Superhero Complex(ity)

A review of Masked Mosaic: Canadian Super Stories (edited by Claude Lalumiere and Camille Alexa, Tyche Books LTD, 2013)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Cover photo of Masked Mosaic courtesy of Tyche Books

Cover photo of Masked Mosaic courtesy of Tyche Books

There has been a recent increase in the public interest in the superhero genre with increasing numbers of superhero movies, increasing numbers of people wearing superhero related merchandise and increasingly larger population groups getting excited about the figure of the superhero. Yet superheroes that are being represented often embody American ideals of the self-made man, the perfect body, and dichotomous views of good and evil. It is therefore timely that Claude Lalumiere and Camille Alexa released Masked Mosaic: Canadian Super Stories.

Masked Mosaic seeks to push the boundaries of the superhero genre: to include complexities and issues that were often ignored in the Golden Age of comics and continue to be ignored in our culture’s nostalgia over comic figures of the past. The stories in this volume often play with Golden Age themes and complicate them. Rather than replicating hegemonies, the characters are diverse: aged, not ideals of bodily perfection, queer/ LGBTQ2, and culturally diverse. They represent a more inclusive reality of Canadian culture. It is a combination of pastiche and resistance to the past hegemonies that were embedded and encoded in Golden Age comics.

The binary image of superheroes with a universal idea of good and evil is disrupted in this volume, blurring the boundaries between hero and villain. The authors of these short stories recognise that heroes often support causes that are unjust and that heroism is often tied to political beliefs of the time and are not, in fact, universal concepts. Heroism is tied to ideologies of the ruling elite, enforcing power structures. Yesterday’s heroes may be considered today’s villains or vice versa. This volume is a reminder that heroes can fall.

Superheroes as mythic and iconic symbols are explored as well as exploring the complexities and problematic nature of symbols.

Featuring the work of E.L. Chen, Kristi Charish, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Jonathan Olfert, Kevin Cockle, David Nickle, Derryl Murphy, D.K. Latta, Emma Faraday, Mike Rimar, Emma Vossen, Patrick T. Goddard, A.C. Wise, Rhea Rose, David Perlmutter, Lisa Poh, Marie Bilodeau, Rhonda and Jonathan Parrish, Chantal Boudreau, Michael S. Chong, Jason Sharp, Alyxandra Harvey, Michael Matheson, and Jason S. Ridler this volume contains a diversity of voices in Canadian SF – both new and established. The stories involve everything from supervillains in a relationship with heroes, superheroes made out of dreams, Mexican wrestlers, aliens, seamstresses, archaeologists playing with possession, and figures from the Canadian mythic past and from history.

In an era of obsession with origin stories, Lalumiere and Alexa collect stories that represent every part of the superhero’s life from origin to retirement.

You can find out more about the Masked Mosaic collection at Tyche Books’ website http://tychebooks.com/ . You can check out a review of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s “Iron Justice Versus the Fiends of Evil” from this volume at https://speculatingcanada.wordpress.com/2013/03/26/unmasked

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Montreal Superhero Fights for Diversity

A review of Hochelaga and Sons by Claude Lalumiere (in Objects of Worship,

Cover Photo Courtesy of Claude Lalumiere

Chizine, Toronto, 2009)
By Derek Newman-Stille

I have always thought that Canada needs more superheroes and Claude Lalumiere answered my wishes with Hochelaga and Sons. Hochelaga is a very typically Canadian hero. He is not interested in fighting the big battles of the world, but is interested in working with the ‘little guy’, the underdog.

Hochelaga is a Jewish Montrealer who was experimented on by Nazis during the Holocaust in World War II. The Nazis, in trying to use Jewish people as experiments to eventually create a Nazi race of super-warriors instead accidentally create a Jewish superhero with powers that range from super strength to flight to the ability to learn any language. His multilingual character makes him an ideal hero for the Canadian cultural mosaic, able to speak to the diverse residents of Canada in their own languages. Hochelaga counters the Nazi focus on intolerance with his own interest in being inclusive of diversity and his ability to bring people together.

Hochelaga has two sons, one who inherited all of his superpowers and another who is born with none of his powers. His superheroic son, Bernard, decides to stray from his father’s secular Judaism and instead becomes heavily interested in his own Jewish religion and identity. He finds himself disgusted at the origin of Hochelaga’s powers under Nazi experimentation and does not approve of his father’s use of that power, even if it is to further the quest for diversity. Hochelaga’s son Gordon inherits his father’s interest in the superheroic and envies his brother’s power as much as he is confused by his brother’s disinterest and dislike of that power.  When Hochelaga dies, both sons are called to question their moral positions.

Lalumiere uses his interest in diversity and love of moral questions to create a

Photo of Claude Lalumiere (Appropriately Located In Montreal). Photo by Camille Alexa.

superhero and superheroic story that causes his audience to question what makes a good hero and develop a renewed interest in supporting the underdog. Lalumiere reminds his reader that the battle against intolerance is ongoing and requires constant vigilance.

Explore this and other works by Claude Lalumiere at http://chizinepub.com/ , and visit his website to see what projects he is working on at http://lostmyths.net/claude/ . If you enjoy this superhero story, you may also want to check out the upcoming anthology by Claude Lalumiere and Camille Alexa titled “Masked Mosaic: Canadian Super Stories”. You can find out more about this anthology at http://tychebooks.com/book/masked-mosaic/