Friday, September 16, 2011

Canada's Golden Age Heroine, Nelvana

Canada Post's Nelvana stamp
Nelvana of the Northern Lights is unique not only for being a truly Canadian character -- created in Canada and set here, as well -- but also for being one of the world's earliest costumed heroines, predating DC's Wonder Woman by three months.

She enjoys an uninterrupted run through 31 issues of Triumph Comics (originally Triumph-Adventure Comics) from 1941 though 1946, all published in black and white, as well as her only full-colour story in Super Duper Comics #3 (May 1947).

Nelvana is an Inuit demi-goddess, daughter of Koliak, King of the Northern Lights, and an unnamed mortal woman. In the tradition of godly heroes, she comes to earth to protect the peoples of the north. She also takes a turn as a secret agent in later stories.
Canada Post features Nelvana in its Canadian Super-Heroes stamp series (October 1995), and she appears on a handful of modern book and magazine covers, primarily for retrospectives on Canadian comic books.

The following story is Nelvana first appearance, from Triumph-Adventure Comics #1 (August 1941). Although some of the pages are the fiche, the effect is harder to notice in black and white.
Marvel Comics' Snowbird,
as drawn by John Byrne

While not seen in any modern stories, Nelvana does seem to influence the back story of Marvel Comics' own Canadian demi-goddess, Snowbird. In Alpha Flight #7 (February 1984), writer/artist John Byrne reveals that Snowbird is the daughter of Nelvanna and granddaughter of Hodiak (note the slightly different spelling of both compared with the Golden Age characters).

The original Nelvana is long overdue for a comeback, given her status as Canada's third super-hero creation. With modern publishers striving for more diversity in their characters, bringing back an Inuit demi-goddess seems like a no-brainer.

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