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Nelvana of the Northern Lights: Canada's First Superheroine

October 11, 2013 by Hope Nicholson

Who is Nelvana?

Nelvana of the Northern Lights is Canada's first superheroine and one of the most popular creations of the Canadian Golden Age of comics. YES! Canada has a golden age of comics!

She was first published in December 1941 in Triumph-Adventure Comics, and ran as a feature for 31 issues, even having her own merchandise and graphic novel. She's one of the very first female superheroes ever created, predating Wonder Woman by several months.

Nelvana of the Northern Lights was created and developed by Adrian Dingle. The idea was conceived after hearing Inuit stories of a mysterious goddess-like figure relayed to him by his friend Franz Johnston (of the Group of Seven). Dingle decided to 'make her into a doll in a miniskirt' and thus Nelvana, defender of the Northern people and enemy to the Axis powers, was born.

After creating several comic book characters in the 1940s and becoming the art director of Bell Features, Canada's largest comic book publisher, Adrian Dingle went on to become an accomplished and recognized talent in Canadian fine-art.

Adrian Dingle, creator of Nelvana

Wait, What's Canada's Golden Age?

In 1940, Canada implemented the War Exchange Conservation Act (WECA) which banned the import of luxury goods from the United States. Among these products were comic books.

The market now wide open, Canada began creating their own titles, which are now referred to as the 'Whites' for their lack of interior colour. While millions of copies were sold across dozens of titles from 1941 to 1946, when American comics returned to the newstands at the end of the war, the local industry couldn't compete with their high volume and low printing costs in colour. All comics produced during the WECA period are considered to be part of Canada's Golden Age.

The page below is from a rare colour comic produced for Bell Feature's most popular storylines.

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