ONCE UPON THE GREAT WHITE NORTH!
Sean Ross and The Irredeemable Shag find their joy discussing Marvel's Canadian (dysfunctional) super-team, ALPHA FLIGHT! Why we love the team, best eras of comics, best (and worst) team members, and planning for Alpha Flight in the MCU!
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36 responses to “Once Upon A Geek – Alpha Flight”
i know a few things about Alpha Flight
1 It musta sold well as it was’nt IN San Franciso after Number 1
2 I only saw it at my great grandmother’s house in Salinas
3. I HAD 1,10,12,and whereever the heck Talisman first showed up
4 thoughts “oh my god John Byrne loves Super-skrull just like me
5 JB bent the comic code all to high heaven did’nt break it but there’s werid stuff there.
6. I LIKED Af but in the back of “Rob’s kid brain” Alpha flight was the reason we never got a soviet super solders book! Which 8-10 YEAR OLD ROB wanted very badilY
7. Snowbird is really this https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nelvana_of_the_Northern_Lights
Good point about Snowbird. Deep connections to Canadian mythology. Thanks for listening!
Well, mythology I don’t know, but Canadian Golden Age comics yes. I have written several pieces on Nelvana: https://siskoid.blogspot.com/search/label/Nelvana%20of%20the%20Northern%20Lights
Interesting. I thought Nelvana came from mythology before comics.
Smells like team spirit?
I gathered from some interviews that Seagle planned Flex’s origin had him being a son of Wolverine.
Oh wow! That would have been interesting and not a parent I suspected. Thanks!
I’d like to see William Shatner as Mac. Then, Marvel can let him write an AF comic where he brings himself back to life.
What a delightful celebration of Canada’s finest! As a massive Alpha Flight fan myself, I was mildly offended not to have been invited to participate in this celebration (just one more thing to add to my ever-expanding book of petty grievances against Shagg). However, upon listening to Shagg and Sean’s in-depth examination of the team’s history, I realised how very little AF I’ve actually read. Byrne’s run, of course, many, many times, then a few Mantlo issues, which I really didn’t enjoy, and and a spotty couple of issues here and there. You’ve made me want to actually check out the full Mantlo run and give it a second shot.
Byrne’s run is so, so special to me. I first encountered it as a back-up story in the UK reprints of Secret Wars, and also in the Wendigo X-Men story reprinted in Mighty World of Marvel – both among my earliest and most influential comics experiences. Is it any wonder that the team imprinted on me so hard, or that I’m so attached to Byrne’s rendition? For one thing, I’ve always gravitated towards Sasquatch as my favourite Alphan – but to my eyes, no one but Byrne has ever been able to draw him in a way that captures his animalistic physicality. So that’s immediately a barrier for me. Those Sasquatch solo stories in AF (both the origin and the Super-Skrull tale) are just masterclasses in how to draw a massive hairy cryptid.
Just one final thought… as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve always found second stringers more interesting and compelling than the big stars. And Alpha Flight is all second stringers, at best. And as Sean mentioned, bult into the concept is that Alpha have their own third- and fourth-stringers, in Beta and Gamma flight. So hell yeah, I’m on board. In fact, those two little panels in AF#1 showing the other teams, without naming anyone, really sparked my mort-sense as a kid. Who are those dorky losers? I just loved them immediately. And of all the morty and dorky Alphans, Mannequin is perhaps the mortiest and dorkiest of them all. And that’s why Sean is right and Mannequin is great.
Thanks for listening! And I’m thrilled to add to your list of grievances that will eventually be cited when you finally snap, Sasquatch style.
Agreed no one has ever quite captured Sasquatch’s look. Dale Eaglesham wrote an interesting piece saying how Sasquatch is surprisingly difficult to draw as all his hair is varying lengths.
This Network was founded in Aquaman and Firestorm, so second stringers are in our DNA. Bwah-ha-ha!
If you like the Byrne era, maybe try the mini-series by Pak, Van Lente, and Eaglesham. Good classic stuff!
Manikin Hive Unite!
Manikin is great, in a ‘ripping off Evolvo Lad from the Legion of Super-Heroes series’ kind of way.
It is totally what Manikin is.
I’m ashamed to have completely forgotten that Manikin does not spell his name Mannequin, which makes him even dorkier and mortier, and therefore cooler.
I’ve never read a single issue of Alpha Flight, but I knew enough from OHOTMU and Marvel Saga (LOTS of James MacDonald in Marvel Saga!) to follow along. The discussion was fun and lively, and interesting from strictly a comic antropology perspective. A comic title burns brightly for a bit, but then no matter how many times they try, publishers just aren’t able to recapture that initial spark. It’s made even more ironic considering Byrne didn’t want to do it to begin with! What’s more, he barely stayed on the Hulk anytime before jumping to DC to do Superman. And by doing so, he had to give up the FF!
I completely forgot about the strong presence of Alpha Flight in Marvel Saga!! That’s probably how I first learned a lot of their history. Thanks for the memory jog!!
And love the phrase, “comic anthropology perspective”!
About your notion of putting an Alpha HQ in Moncton, NB, my first reaction was that it was ridiculous. By rights, they should be in a larger city like Halifax, NS. But Moncton is also known as Hub City because while there’s no good reason to stop here, you have to COME THROUGH on your way everywhere else.
That True North special had a story that took place in PEI which I quite enjoyed, but the Maritimes have indeed gotten short shrift.
Impressive podcast most impressive. Always like the team both alpha flights. I can understand why someone from Canada would probably not enjoy them. After all I hate with every fiber of my being gambit. Because no one here talks like that. Definitely not someone from the big easy. He’s over there talking like Justin Wilson claiming he’s from the bowl. It just doesn’t work. So I’m sure these issues do happen with people from Canada having to read this comic. Still I think they meant well. And John Byrne had lived there at one. So I’m sure intentions were good. I enjoy this comic. Since I don’t have any emotional baggage to it though I am sorry for anyone that has been made to feel oy by the way it was written.
To be honest I haven’t read much of John Byrne’s run on Alpha flight.Bill Mantlo’s run on the book was much more the one I followed. As you may have guessed when Sasquatch took over the body of Snowbird that was my jam. I definitely read a lot more of that. Mostly in back issues. I ended up getting into Alpha flight believe it or not by MOHTMu. Due to Heather Hudson’s file in the book. And I ended up picking up issues from their. It was kind of like how I got into Capt. Britain because of a random issue of X-Men. So I picked up as many issues of Alpha flight as I could find in the back issue been as well as on the rack. At that point on the wall at my brick-and-mortar store. The Acadiana book exchange. Was during the whole first dream Queen story arc. I did enjoy box as a character. And like his relationship with Heather. Also goblin is two people. Sensor powers kind of work like the Marvel version of Capt. Marvel.
Where the sisters trade places when she become a hero. Ironically from the same dimension that the dream Queen Hails from. At least that’s how I remember it. I was a teenager at the time. So my memory could be faulty. I didn’t read the stuff with diamond Lil’. But, I did like her MOHUTO entry in the group entry of gamma flight I think. I’m not buying though that when Snowbird found out about Northstar dating Hercules is echo would run away. This is Northstar. If he slept with a gwad. A Greek one. He would brag about it. Not shy away from it. I almost picked up the aforementioned Omega flight. The ones with US agent. When I was at a used comic and action figures store. But, I ended up getting the Chuck Dixon run on G.I. Joe and ominbous form for five dollars. I liked both, but I was on my action force/G.I. Joe collecting phase. So I got that. I enjoyed most of this comic. Even when they went to a world where they met dinosaur people. And thought a group of misfits that goblin had been a member. And while goblin wasn’t my favorite character I understand the two sisters. After all their parents had tried to children in childbirth.
Since their father was part of the do no sure thing before it became a new island thing it wasn’t anti-mutant group. And hear their parents found out they were pregnant with mutants. He tried to have them aborted. But, the sister that seems to not have any powers was able to use her powers to send goblin to the other dream world. So she did die. She just was able to switch places with her sister when she needed to come out and help. At least that’s what I remember. I haven’t read these decades. So while goblin wasn’t my favorite character that was of course purple girl and Sasquatch. I was disappointed when wanted became Walter again. But, I knew this was only a temporary thing. I ended up moving so I stopped collecting off a flight for a while since they weren’t available there. And learned in college about the Steven T Stegall run.
I did enjoy their first few issues where they fought Mesmer. Though I wasn’t a big fan of Sasquatch becoming almost mindless. And them de aging Guardian. To switch the dynamics of his relationship with Heather. Just seemed pointless. Her new costume was fine. Though I like Heather better as guardian. Her in the power suit. Just worked better for me. Her being just a typical human being that had this uniform again for these abilities. And she had to step into the leadership role. And kind of being the person making this teamwork. Even though this wasn’t really her main focus. While her husband had been a scientist. The whole superhero thing was kind of his interest. And it wasn’t something she disdained, but it wasn’t something she fought for either. So sing a normal person having to deal with all this. And becoming a competent leader. And I assume a decent mechanic unless it was box who fixed this suit. Was kind of nice. Her interactions with goblin even gave you more insight into that character. Even though let’s be honest goblin was there to be the goal for rain. It just didn’t work. And I’m guessing that’s why they made Sasquatch and more animalistic.
Since his beast McCoy copycat version hadn’t really work. I liked the twins well enough though to be honest I liked Aurora better with wild child then with Sasquatch. I’m glad they had that relationship. But that was kind of the first true love relationship. Kind of the one you thinks can work that everything is perfect and everything is wonderful and this is gonna be the person but it turns out you two are just not made for each other and that’s my thought on Sasquatch and Aurora. We’re like her better with wild child. Even though he’s screwed that up. Since he felt that no longer being pretty boy Wildheart, she wouldn’t want him anymore. Which wasn’t true. But, whatever. He worked better in X factor. Her brother Northstar worked fine enough for me. Even though let’s be honest he was basically quicksilver who could fly. His personality makes sense for all the crap he was having to deal with. But, I just never really got into him as a character.
Jeanne-Marie breaking up with Sasquatch once he becomes a woman makes sense. She is heterosexual so as much as she cared for him. It wouldn’t work once he became her. Also Wanda was dealing with enough that I have to add a relationship on top of it. Because of everything that happened with Sasquatch. I became a big fan of that. I even bought the Snowbird action figure because of this version of Sasquatch. Which came with a mini action figure of puck. Though he’s basically a toy soldier. Since he has zero articulation. Though she did come with a bird and Wolverine form. That also have no articulation. Still the toy itself is pretty cool. I did end up reading a few of the stories John Byrne put on his website about the original concept of Snowbird. It seems John Byrne even had an edge Lord phase. I haven’t read too many stories where she’s a character in it. Snowbird that is. Luckily when he brought her into the actual comics. She had a four different personality. And thankfully she became the character she was. And not just psychotic ecoterrorist. I can’t give an informed opinion of the character herself having only really read a few issues of her.
It is kind of interesting though that when Walter takes over her body and becomes Wanda she looks nothing like Narya. This was the third form Walter had taken. Since he was the first box after becoming Sasquatch. Really weird finding out that he wasn’t a mutated human but a mystical creature called Tanaraq. Our at least a creature was controlling Walter’s body. And Snowbird had to kill said body. So now every time Wanda looks in the mirror not only is she and a body that she is not thrilled with. It is also the body of the person who killed her. Or rather killed Walter. This character does definitely in my opinion at least work well enough as an early Trans character. And she is slightly clunky. However let’s look at Northstar. Yeah that’s pretty clunky right there. His whole coming out is that Northstar just yells it out in the middle of a battle. Back to Wanda. Her outfits aren’t that bad. And once your body has completely transformed you will dress in such a way. Our least I have. It’s like when a person loses a bunch of weight. And they dress in ways to show off that. Interestingly enough if you look at Wanda and you look at Snowbird. They are look the same. For one thing Wanda has white curly hair. While there was a slight wave to snowboards hair when she was in her true form.
It was nowhere is downright curly as the wavy hair that Wanda sports. And in snowbirds Anne form she looks completely different. With once again straight hair short straight blonde hair. Not the platinum blonde that Wanda appears to be. So until Snowbird is able to create a second body for herself and transform her original body into a male version for Walter to live in. His mind is able to alter the body to fit into this unique form. So in a way while the early stages of this can fit for a trans woman. The letter storytelling of what happens with Walter can very well fit for a trans man. I.e. for a while no one acknowledges Wanda. As being Walter inside. It takes a great deal of effort for Walter to get his life back. To where he once again becomes Walter. With the help of Snowbird and probably a lot of government friends.
In a she kind of fits both of these versions of being transgender. Maybe not so much one that is gender-neutral. Interestingly the first story that delves into her dealing with this is titled identity crisis. They even go as far as to use the line look at this person they cannot behoove they claim to be bit. So the whole trans-phobic belief system that their stuff is new. That’s pretty old schlock. To the point where it’s being mocked in a comic book. So it might be a bit clunky. Still they were trying. So the style of dress may have been to show off the bodies to not confuse. Or it may have been just how Wanda choose to dress herself. Those were close they are most comfortable in. Back to the comic itself. While it’s not exactly the 70s defenders. That kind of has a good working feel to it. Over much people that shouldn’t be friends. But somehow ended up being friends and working together.
I can’t really see Jean-Paul mine be around in a vehicle much less hanging with them and becoming friends. But,
probably just goes or because his sister wants to be there. He seems to become friends with all his people and can still like being around them. And in spite of himself becoming friends with these people. Walter well having been a football player as well as a physicist. I think he’s there because it’s kind of fun for him. He is ability glory hound kind of like she Hulk. So this makes sense for him. And once again he makes friends with these people in spite of himself. I already mentioned Heather. Shamans there as well got his powers and kind of a doctor. Only one who kind of wanted it and would fit into a team in the classic sense is Guardian. And well these kind of dead by the first issue. It seems by accident John Byrne kind of May his own defenders team. Since again from what I understand the kind of threw this together last-minute. He wants people to fight with Wolverine and this is what you came up with. While I don’t go out of my way to pick up issues of Alpha flight. Unless I’m in the mood to collect a certain character here there.
Why do read them I always enjoy them. And I can see why the last as long as they did. Can’t wait to hear the next podcast.
Er I should say my thoughts on Wanda Langkowski. Are mine and mine only. Other Trans people may have a different perspective on her. But, I always liked her. But, I only speak for one crazy old lady and that’s me. Still was cool hearing about Alpha Flight again.
Ah, good old Alpha Flight. I remember being rather impatient for them to get together as a team during that first year, even though the individual stories were good.
Puck. Hockey puck. Mind blown. I always assumed his name was a Shakespeare reference. I didn’t know about Canadians and hockey.
The Byrne Fantastic Four is amazing, I was less keen on the Hickman FF – I dropped the book around the time we learned Black Bolt has married a space horse and a duck and Lord knows what else. I can imagine a Jonathan Hickman Alpha Flight – the team are assigned to be cosmic cartographers of Canadas across the multiverse, and every issue is nothing but graphic maps featuring a new Hickman alphabet based on the maple leaf. Marvellous.
How about a contest to invent a new Alpha Flight member? I would suggest Professor Poutine, King of the Curd!
Regarding Northstar’s coming out issue, Sean notes that ‘everything looks clunky from 25 years away’. To me it looked clunky at the time. It was just embarrassing to read.
Yes please to Kesel and Nord DD on a future episode.
I found Immortal Hulk an engrossing read until the extra-sized #25, which was like a Seventies concept album, pretentious and unreadable. I tried three times to finish it.
I was surprised that James MacDonald Hudson was so unpopular with out hosts, he was the most handsome man in comics – that hair, those cheekbones, the plaid shirts!
I hate the post-Crisis idea that Barry Allen was boring. He was no more boring than any other classic DC hero.
Vindicator. Worst superhero name ever. Well, apart from Night Thrasher.
So James being about seven years older than Heather was bad, but no mention that Madison Jeffries was probably 25 years older?
‘Roger’ is only Seventies sitcom dirty. Bochs isn’t cheeky at all!
Martin’s right. The DC heroes of the Silver Age were all pretty white bread, especially the action scientists. Was there much difference between the Atom and the Flash aside from their power set? The only thing that gave Hawkman anything extra was Hawkgirl by his side. Everybody thinks Hal Jordan is the worst Green Lantern. Superman seemed very ready for a personality implant when Crisis hit.
I think it’s really a matter of DC often failing to update characters who had been around for decades in terms of psychology. By the 70s, many of the characters felt retro, and too many Justice Leaguers were interchangeable (which is why Firestorm, Elongated Man and Green Arrow shined there). Characterization was one of Marvel’s strengths from the beginning, and it’s why it managed to outpace the comics juggernaut.
I also agree that Vindicator is not a good name, and I wish Heather had simply been the new Guardian.
Roger may indeed be an old-timey verb, but Bochs is most definitely on the sechsy side. Combine the two and it’s hard to think it’s not joyously intentional filth. In fact his name is so unsubtle he should have been a Bond villain.
I think I need ‘Bochs’ explained!
I regret to inform you that ‘box’ is a slang term for a lady’s naughty bits.
My dad and I were huge Marvel guys back in the day but never picked up Alpha Flight except for the occasional crossover tie-in, like their involvement with Acts of Vengeance. I think there was only so much budget for comics and AF didn’t quite spark our interest enough. My AF exposure came from some very specific places.
1) The first was Avengers #272 where the Avengers go to Atlantis to help Namor battle Attuma…and Alpha Flight is there to rescue Marina, who Attuma has prisoner (Side note about Marina–I share your disdain for this character. It’s all her fault Namor left the Avengers, breaking up one of the best Avengers lineups ever and ensuring his power wouldn’t be available against the Masters of Evil in the epic Under Siege story, plus the other reasons you mentioned, most egregious among them being the catalyst for Black Knight and Monica Rambeau leaving the team, too! BK would only be prominent in the Avengers one more time…Monica would never be a prominent Avenger again…so yeah, Marina is terrible). I thought Alpha Flight seemed cool in their guest appearance but they very much took a back seat to the Avengers. Only Box and Vindicator (Heather Hudson) really stood out to me.
2) Then, we knew a family who collected lots of Marvel comics including Alpha Flight, and I remember us staying the night at their house and I read a bunch of their comics, including AF. The issue where Madison becomes Box, Roger Bochs is killed horrifically by the grotesque Scramble, and Madison kills Scramble by turning into a massive laser cannon and blowing him away–well, let’s say that story stuck with me for its drama and creepiness.
3) Randomly, and I don’t remember how, we had AF#34, where Wolverine and Heather fight Lady Deathstrike and an army of samurai warriors. I love this issue, because Heather comes into her own, dubs herself the new Vindicator, and just annihilates Lady Deathstrike and her army. In every subsequent appearance of LD I would just be like pffft…just get Heather Hudson to take LD down again. It ain’t hard.
4) Then, being the X-Men megafans that we were, we got the X-Men and Alpha Flight two-part miniseries that you guys mentioned where they face off with Loki. Wonderful story, great artwork by Paul Smith, and Claremont does an excellent job with the Alpha Flight characters. What he did with Puck, Heather, Shaman, Talisman, and Northstar in particular is very memorable to me, and I still have that two-parter and reread it every few years.
-I share your opinion that Heather as team leader is 1000 times more interesting than Mac. I really like the narrative of the “civilian” wife of the main hero taking up his mantle after his death, making it her own, and rising to the occasion as a determined and effective team leader. In fact, in this period of the late 1980s, not one, not two, but THREE of Marvel’s superhero teams were led by women! Storm on X-Men, Wasp/Captain Marvel on Avengers, and Heather Hudson on Alpha Flight! I’m not sure this has been repeated since but kudos to Marvel for being so progressive. Of course, in the early 90s under different leadership, Marvel would regress and have Captain America as the near-eternal Avengers leader and bring back Mac in Alpha Flight (which I agree with you guys 100%, an utterly fruitless move), and Cyclops in X-Men (though the superb character work Claremont had done with Storm forced the “two team” concept with her and Cyclops each leading an X-Men team…they wouldn’t have dared make her subordinate to Cyke!).
-Though I wasn’t buying the comics, I was intrigued from a distance for the transformation of Wild Child into Weapon Omega/Wildheart. I liked the Wildheart codename and the black and red costume they gave him, I wish it’d stuck around, but again, Marvel was hard-regressing everything at that point. I was disappointed to read X-Factor at the time and see that Wildheart had become Wild Child once again. Ughhhh. Such cool character development and they undid it to give us Sabretooth-lite. Borrrring.
-I liked the Alpha Flight red-and-white team uniforms, though really only Heather, Windshear, and Wildheart looked “right” in them.
-My ideal Alpha Flight lineup is Guardian (Heather Hudson, of course), Northstar, Sasquatch, Puck, Talisman, Persuasion/Purple Girl, Wildheart, and Diamond Lil. Maybe throw in Windshear and Mannikin, too (I know I just lost what little credibility I had with Shagg, but I thought Mannikin was really interesting and a neat ‘wild card’ character in the mix). My take on a new series for them would be globe-trotting adventurers working for the UN or even NATO. Canada is a staunch supporter of peacekeeping missions around the world, and AF could tackle the superbeing aspect of that. I agree they need new villains. Maybe take some villains that have tons of potential but no one is using, and repurpose them as Alpha Flight bad guys…or make up some great new ones!.
Okay, my own long-winded take on Alpha Flight, supplemented by old blog posts…
I more or less began actively purchasing comic books on a regular basis in 1982. Alpha Flight #1 was the first comic that I’m aware of buying off the newsstand after a several month gap in the spring of ’83. At a whole dollar, it was a big ticket purchase, although a bargain at its double length page count. Like most of the comic world, I loved John Byrne in his prime, and all those great looking Marvel heroes on the cover made it an easy sell. However, I soon realized that of those heroes, Alpha Flight were clearly the least. For instance, grouping Snowbird, Northstar and Aurora together made it clear that they barely had one costume color between them. Puck’s defining character color is his own hairy flesh. The same was true of Marrina’s jaundiced skin, her actual suit coming out of Namorita’s closest. Sasquatch was a poor man’s Beast, and Shaman seemed rejected by the Global Guardians. Guardian was the only well designed character in costume, but that costume was the sum total of his personality. The “Alphans” (blech) fought a bunch of giant muck monsters from Canadian Native folklore, which today I would find neat, but as a kid bored me. They reminded me of a movie called Shadow of the Hawk that tripped me out, but it was spooky because it was normal humans against an unfamiliar form of the supernatural. Brightly colored super-heroes following in the footsteps of Jan-Michael Vincent was considerably less impressive. For years, it was a book I’d toss through for the art, but not actually read.
Many years later, I read through #2, which was pages and pages of people talking, swimming, or flying. Also, Marrina eviscerated Puck because she’s a nutjob who shouldn’t be allowed around people, much less be a super-heroine. I tossed through #3 in a quarter bin, which had the neat cover of Aurora in an exceptionally child-unfriendly jungle gym, and again it was just people navigating physical and emotional obstacles instead of doing anything a kid would find cool. It also had the Guardian “First of Alpha Flight” pin-up in the same cheapie bins as issues of Captain Canuck, whose costume Byrne flagrantly plagiarized. My brother bought a copy of #5, because he thought Puck was a cool lil’ Wolverine variant, but it was about him still being in the hospital from when Marrina clawed him in #2, so who was the real Wolverine there? I think he also had the “Snowbird fighting a wendigo in a blizzard” gimmick issue with the six blank pages, and being the chaos agent, he would have gotten a kick out of that lame gimmick. He was a fan of cheat characters like Mimic that had a bunch of other people’s powers, so he probably also had the Super-Skrull appearance in #9. We somehow managed to miss the much ballyhooed #12, but he bought #13 for the Logan appearance. 11 page silent sequence. Byrne was a knob even then. Not sure when #15 passed my way, as a had a short-lived interest in Namor, but it was once again Marrina and The Master shenanigans. I bought #17 new off the stands for the X-Men flashback. Wasn’t that a partial reprint with new captions? What a jerk.
I don’t believe I read anything substantial from the Byrne run after that. Aside from my Superman period, I’ve tended to find Byrne to be a facile writer. In retrospect, it was true of the Superman stuff, as well. He’s one of the all time great artists, but even as a child I rarely gravitated toward the work he did for himself, only with others. I was down for Stern/Byrne Captain America, X-Men back issues, and Marvel Tales reprints from Claremont scripts, but noped out on most of the rest. For most, he’s a good enough artist to support his writing, but I think the broad rejection of Alpha Flight in the decades that followed reflects an intolerance for Byrne writing non-iconic characters.
My brother bought odd issues of Alpha Flight from the Mantlo/Mignola+ period, and I would thumb through or maybe read some, but it just didn’t grab me. However, it was around this time I started seeing Dave Ross on books, and I was immediately drawn to him. This was especially true if he was being inked by, say, Whilce Portacio, as he was on Alpha Flight #41. Something about Purple Girl’s plight and the issues of consent regarding her manipulation of Jean-Paul Beaubier spoke to me. I don’t know if it was a random purchase or a 3-pack or what, but I didn’t finish that arc until years later, despite wanting to. However, I did get #45 with the spooky Kevin Nowlan inked Snowsquatch cover and Brigman/Portacio interiors, then #53 as a early adopter of Jim Lee Wolverine. I think my brother also got some issues from this period. but the material never compelled regular attendance for either of us. Marvel Age would highlight a gorgeous cover by the likes of Lee or Nowlan, but you’d seek out the issue only to find interiors by Hugh Haynes or John Calimee. As we definitely said in 1989 without a trace of revisionism, “nah dawg.” Then the covers fell off and there wasn’t even a temptation anymore.
As was too often the case with interstate moves, I went a long time without going to school when we arrived in Colorado in 1991. Otherwise, I would have known about the comic shop along that route, but in the meantime, I just grabbed whatever I could find at the nearest convenience store. As that happened, it would be Alpha Flight Special #3-4, filled with guest-starring Avengers and a Galactus cover. I was curious to see how the Canadians had expended the province to that degree, and certainly the Michael Bair art didn’t hurt. The Fabian Nicieza scripts were solidly alright, and they even redesigned Guardian to be less of a knock-off (Northguard who?) so I put the series back into the maybe category. I pre-ordered Alpha Flight #106 for the Northstar queer reveal, despite the actual comic being terrible. I was Weapon Omega curious, and maybe the X-Factor tie-in was a draw, so I tried an issue or two of World Tour ’92. Having been a fan of Simon Furman’s Dragon’s Claws and Pat Broderick in general, I was very drawn to try their run. However, this was also the period when I began actively avoiding Marvel product, so I never once took the plunge, to this day.
I’ve long been a Scott Clark mark, so I tried issues of the 1997 series with Steve Seagle, especially stripped cover returns to Heroes World(?) Seagle never really did it for me though, and I’m very much not onboard for most Duncan Rouleau efforts. It also bugged me that Canada only had one major super-team, but Marvel still felt like it was okay to play these kinds of demeaning mind games with them. X-Men / Alpha Flight was John Cassaday’s debutante ball after making a splash on Wildstorm’s Desperadoes, so I showed up for that. The Lobdell/Henry series was after my time as both a Marvel reader and retailer, so I mostly forget that it ever existed. Omega Flight sticks with me more for the sheer WTF and because the Bendis massacre was so distasteful. The 2011 series looked really, really good, both on the writing and art fronts, but it came decades to late to find me a receptive audience for this property and characters. The absorption into Captain Marvel in recent years feels almost as misguided as the Avengers Xorn stunt.
In summary, I like that Canada has their own weird little super team, sort of like how Kids in the Hall and SCTV are their SNL. However, it’s a team that’s poorly maintained and disrespected within its universe while being maintain by people of non-to-dubious Canadian lineage. It just makes more sense to get your maple comics tastes serviced by Chapterhouse/Lev Gleason, an actual Canadian publisher staffed by residents in a Great North-centric continuity of their own. I also think that Alpha Flight is a cool name. It’s tough to go wrong with the Greek alphabet, and so much better than the umpteenth force/men/league. Decades on though, what does it have to do with its nation, though?
That comment was getting too long to be trusted with an unsaved internet post. So on to the proposed Alpha Flight movie: No. I’m sorry, but this IP does not rate a feature film, and by your own admission, cannot support a franchise. This is a Disney+ series that could serve as a backdoor pilot for the MCU X-Men. Lower budget, emphasis on weird/spooky with more practical effects and solo-spotlighting bottle episodes. How about…
Aden Young as James MacDonald Hudson
Megan Park as Heather MacNeil Hudson
Joshua Jackson as Walter Langkowski
Émilie Bierre as Jeanne-Marie Beaubier
Antoine Olivier Pilon as Jean-Paul Beaubier
Martin Klebba as Eugene Judd / Puck
Sarah Gadon as Snowbird
Adam Beach as Michael Twoyoungmen
Tanaya Beatty as Elizabeth Twoyoungmen
Charlotte Le Bon as Marrina
James Frecheville as Logan
Don McKellar as Master of the World
I always had a TV show for Alpha Flight that opened like this …
“Department H, a clandestine division of the Canadian government have put together a group of specialised operatives for missions that are too dangerous for the regular military to undertake.
If your job is unorthodox. strange. or just downright dangerous. you need to send in …
It seemed somewhat familiar, but i couldn’t place it. MARVEL, if you use this, I want 20%
Oh, really fun show.
I heard twinkly 70s theme music (like Incredible Hulk or Six Million Dollar Man) while reading that blurb.
WHAT im getting is we all like Alpha flight 10 so much super skrull needs a solo book
I had never even heard of Alpha Flight before John Byrne’s series was on the stands, but that’s when my comic collecting was really beginning, so that was fortunate timing. I dropped in and out of AF’s volume 1, but definitely have a soft spot for this team thanks to Byrne’s initial run. Accidentally great comics!
Now the comparison to the Force of July is hilarious, but an extra layer to it, some letter-writer to Batman and the Outsiders back in the day suggested they should introduce a Canadian national superhero team called “The Fist of July”, since July 1st is Canada’s Independence Day. Which is to say, that’s what Alpha Flight’s name would have been if Mike W Barr had created them! Hmm, considering the discussion about the team name, is “Fist of July” better or worse?
Excellent podcast, guys!
The effrontery to having an two Americans covering Canada’s only team?!?! And enjoying it, to boot eh! I feel like I need to form a strongly worded passive aggressive comment , which I will apologize for after the fact!
Having got that off my chest, I would really like to say that this show was awesome and it warms my cold, tundra heart to hear other people enjoy Alpha Flight. In fact, reading the comments here, I’m actually surprised that this many people liked Alpha Flight! Not because it was bad (it wasn’t!) but the hook was it was Canada’s team and I didn’t think that would have been a big pull for most of the reading audience.
I loved Alpha Flight from the get go. After being bombarded with Captain America up here in the Great White North, I was ready to have a Canadian superhero/team and, at the time, I had no clue that Captain Canuck existed. In fact, I made sure to buy this series as best as possible, thanks to spinner rack distribution, and made sure to go back and fill in as many issues as possible when I visited comic stores. I think have all of volume 1 up to 103, bit’s and parts of volume 2, and then most of the rest. I think I have the same feeling as everyone else; I loved Byrne’s run and was disappointed when he left, but gradually fell in love with Mantlo’s run. After that, it just seemed like a slow decline of direction and focus, not only from the writer’s and artists, but also from Marvel itself. Like Shag mentioned, this was definitely the “not quite ready for prime time players” of teams and Marvel treated it like an afterthought. Bring it back, Marvel, and get someone who can ACTUALLY draw a maple leaf flag and people playing hockey!
I agree that the team became more interesting with Heather as leader, with her having to deal with the death of Mac. BUT I enjoy the visual of the original Guardian better. I like the mask more than the goggles. Ze goggles! They do nothink…. for me. I also enjoyed that Heather really came into her own after Mac died. She had some great character development over the course of Mantlo’s run. I also liked how it flips the “side female character dying to propel the male main character’s story farther along” trope on it’s head.
Aside from Mac and Heather, I’m also a fan of Box. I feel like he was a criminally underused character in the overall Marvel Universe. In fact, I could read a series with just Heather and Mac!
Canadians that go down to Arizona and Florida for the winter are known as Snowbirds up here, but I don’t know if that’s because of Alpha Flight. Though that’s in my head cannon now!
I guess if you want to flip this on it’s head and need someone to talk about Captain America or Captain Britain who’s not American or British, well….. don’t call me. I wasn’t a fan of those characters.
Another fantastic episode everyone! I’m loving this series to hear Shag and guests gushing about things they love. Keep up the great work!
I want to be a super-powered Canadian now, where do i apply?