Published as a backup story in Two-Fisted Tales
#8, December 1939, "Rendezvous with Danger!" was the first of many Fightin' Canadian stories to grace the pages of Maple Leaf Pulps flagship title. Gordie Burton begins to lay the framework of the Johnny Canuck
mythos, moving the character beyond his simplistic origin in the wilds and into the arena of war
. Most interesting is the icy reception offered by the stuffy Mr. Lisgar
, seemingly mistrustful of the untested hero. As the first continuing Fightin' Canadian narrative, Burton begins to utilize his relatively untested cliffhanger ending formula. Years later, he admitted that he was unsure if the character would ever be used again, so the ending "tied things up nicely". Shaky scripting and rather amateurish penciling seem to indicate that the story was a late addition to the book. Editors also asked Burton to dumb down the verbose
dialogue, a request that he flatly refused. Young fans saw past these limitations and latched on the character, ensuring further appearances with a torrent of fan mail
. Burton admitted to practicing his pencil work before tackling the follow-up tale, "To Save a King", which was made the headline story of the next Two-Fisted Tales.
"Rendezvous with Danger!"
Framed by the Peace Tower
, our hero Johnny Canuck faces his first challenge, a meeting with Prime Minster Mackenzie King
. As he considers the Red Ensign
flag flapping in the cool Ottawa breeze, Johnny ponders his place in the war effort. "I wonder if they will have any use for me.."
, inside the PM's office...
King is seen from behind, a silhouette
in the large windows of his Centre Block
office. He holds a phone to his ear, hunched over in fatigue and grief. Another grim report about the War. "Yes, I see. Thank you for telling me personally. Yes. God Save us all." King hangs up the phone and holds his head in his hands. As he glances to his desk calendar, we see that he has underlined the meeting with Johnny Canuck. "Finally, some good news", he thinks.
Enter Johnny Canuck, The Fightin' Canadian
! "You wanted to see me, Mr. Prime Minister?" asks our hero.
King beams in delight, ushering Johnny into the office. "Johnny! Johnny my Boy, come in! Have a seat. Let's get right to business, shall we?" King's face quickly becomes somber. "Johnny, your country needs you. We face horrors far beyond those we saw in the last war
. The Germans have pulled out all the stops!" The panels now show gruesome images illustrating King's litany of enemies. "They have sought out help from beyond the stars
, from far into the future
, from magical realms
and from other dimensions. They even play at damnation, making deals with devils
is shown signing a deal with the Devil
himself, much to the shock of the reader. "They are coming at us on all fronts
, Johnny. We need all the help we can muster. Will you help us?"
Johnny now stands before a billowing Red Ensign, hands on hips and chest puffed out as he delivers his credo:
"From sea to shining sea, I will stand on guard for Thee!
"I had a feeling you would say that!" beams King. "Johnny, allow me to introduce Mr. Lisgar
, Minister responsible for the Department of Extra-normal Affairs
A slightly thin man appears in the doorway. His wire rim glasses frame a humorless face, and dark circles mark Lisgar's narrow features. He looks like a man that is bearing a horrible burden. He nods toward the Prime Minister. He doesn't offer his hand in greeting.
"He will be your government liaison
for the duration, I'm sad to say. As much as I would like to stay personally involved, the damnable war occupies me night and day. Rest assured son, you have a friend in this office
. Now, I'm afraid I have to cut our meeting sort." The phone begins ringing again. "More grim
news from the front, no doubt."
Johnny's face takes on an air of determination
. "Never fear Mr. Prime Minister
! I solemnly swear that I will give my last breath in defense of the Dominion
"Let's pray it doesn't come to that my son. Now go! No time to waste. Lisgar has an assignment
for you already." says the PM.
"Yes Sir!" Johnny salutes and then heads off with Lisgar.
King watches Mr. Lisgar and Johnny Canuck leave his office before wearily turning his attention to the constantly ringing red phone. Glancing at the floor to ceiling map of Europe
marked with troop
movements and grim numbers
, a thought balloon blossoms from his head.
"Thank goodness this wonderful hero has turned up. But is he too late
The action returns to Lisgar
, now walking down the ornate corridors of power within the House of Commons
. Lisgar cuts directly to the chase. "Well, Mr. Canuck, I am going to be frank
with you. I don't cotton
with all this hocus-pocus
stuff you've sold the Prime Minister on. As far as I am concerned, you work for me. The world is in turmoil
, so I don't have the luxury of time to pick through your story. You better hope you have what it takes. As sorry as I am to say it, the Commonwealth
"I won't let you down Sir." offers Johnny.
"Yes, yes. Bluster
all you like. The facts are these, Mr. Canuck: We face an enemy without compassion
; they have allies we could never have imagined; and you, yes you, are the only Ace up our sleeve
." Lisgar looks Johnny up and down. "For your sake, I hope you haven't been selling snake oil
. Now then, no time for chitchat. Your first assignment is a humdinger
! Those cowards in Berlin
have gone too far this time. They've been plotting to assassinate King George VI
Those dastardly fiends!" interjects Johnny.
The two men exit the doors of the House of Commons and see a waiting car. "Fiends indeed." continues Lisgar. "You and your hocus-pocus are off to Toronto
, to meet with His Majesty's Security Service
. We have to protect the King while he tours our great land! Driver, to the aerodrome
The car races off toward the airport, where we find that the enemy is one step ahead of our hero! In the shadows
, a figure looms over the unconscious body of a pilot who has been tied up and stripped of his uniform
. "Ve have a zpecial zurprise vaiting for you, Johnny Canuck! You vill serve Ze Reich
even in death! MUHAHAHAHA!" What vile
plan awaits our hero?
Cut to the interior of a military transport plane
heading for Toronto. Johnny is the lone occupant, surrounded by cargo obviously headed for the front. Johnny watches out a small porthole
window as the plane lifts off. Back in the alley, the roped up pilot comes to, just in time to watch the plane zip overhead. "My plane! Who stole my plane?"
Who is flying the plane? A Nazi spy
of course! "Wow, the King! That's a big step up from protecting my trap line
" thinks Johnny. He is roused from his daydreams by strange radio chatter
coming from the cockpit. He goes to the door of the cockpit and sees the pilot reading a manual penned in a foreign language
. Curious, he asks the Pilot "Hey Mac, where did you go to school
?". The pilot, nervous and sweating, answer "Ummm err, the University of... Moose Jaw
". Johnny exclaims "There is no University in Moose Jaw!
" and a struggle ensues! Fists fly and the two men struggle. The pilot gets the upper hand, knocking Johnny to the floor, briefly stunned
. He grabs a parachute and dives from the plane. "Say Guten Tag
to Ze King, Swinehund
!" bellows the Pilot as he jumps.
Johnny looks through the cockpit glass just in time to see that the plane is rushing toward the Royal York Hotel
in downtown Toronto! The King, and various others, including a young Princess Elizabeth
, are having tea on the roof patio!
HOW WILL OUR HERO ESCAPE? IS THE KING DOOMED?
Find out next month in Two-Fisted Tales!