New Triumph Featuring Northguard will be one of the most remembered comics in Canadian history. This is not only because the hero dons the national flag, or the book’s preoccupation with Canadian acceptance of national heroes, but because it was created and published by two very talented men, Gabriel Morrissette and Mark Shainblum. Morrissette and Shainblum published the comic through their own publishing company, Matrix Graphic Series, based in Montreal. They are also responsible for publishing Canuck Comics and Mackenzie Queen.
New Triumph was published irregularly for five issues from September 1984 until the summer of 1986, and all except the first book were forty pages long with an added mini-comic of Bernie Mireault’s The Jam. The comic featured consistent black and white art by Morrissette with art assists by Bernie Mireault, Geoff Isherwood, Jacques Boivin and Jan Harpes.
However, 1986 was not the end for Northguard. In 1989, in cooperation with Caliber Press, the first five issues were re-released as a trade under the imprint “Matrix and Caliber Press”. The book was 144 pages in black and white. Importantly though, it included a foreword by John Bell which again addressed the issues surrounding Canadian national heroes and the even greater irony of the comic’s publication being resumed by an American publisher.
For resume it did! In the same year they published the trade, Caliber Press published three final issues entitled Northguard: The ManDes Conclusion. These were published between 1989 and 1990, and, like the title suggests concluded the series.
The story follows 20-year-old Phillip Wise and his part in a private corporation’s plan to defend Canada from American radicals. You can see a greater description here, although be wary of spoilers. What the comic prides itself on is its superhero realism. Wise’s powers are not magical or supernatural, they’re technological. They come from an attachable device. Likewise, Northguard’s partner, Fleur-De-Lys, is a Tae Kwon Do instructor and Steel Chameleon has a built-in holographic disguise tool. This same idea can be applied to their enemies which are political and religious radicals and not superheroes. This superhero comic could almost be described as science fiction.
This brings me to another aspect of the comic I really enjoy which is the interchangeable English and French. The story uses both as it takes place in Montreal. It also references separatist politics but addresses the desire for an amicable relationship between French and English Canada through Northguard and Fleur-De-Lys (Manon Deschamps). The comic has great depth, giving the reader many ideas to consider. An excellent read and not terribly hard to find, but can also be purchased as e-comics.
I’m going to go ahead and take this opportunity to plug Lost Heroes, an upcoming documentary on Canadian superheroes. It will include this and so many more of Canada’s superheroes from the past to the present. Here is their website, Facebook page, twitter.