Nelvana of the Northern Lights

Nelvanna depicted by Ken Steacy on the cover of Canuck Comics Real Name: Nelvanna

Identity/Class: Demi-Goddess

Occupation: (originally) Protector of the North; later also became a secret agent

Affiliations: Gods of the Inuit; Tanero (her brother); Felix and Silas Langdon, (scientists); Corporal John Keane, RCMP; Sergeant Michael O'Donnelly, Nortonville Police; King Rano; Prince Targa

Enemies: Commander Toroff; Hitler; Mardyth; Karl; Vultor; One-Ear Brunner; The Queen of Statica; Knuckles; Dr.Electra

Known Relatives: Koliak (father, King of the Northern Lights); Tanero (brother); unnamed mortal woman (mother)

Aliases: Alana North

Base of Operations:  (initially) The Far North of Canada; (later) Nortonville, Ontario

First Appearance: Triumph–Adventure–Comics Nos. 1 (Aug. 1941) to 7 (Hillborough Studios); Triumph Comics Nos. 8-31(Commercial Signs of Canada/Bell Features, ca. Mar. 1942–1946); Super Duper Comics No. 3 (F. E. Howard, 1947).

Powers/Abilities: Nelvana is able to fly and can travel at the speed of light on a giant ray of the Aurora Borealis. She can also call upon other powers of the Northern Lights, including Koliak's powerful ray, which can melt metal and disrupt radio communications. As well, she can make herself invisible (Triumph Comics No. 2), can alter her physical form (she becomes dry ice in Triumph Comics No. 13), and can use her magic cloak to transform her brother from light form to human form (he must not be seen by Whites while in human form). She can also communicate telepathically with her brother. She is apparently immortal (Triumph Comics No. 12).

History: "Many, many years ago, as legend has it, Koliak the Mighty, king of the Northern Lights, married a mortal. This so angered the gods that a curse was placed upon Koliak, forbidding him to be seen again by Earthly beings. His spirit may still be seen again in the form of brilliant lights that streak majestically across the northern skies. His beautiful daughter Nelvana inherited her mother's characteristics and is often seen by human eyes. Her brother Tanero, carries the curse of his father, and so must never be seen by those of the white race." As such, when adventuring with Nelvana, he frequently adopts the form of a Great Dane-like dog.

Nelvana is the off-spring of Koliak the Might, King of the Northen Lights, and a mortal woman. This union enraged the other gods so much that Koliak was thereafter prohibited from taking a visible form, instead only being able to appear in spirit as the Northern Lights. However his children Nelvana and her brother Tanero were charged by their father to protect the people of the North.

(Triumph Comics #1-7) Called to the aid of some Inuits, Nelvana and Tanero discover that Commander Toroff and his men are destroying local fish and food stocks with time bombs. With the aid of their father, the two demi-gods put paid to his evil machinations, but their actions draw the attention of Hitler who dispatches two agents, Mardyth and Karl, to deal with this threat.

(Triumph Comics #8-18) Nelvana travels to Glacia, a hidden world lurking under the Arctic ice below the polestar. Travelling there, Nelvana encounters King Rano and his son Prince Targa, and discovers that Glacia is under threat from Vultor and his Mammoth Men. With Nelvana's aid, the Glacians repel the invaders, but Nelvana has to hurry back to the Arctic after a Japanese bomb hits the Glacian city. Sure enough the Japanese are in the snowy North planning to prevent the completion of the Alcan Highway. Riding a polar bear, Nelvana arrives in the nick of time to prevent the Alcan work crews from being killed by starved Manchurian wolves that the Japanese have unleashed on them.

(Triumph Comics #19-23) After two top scientists, Felix and Silas Langdon, are kidnapped while working on an ice beam, Koliak sends Nelvana south to assume a new identity and rescue the men. In Nortonville, Ontario, she becomes Alana North, secret agent, with the assistance of local policeman Sergeant Michael O'Donnelly. She encounters Nazi agent One-Ear Brunner and his men Dwarfo and Slimey, who prove to be the kidnappers, and eventually defeats them and frees the captives.

(Triumph Comics Nos. 24-29; Super Duper No. 3) When Corporal Keane of the RCMP encounters an alien from Etheria who claims mankind's radio broadcasts are driving his etherial people insane, the officer enlists the aid of Nelvana. Travelling to Etheria, Nelvana and her ally run foul of the evil Queen of Statica and her minions, the Staticites, but the villainous monarch proves no match for the demi-goddess. They then battle flame men, before discovering that the Etherians plan to invade Earth, led by Nelvana's old foe Vultor, who intends to use his new allies to conquer Glacia once more. Thanks to Keane's assistance, Nelvana wins this battle, but Vultor escapes.

(Triumph Comics No. 30) Nelvana battles Knuckles, a criminal inventor who has covered himself in an indestructible plastic and plans to become a king of crime. However he reckoned without the superheroine, who is able to melt his protective coating with her powers.

(Triumph Comics No. 31) When Nelvana is faced with Dr.Electra, a criminal armed with an Atom Ray, the villain tries to frame her for the murder of reporter Jim Blair. Luckily Nelvana manages to prevent the journalist's murder.

Nelvana with her brother TaneroComments: Nelvana was Canada's third superhero and first national superhero. Co-created by Franz Johnson of the Group of Seven, Nelvana preceded the best known U.S. superheroine, Wonder Woman, by three months. She was written by Adrian Dingle (the other co-creator) in all but one of her stories. Triumph Comics #31, with John Hollis Mason the sole other writer. Dingle also provided the art for the strip.

Her early costume, worn for her Northern adventures, consisted of a fur-trimmed mini-dress with a knee-high boots and matching gloves, plus a cape and a headband.

Mike Murphy informs me that "Nelvana Animation Studios took their name from the character when setting up shop in the 1970s and even animated her and several other Canadian superheroes for their maiden effort, a TV special about Canadian comics (broadcast mid-to-late 70s).

John Byrne was later inspired to tangentially link Nelvana to his demigoddess Snowbird by making Nelvana (or rather another version thereof) her mother."

Tanero, Nelvana's brotherSix of Nelvana's adventures were reprinted in Nelvana of the Northern Lights (Bell Features, ca. 1945). In 2014 comics historian Hope Nicholson collected and reprinted all the Nelvana tales, initially through Kickstarter and subsequently through IDW Comics.

Thanks to Mike Murphy for additional information about this character.


Any Additions/Corrections? Please let me know.

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