For decades, Alpha Flight was the premiere Canadian super-team of the Marvel Universe, even boasting Wolverine as a one-time member. But for the last few years, they've lent their name and talents to Captain Marvel's space defense station.
This week, Alpha Flight: True North delves back into the team's past with an all Canadian creative team (down to letters from co-writer Ed Brisson) and brings them back to their homeland.
Newsarama connected with two creators from that all-star Canadian assemblage, writers Jed MacKay and Jim Zub, about what it means to bring Alpha Flight back to the team's Northern roots, how they first discovered the cult classic Canuck superheroes, and what it's like writing your favorite character.
Newsarama: Jim and Jed, what can you tell us about the Alpha Flight stories you’re telling in this True North one-shot?
Jim Zub: It's a short story focused on Snowbird, unlocking a little moment from her past in an unexpected way. Talisman and Snowbird are investigating a strange occurrence in Nunavut, but it's not quite what it seems...
Jed MacKay: The story that Djibril Morrissette-Pham and I put together is one about history and friendship, and how can threaten the other. It’s about facing up to your past, and how to move into the future. And it’s about my favourite Alphans, hanging out in the place that I’m from!
Nrama: Alpha Flight is Canada’s premiere super-team – but they’ve had some time in space alongside Captain Marvel recently. Are we seeing them here in the vast expanse, or the great white north?
Zub: This is definitely a Great White North-based story. Alpha Flight space station is all well and good, but since this one-shot issue celebrates Canada's team with an all-Canadian creative crew, I wanted to make sure we grounded this tale in the North.
MacKay: Our story is set in Cavendish Beach, Prince Edward Island, near where I used to live when I was a kid and where I worked in the summers as a teenager, at the sorely-missed Rainbow Valley amusement park. PEI hasn’t been in a Marvel book since Attuma took a swing at it, so I thought it was high time to revisit the province.
Nrama: As Canadians yourselves, is there a special pride in bringing Alpha Flight back to headlining status?
Alpha Flight is a really diverse team protecting a country that covers all kinds of different places and people, let alone their ties to spirit worlds, mystic places, and high technology. Getting the chance to dip my toes in these Northern waters is a real thrill.
MacKay: Alpha Flight is who I always bring up in the inevitable “if you could write anyone” question. To have the opportunity to work with them in their first book on their own in years has been huge for me!
Nrama: Are you a longtime Alpha Flight fan? How did you come to know the team?
Zub: I read the original series regularly and was always impressed with how eclectic their adventures were. You never knew what was going to come next and the status quo of the team and its members was always in flux and kept readers guessing. They were iconic, but not trapped in one identity or team make-up.
MacKay: I first came across Alpha Flight first in the Marvel trading cards. Most of the superhero comics I read when I was a kid were old ones from the 70s, so I didn't know newer stuff, and seeing the Alpha Flight card and reading about a Canadian team was kind of mind-blowing- as a Canadian kid, you're used to all the media you consume being about Americans in America doing American things. To find out that there was a team doing their thing here was revelatory.
Nrama: The solicitation for Alpha Flight: True North says it delves into the team’s “secret history.” What can you all tell us about that?
Zub: Each story in this one-shot reflects on a past bit of continuity and reveals something new about it, but not in a way that pushes away new readers. It's fun to dig into the past and unearth new connections and ideas from past stories.
MacKay: That's particularly applicable in our case - Puck is extraordinarily long-lived and has filled that long life with all sorts of adventures, and one of those adventures and how it relates to Marrina and the present is the focus of our story.
Nrama: There’s a whole team of artists on True North – Canadian artists Max Dunbar and Djibril Morrisette-Pham are listed in the solicitation. What can you tell us about the art teams for your stories?
Zub: Max Dunbar and Jim Charalampidis did a stellar job with my story "Mired In The Past." Max's depiction of Nunavut in springtime mixed with creepy supernatural threats and big magic absolutely hit the mark and Jim's colors take it to a whole other level. When you work with artists this good, they make everything look easy.
MacKay: It's been great seeing all-Canadian teams, not just in one story but all across the board. It's been a fantastic opportunity to showcase the talent in Canada, and everyone has put a lot of themselves in it. Ed Brisson even pulled double-duty as a letterer for the whole book in order to keep it all in the family!
Djibril did some great work on the story we did together- balancing the warm, light tone of a beach story with the moodiness of the past was no easy trick to pull off, and the juggling action and quieter character moments was done with an effortless skill and charm.
Nrama: Who is your favorite Alpha Flight member? Did you get to write that character?
Zub: Snowbird and Puck are my favorites and this is a Snowbird story, so that makes it extra-special.
I didn't want to try and cram the whole team into a 10-pager, instead opting to focus on a couple members, Snowbird and Talisman, so they would have more chances to show what they can do and hit more emotional notes. Hopefully this won't be my only chance to tell a story of the True North Strong and Free so I can showcase other members in the future.
MacKay: I did! Puck is my favorite Alphan, and Marrina as well, as she's the only Alphan from the Atlantic Provinces, the region where I grew up and continue to live. There's so much to get into with Puck, given his long life and fascinating character, and Marrina is a character who I feel has been done dirty time and again and could use a win.
Nrama: What do you have to say to readers who are skeptical of Alpha Flight?
Zub: Alpha Flight is a cross section of characters from completely different backgrounds brought together to protect the place they call home. They're a bit understated at times and struggle with their personal demons, but in the end the bond between them is stronger than the threats, internal or external, they face. That feels very Canadian to me, only framed in the Mighty Marvel Manner.
MacKay: Haha please, no one’s skeptical of Alpha Flight.
Nrama: And of course, what can you tell those longtime fans who stand on guard for Alpha Flight about this one-shot?
Zub: If you're an Alpha Flight fan, this one-shot is a fresh look at a classic line-up told by creative teams who love these characters and want to see them thrive in our Marvel-centric world.
I think Alpha Flight has a ton of potential, especially in the here and now. The world needs more Canada.
MacKay: Buckle up! There’s lots of great stuff in this issue for you all, and let’s hope for more in the future!