Group of 7 is full of references to Canadian history, art, popular culture and beyond. Some are obvious, others not so much. You can find a panel-by-panel breakdown below.
Interested in learning more about the story’s characters, events and inspiration? Hit the links provided. They are intended to be reputable sources of information and exploration.
Page 1 – Panel 1
Following the First World War, the map of Europe changed drastically. Old empires fell while new nation states emerged. A summary of Europe’s changing borders from 1900 – present can be found here.
Prior to the Second World War, the term ‘most secret’ was the highest security classification given to information used and shared by the British Empire.
The ‘Great War’ was the most commonly used term at the time for the global conflict that would later become known as the First World War.
The title ‘Weighty Ghost’ is taken from a song of the same name by Halifax band Wintersleep. The song appears on the band’s 2007 album Welcome to the Night Sky. Listen to it here.
Page 1 – Panel 2
The flower depicted is a poppy, the inspiration behind John McCrae’s poem In Flanders Fields. Following the War, the poppy was adopted as a symbol of Remembrance. Its story can be found here.
It was a popular notion at the time that the War would only last until Christmas 1914. Explore more about initial attitudes towards the War here.
Page 1 – Panel 3
Definitions of trenches and trench warfare.
Descriptions of the lives of Canadian soldiers in the trenches can be found here.
Page 4 – Panel 1
Having been a battleground multiple times, the Belgian town of Ypres was almost completely destroyed by the War’s end with only a handful of buildings left standing. Its history as a continuously fortified settlement is explored here.
Page 4 – Panel 2
The strategic importance of Ypres was that the town stood in the path of Germany’s planned offensive through Belgium and into northern France, which formed part of the Schlieffen Plan. More on that here.
Page 5 – Panel 1
First World War German rank of Hauptmann = Captain.
Page 5 – Panel 2
When war was declared in 1914, the ‘Allies’ or Allied Forces consisted of the original members of the Triple Entente – the French Republic, the British Empire and the Russian Empire. More on the history of European alliances leading up to the War here.
Pages 6 – 8
April 22, 1915 was the first large-scale poison gas attack in modern history as the German army used chlorine gas to horrific effect on French, Algerian and Canadian forces. The Second Battle of Ypres was the first major engagement fought by the Canadians and despite the devastating effect of the gas, they managed to hold a strategic section of the front line until reinforcements arrived. More on the Canadian experience at the Ypres here.
Page 7 – Panel 2
The German invasion of Belgium in August 1914 included the massacre of Belgian civilians. At the town of Leuven (Louvain), the university library, which housed ancient manuscripts among its 300,000 books, was destroyed. More here.
Page 7 – Panel 4
General Erich von Falkenhayn was Chief of the Imperial German Staff, 1914-1916.
Introducing John McCrae – physician, poet, soldier. Resources on McCrae are available on the Group of 7 website here. The panels suggest McCrae is recalling the Second Battle of Ypres from memory. Which he is. Because he was there. More on the Battle in the links on pages 6-8.
Page 11 – Panel 2
Commander Curie is of course, Arthur Currie, one of four Canadian Corps Division Commanders at this time. He is introduced fully on page 13.
Page 11 – Panels 3-4
Page 12 – Panel 2
The Canadian Corps was headquartered at Neuville-Vitasse, France. This photo was taken in 1918.
(Source: Department of National Defence, Library and Archives Canada)
Page 12 – Panel 3
Introducing Francis Pegahmagabow, the most effective sniper of the First World War. Across Pegahmagabow’s back (which you can see in Panel 4) is an Ojibwa war club, a traditional First Nations weapon. Although every soldier was issued a gun, many carried secondary weapons for the purpose of hand-to-hand combat.
Behind Pegahmagabow stands a signpost with distances to Allied capital cities. One shows Keewaydin, the world’s oldest canoe-tripping camp, founded in 1893 on Lake Temagami, northern Ontario.
Page 13 – Panel 1
Although known primarily for his medical and literary contributions to the War effort, McCrae trained and enlisted as an artillery officer. A description of his early years and family life can be found here.
Pages 14 – 15
Page 16 – Panel 2
John McCrae began the War attached to artillery before moving to No. 3 Canadian General Hospital in 1915. More on his War movements here.
Page 16 – Panel 3
It is believed that the death of McCrae’s friend Alexis Helmer at the Second Battle of Ypres was the inspiration behind In Flanders Fields. More on the poem’s inspiration here.
Page 17 – Panel 1
Founded in 1882, the Albany Club remains one of Canada’s leading conservative political, business and social clubs.
Page 19 – Panel 4
During the War, Germans were referred to as both ‘Huns’ and ‘Boche.’ Read more on the terminology here.
Page 19 – Panel 7
Written in 1916, the music hall song “Take Me Back To Dear Old Blighty” was popular among English soldiers (“Blighty” being a slang term for Britain).
Page 20 – Panel 5
Introducing Lester Pearson – the future 14th Prime Minister of Canada.
Page 21 – Panel 1
Introducing A.Y. Jackson – future member of the Group of Seven painters.
Max Aitken, 1st Baron Beaverbrook was in charge of the Canadian War Records Office in London during the War and employed artists, photographers and film makers to record life on the Western Front.
Page 21 – Panel 2
Introducing Frederick Banting – future co-discoverer of insulin and Nobel Prize winner.
Page 21 – Panel 3
Introducing Norman Bethune – future battlefield surgeon and humanitarian.
Page 22 – Panel 2
Page 23 – Panel 1
Page 23 – Panel 3
Watching Smythe enter the arena are three members of the 1952-53 Toronto Maple Leafs. From left: goaltender Harry (Apple Cheeks) Lumley, leading scorer Sid Smith (Number 8) and Captain Ted (Teeder) Kennedy).
Page 24 – Panel 1
The comic book speaking debut of Ted (Teeder Kennedy)? Quite possibly.
Page 24 – Panel 2
Page 24 – Panel 3
One of my absolute favourite pages in Group of 7. Smythe, head buried in his newspaper accidentally walks into the Canadiens dressing room and comes face-to-face with the immortal words of McCrae’s In Flanders Fields, which first appeared on the dressing room wall in 1952. Three of hockey’s all-time greats (from left – Maurice “The Rocket” Richard, Elmer Lach and Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion) appear not too bothered by the intrusion.
Page 27 – Panel 1
In February 1917, Conn Smythe earned a Military Cross for his actions during a German counter-attack near the Somme. The official description of Smythe’s actions was printed in the London Gazette on April 17, 1917. It read:
“Lt. Conn Smythe, Field Artillery. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He organised some men and led them forward with great dash, thereby dispersing an enemy party at a critical time. He himself accounted for three of the enemy with his revolver. He has previously done fine work.”
Smythe received his Military Cross on April 25, 1917.
Page 31 – Panel 3
Leader of British fascist organizations from 1932 until his death in 1980, Oswald Mosley was also a veteran of the British Army during the First World War. In 1936, he famously led a march of the British Union of Fascists into London’s East End, which was then halted and forced back by anti-fascist counter demonstrators. The ensuing riot became popularly known as The Battle of Cable Street.
Page 32 – Panel 1
Formed by Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I in 1487, the Landsknecht were formidable mercenary soldiers in 15th and 16th century Europe. Consisting primarily of German pikemen, at the height of their success they were regarded as some of the most effective foot soldiers in the world.
“Fachoffizier” translates from German into “Specialist Officer.”
Page 32 – Panel 2
“Poilu” was an informal and popular term for a French infantry soldier in the First World War. It literally means, “hairy one.”
Page 34 – Panel 1
Hill 145 was the highest and most important feature of Vimy Ridge, as well as the 4th Canadian Division’s principal military objective in April 1917. It is where the Vimy monument now stands.
Page 34 – Panel 4
“Gott strafe England” translates into “May God punish England,” which was a slogan used by the German Army during the First World War.
Page 36 – Panel 3 TO Page 37 – Panel 1
The Ross Rifle was a Canadian-made infantry weapon used by Canadian soldiers during the first half of the First World War. An excellent hunting rifle, it was much maligned for its unreliability in combat (it had a tendency to jam) and was withdrawn from service by fall of 1916 and replaced by the British Lee-Enfield . Despite its deficiencies, the Ross was the preferred weapon of Canadian snipers including Francis Pegahmagabow and Henry Louis Norwest.
Page 37 – Panel 4
Frederick Banting didn’t make it to Europe until 1917 while Francis Pegahmagabow enlisted in 1914 and had been fighting on The Front since 1915.
Page 41 – Panel 1
In 1527, having not received payment for defeating the French army in Italy, the army of the Holy Roman Emperor (which included some 14,000 Landsknechts) mutinied and sacked a number of Italian cities including Rome. This event also witnessed the Stand of the Swiss Guard, in which Swiss guards held off Rome’s invaders long enough for Pope Clement VII to escape before being annihilated.
Page 42 – Panel 2
Vimy Ridge was a much sought after objective by both sides in the First World War due to its commanding views of the surrounding area.
Page 42 – Panel 5
When poison gas was first used at Ypres in 1915, Allied soldiers had little protection. That changed soon after with the invention of the gas helmet by Newfoundlander Cluny Macpherson. The original design combined a helmet taken from a captured German prisoner, a canvas hood, eyepieces, a breathing tube and chemicals that would absorb (in this case) the chlorine.
Page 44 – Panel 3
Frederick Banting was an amateur painter of some renown and friends with A.Y. Jackson and the Group of 7. Issue #3 is named after the song “Stray” by Halifax band Dog Day from their 2009 album Concentration.
Page 46 – Panel 5
“Thomson” is Canadian painter Tom Thomson.
Page 47 – Panel 1
Page 48 – Panel 2
Lester Pearson’s father Edwin was a Methodist minister who served the Norfolk Street Methodist Church in Guelph, Ontario during the First World War.