What We Learned from Some Bonkers Newfoundland Comic Books from the 80s
Captain America has nothing on Captain Canada, the Great White North's 1980s psychedelic crusader.
Images via 'Atlantis'
In 1975, Newfoundland media baron Geoff Stirling took a trip to India and attained spiritual enlightenment. Spoiler: it involves meditation, veganism, yoga, and a heroic dose of LSD.
When he returned to the West, Stirling was determined to use his radio, magazine, and television empire to bring this higher consciousness to the ordinary man. In particular, he really wanted enlightened role models for children, so that they could live an illuminated life straight out of the gate instead of going through a painful psychedelic deprogramming later on in life.
It was out of this dream of yoga-powered superheroes that Captain Canada—and his cosmic guru Captain Newfoundland—were born.
Strictly speaking, of course, Captain Newfoundland—aka Captain Atlantis—was not born. He is actually a timeless being from distant space and his real name is Samadhi, a Sanskrit term describing the mystical state of union with God. He once lived on the lost continent of Atlantis, and he manifests in Newfoundland because the island is all that remains of the Atlantean civilization after it sank into the sea.
Although the Captain and his friends have been a staple of NTV since the late 1970s (Captain Canada remains the mascot for the television station), everything we know about those strange figures dancing around in front of a greenscreen at 2:30 AM comes from two canonical sources: the Captain Newfoundland comic book (1981), and the epic Atlantis graphic novel (1983).
Both are collaborations between Geoff, his son Scott, and Filipino artist Danny Bulanadi. They are also notoriously hard to find; I found two copies of Captain Newfoundland on eBay (one for $150 US and another for $500), but nothing showed up for Atlantis.
This is a real shame, because these books are a trip.
"DON'T THINK, JUST BE"
Captain Newfoundland runs for a very disjointed 120 pages in black and white, compiled together out of the single-page comics that would run in the Herald every week. It's broken up into (roughly) four parts: a time-traveling Viking adventure; an encounter with mystical aliens; a very unfortunate trip to New York City; and an underwater battle with the devil.
Part One begins with Leif Eriksson and his fleet of Viking explorers arriving in Newfoundland more than 1,000 years ago. Captain Newfoundland appears and explains to them that Newfoundland is actually the only surviving remnant of Atlantis, which had once been home to a thriving civilization of space travellers. The Captain then transports Leif into the present day for some reason and the Viking warlord joins up with a group of teenagers to drive around in a van and beat up motorcycle gangs. He meets Joey Smallwood and goes drinking on George Street and is then transported back to his own time, concluding a spectacularly pointless trip.
In Part Two, Captain Newfoundland returns to his underwater pyramid-city to teach his adoptive son Jesse about the history of Atlantis. He then gives Jesse a suit of great power and names him Captain Kundalini. Meanwhile, we are informed that a sinister being named Black Star lives in a nearby black hole and seeks to rule the universe by overthrowing God. He is never mentioned again.
Captain Newfoundland takes his son to "his largest pyramid" and reveals the Captain Canada costume, explaining that he is looking for someone "strong, just, kind, and wise" to wear it. He then reveals that he already knows who this person is—an unassuming man named Daniel Eaton—and that the Captain has already had Dan arrested for marijuana possession.
When he is released from prison, Dan bemoans the injustice of Canada's drug laws. Captain Newfoundland appears and, satisfied that Dan is no longer a square, offers him the costume. Dan puts on the suit and accepts his destiny; Captain Canada is born. We do not see him again until Atlantis.
In Part Three, we are introduced to a shapely young woman named Captain Silver, also a descendent of Atlantis.
This introduction is immediately interrupted by an eight-page intermission about "A Day in the Life of Captain Newfoundland," where we learn that the Captain's daily routine involves dispensing metaphysical wisdom to fishermen and teaching paraplegic children how to communicate with the dead via astral travel.
We cut back to Captain Silver, who has decided to fly to New York City and see what's up. The answer: a mysterious dude in a cat suit uses a magical asteroid chunk to transform into Lion Man, King of Beasts. He attacks her for no reason and then starts fighting cops.
Captain SIlver uses her psychic powers to steal Lion Man's rock from him and flies to the stratosphere to hurl it into outer space, but this action weakens her so much that she falls into the Caribbean. Fortunately, she is rescued by mermaids—distant relatives of the Atlanteans—who take her to King Neptune's castle in the Bermuda Triangle.
In Part Four, an amnesiac Captain Silver joins the mermaids in their underwater war against King Satn, who is an evil Atlantean and also literally the devil. She travels with Neptune's son Suresh to Satn's castle on a diplomatic mission, but Satn is extremely horny and attempts to make Silver his sex slave.
But Silver is badass and isn't taking any of the devil's shit. She meditates to gather energy and then challenges Satn to battle, but is instead forced to fight in gladiatorial combat against an evil robot. She chops its head off and escapes with Suresh along with a totally random mystic named Rishna who just happened to be hanging out at the devil's palace.
Satn and his armies give chase and there is an apocalyptic battle on the ocean floor. Silver is fighting a dozen demons at once and things seem dire when Rishna reveals that HE WAS ACTUALLY CAPTAIN NEWFOUNDLAND THIS ENTIRE TIME, FUCK YES and teleports to Hell to battle Satn directly.
They have the world's most boring fight and eventually Captain Newfoundland traps Satn forever in an endless void. The devil's undersea army is defeated and everybody lives happily ever after.
But we live in Canada, not the bottom of the ocean. Captain Silver might be a fine hero for the Bermuda Triangle, but we need a hero who understands that true enlightenment comes from liberalizing drug laws.
We need Captain Canada, and he comes into his own in Atlantis.
THE FOUR CHAKRAS OF ATLANTIS
Like the first instalment, Atlantis is broken into four parts. But unlike its predecessor, Atlantis has a (mostly) linear plot. It is also in colour, which really makes Bulanadi's artwork shine.
Part One (First Chakra) is literally the entire time-travelling Leif Eriksson saga from Captain Newfoundland except this time it's in colour. I have no idea why they re-used this story arc instead of the one directly related to Captain Canada's origins, but presumably that's a creative decision far beyond my level of consciousness.
We are then treated to this brief intermission:
In Part Two (Captain Canada), we return again to Dan Eaton, who has just put on the suit he got in the first comic. Captain Newfoundland returns from fighting the devil and gives Dan a tour through outer space, telling him that his suit has many incredible powers but that he can only unlock them when he proves himself worthy.
After returning to earth and taking off his suit, Dan picks up a hitchhiking supermodel on the side of the road and takes her to a greasy diner for breakfast. She's promptly kidnapped by some random dudes, but Dan puts on the Canada suit and rescues her—a good deed which grants him the power to fly. Captain Canada flies around in the woods for awhile and eventually meets a giant man in a star-spangled spandex costume named Captain Freedom who transforms into an "Indian shaman" and teaches him about liberalism and multiple dimensions.
Captain Canada then travels to Montreal where a goddess in a fleur-de-lys one-piece named Mademoiselle appears to teach him about "culture and emotion" and the power of nationalism.
MEANWHILE, a mysterious group of villains known as the Super Mafia have come up with a flawless criminal plan:
Part 3 (Third Chakra of Atlantis - The Power of Action) is literally just a two page spread of the front and back covers of the book. Which is more than fair, because they were illustrated by
Boris fucking Vallejo, and totally worth showcasing as much as possible.
Part 4 (Fourth Chakra of Atlantis - The Place of the Heart) is where everything pops off. Captain Canada has a nightmare that he is battling the Sho-Gun robot but is too weak to defeat it, so he resolves to augment his powers through good works and meditation. Captain Newfoundland then appears and blows his mind by transporting him through various alternate dimensions of space and time. He gives Captain Canada a giant stone book called "the Holy Gospel of Consciousness" and tells him he must master its truths if he hopes to unlock all his powers.
Elsewhere, we are introduced to an evil wizard named Remlin—Merlin, but evil—who is the diabolical consciousness behind the Super Mafia.
Captain Canada reads the book and realizes the true power of love. The Lord Jesus Christ suddenly appears and blesses him with Cosmic Consciousness and unlocks all his superpowers. Meanwhile, Wayne Gretzky battles Sho-Gun at Parliament Hill in Ottawa in order to rescue the royal family. I say without any exaggeration that this is the greatest two page spread in the history of world literature.
Captain Canada arrives at Parliament Hill to battle Sho-Gun, and discovers that the robot is being controlled by the evil consciousness of Remlin who, he informs us, also controlled Adolf Hitler. Captain Newfoundland suddenly appears and battles Remlin through several dimensions across time and space for the fate of the Queen. Captain Newfoundland wins and the robot explodes and Captain Canada gets all the credit.
The last two pages of Atlantis have nothing to do with anything else in the book. Tim Forsythe—then-content manager at NTV and a very real person—shows the reader photos of UFOs allegedly taken in Switzerland and then the book abruptly ends.
The Atlantis universe is a lot to take in on a single reading.
Captain America can keep his dumbass shield. Give me a Christ-endorsed drug mule with the power of yogic levitation any day. It's the hero Canada deserves.
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