Nelvana of the Northern Lights

Nelvana of the Northern Lights is a Canadian comic book character and the first Canadian national superhero, debuting in Hillborough Studio's Triumph-Adventure Comics #1 (Aug. 1941). She is also one of the first female superheroes, debuting before Wonder Woman but after Fantomah, the Golden Age Black Widow, Invisible Scarlet O'Neil and others introduced in 1940. Nelvana of the Northern Lights is Canada’s first distinctly Canadian female superhero.[1]

The character was created, written and illustrated by Adrian Dingle, who was inspired by tales brought back from the Arctic by Group of Seven painter Franz Johnston. He converted tribal legends about the hideous witch-like daughter of Koliak, King of the Northern Lights to a story of a beautiful superheroine living among the Inuit peoples. Nelvana's superpowers included turning invisible and traveling at the speed of light along a ray of the Northern Lights. She visited lost kingdoms under the ice, journeyed to other dimensions and fought against the Axis Powers during World War II, eventually taking on the secret identity of secret agent Alana North. Her final appearance was in a May 1947 comic book.

On October 5, 1995, Canada Post issued a stamp depicting her, as part of the "Comic Book Superheroes" series that also included Superman, Johnny Canuck, Captain Canuck and Fleur de Lys.

Contents

Publication history

Created and illustrated by Adrian Dingle, Nelvana of Northern Lights, or Nelvana of the North for short, first debuted in Triumph-Adventure-Comics #1, published by Hillborough Studios in August 1941.[2]

Comic Book Character

Nelvana is a powerful Inuit mythological figure, protecting the people of the North with her superhuman abilities. She is the daughter of a mortal woman and Koliak the Mighty, King of the Northern Lights. The gods were outraged with Koliak and his marriage to a mortal woman, and therefore is no longer visible, although his spirit is manifested in the form of the Northern Lights. Nelvana draws on the powers of her father and the Northern Lights to fight super-powered Nazi agents in the North.[3]

Power and Abilities

Dressed in a fur-trimmed mini-skirt, knee-high boots, matching gloves and adorned in a headband and magical cape, Nelvana’s superhuman powers include the ability to fly at the speed of light on a giant ray of the Northern Lights. Also capable of calling on the powers of her father she can melt metal and disrupt radio communications. Nelvana is telepathic and can turn invisible, as well as change her physical form.[4]

Supporting cast

Nelvana is often found fighting crime with her brother Tanero with the help from their father Koliak, King of the Northern Lights. In 1942, Nelvana was joined by Johnny Canuck and together they fought evil Nazis in the North.

Cultural Impact

As Canada’s first distinctly Canadian female superhero, Nelvana of the North fulfilled the lack of Canadian comic book heroes and had an impact on Canadian national identity as a whole. Canadians finally had a hero to call their own in an American dominated comic book industry.[5]

Nelvana Limited, a Canadian entertainment company founded in 1971, was named after Nelvana of the Northern Lights.

In Marvel Comics the Canadian superheroine Snowbird, member of Alpha Flight created by John Byrne is a demi-goddess whose mother is Nelvanna of the Northern Lights, daughter of Hodiak.

Nelvanna and Hodiak were, very probably, intended as homages to Nelvana and Koliak made by Alpha Flight's writer, John Byrne.

Appearances

Kablunets (Triumph Comics Nos. 1-7)

Called upon to stop “evil white ones” (Kablunets) from using time bombs to destroy fish and other food stocks in the North, Nelvana and her brother Tanero are assisted by Koliak and use the Northern Lights as a gigantic magnet to magnetise the enemy bombs towards the sky by destroying them harmlessly. Commander Toroff, attacks Nelvana and her brother from his Devil Ship with killer boats. Nelvana and Tanero land on Toroff’s ship, and Nelvana instructs Tanero to destroy Toroff's fleet and killer boats. Meanwhile, Nelvana searches Toroff's quarters looking for his plans.
Nelvana comes across Toroff’s plans but is soon captures. Toroff then orders his men tie her up hanging above a gaping digestor pit. Sensing his daughter’s peril, Koliak informs Tanero and in turn rescues Nelvana. The Devil Ship is eventually destroyed along with the Kablunet fleet.[6]

Nelvana of the Northern Lights and the Ice-Beam (Triumph Comics Nos. 9-13)

Felix Langdon has created a secret weapon ice beam with his brother Silas, and is eventually kidnapped. Koliak informs Nelvana to go south and obtain a new secret identity. Nelvana and Silas fly to Nortonville, Ontario together where they meet policeman, Sgt. Michael O'Donnelly who assists Nelvana to assume her new secret identity—Secret Agent, Alana North. Nelvana and Silas eventually discover the headquarters of One-Ear Brunner, an evil Nazi villain holding Felix hostage. Brunner captures Nelvana and Silas and demands the plans for the secret ice beam. Nelvana saves the day by defeating Bruner and rescuing Felix. The plans for the ice beam are final and it is used in Britain for a target attack to bring down Nazi robot bombs.[7]

References

  1. ^ Ryan Edwardson, “The Many Lives of Captain Canuck: Nationalism, Culture, and the Creation of a Canadian Comic Book Superhero,” The Journal of Popular Culture, 37, 2 (2003), 187.
  2. ^ Nelvana of the Northern Lights (Library and Archives Canada) http://epe.lac-bac.gc.ca/100/200/301/lacbac/guardians_north-ef/2009/www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/superheroes/t3-302-e.html.
  3. ^ Ryan Edwardson, “The Many Lives of Captain Canuck: Nationalism, Culture, and the Creation of a Canadian Comic Book Superhero,” The Journal of Popular Culture, 37, 2 (2003), 187.
  4. ^ Nelvana of the Northern Lights (Library and Archives Canada) http://epe.lac-bac.gc.ca/100/200/301/lacbac/guardians_north-ef/2009/www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/superheroes/t3-302-e.html
  5. ^ Ryan Edwardson, “The Many Lives of Captain Canuck: Nationalism, Culture, and the Creation of a Canadian Comic Book Superhero,” The Journal of Popular Culture, 37, 2 (2003), 187.
  6. ^ Nelvana of the Northern Lights (Library and Archives Canada) http://epe.lac-bac.gc.ca/100/200/301/lacbac/guardians_north-ef/2009/www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/superheroes/t3-302-e.html
  7. ^ Nelvana of the Northern Lights (Library and Archives Canada) http://epe.lac-bac.gc.ca/100/200/301/lacbac/guardians_north-ef/2009/www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/superheroes/t3-302-e.html

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