A New Hope: Resurrecting a Canadian Demigoddess

Posted by Sarrah October Young Sunday, March 30, 2014

What began as a chance encounter during an essay assignment has turned into a full-blown reincarnation of what could possibly be the first female superhero. Move over Wonder Woman; Nelvana of the Northern Lights is back, and she's ready to kick some ass—in a nice Canadian way.

Read Nelvana of the Northern Lights for free on Comixology
Nelvana by Michael Walsh
Hope Nicholson is no stranger to comics or superheroes. A self-proclaimed nerd, Nicholson is extremely passionate about Canada's Golden Age of Comics and has produced a documentary outlining the era. Aptly titled Lost Heroes, the doc features the history of Canadian superheroes and their creators. Among them is the legendary Adrian Dingle, the man behind Nelvana of the Northern Lights. She stumbled upon the female superhero while researching a paper for her BA program and, despite the lack of information around Nelvana, the character immediately resonated with her.

"I never actually had access to read any of her stories for the first few years after I heard about Nelvana," Nicholson explains. "It was more her history and place in history that fascinated me. The stories themselves are fairly good for their time, but it's really their failed potential that caught my attention."

When she decided to take a stab at collecting and reprinting the Nelvana comics, she did so with the blessing of the original copyright holders whom she'd had the opportunity to get to know while filming her documentary. They granted Nicholson and her partner, Rachel Richey, exclusive rights to reprint Nelvana. The two then put together a fantastic Kickstarter campaign (now closed) that not only provided the means to collect/scan the comics and reprint them but also allowed the partners to commission art pieces from local and internationally acclaimed artists for inclusion in the book.

So exactly how difficult is it to resurrect an almost forgotten Canadian female superhero? Nicholson and Richey have had to jump through a few hoops in order to procure the pages needed for reprinting. "In most cases, we've had to physically travel to private collections or ask for submissions," Nicholson says.

Only one private collector allowed us to take issues home to scan. We did have to skip the Library and Archives vast collection though, as their digitization procedures were either too expensive for our budget if we allowed them to do it, or not high-quality enough for our purposes if they allowed us to do it (photographs, no flash, from several feet away). There were a few collectors that turned us down or didn't get back to us, and in one case, regretfully informed us that they would have loved to help but had recently sold off their entire collection.

While a great many people were enthusiastic about the project, there were a few who had some doubts. Nicholson defends her decision to reprint an almost unknown superhero and understands why some people might not grasp why she would undertake this project. "There was some resistance to resurrecting the comics, mostly from people who were surprised to see that anyone would be interested in spending the time to do this."

Devoting time to source the long-forgotten comics was precisely what Nicholson and Richey did. Not all the comics were found, and Nicholson knew they would need to have an alternative in mind if they wanted to see the project through to completion.

I wasn't sure if I would be able to find every issue in decent shape, but had enough back-up plans that I felt it would be a worthwhile leap to make. In the end, there was one issue, #3 that I only found one copy of and it was too delicate to scan, but luckily a 1970s microfiche of this issue was in re-printable condition so I was able to make it work.

Hearing that Nelvana was going to be reprinted, some comic collectors worried that the cost of the rare issues would increase due to the attention drawn to the comics. Nicholson agrees. "It certainly did [raise the cost], with an issue of Nelvana recently selling for $14,000 dollars, when last year it was only 2,000 at most." Not bad for an Inuit demigoddess who has been under the radar for mainstream collectors for almost 75 years.

Visit J.R. Faulkner's personal website to purchase original artwork
Nelvana by JR Faulkner
With Kickstarter backers to placate and an approximate release date of April 2014 for the book, how close is Nelvana to completion? Nicholson is clearly excited, and possibly a little relieved, to say, "We are DONE! I am so glad to officially say that. We are putting the book together and are aiming to submit it to the printers shortly. It should be in my hands in late April/early May when we will begin our mail-outs. The larger retailer release is planned in the fall if all goes according to plan."

Want to get your hands on a copy NOW? Grab yours at conventions, online through the official Nelvana website, and at select comic shops while quantities last. Check with your local retailer to make sure they didn't miss this!

What do you think about Nelvana's resurrection? Are there other long-forgotten titles would you like to see reprinted? Let us know in the comments below! Happy reading!

THIS POST WRITTEN BY: SARRAH OCTOBER YOUNG

Sarrah October Young is a Toronto-based writer who contributes to a variety of print and online news sources. When she isn’t busy creating worlds so that she can destroy them later, she plays videogames and sometimes does laundry. You can follow her on Twitter. Extended staff profile here.

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