder of NTV, Geoff Stirling created his own superhero, Captain Canada. Captain Canada wears a Ski-doo helmet visor, could shed a few pounds, and terrorizes dolphins, but he could still kick Captain Canuck's butt:


Allison said...

I was going to comment on your post, but I can't stop chuckling at that clip. Oh, Canada.

Wanda said...

Love how much you can dislike a book and still put out a great review!

John Mutford said...

Allison: He also has a friend.

Wanda: Thanks. Something from nothing, as the Jewish folktale teaches us.