Inuit god Koliak, King of the Northern Lights, fell in love with and married a mortal woman. That marriage produced a daughter, the powerful half-god Nelvana. The gods were enraged that Koliak should marry a mortal, and cursed him to be visible only as the Northern Lights. Nelvana draws her strength from her father as the Aurora Borealis.
Writer/artist Adrian Dingle and Franz Johnston co-created Nelvana of the Northern Lights; her first appearance was in Triumph Adventure Comics #1, debuting August 1941. Nelvana is one of the earliest superheroines - she predates Wonder Woman - and the first to debut in Canada. Dingle was inspired by the Inuit legends of Koliak, his mortal wife, and their children, and decided to make Nelvana (who was typically described as hideous and witch-like) young and beautiful, creating a national superheroine for Canada.
Major Story Arcs
Her adventures continued publication in various titles between 1941 and 1947. She initially helped mortal Canadians against Axis invaders and other threats but then returned to her father. She eventually infiltrated human society under the identity of "Alana North" and became an agent of the Secret Service. Her adventures only ended with the demise of the company publishing them.
Evil White Ones
The Kablunets, "evil white ones," were using bombs to destroy fish and other food stores. Nelvana and her brother Tanero are called on to stop Commander Toroff, using the magnetism of the Northern Lights to draw the bombs into the air, where they could explode harmlessly.
Secret Agent, Alana North
Informed by her father that she needed to travel south, Nelvana goes to Ontario with Silas Langdon. There she met policeman Sgt. Michael O'Donnelly, who helps her with a new secret identity: Secret Agent, Alana North. She and Silas locate the Nazi One-Ear Brunner's headquarters, where he is holding Felix Langdon (Silas' brother) hostage in an attempt to get the plans for the ice beam weapon the brothers have developed. Though she and Silas are captured, Nelvana defeats the villain, frees the brothers, and the weapon is successfully used in Britain against Nazi robot bombs.
Powers and Abilities
Nelvana could fly "at the speed of light," become invisible, shape-shift to ice form, communicate telepathically and was immortal. She could also summon her father's powerful rays, able to melt metal and disrupt radio communications.
In the 1970s there was an interest among Canadian comic book fans for the heroes and heroines published in their country during World War II. Comic book historians Michael Hirsh and Patrick Loubert acquired the rights to Nelvana and other old characters. In 1971 the duo partnered with Clive A. Smith in creating their own animation studio. They named it Nelvana, after the old comic book character. The character was not revived, however.
In the 1980s, Canadian artist John Byrne created his own version of Nelvana as part of the background for his own Inuit demigoddess, Snowbird. Koliak was renamed to "Hodiak" and Nelvana to "Nelvanna". She was depicted as an old hag but could shape-shift into another form. She mated with a mortal to give birth to Snowbird.
In October 1995, Canada Post released a postage stamp depicting Nelvana, part of a Comic Book Superheroes series that also included Johnny Canuck, Captain Canuck, Fleur de Lys and Superman.
In October 2013 Hope Nicholson and Rachel Richey began a Kickstarter campaign to restore and reprint the original Nelvana comics.