Kick-starting Nelvana

Funding campaign helps comic book heroine rise from obscurity.

Written by Mark Collin Reid

Posted January 20, 2014

She was one of the first comic super-heroines — and she was Canadian, to boot. Now, Nelvana of the Northern Lights will once again soar through the Arctic skies fighting for truth, justice, and the Canadian way, thanks to a highly successful online fundraising campaign.

A pair of comic book aficionados has raised more than $50,000 to reprint the original Nelvana comics as a single graphic novel.

The goal is to publish the book in the spring of 2014, says comic book historian Hope Nicholson, who, along with partner Rachel Richey, has spearheaded the project.

“I was talking with my partner, and we thought, why don’t we see about bringing it back?” Nicholson said. “We raised our goal of $25,000 in the first five days, which was really, really amazing.”

Nelvana was the brainchild of comic book artist Adrian Dingle, who took advantage of a federal government decision in the early 1940s. which banned the importation of American comics, to create a uniquely Canadian super-heroine.

The daughter of an Inuit god and a mortal woman, Nelvana was telepathic, could fly, and shot light rays from her hands. Because the comic was published during wartime, an archenemy of Nelvana was Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

Nelvana’s adventures were first published in 1941 in the pages of Triumph Comics. Unfortunately for Nelvana fans, after the war the Canadian government relaxed its ban on American comics. Nelvana couldn’t compete with flashier heroes like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, and by 1947 the comic had been cancelled.

Over the decades, Nelvana faded from the memories of all but the most ardent fans. In 2013, Nicholson and Richey decided to rectify the situation by launching an online fundraising campaign, via the Kickstarter website, to reprint the comic.

A key challenge involved finding a complete set of Nelvana comics that was in high-quality condition. Since the original art plates had been lost over time, each page needed to be individually scanned from the original comics.

The graphic novel is being produced with the permission of copyright holder Corus Entertainment and has received support from a host of big-name contemporary comic artists.

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Lost Heroes of Comic Book History

Canada’s History caught up with comic book historian Hope Nicholson, who along with partner Rachel Richey, is spearheading the drive to introduce Nelvana to a new generation of readers.

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This article originally appeared in the February-March 2014 issue of Canada’s History.

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