Group of 7 is full of references to Canadian history, art and popular culture. 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.