Can A Canadian Prime Minister Be An Action Hero? Marvel Comics Thinks So | KERA News

Can A Canadian Prime Minister Be An Action Hero? Marvel Comics Thinks So

Aug 31, 2016
Originally published on August 31, 2016 10:04 am

Justin Trudeau has had a number of careers: schoolteacher, snowboard instructor, and since last year, prime minister of Canada. Now he's an action hero. A new issue of Civil War II from Marvel Comics, being released Aug. 31, has Trudeau facing evil-doers in the halls of Canada's Parliament — and in the boxing ring.

The front cover shows Trudeau sitting in the corner of a boxing ring, elbows resting on the ropes. He's wearing boxing shorts, a tank top emblazoned with a large maple leaf and a smile that's a bit difficult to read.

"I was going for a little bit of, I guess, a little bit of attitude, a little bit of smugness, like you don't know if he's already been boxing for a little bit and he's going back in, or he's just starting out and gearing himself up," says Ramon Perez, the cartoonist behind the depictions of Trudeau.

The Toronto-based Perez says his original drafts showed Trudeau bare-chested, but Marvel thought this might be a little too risque.

"And then about two weeks or three weeks ago, Justin's popping up in media topless, here and there, camping with his family and stuff like that," says Perez, laughing. "And I'm like, there you go, we could have had him topless."

The image of the 44-year-old Trudeau is one of two covers Marvel Comics is using for its latest edition. The company will often produce a regular issue and one with a variant cover, which is usually in greater demand by collectors. The story line remains the same.

The issue with Trudeau on the cover — the variant — features a Canadian superhero squad called Alpha Flight, with members who have access to information about crimes in the future. The main cover only shows members of the Alpha Flight squad.

Comic book author Chip Zdarsky, also based in Toronto, wrote the action story. He's the one who came up with the idea to feature Trudeau, who he thinks is a bit of an action man in real life.

"It kind of just made sense, like this opportunity to have a Canadian-driven story at a time when Trudeau just keeps making headlines as Canada's cool prime minister," he says.

Zdarsky says he wouldn't have been able to do the same thing with Trudeau's predecessor, Stephen Harper, who was seen as more business-like.

"That would have been a little trickier. His only superpower, as far as I know, is awkwardly playing Beatles medleys on piano," Zdarsky says.

When Zdarsky approached Trudeau's office to get the okay, the response was it couldn't approve using Trudeau in the comic, but wouldn't stand in the way, either.

While Marvel Comics, based in New York, rarely features world leaders, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Justin's late father and Canada's former prime minister, did make an appearance back in 1979, as did President Obama in 2009. Marvel Comics editor Will Moss says he's sure this edition with the younger Trudeau will do well.

"I think he's somebody that a lot of Americans are aware of and I know several women here in our office are big fans of Justin Trudeau," he says.

Moss says the story focuses on a character named Ulysses who can see into the future crimes before they happen. The Alpha Flight team is divided over whether to use that information to arrest people for crimes they haven't yet committed. Moss says they turn to Trudeau for guidance.

"It's natural they would want to seek counsel from the leader of their country," he says. "They seek his counsel and then he blows off some steam with Iron Man in the boxing ring."

The creators won't give away any more of the story line. They just hope Trudeau gets a chance to pick up the latest Marvel Comic. As for Trudeau himself, he's maintaining a heroically discreet silence about his superpowers.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Justin Trudeau already had a diverse resume when he became prime minister of Canada. He's been a schoolteacher and a snowboard instructor. Now he can add action hero to his resume. A new issue of Marvel Comics released today has Trudeau facing evildoers in the halls of parliament and in the boxing ring, too. NPR's Jackie Northam reports.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: It is quite the image of Canada's prime minister. The front cover of the latest Marvel Comics shows Justin Trudeau sitting in the corner of a boxing ring, elbows resting on the ropes. He's wearing boxing shorts, a tank top that's emblazoned with a large maple leaf and a smile that's a bit difficult to read.

RAMON PEREZ: I was going for a little bit of attitude, a little bit of smugness. You don't know if he's already been boxing for a little bit and he's going back in or he's just starting out and he's kind of gearing himself up.

NORTHAM: That's Ramon Perez, the cartoonist behind the depictions of Trudeau in this latest issue of Marvel Comics. The Toronto-based Perez says his original drafts showed Trudeau bare-chested.

PEREZ: And Marvel was - well, I don't know. That might be a little bit too risque, a little bit too much. And then, about two weeks or three weeks ago, we have, like, Justin's popping up in media topless here and there, camping with his family and stuff like that. And I'm like, there you go. We could have had him topless.

NORTHAM: The image of the 44-year-old Trudeau is one of two covers Marvel Comics is using for its latest edition, which features a Canadian superhero squad called Alpha Flight. Marvel approached Chip Zdarsky, also based in Toronto, to write the action story. It was Zdarsky who came up with the idea to feature Trudeau, who he thinks is a bit of an action man in real life.

CHIP ZDARSKY: It kind of just made sense, like, this opportunity to have a Canadian-driven story at a time when Trudeau just keeps making headlines as Canada's cool prime minister.

NORTHAM: Zdarsky says he wouldn't have been able to do the same thing with Trudeau's predecessor, Stephen Harper, who was seen as more businesslike.

ZDARSKY: That would have been a little bit trickier. His only superpower, as far as I know, is awkwardly playing Beatles medleys on piano.

NORTHAM: Zdarsky approached Trudeau's office to get the OK. It came back saying it can't approve using Trudeau in the comic, but it wouldn't stand in the way either. While Marvel Comics rarely features world leaders, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Justin's father, did make an appearance back in 1979, and President Obama in 2009. Marvel Comics' editor, Will Moss, says he's sure this edition with the younger Trudeau will do well.

WILL MOSS: I think he's somebody that a lot of Americans are aware of and fans of. I know several women here in our office are big fans of Justin Trudeau.

NORTHAM: Moss says the story focuses on a character named Ulysses, who can see into the future and crimes before they happen. The Alpha Team is divided whether to use that information to arrest people for crimes they haven't yet committed. Moss says they turned to Trudeau for guidance.

MOSS: It's natural that they'd want to seek counsel from the leader of their country.

NORTHAM: Except that he's in a boxing ring wearing boxing shorts (laughter).

MOSS: Yeah, yeah, that's right. There's a little bit of both. They seek his council, and then - and then he blows off some steam with Iron Man in a boxing ring.

NORTHAM: The creators won't give away any more of the storyline. They just hope Trudeau gets a chance to pick up the latest Marvel comic. Jackie Northam, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.