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Northguard one of casualties among Canada's comic book heroes

WHAM! KAPOW! ZAP! KABAM!

No, that's not Superman or Captain Marvel sending the villains reeling through the comic book pages.

It's Northguard, Canada's own superhero, battling a shadowy, cross-border organization whose name, Man-Des, skates precariously close to being an easily recognizable abbreviation of that old bugaboo Manifest Destiny.

With a Maple Leaf emblazoned on his stretch tights and a comely Quebecois martial arts champion named Fleur de Lys at his side, Northguard wrestles not only with one murky foreign intrigue after another, but also with his Canadian identity as he struggles to prevent a takeover of Canada by U.S. multinational corporations.

But like his predecessor, Captain Canuck, a quintessentially Canadian superhero who tried to avoid violence and strived for compromise while defending middle-power Canada against the superpowers of the world, Northguard has vanished from the comic book shelves.

Along with a half-dozen other Canadian fictional superheroes, they have become victims of cultural imperialism from south of the border, buried by overwhelming marketing forces and competition from U.S. comic book publishing giants and by American superheroes such as Batman, Wonder Woman and Spider Man.

Although there is a movement to re-create a home-grown comics industry and reignite the spark of cultural nationalism, for now, Northguard and Captain Canuck have been relegated to the National Archives here and a comic art exhibit at its Canadian Museum of Caricature.

There, it is clear to see that Canadian comic book heroes are characterized by a gentler nature, given less to violence than their American counterparts and often more concerned with saving their environment than blowing it up.

"Unfortunately, Canadian kids seem to prefer American comic books, and a lot of good Canadian comic artists have moved to the United States for the big money," said John Bell, a government archivist and curator of the exhibit.

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