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Former Northerner draws out Mad Trapper history
Wally Wolfe brings the story of Albert Johnson alive one comic strip at a time

Danielle Sachs
Northern News Services
Published Monday, September 9, 2013

Wally Wolfe doesn't remember exactly when he first heard the story of Albert Johnson, better known as the Mad Trapper. But as soon as he started researching the story, he knew one day it would be a comic book.

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Wally Wolfe recently completed a comic book based on the story of Albert Johnson, the Mad Trapper. - photo courtesy of Wally Wolfe

The retired bush pilot and museum curator, who currently lives in Cold Lake, Alta., lived in Inuvik in the 1960s and was a pilot for 12 years However, Wolfe decided to end his flying career and focus on something that wouldn't take him away from his family as often. After garnering a bachelor of arts degree in Alberta, he worked at an Edmonton museum. He was hired at the Yellowknife Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in the late 1970s, where he stayed until 1998.

Wolfe started working on the art and lettering of his Mad Trapper comic book in September 2012, and started shopping it around schools and museums in February. The completed book is filled with art and history - beginning the Mad Trapper's mysterious tale in 1931 when a solitary man made his way down the Peel River toward Fort McPherson.

What ensued was a seven-week chase of the Mad Trapper, or Albert Johnson, by RCMP. Johnson was buried in Aklavik. His remains were exhumed in 2007 by a documentary film crew.

In Wolfe's comic book - titled Encounter on the Eagle: The Mad Trapper of Rat River - the research and detail are meticulous, from what kinds of guns were used to what people wore in Northern Canada in the 1930s.

"I've been wanting to do the book for years," said Wolfe.

"All you've got in the past is the books and for younger readers that doesn't always work," he said.

Through his research on the Mad Trapper, Wolfe managed to find the original police report from Inspector Eames, the head of the Aklavik detachment at the time.

"The hardest part was turning all the text I found into images," said Wolfe. "I wanted to know what people wore and what it looked like."

Wolfe used photos from a friend who was an aircraft engineer in the North during the 1930s. His friend, an avid photographer, provided Wolfe with photos showing clothing and buildings.

Wolfe also contacted the RCMP museum. He waned to know what kind of rifles they would have been using at the time in order to keep the comic as accurate as possible.

"It's such an interesting story and this is a good way to tell it," he said.

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