An old video recording is playing, on screen it shows Captain America, the Sub-Mariner and the Human Torch of the Invaders, along with another man, running from an explosion. Though never an official member of the globe-spanning INVADERS, Canada’s own super hero joined Captain America, the Human Torch and the Atlantean Sub-Mariner on many axis-stomping adventures throughout World War II. The Nazi’s referred to him as “The Great White North”, and the global press dubbed him “The Toronto Terminator”. But to his Canadian countrymen, he’ll forever be remembered as MAJOR MAPLELEAF!
The old, but in shape and seemingly healthy man sits back in his chair amongst the messy and unkempt apartment. Nearly fifty years later, the origin of our country’s first super hero is still a mystery. The most popular theory involves a genetic experiment which - the man fast-forwards the recording - death of his faithful sidekick, the beloved - fast-forwards some more - rarely seen during the fifties, Major Mapleleaf went underground in his crime-fighting endeavours. This rare footage shows him battling a villain who would later confront the Fantastic -.
The next image to come on screen shows Major Mapleleaf at his last public appearance in 1963, when he revealed his secret identity at a press conference announcing his retirement. “So I can devote my time and energy to a truly superhuman task…the raising of my son, Michael Sadler”. The old man pauses the video on a picture of baby Michael Sadler, walks over to the television and kneels beside it, sobbing.
At that moment, in downtown Toronto, Heather “Guardian” McNeil Hudson, Jean-Paul “Northstar” Beaubier and Doctor Walter “Sasquatch” Langkowski are currently battling a villain from the U.S. - Mr. Hyde. Sasquatch tells Hyde that he obviously thinks like every other super villain from the States, that they can just hop across the Canadian border an have an entire country ripe for pillaging. ‘You’ve yet to disprove that theory’ Hyde replies. ‘If I might interject…’ begins the handsome Jean-Paul, until Heather who is Alpha Flight’s esteemed leader tells the men to be careful, for even without his fellow Masters of Evil, Hyde is still a deadly adversary.
‘I am frightened,’ Jean-Paul remarks sarcastically, as he grabs Hyde. Hyde sneers and declares that Northstar gives himself too much credit, telling him that he is too stupid and arrogant to be frightened. Before Jean-Paul can fight back, Hyde whacks him down into an alley.
Sliding across the ground, Jean-Paul thinks to himself that he is obviously not the first super-fast mutant Hyde has battled, and scolds himself for his over-confidence. He thinks that his ears will be ringing for weeks, when suddenly indeed he does hear a noise, and racing through the alley searching in all the trash cans and other rubbish he discovers the source of the noise - just what he thought it was - a baby girl.
He picks the malnourished child out of the trash can and holding her tight in his arms he speeds past his confused teammates, declaring that she is alive. Hyde tells Sasquatch that it seems his teammate is a coward, to which Sasquatch picks Hyde up and shoves him straight down into the concrete, telling him that the one thing he cannot abide by is name-calling. With Hyde trapped, Guardian asks Sasquatch why he couldn’t have done that five minutes ago. ‘Nag. Nag. Nag,’ mutters Walt, telling Heather that he wants to know where Jean-Paul went in such a hurry.
Three weeks later at Toronto General Hospital, Heather, Jean-Paul and Walter along with their teammates are gathered in a corridor, ready for a team mission. Heather reads the roster, in addition to the three of them, also Aurora, Weapon Omega, Colin “Windshear” Hume and Eugene “Puck” Judd are in attendance. Guardian asks if anyone would like to begin, to which Judd declares he wants to go on record as saying that he loves orphaned infants as much as the next guy, ‘How noble’ Aurora remarks sarcastically, before Judd asks if it is necessary to hold their debriefings in the hospital.
‘Only is you require my presence,’ exclaims Jean-Paul, reminding everyone that he refuses to leave this facility until the doctors discern the cause of the child’s fever. Suddenly a door swings open and Dr. Cahill enters, informing Northstar that they have now done that, and asks to speak to Jean-Paul alone. Northstar tells Cahill that whatever he has to say can be said in front of his colleagues. The doctor exclaims that there is no easy way to say this, and informs Jean-Paul that as the child’s temporary guardian he will have to make immediate decisions.
The doctor announces that it is his belief the child’s mother was H.I.V. positive, and that the child was infected in the womb. The doctor explains that transmission from mother to child doesn’t always occur, but…his voice trails off. Northstar asks the doctor what it is he is saying, and an indescribable look falls upon him when the doctor replies ‘I’m saying the child has AIDS’. Alpha Flight all look at Northstar, then in a moment, he is gone. Alpha Flight find their teammate in the neo-natal intensive care room, his hand pressed up to the baby’s life support tank.
Another three weeks later, back in the fashionable section of Rosedale, the old-but-handsome man sits in his shorts, his apartment still a mess he once again watches some television, not a recording this time, but live news. “There’s still no progress on the condition of the child named Joanne Beaubier, the “unofficial youngest member of Alpha Flight”.” The newsreader also announces that services were held today for the homeless woman who authorities believed was the little girl’s mother. An image appears of Guardian speaking at the memorial in which she petitioned the public schools to increase AIDS awareness and prevention classes.
An image of Northstar appears on screen, and the newsreader announces that as he is Joanne’s adoptive father, Montreal’s most eligible bachelor will have no shortage of baby-sitters - for all of Canada has embraced the plight of the AIDS-stricken infant. The old man’s eyes narrow, and he throws the remote control at the television, shattering the screen.
Back in the intensive care ward at Toronto General, Judd tells Northstar that he is not doing Joanne any good by exhausting himself, to which Jean-Paul admits Judd is right, however he smiles and explains that knowing her condition worsens each day, every moment he spends with her is precious. Judd leads Northstar out of the ward, suggesting they go to get something to eat, and they leave a stuffed Sasquatch doll from her “Uncle Walter” standing guard until they get back.
Walking through the hospital corridors, Puck reminds Northstar that he has been around for a lot of years and seen a lot of horrible things, but this disease, ‘A plague for our times, indeed’ Northstar remarks, adding that how the little body fights on is a miracle.’ Speaking of bodies, Judd is about to comment on how Jean-Paul looks like he hasn’t slept in weeks, when suddenly there is a large boom.
Northstar races back to Joanne’s room, where the old man, dressed in his Major Mapleleaf costume has burst inside and points at the baby, asking if this is her, the little girl who has become the darling of the media. ‘And who are you? Besides someone who is going to regret disturbing my daughter’s slumber?’ asks Northstar. Mapleleaf tells Northstar that he cannot threaten him, for he has already lost everything he holds dear. Judd enters the room, asking Northstar what is going on, when he sees Major Mapleleaf. ‘Louis?’ he asks. Jean-Paul asks Judd if he knows this man, but looming over the life support tank, Mapleleaf declares that the man Judd knew is but a memory. ‘Much like your “daughter” will be!’
Before Mapleleaf can even lower his fists to kill the child, Northstar uses his super speed to knock him back through the entrance he created and flies him across the skies of Toronto. ‘Are you mad old man? What could that innocent child have done to you?’ Northstar asks. Mapleleaf struggles mid-air, exclaiming that this has nothing to do with her, but it is about Northstar and the others who fall and fawn over her. Jean-Paul thinks it is incredible as Mapleleaf turns mid-air, just as they are about to crash into the side of a skyscraper, forcing Northstar to take the brunt of the crash.
On a ledge, Northstar tries to gather himself, as Mapleleaf reveals that his son, Michael, was a victim of AIDS as well. ‘But he was gay - so people didn’t afford him the luxury of being “innocent”’. He declares that there were no press conferences, no fund-raises and no nightly news updates - he was just one of a thousand who died of AIDS last year. ‘His whole life reduced to a statistic!’ Mapleleaf punches Northstar, claiming that he did everything he could, but that in the end, all he could do was watch him die.
Northstar is pushes off the ledge and lands on another rooftop as Mapleleaf follows him down, ‘And now you come along with your cute and sweet and loveable photogenic little orphaned girl. “She’s too young to have done anything to bring the disease upon herself” people think. My son wasn’t guilty of anything - but because he was gay, he didn’t rate!’ The two men crash into a super market and land amongst the frozen food freezers.
Regaining his composure, Jean-Paul tells Mapleleaf not to presume to lecture him on the hardships that homosexuals must bear. ‘No one knows better than I’, and punching Mapleleaf backwards, Jean-Paul declares that he is not inclined to discuss his sexuality with people for whom it is none of their business, ‘I am gay!’ he reveals, before using his super speed to repeatedly smash Mapleleaf backwards, adding ‘Be that as it may, AIDS is not a disease restricted to homosexuals, as much as it seems, at times the rest of the world wishes that were so!’
The men crash out of the super market and land against a truck, Mapleleaf calls Northstar selfish and tells him that as a member of Alpha Flight, he is one of Canada’s most prominent public figures, both here and abroad, and reminding him that before Alpha Flight he was a renowned Olympic athlete. Mapleleaf has his hands around Northstar’s throat and asks him if he doesn’t realize the good he can do, and that by not talking about his lifestyle and closeting himself, he is as responsible for Michael’s death as the homophobic politicians who refuse to address the AIDS crisis.
‘HOW DARE YOU?’ shouts Northstar, breaking free from Mapleleaf’s grasp, he begins to punch him over and over again, declaring that he is no more responsible for Michael’s death than Michael himself was. Jean-Paul then points out that they agree on one thing - that it is past time people started talking about AIDS - about victims - those who die - and those who are left behind. Mapleleaf doesn’t get off the ground after his beating, but Jean-Paul gets down and the two men embrace.
A new day at Alpha Flight’s fancy new Department H headquarters, an on a balcony overlooking Toronto, Heather stands and watches the orange-colored sky, noticing Weapon Omega approach her, she declares that it is ironic, for so many civilized countries spend billions in the name of defense, but the well runs dry when it comes to taking care of the sick and the dying. Kyle adds that it makes one wonder who it is they expect them to defend. ‘A nation of corpses, perhaps?’ suggests Heather. Kyle exclaims that for years as Wildchild, he tried to regain his humanity, but there are times when he wonders if it is worth it. If “humanity” is all it is cracked up to be.
Another day, rain pours down on the city of Toronto, while inside the hospital, Cahill informs Northstar, who is accompanied by Mapleleaf and Judd, that Joanne is dying and there is nothing more they can do. Northstar asks the nurse if he can hold his daughter, so the nurse hands Joanne to him. Jean-Paul holds her in his arms. ‘May he keep you in the hereafter…as much as I miss you here in life. Sleep well, Joanne’. Mapleleaf puts his hands on Northstar’s shoulders, telling him that if it means anything, they are together, Michael is watching over her. Jean-Paul replies that it means everything. Everything.
Another new day, the front page headline of the Daily Mail reads “Alpha Flight’s Northstar proclaims homosexuality”. “It has been said ‘Silence equals death.’ I no longer wish to be that part of the death that is the AIDS crisis” said Jean-Paul Beaubier, the former Olympic athlete better known as Northstar of Alpha Flight. A day after his adopted daughter Joanne died as a result of complications from AIDS, Beaubier held a press conference where he announced he is gay. “It is my fervent wish that the expression of my homosexuality will open the door to conversations…”