Monday, December 31, 2012

One "N" or Two? -- A "Comical Wednesday" Post!

A million years or so ago, so long ago that my hair almost had some color left in it, I "promised" my Canadian readers -- all three or four of them -- that I would do a post specifically aimed at them, one where I tell how not one, but two modern-day, American comic book characters have their origins in the Canadian comic books published in the 1940! We'll, after a wait this long, this post is assuredly going to be anti-climactic, but such are the chances you take when you read this blog.

I'm assuming that if you know anything about comic books, you've at least heard of the X-Men. What you may or may not know is that they've been around since the early 1960s, and were one of the few Marvel superhero series that never hit really big, but instead kinda limped along. They were even canceled, and revived as an all-new team in 1975.

It's that (almost) all-new team, and its eight million variations and spin-offs, that eventually took comics fandom by storm. (Ouch! Sorry for the inadvertent pun, which only X-Men insiders will catch*)

(*Okay, since some people get really ticked off when they're not clued in on the private jokes around here, the super-heroine known as "Storm" is a member of the X-men. Get it? You're welcome.)

The first fifteen issues were drawn by the late Dave Cockrum,  and the series was catching on with the comic fans by the time that Canadian-born artist John Byrne took over and made it a solid hit.

("Byrne" is pronounced "bern," by the way. As an employee during the mid to late 1980s of the Worcester, Massachusetts flagship branch of That's Entertainment, the Eisner Award Winning pop culture & entertainment emporium, I spent a great deal of time correcting customers who pronounced it "brine" or "byron.")

By the way, as someone who has pretensions to being a writer  myself, I do not mean to slight the X-Men's writer, Chris Claremont, for his contribution to the title's success. Despite his penchant for having so many sub-plots he would occasionally forget one or two over the course of many months, his continuing storylines and terrific characterizations made the title a lot more than "jest purty pictures."

(Besides, if I did try to get by without giving Mr. Claremont due credit, yet another John -- not Mr. Byrne, but a close friend of mine -- would no doubt take me to task for it!)

Okay, okay, since this is more or less supposed to be a Comical Wednesday feature about Canadian comic characters, here's some background on John Byrne's early comic reading days, as related by Byrne himself, in 1980.* Picture it: The X-Men as a title and the X-Men as a team were becoming "hot" for the first time in almost 20 years, and on the verge of  frequent character crossovers, Wolverine origins, and spinning off eight million other ongoing titles and mini-series. Fan Favorite John Byrne is being interviewed about the origins of the super-team Alpha Flight, who were introduced in the pages of The X-Men itself!

"Snowbird, the shape-changer... her power is from... well, originally in my mind got her power from Nelvana, an Eskimo goddess character from the Canadian Whites, which were the Canadian comics of the 1940s. We'll probably never say that, unless we find out there really was an Eskimo goddess named Nelvana, but that's who I figure she got her powers from."

Ever hear of Alpha Flight's Snowbird? Here she is!

Well, eventually, Byrne introduced Snowbird's mother, Nelvanna -- not Nelvana, note the double "N" -- in the pages of Alpha Flight.

And, predictably for modern-day comic books, she didn't stick around long...

And now, fellow babies, a special treat for those who care enough about this subject to wanna see an original Nelvana story! The special treat is, of course... errr... an original Nelvana story!

Those who don't particularly care can stop reading now... but please join me for part two of this Comical Wednesday series in another week or so!

The following eight-page Golden Age comic story appeared in Super-Duper Comics #3,  in 1947 by F.E. Howard Publications, LTD.

Next: A Mister named Monster! Thanks for your time!

(And for those of you who care about this kinda stuff... Happy New Year!)
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