Captain Canuck—the Canadian superhero who has his own stamp, maple syrup, TV series, and even an upcoming movie.
Created by Latter-day Saints Richard Comely and Ron Leishman, this wholesome hero often prays for strength and guidance in difficult times and represents morals Mormons talk about in Sunday school as he uses his superhuman strength, given to him by aliens, to protect Canada and the world.
In fact, Captian Canuck was so virtuous that in the late 1970s one Toronto vendor refused to carry these comics because he felt they were too religious.
But when missionaries appeared on his doorstep in 1971, clothes stylist and graphic designer Richard Comely knew nothing of the Church. “To be honest with you, I didn’t even know where Utah was located,” Comely says. But after hearing the first discussion, Comely asked so many questions, the two elders taught him three discussions in one day.
Growing up, Comely had attended other churches with friends or neighbors, but this was the first time he found answers to some of the deeper philosophical questions he’d asked as a child. Within two months, Comely became a devoted member of the Church.
Shortly after his conversion, Comely met fellow Mormon Ron Leishman, who came up with the idea to create a Canadian superhero, and the two began discussing how to bring their comic book vision into reality. While Leishman served a mission Brussels, Belgium, from 1975-1977, Comely began creating and self-publishing the first independent comic book printed in full color, Captain Canuck—and the endearing Canadian champion soon inundated the country. "Every news paper, pretty well every magazine, and every television network in Canada did several stories on Captain Canuck," Comely says. television network in Canada did several stories on Captain Canuck," Comely says. Even the prime minister and governor general printed a letter in an issue of Captain Canuck—a first for a comic book.
"It's exciting to see Captain Canuck back in action!" Governor General David Johnston wrote. "I have no doubt he will continue to inspire a whole new generation of fans."
"The physical strength of Captain Canuck is not what distinguishes him as a hero; it is his dedication to others. We see this same heroism reflected in our friends, family, and neighbors who unhesitatingly help those around them," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
From its inception, Comely leveraged his fame as a way to spread the gospel. In the first issue of Captain Canuck, Comely informed his readers he was a member of the Church; in the second issue, he reprinted and featured an entire article from the Ensign, with permission; in later issues, Comely published pamphlets from the Church and a letter detailing the missionary work of Elder Ron Leishman, who was on his mission when Captain Canuck was first released. Shortly after, Comely received a call from a man in the northern U.S. telling Comely he planned to attend the LDS Church in his town because of Captain Canuck.
Comely also found ways to integrate gospel conversations in his day-to-day work. After showing two artists he worked with a copy of the Church’s Man’s Search for Happiness, one of the illustrators, Claude St. Aubin, declared he would never leave the Catholic faith. “But about six months later, he started to come to Church with us,” Comely says. Not long after that, St. Aubin began taking missionary discussions at the Comely house and was soon baptized.
"I insist on abiding by my standards as far as content is concerned," Comely says. And even those who run comic conventions in Canada know that Comely won't attend events on Sundays.
Much like Captain Canuck, creators Comely and Leishman stand for certain values and try to live up to those values—through work and every other aspect of their lives.
All images courtesy of Richard Comely
Captain Canuck is featured on the cover of LDS Living's July/August issue. Find it in Deseret Book stores or on deseretbook.com and learn more about the Mormon influences scattered throughout the comic book world.