Cover of the second issue. Artist: John Byrne.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1978
Creator: John Byrne
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Marvel Comics' revived version of The X-Men, which came out in 1975, was one of the biggest successes the company ever had. And one of the elements driving that success was …

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… the way writer Chris Claremont (Iron Fist, Sovereign Seven) had of keeping some characters' backgrounds sketchy, revealing bits and pieces of their past just often enough to keep the fans on the edge of their seats. Wolverine was a particularly good example — it took years for his back-story to be filled in, and readers were treated to plenty of surprises along the way.

One of the big surprises was the extent of his earlier work with the Canadian government. It was known from the beginning that he'd once been an agent for them (he'd been introduced as such when The Incredible Hulk visited that country), but when, in X-Men #109 (February, 1978), Canada sent one of its government-sponsored superheroes (who called himself "Weapon Alpha" and wore a patriotic-style red and white outfit with a maple leaf theme) to get him back, interest in the Canadian connection soared. The following year, Weapon Alpha (now calling himself "Vindicator") tried again, this time with his cohorts, i.e., the rest of Alpha Flight.

This group and the characters in it (who went by the superhero names Sasquatch, Aurora, Northstar, Shaman and Guardian — the former Weapon Alpha/Vindicator) were the creation of artist John Byrne (also responsible for the 1986 revamp of Superman), who was drawing the X-Men title when Weapon Alpha first appeared. He illustrated subsequent meetings between Alpha Flight and X-Men, during which the former eventually became reconciled to the fact that Wolverine was gone for good. When Alpha Flight got its own title, beginning with an August, 1983 cover date, Byrne both wrote and drew it.

Except for the setting, it was handled as a typical superhero team. New members joined (Puck, Marinna, Talisman and more). Old ones were killed off and/or subsequently revived (Guardian, in fact, was killed more than once, and eventually regressed into a teenager). Even Wolverine had a few adventures with them. Ancillary teams were added — Beta Flight and Gamma Flight were used as training grounds for new members; and Omega Flight became its antagonist. Relations with the Canadian government waxed and waned, but even as freelancers, the team succeeded in holding reader interest — tho none of the individual members ever became prominent enough to warrant a feature of his own.

Byrne eventually grew tired of his creation, and it passed into other hands with its 29th issue (December, 1985). It continued to run more than 100 issues, ending with #130 (March, 1994). It was revived for another 20 issues from 1997-99, and reorganized in 2004, when it ran a dozen issues. A five issue mini-series in 2007 introduced a new version, without the baggage that comes with a history in the Marvel Universe, meaning it'll be available for specials and guest appearances for a long time to come.


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