The first thing I learned upon entering the Silver Snail’s new location was that Hope L Nicholson and Rachel Richey funded their Kickstarter campaign in a mere 6 days. The goal of this campaign is to collect and reprint all Nelvana of the Northern Lights comics for modern readers. Donations came from all over the world, from Canada to New Zealand to Spain, so the adorable Nelvana cake was cut in celebration of exceeding the $25 000 goal. Before they cut the cake though, comics collector Stephen Lipson gave a quick overview of Nelavana’s history.
Nelvana of the Northern Lights was created during Canada’s Golden Age of comics. During World War II, the Canadian government banned import of luxury items, including comic books. In response, Canadians created their own superheroes. Adrian Dingle created Nelvana in 1941 based on Inuit legends relayed to him by Group of Seven member Franz Johnston. She was Canada’s first superheroine, her first appearance predating Wonder Woman’s by several months, and as an Inuit woman, Nelvana is also arguably the first woman of colour to be a superhero. Her powers include flight, telepathy, invisibility, and shape shifting. She was often seen the company of her brother Tanero who often assumed the form of a Great Dane.
When Canada’s import ban was lifted in 1947, Nelvana’s run ended and she fell into the public domain. Her comics have never been collected or reprinted, an oversight that Nicholson and Richey aim to correct. They’re working on finding each issue in archives or in personal collections, and will scan each issue in order to reprint them. A number of current Canadian professionals are supporting the project; Ramón Pérez is working on the book’s aesthetics and artists including Jeff Lemire, Ray Fawkes, Marco Rudy, Scott Hepburn, Kate Leth, and Katie Shanahan have agreed to donate originals or prints as incentives for donations.
Alex Perkins designed a Nelvana print that was given to all attendees of the launch party. Most of us spent the first hour or so browsing the store, since merchandise was all 20% off, and grabbing drinks at The Black Canary, the cafe inside the Silver Snail. For the launch, they were selling inexpensive beer as well as shots with free Nelvana shot glasses. Just in case the event didn’t feel Canadian enough, they also distributed free cups of poutine.
The professional support for the project was obvious, as much of the crowd was made up of local folks in the industry. Raffle prizes were also donated by comic vendors, fashion designer Michelle Carey, and local attractions like the Snakes & Lattes board game cafe and Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. As Lipson noted, this project is significant not only as a piece of comics history, but of Canadian history. Nelvana and the other stars of the “Canadian Whites” (so called for their lack of interior colours) were characters that Canadian children could relate to and idolize. A rousing success so far, hopefully this initiative will bring Nelvana to new readers all over the world.
A mostly low-key, social affair, the night was a success. While the Kickstarter is funded, it will remain open, with extra money going to fund convention appearances and extra books for direct sale in comic stores. Nicholson said she doesn’t care if they get another cent for the campaign, what she wants now is for supporters to help spread the word. You can find Nelvana on Twitter and Facebook, so tell your friends about her, and be sure to pick up her comics when they become available.