We Stand On Guard by Brian K. Vaughan, Steve Skroce, Matt Hollingsworth, and Fonografiks. Image Comics, 2016. 9781632157027
Sarah: It’s a graphic novel about Canadian anger and Canadian insecurity.
Gene: I thought it was about the U.S. taking over Canada for…water rights?
Sarah: If there was a second volume, it would be about fishing rights.
Gene: I remember that it takes place in the far north, there’s lots of snow, a large robot, a French speaking guy, and a bunch of references to maple syrup.
Sarah: The underground communication network is run by the CBC!
Gene: I forgot that. Give me the 30 second Sarah pitch for the book.
Sarah: After a terrorist attack on the White House is blamed on Canada (a reference to the War of 1812, since Canadians will never let Americans forget that massive own), the U.S. invades and appropriates Canadian water resources. A plucky band of True Canadians battle the invaders in the woods.
Gene: But this is set years after the U.S. invasion, right? These freedom fighters hot wire a giant robot to take the fight to the U.S. forces.
Sarah: Yes, it’s freedom fighters in an underdog fight. And entertaining that they can operate the massive war machines (that the US operates like a remote drone) because of experience with big rigs in the Tar Sands — which dilutes the “Evil Americans Ruining the Planet With Climate Change” message. (PS: Kate Beaton‘s going to write a book about her experience working in the freezing middle of nowhere on the Tar Sands.)
Gene: In our favorite Chinese bakery you started ranting about how awesome this book is, and about the Canadian things it is full of. Rant away.
Sarah: One of the freedom fighters gets mad when they call the water-removal machines “hosers” — she says, “That’s our word!”
(I just looked up “hosers” (well, as much as Wikipedia counts) and it seems to have originated with Bob and Doug McKenzie, and the article is super-defensive about how WE DON’T SAY THAT ANYMORE IT’S JUST AMERICANS MAKING FUN OF US!!!)
Gene: Personally I think the girl’s ass in the shower doesn’t take away from the book. It’s a bit of fan service, sure. But there’s a wolf, too. That saves it.
Sarah: And as much as Americans make fun of how Canadians say “about” the actual hilarity is to be had from words like “Mazda” and “pasta.”
Sarah: There’s a Littlest Hobo joke, which is a TV show all Canadians know. It’s about a crime-solving homeless dog.
Gene: There needs to be an annotated edition of this graphic novel.
Sarah: The Canadians all use metric. But the Americans don’t. There’s ongoing uncertainty about whether the interrogator for the U.S. forces is actually a Canadian traitor, at least until she uses the word “hydro” in an American way before she gets blown up. (Canadians say hydro to mean electricity, for reasons that remain opaque to me.)
Gene: Is this the way Wolverine and Alpha Flight comics should have been written?
Sarah: Heh, yes. Somebody on the Steel Toes Required podcast told a story about the line in the Wolverine movie, when he points out that he’s Canadian, getting the biggest cheer. That sums up Canada: cheering for the simple acknowledgement of being Canadian. The way they feeling touchy about their identity reminds me of teens.
Sarah: There was a character named Walchuk, which reminded me of the Kids in the Hall sketch about Rod Torfelson’s Armada featuring Herman Menderchuck. (Canadian bands I got into because of Kids in the Hall: Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet and The Odds.)
Sarah: There’s an Eat More candy bar. (I had to look that one up.)
Gene: Do you prefer Canadian chocolate to American chocolate?
Sarah: I don’t like Canadian chocolate better, but I REALLY like All-Dressed flavor potato chips. And yes, I am an American oppressor who wishes she could still watch the CBC.
Gene: I grew up watching James at 15 (and then 16), and a Canadian show that featured Japanese sci-fi serials from the kaiju age. (I had early cable.) And Aero bars purchased in Canada taste better than those here (though I’m not sure if they’re Canadian or British). And, newsflash, I buy my toothpaste in Canada.
Sarah: I was sorry they didn’t talk about Rush. Maybe I’m too old.
It feels weird to have this huge cultural overlap between Seattle [where we live] and Vancouver BC and have to go through border security and customs to visit.
Gene: They should just wave us through at the border.
Sarah: We have different groceries because of economics and country-based distribution chains, but everything black market is totally the same: weed and heroin.
Gene: I don’t think that’s in the graphic novel.