A forthcoming issue of Marvel’s “Civil War II: Choosing Sides” series features on its cover a smiling, well-toned Justin Trudeau sitting at the corner of a boxing ring. Even in comic-book form, his eyes are a glistening green, his teeth perfectly straight and white. Surrounded by members of the Canadian superhero team Alpha Flight, Trudeau wears a red-and-white maple leaf tank that accentuates his chiseled body.
By now, we’re accustomed to seeing Canada’s prime minister in all manner of spotlight-stealing scenes. There he is juggling on stilts, doing yoga, cuddling pandas! Just this week, the Internet fawned over Trudeau’s thighs. Is anyone surprised that he’s now counseling superheroes?
Toronto-based comic writer Chip Zdarsky (also known as Steve Murray) explained in a phone interview that the issue has Alpha Flight arriving at the prime minister’s residence in Ottawa, where the team seeks Trudeau’s advice on which side to take in a moral schism between the Marvel superheroes. In an ode to a real-life match in which Trudeau emerged victorious, the comic-book Trudeau also dons boxing gloves.
“I can’t say who he fights,” Zdarsky said, “but he definitely throws some punches.”
Trudeau is only the second Canadian prime minister to appear in a Marvel comic; the first was his father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau.
“When we pitched the idea, I immediately thought of putting Trudeau in because he’s this pop culture icon of the moment.” Zdarsky said. “It made sense for him to interact with Alpha Flight because his father did back in the '80s.”
And like his father before him, Trudeau is an anomaly. The country he leads has traditionally been wary of heroics.
Journalist Peter C. Newman once wrote: “If God had meant us to be heroic, he wouldn’t have made us Canadians. This is the only country on Earth whose citizens dream of being Clark Kent, instead of Superman.” To regard themselves as heroes would be “boastful,” Newman observed, which Canadians were decidedly not.
This demureness has long been a trademark of Canadian identity — or at least that's how many Canadians see it. Where Americans were sometimes viewed as loud and brash, Canadians were quiet and polite. Where Americans were seen as competitive and bombastic, Canadians were unassuming and restrained. Unlike their southern neighbors, they didn’t draw attention to themselves.
Then came the 2015 Canadian federal election, which ushered in Trudeau and gave the cold country a newfound “cool.”
Zdarsky said it comes down to personality. Trudeau "has clearly captured the mind of people outside of Canada, which is something that prime ministers generally don’t do. He’s young, feminist, handsome — traits you don’t usually associate with a sitting prime minister.”
The prime minister’s office gave Zdarsky and Toronto-based artist Ramón Pérez permission to use Trudeau’s likeness but did not endorse the project.
Despite repeated speculation that the prime minister’s honeymoon is over, his Liberal Party remains strong in opinion polls. It will take more than panda publicity, however, to keep it that way.
“A lot of photo ops and fun things that he does — Canadians as a whole are more concerned with the actions of the government,” Zdarsky said.