Nelvana of the Northern Lights

Nelvana of the Northern Lights

Nelvana, as drawn by Adrian Dingle (1941)
Publication information
Publisher Hillborough Studios
Bell Features
Created by Adrian Dingle
In-story information
Alter ego Alana North
Partnerships Koliak the Mighty (father), Tanero (brother)
Abilities Telepathy
Travel at light speed
Heat ray

Nelvana of the Northern Lights is a Canadian comic book character and the first Canadian national superhero, debuting in Hillborough Studios' 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]

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.

A Kickstarter campaign to republish Nelvana of the Northern Lights for the first time since the original publication was launched in October 2013 by Hope Nicholson.[2][3] It was fully funded within five days of being launched.[4]

Publication history

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. Franz Johnston had met a young women, either Cecile Nelvana or Connie Nelvana in his stay in Coppermine, NWT (now Kugluktuk, Nunavut), and was taken by this 'arctic Madonna' to create a superheroine. 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.

Nelvana of Northern Lights, or Nelvana of the North for short, debuted in Triumph-Adventure Comics #1, published by Hillborough Studios in August 1941.[5]

After the seventh issue in February 1942, Dingle took Triumph-Adventure and Nelvana to Bell Features.[6]

Her final appearance was in May 1947, in Super-Duper Comics #3.

In 1971, Michael Hirsh & Patrick Loubert purchased the rights to Bell Features comic books from Commercial Signs of Canada,[7] and today the rights are jointly held by Library & Archives Canada & Nelvana Animation.[8]

Fictional 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.[1]

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.[5]

Supporting cast

Nelvana is often found fighting crime with her brother Tanero with the help from their father Koliak, King of the Northern Lights. Later she is joined by the mountie Corporal Keene.

Cultural Impact

As Canada’s first distinctly Canadian female superhero, Nelvana of the North mitigated the lack of Canadian comic book heroes and affected Canadian national identity as a whole. Canadians finally had a hero to call their own in an American dominated comic book industry.[1]

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 by Byrne as homages to Nelvana and Koliak.


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.[5]

Nelvana of the Northern Lights in the strange frozen world of Glacia (Triumph Comics Nos. 8–18)

Koliak informs Nelvana that Glacia, a lost world, is hidden beneath the Arctic ice, under the polestar. Nelvana, upon entering Glacia, learns that it is threatened by the giant Mammoth Men, who are controlled by Vultor, the wicked scientist who is intent on learning Glacia's secret of eternal life. While Nelvana is dealing with matters in Glacia, the Japanese launch an attach on the Alcan Highway where they drop "swarms of savage, starved Manchurian wolves," but before they can kill the Alcan work crews, Nelvana, who is riding a polar bear, reappears and destroys the wolves.[5]

Nelvana of the Northern Lights and the Ice-Beam (Triumph Comics Nos. 19–23)

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.[5]

Nelvana and the Death Dealing Double (Nelvana of the Northern Lights)

Nelvana discovers an imposter using her name to exploit Inuit trappers for furs. The imposter Sade, goes insane upon meeting the real Nelvana and kills herself.

Nelvana of the Northern Lights and the Ether People (Triumph Comics Nos. 24–29, Super-Duper No. 3)

Corporal Keene is confronted by a little green man, an emissary from the ether world, Etheria (the void band surrounding the outer strata of the globe), who warns that Earth's radio broadcasts must stop, as they are driving the Etherians crazy. At first Keene doubts his own sanity but then realizes the encounter was for real and decides to find Nelvana, who, as Alana North, is in Ottawa. An Etherian confronts Nelvana and repeats the warning. Nelvana makes him disappear and then arranges for the construction of the largest radio loudspeaker ever built, which will serve as the entry point to Etheria for her and Keene.

After entering the stratosphere, dealing with the Queen of Statica and the flame men, and witnessing the explosion of the Atom Bomb in New Mexico, Keene and Nelvana arrive in Etheria just as the invasion fleet prepares to attack. They are captured and are forced to accompany the invaders. Before arriving on the Earth, the invaders stop so that Nelvana can meet the invaders' real leader, who is Vultor. Vultor uses a magic stone to hypnotize Nelvana and then launches an attack on Glacia. Keene knocks the stone out of Vultor's hand, thus freeing Nelvana to use her powers. Nelvana defeats the Etherians, but Vultor escapes.[5]

Nelvana and the Indestructible Crime King (Triumph Comics No. 30)

Nelvana confronts Knuckles, a criminal inventor who has coated himself with indestructible plastic. Nelvana uses her powers to melt his protective skin.[5]

Nelvana Meets Her Match (Triumph Comics No. 31)

Nelvana does battle with Dr. Electra, a super-criminal armed with an Atom Ray. Dr. Electra tries to frame Nelvana for the murder of the reporter Jim Blair, but Nelvana succeeds in rescuing Blair.[5]

Further reading

See also


  1. 1 2 3 Ryan Edwardson (2003). "The Many Lives of Captain Canuck: Nationalism, Culture, and the Creation of a Canadian Comic Book Superhero". The Journal of Popular Culture. Michigan State University. 37 (2): 187. doi:10.1111/1540-5931.00063.
  2. Kickstarter campaign
  3. Hope Nicholson
  4. "Nelvana of the Northern Lights will rise again". Toronto Star. October 11, 2013. Retrieved October 11, 2013.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "Nelvana of the Northern Lights". Library and Archives Canada.
  6. John Bell (2006). Invaders from the North: How Canada Conquered the Comic Book Universe. Foreword by Seth. Toronto: Dundurn Press. p. 47. ISBN 978-1-55002-659-7.
  7. The Great Canadian Comic Books, 1971
  8. Nelvana of the Northern Lights, IDW Publishing
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