Alpha Flight | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Alpha Flight

Alpha Flight is a Canada-based superhero team created by John Byrne (b 1950) and published by Marvel Comics.

Alpha Flight is a Canada-based superhero team created by John Byrne (b 1950) and published by Marvel Comics. The team's first appearance was in Uncanny X-men #120 in April 1979, when Alpha Flight went to the United States to retrieve the X-men character "Wolverine." According to John Byrne: "Chris Claremont mentioned that Dave Cockrum had an idea that the Canadian government probably would not be too thrilled to see their multi-million dollar investment - "Wolverine" - head south as had so many other Canadian resources. Surely, he suggested, Ottawa would send somebody, perhaps even a team, to get him back." Although John Byrne was initially reluctant to develop the Alpha Flight team into an independent title, the characters proved popular with audiences and Alpha Flight #1 was published in August 1983, featuring a brief appearance of Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

From Captain Newfoundland to Shaman and Alpha Flight, what can some of the most iconic Indigenous and Canadian Superheroes tell us about our history? Turns out, quite a lot.

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The original super-Canadian team included a diverse cast of characters: the Ottawa-based engineer James McDonald Hudson as the team leader, "Guardian" (also known as "Weapon Alpha" and "Vindicator"); the scientist Walter Langowski from British Columbia as "Sasquatch;" the Québec twins Jeanne-Marie Beaubier and Jean-Paul Beaubier as "Aurora" and "Northstar", respectively; the Inuit demi-goddess "Narya," codenamed "Snowbird," who went undercover as Anne McKenzie from Yellowknife; Michael Twoyoungmen, a First Nations doctor turned medicine-man from Calgary, as "Shaman;" dwarf Eugene Milton Judd from Toronto as "Puck;" and the alien "Marrina Smallwood" from Newfoundland.

After Guardian's death in Alpha Flight #12, his widow Heather MacNeil Hudson assumed his maple-leaf bedecked super-suit as well as leadership of the group. Perhaps in a nod to Canada's Golden Age comic book superhero "Nelvana of the Northern Lights," "Snowbird" was descended from the goddess "Nelvanna." "Northstar" is touted as one of the first openly gay superheroes in comic books, something that John Byrne proudly achieved despite Comics Code policies.

After Alpha Flight #28, John Byrne left the series (Nov 1985), and several writers, artists, and editors have since been involved with the team. The original 130-issue series ended in March 1994. The team was revived for twenty issues of Alpha Flight Volume 2 from August 1997 to March 1999, twelve issues of Alpha Flight Volume 3 from May 2004 to April 2005, the one-shot Chaos War: Alpha Flight in 2010, and eight issues of Alpha Flight Volume 4 in 2011. Each version brought new members to the superhero squad, including a cyborg, a clone, mutants, a super-horse, and Puck's daughter.

Devoted to defending Canada, the Alpha Flight's enemies included monsters like "Wendigo," "Tundra," and "Bedlam." They worked with Department H, a fictional Canadian defense organization, as well as other characters from the Marvel universe. Plot lines included antics ranging from time travel to moral quandaries about destroying unhatched alien eggs. Despite its intermittent publication, Alpha Flight has a devoted fan base and has generated a fascinating array of letter columns about Canadian identity and American ignorance of it.

See also Comic Books in English Canada.