Tuesday, November 12, 2013

My Heroine Addiction : Nelvana of the Northern Lights

Superhero comics are so U.S.-centric that it’s easy to forget the genre exerted international appeal. Our northern neighbors were rabid consumers of US 4-color delights until WW2 put a damper on things. In 1940 the Canadian Parliament invoked the War Exchange Conservation Act which barred the importation and distribution of “nonessential luxuries” like magazines and comics from the US. To fill this void, Canadian publishers began to issue homegrown product. They were partially hampered by restrictions on printing which forced them to print their comics in black & white, although early on the covers were 2-color. Eventually full color became the norm. Using the US books as inspiration, the Canucks issued their own versions of mystery men and in one case, a superheroine.


Nelvana of the Northern Lights was the creation of cartoonist Adrian Dingle and was inspired by the folklore of Inuit people. In their legends there was a god named Koliak who mated with a human woman, producing a daughter. In the legend the daughter is witch, replete with a hag like appearance. For his comic. Dingle modified her into a beautiful demi-god and made her a protector of humankind. She could fly "at the speed of light", become invisible, shape-shift into ice form, communicate telepathically and was immortal. She could also summon powerful rays, able to melt metal and disrupt radio communications.

In a case of ‘great minds think alike”, south of the border William Moulton Marston and H. G. Peters were concocting their own feminine champion, Wonder Woman. Like Nelvana she was inspired by mythology, but Koliak’s daughter beat Diana to the newsstand by three months.

Here is her opening story from TRIUMPH ADVENTURE COMICS # 1.


For the most part her adventures ran in a serial format over the course of four multi-issue story arcs. These ran for the gamut of the comic’s 31 issues, SUPER DUPER COMICS #3 and her own one-shot comic.

By the end of her run, in 1947, Nelvana took on an appearance similar to Supergirl.

In Canada the character is much beloved. So much so that in 1995 the Canadian Postal Service issued a postage stamp based on her solo comic!


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