If there’s one thing I love about comics, it’s reading about obscure characters. The same goes for obscure teams, and if there were ever a group of unsung heroes, Alpha Flight is at the top of the list. Canada’s premier squad have been around for a long time, but it feels like they’ve never been used to their full potential. Although the team originally started out as a way of adding more value to Wolverine’s backstory, Alpha Flight developed into a team with superheroes that are worth talking about. Made up of originally of Sasquatch, Northstar, Aurora, Snowbird, Shaman and Guardian, the group deserves more recognition. I’ll be looking into the history of the members to see what makes Alpha Flight worth reading about.
Creation and Connection to Wolverine
The story of Alpha Flight started in 1979 when they first appeared in X-Men #120. Created by John Byrne and Chris Claremont, the all-Canadian team was part of a three-tiered programme called Department H. Recruits started off in Gamma Flight to learn how to control their powers, and then they were moved up to Beta Flight for further training. Active field members joined Alpha Flight to deal with superhuman threats against Canada.
Originally, the team was created around Wolverine in order to expand his backstory. Department H leader, James MacDonald Hudson, decided to pick Wolverine as the leader of Alpha Flight, only for him to be recruited by Professor X into the X-Men. Going by the codename of Weapon Alpha, Hudson attempted to bring Wolverine back to Canada by any means necessary. This resulted in a fight between Hudson and the X-Men, though he retreated. Hudson changed his name to Guardian soon after.
Alpha Flight wasn’t done with Wolverine and they attempted to arrest him when the X-Men were forced to land in Canada. Eventually, the teams were able to resolve their differences and Hudson assumed full leadership.
In 1983, the team shed their connection to Wolverine by receiving their own series, which is pretty amazing for a group that was designed to be background characters. This demonstrated that Marvel had faith in the idea and wanted to explore it further.
The first issue of Alpha Flight opened with Guardian learning the Canadian government was shutting down Department H. Guardian decided to continue Alpha Flight without government backing. Guardian received word that an ancient creature known as Tundra was threatening the safety of Canada, so he assembled Alpha Flight to deal with the problem. During the mission, two members of Beta Flight, Marrina, and Puck, joined the team. Together, Alpha Flight defeated Tundra, demonstrating their courage and strength.
Each member brings something unique to the group and here’s a summary of the original six:
As the leader of Alpha Flight, James Hudson acted as the tactical savant. Originally, he wore a battle suit that allowed him to fly, fire energy blasts and provided superhuman strength and durability. After a trip to space, the technology in Guardian’s suit fused with his body and he became a cyborg. Guardian’s patriotism was the reason he chose to create the team in the first place, which became a symbol for his teammates to rally around.
Northstar and Aurora
Jean-Paul and Jeanne-Marie Beaubier are mutants with the power of superspeed and light generation. Together, they’re formidable, but Aurora suffered from a dissociative identity disorder. Northstar eventually joined the X-Men, and the siblings are a reminder of how powerful family can be together.
Born in British Columbia, Walter Langowski’s scientific genius makes him Alpha Flight’s analyst and powerhouse. He turned into Sasquatch after a Hulk-inspired gamma radiation experiment. It gave him superhuman strength that enabled him to hold his own against the Hulk.
Arguably the most versatile member of Alpha Flight, Snowbird is an Inuit goddess who can transform into any animal native to Canada. She’s transformed into an owl, wolverine, sperm whale, wendigo, and a swarm of mosquitoes. Snowbird shares a connection with Shaman, as he helped her mother during pregnancy.
Considered the magical expert of the team, Michael Twoyoungmen is one of the few comic Native American characters. Shaman has the ability to call on the help of spirits and carries a medicine bag that contains a pocket dimension known as the Void. The bag has all manner of mystical objects that Shaman can make use of.
The Alpha Flight Evolution
Alpha Flight is full of diverse superheroes, yet they’ve only been used a handful of time over the years. The most recent stories involved them reuniting during the 2011 Fear Itself arc. Alpha Flight provided rescue efforts for victims of a tsunami unleashed by Attuma. They also dealt with an enemy team called Alpha Strike that was designed to be their dark reflection.
Most recently, a new version of Alpha Flight debuted in the form of a space program. Consisting of Captain Marvel, Abigail Brand, Aurora, Puck, and Sasquatch, the group acts as a defence against alien threats. The space program provides an interesting direction for the faction because it’s an opportunity for Alpha Flight to interact with characters they’ve never encountered before.
Alpha Flight has come a long way since the early days of Wolverine’s backstory. Every member has evolved into a fully-fleshed out character, with new superheroes joining the team as well. Alpha Flight expanded beyond their roots and serve as a symbol of Canadian fortitude. If you like reading about obscure characters, then you should definitely look into Alpha Flight and discover what makes them so appealing.
(This post was first written for wordofthenerdonline.com)