by BK Munn
This past weekend I awoke from my hibernation, crawled out of my igloo, and embarked via snowshoe, hockey skate and dogsled from my homeland in the West of the Province on a hazard-fraught journey to the glamorous hideaway known as Mississauga-Brampton for a little vacation in the form of a work-related buying trip in the shadow of Pearson Airport. It was here, with jets thundering overhead and the temperature holding steady at minus 20, that my journalistic instincts, long-frozen in a block of metaphoric ice, were reanimated, and my nose for news started twitching.
And so it was I found myself wandering the halls of the Toronto Gift Show on Monday, annoying the denizens of the Food Products section by filling up on gourmet chocolate samples and looking covetously at imported Japanese Pop Rocks and Kit Kat flavours, when I sighted a very familiar figure across the aisle. It took me a moment to get over my shock at seeing the personage in question in such an out of context setting, but sure enough it was my old lantern-jawed, rock-biceped friend Captain Canuck, grinning out at me from a bottle of maple syrup. Even more incredible, the studly torso of the good Captain I found plastered to the maple-leaf-shaped jug was the iconic 1970s form of my childhood hero, delineated by the fondly-remembered artist most closely associated with the old fellow, cartoonist George Freeman.
Upon further investigation, it was revealed that the current owners/licensors of the comic book property have been trying to hook up with a number of merchandising partners to promote their “brand” and hit on the idea of maple syrup as the perfect avenue. The partner in this case turns out to be Turkey Hill Sugarbush Ltd of Waterloo, Quebec, an award-winning producer of all things maple, including several gold medal-earning varieties of 100% pure syrup.
I talked to Turkey Hill President Michael Herman about the collection of Marvel Comics he accumulated with his brother (and company co-owner) Brian in the 1960s and 70s and the Marvel Mania the pair shared, to the befuddlement of their then-girlfriends. “We could quote chapter and verse of those comics, right down to the letters pages,” he reminisced. (The complete collection, several thousand comics in number, is for sale, if you know anyone willing to pay a fair price, by the way.) Herman was excited about the new Canuck syrup and the promotional push the Canuck creators have been putting behind these new products, enthusing about a planned appearance by the costumed actor who plays the character in public scheduled for later in the day. Herman’s company does quite a bit in the way of novelty packaging and private labels and seems a perfect fit for this most Canadian of synergistic mash-ups. Unfortunately for fans of maple syrup and national superheroes, the products won’t be available until this coming Fall season –just in time for Christmas! Until then, we’ll just have to imagine what pouring a big puddle of Captain Canuck over our ice-cream or flapjacks will taste like…