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: