If it’s March in Toronto, then it’s time for Toronto ComiCon, and one of the fixtures of the annual event in the last couple of years has been the folks at Chapterhouse Comics. After rejuvenating Captain Canuck a few years, they’ve begun reclaiming other bits of lost Canadian comic book history with, you guessed it, an expanded comic book universe. The man at the center of that is Kalman Andrasofszky, the writer and artist that pens the new monthly adventures of Captain Canuck and redesigned him for the 21st century. Nerd Bastards caught up with Andrasofszky from his Toronto studio to talk about the latest developments with Canuck, the effect of Canada’s 150th birthday on the series, and all sorts of Canadian inside jokes.
Nerd Bastards: This is probably a pretty good time, obviously, to be writing and shepherding Captain Canuck.
Kalman Andrasofszky: It’s a good year for it.
NB: Has that had any effect on your plans for the book considering that it’s the 150 birthday of Canada, any particular celebrations you have planned for the comic?
Andrasofszky: Well, on the publishing end I definitely plan on riding that wave, taking advantage of maybe the first time in 150 years Canadian might actually be proud of being Canadian for a second, and not be shy talking about it. So that might be cool. Actually, in terms of story there’s no direct tie-ins, but we are destroying Toronto this summer so that might be a good celebratory bang for Canada’s 150. That would make everyone in the rest of Canada very happy, and people in Toronto not so much.
NB: I was going to say it would make it easier to get all those infrastructure projects done if the whole thing is destroyed.
Andrasofszky: Yeah, true. So much for Transit City.
NB: I’m not sure my readers will get that, but I got it.*
Andrasofszky: Yeah, you can tell I’m from Toronto. I expect everyone to know all the inside baseball stuff from Toronto.
(*Editor’s Note: Transit City is Mayor John Tory’s signature plan to revitalize public transit in Toronto. After two-and-a-half years in office, nothing’s become of it.)
NB: Of course. I’m always kind of impressed when I go to Fan Expo or Toronto ComiCon and you host these panels about what’s going on with the comic book or the webseries, and it’s always a bigger crowd than I expect…
Andrasofszky: Us too.
NB: And I guess that’s maybe a Canadian thing, “Who would be interested in the guy wearing the Canadian flag super suit?” but I think it proves you can never underestimate the popularity and appeal of Canadian things, and Canadian heroes especially.
Andrasofszky: Yeah, I think you’re right, we’re kind of ripe for that stuff. Superheroes are huge all over the world in all media, and it’s sort of weird that we didn’t really have one. Wolverine doesn’t count. Alpha Flight doesn’t count. Deadpool doesn’t count. I mean Alpha Flight is maybe the closest thing because there’s at least some kind of Canadian iconography involved, but it was created for Americans by Americans, and we have other characters. We have a secret history of comic books and comic book characters in Canada, and Canuck is particularly patriotic, so it’s weird that we’re a culture that’s kind of shy and embarrassed about that stuff. But there’s something beneath the surface I think. We’ve been to a lot of shows across Canada, and when you’ve got a product like Captain Canuck it makes sense to travel in your homeland, and when you come to a place like Calgary, nobody is shy about being enthusiastic about Canada. In Toronto, there’s an embarrassed kind of neck scratch and looking to the side saying “That’s weird, he’s wearing a flag,” and you go to Calgary and they’re like “FINALLY!”
NB: It does sort of speak to this feeling that Toronto is above Canadian things. Something like the CFL for example, you fire cannon off and hit empty seats at an Argos game, but Roughriders fans travel with the team from one end of the country to the other. It’s a completely different vibe when it comes to Canadiana.
Andrasofszky: I think you’re right, so maybe their appetite is different that what we think living and working in this particular part of the country.
NB: What’s the international reaction to Captain Canuck and the Chapterhouse Universe, are there fans of Captain Canuck beyond Canadian borders?
Andrasofszky: All Chapterhouse books are available through the Diamond catalogue, so that means any comic book store in the world can order them. I definitely know they’re available in the States, I have American friends and American colleagues who have picked them up. In terms of how many and where, it’s sort of hard to track that stuff, but one thing we do have is that when we first crowd-funded the animated webseries about half of the money came from outside Canada with England and Australia being in the lead, and then the States and other places. I’ve always felt that Canada is cool everywhere except America and Canada.
NB: But I think that’s may be changing a bit in America right now…
Andrasofszky: That’s true. How do you like us now?
NB: Is there an update you can offer about the webseries?
Unfortunately, I can’t. Other people are working on that, and working on ironing out the problems that have caused the delays. It’s kind of not my department, and I can’t speak to that. What I can say is that everybody really wants to make more. We’ve got plans to make more, we’ve got plans to make other animated projects that look like they may even happen sooner than [more Canuck] for a whole bunch of boring, complicated reasons. But we’re super committed about making more Captain Canuck in animation! There are ideas, creative is in the place, there are just other factors that won’t make it happen sooner. I can’t say when, but it’s definitely a “when” and not an “if.”
NB: In the meantime, I know there’s the Free Comic Book Day special, which is a big one because it involves a celebrity talent known more known for his acting, Jay Baruchel, are you writing that with him?
Andrasofszky: Yeah, Jay and I are writing that together. It is sort of random, and from the outside it must seem a little weird, but if you know Jay, if you know his work, then you know he’s Canadian. And not only is he Canadian, he’s very proud to be Canadian. He’s quite outspoken in interviews about what being Canadian means to him, and why he’s never moving to L.A., and what his hometown of Montreal means to him. What you may not know about Jay is that he comes from a military family, so he’s a super nerd for the surprisingly interesting military history of Canada, and I was not entirely plugged in that. The third leg of that massive tripod, of course, is that he’s a massive comic book fan, and has collected comics his entire life. So these are thing things he brings to the table. In addition to being an actor, he’s also a writer and director. He wrote Goon, and he wrote and directed the sequel Goon 2. I was just at the world premiere on Monday, and it was awesome, and what a monumental achievement to make something like that in Canada. It can sometimes be an uphill battle to get ambitious things made in this country, so props to him for doing that. So to bring all this back, we have big plans for the future of Captain Canuck in animation, and it looks like Jay’s going to be a part of that. So in reaching out to him about that stuff, and finding a fan, and an enthusiastic collaborator, step one of our plans for world domination is he and I writing this for Free Comic Book Day. It’s not out of continuity, but it’s kind of a jump to the past. It’s filling in a blank spot in Tom Evans’ origin, after he gotten his powers but before he got into the Canuck uniform and was figuring it all out.
NB: And if you’re a comic book fan, this seems like an all-star effort, you have David Finch doing the cover, and Leonard Kirk working on the main series, it’s a nice reminder that so much great comic book talent is not just Canadian born but Canadian-based as well.
Andrasofszky: One of the mandates for the Canuck book, and it’s not completely consistent in the Chapter-verse, but so far as Captain Canuck goes we try to make it an all Canadian production and we have an embarrassment of riches in this country. There are a lot of secret Canadians working on high-profile books, and nobody knows that they live in Windsor, or Saskatchewan, or Toronto. So one of the things we did early on, especially in the first arc when we had back up stories and variant covers with rotating creative teams, was reach out to those people and raise the flag, and there was a long list. There was no shortage of amazing talent.
NB: Let’s talk about you for a bit. How did you get started, and how did interested in comic books?
I was the child of divorce. I had a weekend dad who was trying to fill the time, so we walked into a variety store and randomly bought some comics and he explained that we would have to do back next month for the rest, but I wanted more then and there! It’s kind of in my DNA, I guess. And that comic, by the way, was X-Men. I chose it because it was the only one that I didn’t recognize the characters on the cover. I was already bored of the overexposed mainstream characters, of course now the X-Men are mainstream characters, but back in 1981 they were all obscure weirdos and I’m really tickled by that because I’ve always been drawn to underdog oddball characters.
NB: It’s funny you should say that because you drew covers for X-23, and who’s the new character people are being introduced to because of the movies?
Andrasofszky: Yeah, it’s cool. I haven’t seen it yet, but I am totally thrilled that she’s it, and it looks great from the trailers.
NB: You’ve segued more into writing now with Captain Canuck, is that where your passion is now?
Andrasofszky: It is. I find that the stress of writing, and there’s still stress, agrees with my personality more. I realized that my main impulse towards drawing was that I want to invent stuff, and as a child it was easier to draw a picture than write words, but I realized that the act of creation and invention is where the fire is. Moving into that was hard because I needed to confront my ego, my 10 year career as an artist, and I had to let that go. It’s much more satisfying to write, and I still do covers for Marvel on the side, and I did the covers for the first two volumes of Canuck. I find that drawing has become fun again, the way it used to be, I don’t have to prove myself because I’m a writer now and that’s where I’m proving myself.
NB: Is there anything even non-Canuck-related that you’re working on right now?
Andrasofszky: It’s Canuck-related, but it’s not Canuck-related because along with writing Canuck, I’m also the editor-in-chief of the line, and Chapterhouse is expanding its line including the Canuck spin-off title Agents of PACT, which I’m writing with Blake Northcott, and several new books including Freelance written by Jim Zub and Andrew Wheeler and drawn by Vaneda Vireak, and we’re bringing back the golden age character Fantomah written by Ray Fawkes and drawn by Soo Lee. The new Chapterhouse model has three trimesters throughout the year where we run two titles for four issues, and then we swap it and two new titles run for four issues, and throughout the titles there’s sort of an uber-plot that develops but you don’t need to invest in all of the books. Each one is a complete story, but the threads are there if you’re invested in the whole thing. Part of my job is to fit the new characters into the aesthetic we’ve developed with Captain Canuck, and weave them into the bigger plans that we have in some of the universe wide events we’ve got coming next year. It’s been amazing, a huge amount of fun, and I’m super excited about what’s coming down the pipe.
Kalman Andrasofszky will be at Toronto ComiCon this weekend. Toronto ComiCon presented by FAN EXPO CANADA™ is a pop culture convention for fans of comics, sci-fi, horror, anime, and gaming. The 3-day extravaganza is packed with exciting family-friendly activities and celebrities. This year’s highlights include a Degrassi High reunion, celebrity guest appearances by wrestling icons Bret Hart and Mick Foley, Robert Picardo (Star Trek), Ray Park (Star Wars Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace), Laurie Holden (The Walking Dead), Kevin Sussman (Big Bang Theory) and more! This year’s show takes place at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre from March 17-19, 2017. www.comicontoronto.com.