Comic book historians Rachel Richey and Hope Nicholson.

Comic book historians to revive Canadian Golden Age heroine

Hope Nicholson, Rachel Richey lead project to reprint classic Nelvana of the Norhtern Lights comics

She’s Canadian, has the ability to melt steel, read minds, turn invisible, and travel on a ray of Northern Lights, and you’ve probably never heard of her.

Her name is Nelvana of the Northern Lights and — along with the more familiar Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman — she was a star of the Golden Age of comic books of the 1940s.

“Most people haven’t heard about her,” Hope Nicholson said. “Superman was created at around the same time and has been printed and reprinted and re-imagined so many times in the last few decades that he’s constantly in people’s minds.

“But some Golden Age characters, especially the Canadian ones, have never been reprinted since.”

In Nelvana’s case, Nicholson and Rachel Richey want to change that. The comic book historians have teamed up to start a project aimed at restoring and reprinting her original comics.

Nelvana was created by Canadian painter Adrian Dingle after being inspired by Franz Johnston, a member of the Group of Seven, and his stories from the arctic.

Johnston spoke of an elderly storyteller, who happened to go by the name Nelvana. From these stories came Nelvana of the Northern Lights, defender of the Northern people.

And there’s more to her than just an impressive list of powers.

“Not only is she the first super heroine to have her own continuing comic, she’s also an Inuk,” Richey said. “She’s not even just a white character, which is just unheard of in comics.

“She is so far ahead of her time.”

The campaign to bring Nelvana’s stories back to life is already well underway. Via their Kickstarter campaign, Nicholson and Richey have raised over $50,000, which is twice their set goal.

For both Nicholson and Richey, reviving Nelvana isn’t just a passion project about this important character from comics past, Nicholson said.

“It’s definitely mostly comic fans and collectors that are probably going to be interested in Nelvana,” she said. “But there are also people who are just fans of Canadian culture and history as a whole, so it might get them to see comics books as a medium, not just a genre.”