Saturday, 19 April 2014, 6:10 am

Canada’s original super-heroine

Rachel Richey, left, and Hope Nicholson raised over $50,000 to bring back Nelvana. SUBMITTED PHOTOBy MICHELLE ALLENBERG
Staff Writer
Nelvana, the first super-heroine, will be reprinted and back in the hands of Canadians next year.
After a campaign ending in October, Rachel Richey and Hope Nicholson raised $54,876 from 1,096 contributors. The two women are comic book fans and comic book historians. They promote the Canadian comic book legacy worldwide at academic and fan conventions.
Nelvana of the Northern Lights was created by Adrian Dingle and Franz Johnston in 1941 during what is considered the golden age of comic books.
Hope Nicholson, of Toronto, says, “It represents the era in which the first comic books were published.”
A ban on American periodicals between 1941 and 1946, meant Canadian comics were the only ones sold.
Richey says, “It was a wartime ban to preserve the Canadian dollar. Without the war there would have been no Canadian comics industry at this time.”
Nelvana, created in 1941, is “very Canadian themed” with the super-heroine being friends with an RCMP officer and riding on the back of a polar bear.
Nicholson says the comic had strong connections to the war and was used to educate children about the different technologies Canada had during the war.Richey says there is some strong language and propaganda in the series. The comic promoted the sale of war bonds and Nelvana fought the “Axis powers on a regular basis.”
Richey says that during the Second World War superheroes were “taking off” and the creator Dingle was “ahead of his time.”
He had inspiration from an Inuk elder named Nelvana he met and he “romanticized that she was the protector or caregiver for her people,” Richey says. He wanted to translate what he thought into comics. Nelvana was created to look physically like his wife Patricia Dingle.
Nicholson says they chose to reprint Nelvana because “it was the most attractive story in the golden age, due to the quality of her art work and the sophistication of her storylines.” She says that Nelvana is important to comic book history because she was the first real super-heroine and this would likely gain international attention.
The end of the golden age was due to American comic books returning with dramatically increased competition since they were able to print cheaply and in colour. The interest in superheroes began to fade and Nicholson says, “There was a growing distrust of comic books and the effect they had on children.”
Nicholson says they thought many collectors and fans would be interested in the reprint of Nelvana, but “the high volume of attention that was received in response was truly a surprise.”
Nelvana will be reprinted as one single volume with all 33 chapters. For those curious as to the release date, Richey says they will start collecting images later in November and the comic will be available sometime in spring of 2014.
Most of the stories were printed in black and white except for one printed in colour. Nicholson says they will keep the original appearance of the comic.
The will be about 2,500 printed copies will be available online, and in retail stores. The comics will be selling for $30 for a soft cover and $40 for a hardcover. Nicholson says,
“Unfortunately, as Nelvana has largely been forgotten by most fans, I don’t think she is currently a symbol of Canadian pride, though hopefully our efforts will change that.”

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