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WE STAND ON GUARD FOR THEE
IX. THE STAMPS

The following paragraph is from a press release issued by the Canada Post Corporation on September 26, 1995:

"Heeding Canada Post Corporation's call for assistance in promoting 'October is Stamp Month' this year, Superman and four other Canadian Comic Book Heroes will be joining forces on a set of stamps October 2nd. The stamps, to be issued in booklets of 10, will salute the following Canadian Crusaders: Superman, Nelvana of the Northern Lights, Johnny Canuck, Captain Canuck and Fleur de Lys. Super hero T-shirts, mouse pads, activities and contests promise to make this October a super month for comic book fans and philatelists of all ages."

And so it was that five Canadian heroes -- well, four Canadians and an American with some maple syrup in his Kryptonian blood -- came back into the spotlight. Actually, in their own small way, the stamps' debut was a bit of a sensation, in that a federal corporation was introducing a new generation of Canadians to some of their older heroes. Superman, of course, needed no introduction (this was the first time that he appeared on a stamp anywhere), but the other four were no doubt grateful for the attention.

The stamps were designed by artist Louis Fishauf, with Superman and Nelvana based on classic comic-book covers from the 1940s. Leo Bachle, who was once the 16-year-old creator of Johnny Canuck, advised Canada Post on the proper colouring of his hero (his original adventures, of course, were depicted in plain black and white). The first day cover bore a Toronto cancellation and the cachet featured a drawing of Northguard, Fleur de Lys' partner, drawn by Gabriel Morrissette. (No doubt Fleur de Lys received star treatment because Canada Post, in an effort to be as inclusive as possible, wanted a distinctly French superhero in the mix.)

The following descriptions of the heroes were distributed by Canada Post in a press package, along with press releases, a set of stamps, a set of postcards featuring enlarged versions of the stamps, and details on how children could enter a "draw your own superhero" contest to win prizes.

[Click to view larger picture.]
 Superman
"Superman was created by Toronto-born Joe Shuster along with his classmate and neighbour Jerry Siegel: they met when the Shuster family moved to Cleveland in the mid-1920s. The Man of Steel was modelled after Shuster's own experiences working for the Toronto Star, and the early drawings of Metropolis used the buildings and skylines of Toronto as inspiration. After being turned down by several publishers, Action Comics agreed to publish Superman in 1938 and within three years was selling 1,200,000 copies."
[Click to view larger picture.]
 Nelvana
"The first national hero of Canadian comic books was Nelvana, a powerful demi-goddess in a mini-skirt. Nelvana's creator, Adrian Hingle, was inspired by Franz Johnston, one of Canada's Group of Seven painters. Johnston recounted an Inuit legend of an old woman named Nelvana, the daughter of Koliak, King of the Northern Lights, wielding her metal-melting light ray, and turning herself invisible to combat an assortment of super-villains."
[Click to view larger picture.]
 Johnny Canuck
"Johnny Canuck was a hero without super powers, alien planet birth, or divine ancestry. While Superman and Nelvana of the Northern Lights battled enemies at home, Johnny Canuck was Canada's champion of the Second World War, serving as an air force captain and secret agent. Canada's second national superhero was created in 1941 by 16-year-old Leo Bachle when a representative of comic book publishers Bell Features spotted the talented youth examining comic books at a newsstand and challenged him to create an action character by the next morning. The rest is superhero history."
[Click to view larger picture.]
 Captain Canuck
"Emerging in July, 1975, Captain Canuck was the only independent full-colour comic book published in North America and the only one in Canada. Captain Canuck emphasized realism, had a complex plot, an all-Canadian content, and contained little violence. Actual colour photos were used as backgrounds in a number of panels -- something never done before. The concept can be traced to Ron Leishman and Richard Comely when Comely transformed Leishman's Captain Canada into Captain Canuck. Another hero without superpowers, he used his strong patriotism to fight the bad guys. Captain Canuck has just been re-introduced as a comic strip in Canada."
[Click to view larger picture.]
 Fleur de Lys
"In 1985, Montreal writer Mark Shainblum and artist Gabriel Morrissette created Fleur de Lys, a gutsy Quebecoise superhero who served as both aid and foil to Northguard. As the story goes, martial arts expert Manon Deschamps adopted the costumed identity of Fleur de Lys to help Phillip Wise (aka Northguard) fight crime and political intrigue in Canada. Fleur de Lys carries a non-lethal weapon shaped like a Fleur de Lys that protects her by producing bright flashes of light."

VIII. The Characters
 
X. En Français