1ST LEGION OF UTOPIA is an original 80 page graphic novel published by Renegade Arts Entertainment written by James Davidge, art by Bob Prodor and Nick Johnson (cover), lettering and design by Ryan Ferrier. It is available to own NOW right HERE. This is my review:
The turmoil of the Great Depression galvanized Canadians to rise up and fight for improved labour conditions, social equality and universal healthcare. In the frontier city of Calgary, Holly Burnside and Brian Mah get involved with the founding of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, the first national party dedicated to the needs of workers and farmers.
“Free your mind and your ass will follow” – Nicky, from 1st Legion of Utopia
Renegade Arts Entertainment continues its glorious mission of providing comic fans something that is both educational and entertaining with 1ST LEGION OF UTOPIA, an insightful look into the birth of Canada’s first Socialist party – the CCF (Co-operative Commonwealth Federation). This party wound up changing some of its ideals in the 60’s and is now what we would refer to as – The NDP (New Democratic Party). This is a political group that I strongly support personally and I actually had NO clue that this book had any ties to them until I read it. Nice touch on the bright orange cover too! (that would be the NDP’s color of choice while say the United Conservative Party is blue etc).
What I didn’t expect or anticipate is that the CCF was founded right in the heart of Calgary, Alberta (described in the book as “a younger city that’s a tad less civilized than Edmonton”). To outsiders this means nothing, but as a local who lives a couple hours away from this city, I will tell you now that Calgary is one of the most conservative cities in the country. Seeing how James Davidge sets the tone for this friction is fascinating, because the CCF not only has a strong female as the leading character, but an Asian man as well, who also happens to be gay. Those would still be issues today in 2019 sadly, but this was the 1930’s and in order to even have a public hall for their rallies, they had to pay off local owners who otherwise wouldn’t allow non-whites into their establishment. Davidge does a very good job injecting a ton of historical details into his narrative while still maintaining a strong personal story for Holly and Brian (our two leads).
Preaching equality, freedom and security were the main goals for the CCF and those core values continue today in the NDP, but we still unfortunately live in a world where people are fearful of change and progress which is why this book is more important now than ever as the conservatives have slowly begun taking back control of Canada, utilizing many of the same insane political strategies that the Republicans under Donald Trump used to gain power in the USA. Reading a graphic novel like 1ST LEGION OF UTOPIA should be mandatory in highschools across Canada. Whether you like it not – we are humans and we need to help each other out or else the world slowly but surely dies. The main message in Davidge’s story here is just that simple even though his graphic novel is loaded with information. (I highly recommend reading all of the bonus material in the back of the book too by the way – very eye opening for Canadians).
I honestly think that the book could have been a bit longer too and that’s my only major complaint is that it ended too abruptly. I also would have liked to see more of Nicky, the enigmatic brother of our leading lady who puts on crazy ass theatrical shows and isn’t shy about his sexual preferences either. He’s a bold and intriguing character who probably could have carried his own narrative alongside his sister’s mission to get the CCF up and running. Also, I don’t know if 1st Legion of Utopia will be for everyone either, in fact I highly doubt any American readers will be all that interested in Canadian political history, but they probably should be considering the state of the country… The values instilled upon the politicians and people who created the CCF are ones that we should all still strive for 80+ years later and the book hammers that message across to the reader very effectively.