Ask comic book fans to name Canadian superheroes from comics and the top answer will be Wolverine, past that you may have a few people say Captain Canuck or Alpha Flight but mostly you’ll be rewarded with blank looks.
The main reason is that, by and large, Canada is a country that the comic world generally ignores; other than as a backdrop for a wintertime forest adventure. Usually when comic books depict Canada they would have you believe that it is a country of nothing more than vast forests covered in snow, and devoid of large cities or a population doing anything heroic.
Granted, Canada isn’t known to have massive dynamic cities such as New York, Los Angeles or London, so it is understandable why comic writers and artists would want to set their stories in cities with a deep history and have a certain mystique about them.
However one comic company has been using Canada as a backdrop for superheroes and wild adventures. Red Leaf Comics is an independent comic company based out of Phoenix Arizona with publisher John Micheal Helmer at the lead.
Focusing on largely Canadian based content, Red Leaf Comics offers fans a number of titles.
Their flagship title is ‘The Leaf’. The Leaf is a title about a hero that Red Leaf dubs ‘Canada’s Greatest Hero’. The character spans a time frame from 1938 to present with plans to have the character continue on, (in the story line) past the year of 2125, with four different incarnations; each assumed by a different member of the McSorly family.
Usually when we see the role of a character being passed down from one person to another the look of the character stays roughly the same, and rarely do we see the look of the character getting a huge make over. However, Red Leaf Comics chose not to go with this formula and each incarnation of the character has a distinct look. The first version of The Leaf, (Golden Age Leaf, time frame 1938-1955) the character is drawn wearing a costume that is based on what Canadian soldiers in World War I would have worn. Version two, (Silver Age Leaf, circa 1965-1995) The character wears a hybrid military uniform/ street clothes, red cape (fashioned after a stylized maple leaf) and sports mechanical bands on the forearms.
The costume worn by the modern Leaf, or the current version of the character, shows a character in the more familiar body suit with a cape that is common to see in superhero comics. The design for The Future Leaf redesigns the character even further, giving the character a sleek, otherworldly feel.
Creative character redesigns aside, The Leaf is a title about heros in action. Secret labs, monsters, murder, historic battles, zombies and criminals are all part of the enemies The Leaf faces. From defending Dunkirk in World War II to tracking down a highway murderer in modern day British Columbia, The Leaf title spans a wide range of history, locations and challenges for the hero.
Just because it’s set in Canada, don’t expect the action to be watered down either. Golden Age Leaf looks like the serious ‘Kick ass first and ask questions later’ type of character and modern Leaf has no problems charging at a monster with fists flying or tracking a violent criminal.
Multiple stories in a single book, cross overs with other characters from the Red Leaf Comics universe, and a host of artists contributing to the title give the Leaf a unique approach centered around a single character.
While many comics revolve around a quickly identifiable character with a linear storyline and homogenous look from issue to issue, this title does more than trying to create a character with a brand identifiable look to base an entire storyline around. They take risks with their story lines, topics, art styles and character designs. So if you’re interested in a title that offers a lot of variety, while still tied into a central theme consider adding Red Leaf Comics The Leaf to your list of comic purchases.
John Goodale is the author of ‘Johnny Gora’ (available through Amazon.com), and a number of articles here on TMRZoo.com. His monthly column ‘Indy Comics Spotlight’ appears here and through his blog Indy Comics Spotlight