It’s Canada Day! That’s like the American 4th of July, only we do it first, just like Thanksgiving. Today to celebrate, I’m listing my 10 favorite fictional characters from our vast, empty and frozen country. These are the characters so popular that people who DON’T live here have heard of them, and I didn’t even have to scrape the barrel deep enough to mention Degrassi High, Dixon of the Mounted, or The Littlest Hobo.
And because everything is slightly bigger in Canada than anywhere else in the world, our top ten requires eleven entries. Deal with THAT, smaller, tiny countries.
11 – Terrance and Phillip
They fart, they sing, they laugh, and they start wars. These are all things that Canadians are known for the world over, except for the starting wars, or the singing, really. But we do laugh a lot, and because of all the donuts, there is a substantial amount of farting. Created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone for South Park, these two characters have given the world a glimpse at the true Canadian spirit, albeit an embarrassing one that we’d rather not talk about.
10- Dudley Do-Right
Loosely based on Canada’s genuine Mountie super-hero Sam Steele, the character of Dudley was the personification of selflessness, sacrifice, bravery and incompetence, only one of which wasn’t based on Steele. With his trusted horse, and his highly untrustworthy enemy Snidely Whiplash, Dudley kept a fairly remote part of the Yukon safe for his female companion “Nell” for a few years, in cartoons by Jay Ward, and a sadly forgettable film with Brendan Frasier (a Canadian! –kts), and Eric Idle.
9-The Transvestite Lumberjack
He doesn’t want to be a barber, he’d rather not own a pet shop …he always wanted to be…a LUMBERJACK! Debuting on Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Christmas of 1969, he’s subsequently shown up in stage shows, films, German TV specials, and hit records. He’s usually played by Michael Palin or Eric Idle, accompanied by the likes of Tom Hanks, George Harrison, Peter Cook, and others, and there’s not much to him, beyond a fondness for buttered scones, watching Scots Pine trees floating down the mighty rivers of British Columbia and dressing in women’s clothing to hang around in bars. I’m fairly sure his name is Beavis, but I’ve never met someone with that name and I live here.
Created by Richard Comely back in the 70s, when comics mattered and people still read them, the Captain was the first All-Canadian Super-hero since the Golden Age who didn’t completely and utterly suck. Under the beautiful artwork of George Freeman, the Captain’s adventures looked slick and professional…almost as though an American was drawing them! A generation of Canadian cartoonists was inspired to get into this gig because of the Captain, and creators such as John Byrne and Todd McFarlane came and kicked ass for quite a while as a result. Sadly, the comic industry is gone now, and we’re left only with memories.
7 – Anne of Green Gables
She is sort of the Canadian version of Pippi Longstocking, in that Anne Shirley has red hair and people have heard of her in other countries. Originally based on a “Gibson Girl” portrait of Evelyn Nesbitt (the scandalous Girl in the Red Velvet Swing) Anne was a 19th Century orphan from the Maritimes who is sent to work on the Hammond farm when a garbled telegram mistakes her for a boy. Feisty and adventurous, Anne soon wins over the Hammond family and the people of the small town of Avonlea and has the sort of adventures that Canadian orphans living in the Maritimes have. Besides the books by Lucy Maude Montgomery, Anne has featured in cartoons, TV series, and Japanese Anime, and even became a live, breathing human being when the actress Dawn O’Day (I’m assuming not her real name) played her in a 1934 film, and changed her name to Anne Shirley as a tribute to her own performance. If you’re Canadian girl, the Little House on the Prairie sucks and you prefer Anne, trust me–I have a daughter.
6 – Bob and Doug McKenzie
Created by Dave Thomas and his brother Ian when they were young lads, the characters debuted on SCTV (played by Dave Thomas and series regular Rick Moranis) when the performers realized the CBC broadcasts were two minutes longer than the American syndicated versions of the show and they needed filler they could easily cut for viewers down south. As characters INTENDED to be removed from the US broadcasts, the sketches were simply ad-libbed nonsense, making enough references to beer, hockey, bacon, donuts, winter toques and being a “hoser” to please their Canadian audience. Somehow they became a HUGE international sensation in the 80s, leading to movies, record albums, commercials, an animated TV series, and a delightful cameo in a Disney film as a pair of moose. They’re not particularly impressive examples of Canadian citizens, but they stand as the most recognized Canadians the world over.
5- Scott Pilgrim
This is the quintessential Canadian comic book hero, so quintessential that he was published in Portland. Created by Brian Lee O’Malley in 2004, Scott is a hyper-geek comic fan/rock musician and his quest is to beat up the ex-boyfriends of a bike courier he meets one evening, so she will allow him to date her. If you didn’t see the much praised movie starring Michael Cera in 2010, then you share that distinction with almost everyone else on the planet Earth. It didn’t make money, but it pleased everyone in my family and that’s all that really mattered.
4 – Johnny Canuck
Originally Johnny was a political cartoon character, a bearded lumberjack who hung out with Uncle Sam, John Bull, and other personifications of national spirit. In the second world war, he became our comic book hero, a fighter pilot who didn’t mind smacking Nazis around with his bare hands (sometimes while wearing a ripped shirt, Doc Savage style!). His only super-power was the indomitable fighting spirit that lives in all Canadians. He was revived last year by Moonstone Comics as the lead character in “THE NORTHERN GUARD” a comic series presenting many Golden Age Canadian Super-Heroes in a modern setting. Of course, it was canceled after a few issues, because no one had heard of him.
3 – Wolverine
If you don’t know who Wolverine is, then you simply don’t read comics and aren’t aware of the existence of Canada. He’s likely our most famous fiction character in comics, and has brought a lot of quite popular Canadian comic characters with him as a result, including DEADPOOL, SABERTOOTH, ALPHA FLIGHT, WENDIGO, and many others. Other than a string of blockbuster movies, best-selling comics, toys, TV shows, and T-Shirts, he’s not particularly successful.
2 – Dark Claw
He’s Wolverine mixed with Batman so he’s even cooler. Besides having all of Wolverine’s super-powers and popularity, he has a cave and a way-wicked flying car and a sidekick with a yellow cape. Most importantly, he’s Canadian and has a giant nickel in his underground lair instead of a penny, so by the transitive property rule, he’s five times better than Wolverine.
1- William Shatner
Shatner was a character I dreamed up as a small child to entertain me and the world. He was (in my imagination) a handsome leading man with an ability to make fun of himself and a need to go out into space and screw green women. Later, I imagined he was a crazy lawyer and a nutty retired doctor and tough-as-nails police drill sergeant with a fondness for riding on the front hoods of a car. I even dreamed he starred in a movie my father wrote. Lately, I’ve discovered that other people share my delusion of a “real” Bill Shatner and they’ve told me that they’ve “met” him. Too many Molsons and Timbits will do that to you, or too much LDS in the 60s. Anyway, if people want to believe he’s real, that’s okay with me, just so long as you don’t imagine him out on the wing of a plane in flight. No one will buy that.
Ty the Guy OUT!
Here now, your BONUS Canadian Fictional Characters. These are the ones that didn’t make the list:
LOL! OK, that cracked me up (though Rodney McKay was conspicuously absent).
Okay…who the hell is Rodney McKay?
Ah, I’ve just looked him up and he’s apparently a character in the STARGATE universe. I apologize, but other than the movie with James Spader, I’ve completely missed the whole STARGATE thing, and was unaware of him. I’m told Stargate was a fairly decent set of TV shows, and I promise myself I’ll get around to them, after I finally see the new Battlestar Galactica.
I always thought that Rodney McKay was to Stargate as you are to comics.
But I digress…
You can’t forget Ron Leishman as the man who came up with the initial idea for Captain Canuck. He worked on the development of the character with Comely and he then moved on at a certain point. He still lives in Calgary and runs http://toonaday.com
No women on the list? Anne of Green Gables? Nelvana? I realize we’re a very manly country — as number one on the list clearly demonstrates — but surely we have to have someone of the fair sex as our fictional counterpart to Laura Secord to server as our standard bearer!
Sorry to hear of the Northern Guard’s cancellation. I enjoyed it.
I was going to post a comment on the lack of women, then reviewed the list and saw Anne of Green Gables. Hope that post didn’t go through.
Sorry to hear of the Northern Guard’s cancellation. I enjoyed it.
Northern Guard is down, but not entirely out. We have plans…oh WE HAVE PLANS! And as for Nelvana of the North? I have to be brutally honest, my only awareness of her was that she has an animation studio named after her, and she was astoundingly impossible to secure the rights for in our Northern Guard series. Her stories and image have really passed into history in a way that Anne of Avonlea has not. If we’re going with characters with fictional dog companions, I’d have gone with Benton Frasier quicker than Nelvana, female or not!
Thanks Ty. A pity about Nelvana’s rights, though I’m not terribly surprised, I have to imagine tracking down wrangling down those old rights is a real chore. (One of my more idle fantasies is to get the rights to Rocket Robin Hood and reboot it.)
Good luck with those plans for the Northern Guard, I’ll be waiting, even if no one else is.
No one but Canada has ever heard of RRH and it would likely sell less than Johnny Canuck. Oddly enough, Hoverboy began as a Rocket Robin Hood shout out, and it all rolled downhill from there. And the rights for Nelvana weren’t that hard to track down (I was in touch with the owner in just three emails), just hard to secure.
I could see someone taking RRH and just running wild with it as a modern political commentary. *evil grin*
Where’s Commander Rick?
I can state with calm assurance that Commander Rick is a completely real and not at all fictional person, and by that I don’t mean “Rick Green”, the actor with whom the Commander shares a body, but the Commander himself.
You’re absolutely right about the potential viewership for RRH. Sometimes the things we’d like to do aren’t the things that are likely to connect with a wide audience, which is why they usually remain in the realm of idle fantasies.
Still,I’m grateful that you got to breathe a bit of new life into Johnny, and really hope you get a chance to do more with the old codger.
Ty was briefly excited when I told him that our local Costco had DVD collections of Rocket Robin Hood for cheap–but after a few moments he realised that he would never actually watch them, and the kids would probably think we were joking…
I, can, be, only, one!
Google “Shatner comma” and it will make a lot more sense and then be funny as hell.
I thought ALL Canadians were fictional! (Ha, y’all were thinking it!)
I love that the editor of Captain Al Cohol is named “Ootes”. It just seems Canadian.
For female fictional Canadians, you missed Robin from How I Met Your Mother.
And I’m not sure why too many Mormons in the ’60s would lead to Shatner delusions. Too much LDS leads to Shatner? Guess we Americans better not elect Romney, or that other Mormon guy.
Yeah, Robin from HIMYM was a consideration, but only because of my fondness for her hit song “Let’s Go To the Mall” which we all enjoyed as youths. But a top ten is a top ten and has to be cut off at some point, an immutable fact I clearly ignored this time out anyway.
And just to make sure everyone gets the reference, I’m not misspelling LSD to mean Latter Day Saints, it’s a quote from STAR TREK 4: The Voyage Home. My imaginary friend gets some of the best lines in that imaginary film.
As for Cst. Benton Fraser…one thing you can say that his TV show eventually got its own convention. It’s irregularly scheduled, mind you, but RCW 139 actually happened! And fates willing, the next time it’s reorganized, I hope to actually attend it!
No Red Green? Really?
Also, Marvel editorial has refused several times to confirm Deadpool as Canadian, meaning he isn’t.
Add me to the list of people incredibly disappointed that Northern Guard is canceled. And when you’re done with that, add me to the list of people who can’t figure out why you’d release two parts of a three part series, yet squelch the finale. Glad to see there’s still plans in the works, at least.
First off: Like Commander Rick (or Bill from Bala) Red Green is by no means fictional. That’s really the way Steve thinks, speaks and dresses, I swear. His nephew Harold is another story. I’d like to claim I didn’t include Red Green because I worked on the show (VERY) briefly and was trying not to show my bias, but I’ve worked on Dark Claw, Johnny Canuck and Wolverine as well, so it’s hardly the point. Wait a minute, if I’ve worked on half of Canada’s fictional characters, what does that say about the size of our country?
As to plans for the Northern Guard series….we’re working towards releasing either a graphic novel collection of the three issues, or putting the whole thing out online as a digital download. The last issue WILL be released, I promise. It has a cool ending sequence with the bear and the Tesla engine, and all sorts of goodies, and it looks BEAUTIFUL, with work by David J. Cutler, and the first pro-inking work by my son…but Moonstone ran out of support for it, and their marketing wasn’t building an audience so it became a bete noir over there.
Doesn’t having a nickel rather than a penny in his lair make Dark Claw five times cooler than Batman rather than Wolverine? And who’s gonna break the news to Batman? ‘Cause it damn sure ain’t gonna be me.
Also, while she’s not well known, I like Canadian-born Vivien Michel from Ian Fleming’s The Spy Who Loved Me novel. It has the distinction of being the novel that Fleming was so self-conscious about that when he sold the movie rights he only allowed them to use the title and not one character or situation from the novel itself. It’s very atypical within Fleming’s Bond series, but I dig it quite a bit. I found Vivien much more interesting than the other Bond girls.
Well, in the novel, Vivien is the voice of the narrator, which is very odd for a Bond novel, and it gives her a distinction amongst the women of the stories by allowing the readers “into her head”. My wife HATES Vivien btw…calls her life story both sordid and whiny.
There is some thought that Fleming may not have written TSWLM. People cite the very different plot structure and voice used. It’s been some years since I read about that and I can’t recall now who may have written it.
What about the trailer park boys! They are my most favorite Canadians! 🙂
My list of Top Fictional Canadians include Charlie Allnut who was the river boat captain in The African Queen (played by Humphrey Bogart) and Richard Hannay from Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps which was based on a book by John Buchan (who later became Canada’s 15th Governor General).
Kickin’ it old school!
Hard not to include Charlie Allnut from African Queen. When we get to include Bogie in the list, it ups the cool by 100 %
In the original book by CS Foster (also wrote the Horatio Hornblower series by the way) Allnut was British and cockney. They changed it for the film, because Bogart as a Canadian is slightly easier to buy than Bogart as a Brit
Hornblower novels were a real treat for me in my late teens. I gobbled them up along with Shadow, Sherlock Holmes, Doc Savage, John Carter, Conan and James Bond. Revived pulp was king in the 70s.
TRAILER PARK BOYS.
and it appears there is more than 1 Jamie on this board that is a fan of Trailer Park Boys.
Oh wait, that was a year ago.. that probably was me.
Cuing that Sting song “It’s Probably Me”…
Where are the Pattersons from Lynn Johnston’s For Better or For Worse? Okay, I suppose that most Americans didn’t really register them as being Canadian except for the odd mention of “Grade 13” but they were in newspapers for Pierre Trudeau’s sake. Also, Pierre Trudeau was in Alpha Flight, so he might count.
I have given Lynn Johnston quite a bit of recognition around here, calling FOR BETTER OR WORSE one of the ten best comic strips of all time, and her character Laurence Porier, one of the ten best gay characters in fiction. At a certain point, I can’t keep gushing about Lynn’s work or she’ll think I’m stalking her. (Which I’ve sort of done at conventions once or twice.)
One of my favorites is a comic pilot named Bandershot or something such. I would check out a series of books at the Vancouver Library when I was in Canada but I forgot the authors name and can’t find one here in the U.S. Any help out there on this?
Alan, there was a Belgian comic that started in the 50s called Dan Cooper, who was supposed to be an RCAF test pilot: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Cooper_(comics)
I was expecting Red Green somewhere in this list. Next year perhaps. 🙂
I ended up here via a search for nicknames for the Canadians in WW I (which sadly offered only Johnny Canuck, which I was amazed I didn’t know about), which lead me to Moonstone, which led me to buy the three available issues of Northern Guard. Which led me here so I could find out if there were going to be any others, which apparently there won’t. 😦
Is Moonstone itself still publishing? It doesn’t seem to have updated its website since 2011. That would be very sad, since it’s such a great idea.
By the by, I stumbled across a French-language graphic novel recently, Hero Corp, tied to a made-in-France TV show of the same name. Supposedly, a super-hero sitcom, and one of the characters in the cast is yet another Captain Canada.