Nelvana of the Northern Light (Canadian whites Triumph comics)

Nelvana of the Northern Light


Nelvana is one of the earliest comic-book superheroines worldwide, and one of the earliest Canadian comic book super-heroes. She appeared in mid-1941. This profile covers the first ten issues of Triumph Adventure, which is but a third of her appearances.

As with most Golden Age stories there are various small contradictions and incoherences from story to story. Which forces us to pick and choose how the power works exactly since there are several versions.


  • Real Name: Nelvana.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: Koliak the Mighty (father), unnamed human mother (status unknown), Tanero (brother).
  • Group Affiliation: None.
  • Base Of Operations: Northernmost Canada.
  • Height: 5’7” Weight: 125 lbs.
  • Eyes: Unrevealed Hair: Black


Powers and Abilities

Nelvana is nimble and stealthy. On the other hand she has no training or experience in fighting, and her physical strength is modest. Most men or larger women can manhandle her without credible resistance.

She’s able to run around in a short skirt and exposed throat and shoulders in Arctic conditions. This suggests superhuman endurance toward cold. Yet she has been known to faint from stress.

The daughter of Koliak is smart, charismatic and very observant. Her mode of operations is closer to that of a girl sleuth à la Nancy Drew. She has magical powers, but those concentrate on mobility and stealth.

If some heavy lifting is to be done she will employ the proper approach for a 1940s respectable woman – have a burly man do it. This role is normally played by her brother, who is superhumanly strong and swift.

Nelvana is skilled in 1940s sciences and engineering. For instance she :

  • Could identify timed detonators on bombs floating underwater.
  • Helped shape a powerful geomagnetic field into a proper magnet.
  • Knew how then-modern boats are built and how to sink them from within using the sea-cocks .
  • Could read and alter mine drilling plans.
  • Etc..


Tanero brother of Nelvana

The fair-haired Tanero son of Koliak is sometimes summoned by his sister, to accompany her on adventures. He shares a version of his father’s taboo and must never be seen in his true form by White people. Which I assume means anybody not of Inuit or related ancestry (or perhaps any First Nation person… what about métis folks ?).

But in this day and age you never can tell when you’re going to run into a White person. Therefore Nelvana uses her cloak to turn her brother into an animal, thus disguising him. The usual form is that of a huge hound, perhaps a Great Dane.

Nelvana in color from a cover

Tanero is generally called upon to handle forceful tasks. He also can fly — after his sister turns him into a dog she grabs his collar so she can fly with him, a bit like Thor throws his hammer to fly. But with a dog. Nelvana can hold onto her brother’s collar for hours, no matter how fast he’s flying.

Tanero unquestioningly obeys his sister, who’s the brains of the pair. But he’s certainly not dumb.

Koliak the Mighty

Koliak can only manifest on Earth as “Northern lights” (the aurora borealis ). This is not just a pretty lightshow, but also a potent electromagnetic phenomenon. Auroras normally occur at high altitudes, as solar winds impact with the atmosphere. Yet Koliak can lower the energy field all the way to ground level.

Koliak can also semi-manifest as a giant human-like figure of light. But one suspects that doing so when humans are present is taboo.

Calling upon her father the aurora borealis is treated as a DC Heroes RPG Occultist Ritual, enhanced by her Connection to her father (treated as a Mystic Entity). The earliest example was to lower an aurora close to the sea and manipulate its magnetic field so as to attract dozens of tonnes of bombs floating underwater high in the sky.

Koliak can also use the aurora borealis to flash coded signals to knowledgeable persons. One instance was to signal Tanero that his sister in his trouble after Nelvana psychically requested help. Another was to sky-write an arrow pointing toward a location.


The Northern Lights manifestations will disrupt radio communications in their vicinity – this as a normal EM side effect. Furthermore, it is possible for the effects to escalate to a local, brief geomagnetic storm. A geomagnetic storm is created by the impact of a flood of high-energy particles against the Earth’s atmosphere and magnetosphere.

Such storms are serious business. They disrupt EM communications (even telegraphic), damage electric conductors and electric grids, and generate currents within some liquids, particularly in extreme conditions (such as oil pumped into a pipeline). Geomagnetic storms also play havoc with satellites, GPS and the like, but that’s… less relevant in the 1940s.

Given his mastery over auroras, Koliak the Mighty can presumably shape and intensify solar winds in the proximity of Earth to focus energy bombardment. Or perhaps he just magically summons them without any reference to the astrophysics behind the phenomenon.


Nelvana is the daughter of Koliak the Mighty, King of the Northern Lights. Koliak married a mortal, and the gods punished him by forbidding him from ever again being seen by mortals, except in his spirit form as the aurora borealis. The curse also affected his son Tanero, albeit in a diluted form – Tamero’s true form must never be seen by an outsider.

However his demi-mortal daughter, Nelvana, could appear among mortals.

From the stories, one gets the impression that Koliak and company are a race of superhuman immortals with a quasi-divine nature, but who are not quite gods. They exist halfway between humans and the actual gods of the Inuit nations, perhaps as powerful nature spirits.

Spiritual help

This makes them more approachable than more powerful spirits. Therefore Inuit chiefs — usually called “Eskimo” chiefs back then — will sometimes summon Nelvana when the northernmost First Nations are in danger.

This is a major ritual. It requires several villages to coordinate to make sufficient offerings in food and supplies for the summoning to take place.

Nelvana turns her brother Tanero into a large flying dog

Koliak, Nelvana and Tanero do not appear to match actual myths as recognised by modern ethnographical work. At best, they might be loosely inspired by some First Nations tales heard by untrained observers.

Inuit animism is pretty diffuse anyway, with lots of spirits of varying powers and influence, little in the way of senior gods such as Zeus or Odin, and different names and stories from place to place.

From superficial research one gets the impression that a good-hearted protector such as Nelvana would be unusual in Inuit stories. These tales are full of evil and dangerous things – perhaps reflecting their merciless environment.

Death stalks the Arctic

In early 1941, a number of Inuit villages faced starvation. Fish and seal had suddenly vanished. An official called Tadjo organised a multi-villages ritual to summon Nelvana. The ceremony was successful, and amidst aurora lights Nelvana descended to meet the people.

After Tadjo explained the situation, Nelvana summoned her brother Tanero. She used her fur cloak to turn him into a great hound so no White person would see his true form.

Investigating, they found that many bombs outfitted with lights attracting animals had been laid in Arctic waters. Nelvana destroyed them all. The bombs had been laid by “evil kablunets” (“strangers”) led by one Toroff.

(Commander Toroff was presumably originally meant to be Soviet. Though the two countries would soon become allies as a consequence of World War Two, the relations between Canada and the USSR prior to Operation Barbarossa  were generally awful. From the dialogue, Toroff and Nelvana had clashed before.)

(Of course, by late 1941, the enemy for whom Toroff is running operations suddenly looks much more Germanic. And they now sport insignia similar to the first “S” in the SS symbol. One month later they have German first names and accents, and Toroff is retconned  into having been a Nazi all along.)

Furious, Toroff had his fleet of killer boats attack Nelvana and her brother. They used thormite heat rays, melting the iceberg they were on. The two protectors flew up and became invisible. From there they could observe Toroff’s plan to destroy whales to further ruin the locals.

Nelvana had her brother sabotaged the boats, and sneaked into Toroff’s cabin to steal his documents. The evil kablunets were forced to evacuate their sinking boats. However, Toroff captured Nelvana and cruelly left her behind in a death trap. Nelvana psychically informed her father of her predicament, and her brother doubled back in time to save her.

From the stolen documents, Nelvana learned that Toroff worked to get massive amount of whale oil and minerals to build a world-conquering army.

Ruining the land

Nelvana and her brother returned to chief Tadjo. They informed him that the fishes and seals would soon return. As they did, they witnessed how the area was rocked by underground explosions, and decided to investigate.

Nelvana of the Northern Lights using magnetism

Nelvana soon discovered Arctic-adapted tanks laying fake caribou tracks to lure hunters. She also found a hidden mine where captured Inuit hunters were used as slave labour.

Invisible, Nelvana sneaked into the mine. She stole the zirconium-mining plans, altered them so the foreigners would flood their own mine, then stole keys to free the slaves. While rounding up the workers, she found a kablunet geologist, Dr. Cornelius Rockingham. He had been held by Toroff’s men for 20 years so he would tell them his secrets.

Despite Toroff’s interference, Nelvana, the enslaved hunters and the Canadian geologist got free. Minutes later, the mine was accidentally flooded due to Nelvana’s subtle sabotage. Toroff was apparently killed in the flood.

The island of mystery

Nelvana had her party rendezvous with sleds sent by chief Tadjo. She then teleported the aged professor to a RCMP  outpost to the South. News of the geologist’s rescue would soon spread, revealing Nelvana’s existence to non-Inuit Canadians.

After freeing the geologist and the hunters, Nelvana found the secret airfield set up by Toroff. There were numerous enemy bombers there. She again teleported to the RCMP outpost, manned by one Corporal Keene, to warn the authorities of the threat.

As the Royal Canadian Air Force was being scrambled, the enemy launched a small bombing raid on Inuit villages. They may have sought revenge against Nelvana.

As the RCAF reached the enemy, Nelvana counter-attacked by triggering a geomagnetic storm amidst enemy formations. It disrupted their communications, fried their circuitry and heated the metal.

Somehow, the RCAF’s fictional Dragonfly fighters just happened to be made of “plastex” and thus immune to the electro-magnetic effects. That allowed them to engage the enemy in overwhelmingly favourable conditions.

Several pilots saw Nelvana and her transmogrified  brother flying close by. As a result, further reports of the “Arctic Mystery Girl” made the headlines of the Canadian press.

Icebergs of death

“The enemy” (by now clearly Nazis and commanded by one Air Marshall Ludwig Keitz) hardened their planes. They also prepared a magnetic cannon that could capture Nelvana. While reconnoitring, Nelvana was snatched by this magnetic beam, which bollixed the beam of Northern Lights carrying her.

Nelvana flying with her brother in canine form

The Nazis then set adrift a fleet of small icebergs. These were equipped with electro-static mines that would detach from the ice and zip toward metallic vessels. Nelvana was chained onto the largest such iceberg, to lure more ships into closing in to investigate. A trawler, and then a destroyer, were lost to this nefarious plot.

However, survivors of the destroyer rowed to Nelvana and freed her. She had the men fashion her bonds in a single long chain. Nelvana then flew nap-of-water with the electrically charged and heated chain, luring all the mines toward it.

The resulting enormous explosion alerted the Canadian military. They could now approach since the mines were gone, and rescue survivors. Meanwhile Nelvana of the Northern Light, incensed by Nazi villainy, reported to the most senior officer of the Royal Canadian Navy present.

Spy vs. spirit

Meanwhile, the fuming Adolf Hitler approved of a new plan against Nelvana, to be spearheaded by the spy Mardyth. Mardyth disguised herself as Nelvana, which allowed her to infiltrate RCAF installations for espionage and sabotage purposes.

She also tricked Corporal Keene into believing that she was the real Nelvana and that anybody else would be an impostor. In the confusion, Mardyth captured Nelvana with demagnetising manacles. The goddess was then thrown into a Nazi submarine headed toward Europe.

Though she couldn’t use her magic, Nelvana psychically contacted her father. As a result, her brother boarded the German submarine undercover just as it was about to leave. The Nazis captured them both, but then had the poor luck to hit British mines. Tanero and Nelvana escaped from the sinking submarine.

In the strange frozen world of Glacia

Koliak then informed his daughter of the existence of the “living universe of Glacia”. This place held the secret to eternal life, but had been buried beneath the Arctic for five million years.

For unexplored but probably mystical reasons, the casualties of the war above were opening a crevasse to Glacia. Koliak sent his daughter to check this fissure. Upon arriving, Nelvana was promptly swept by a blizzard into the crevasse, where an ice collapse trapped her.

Nelvana found numerous giant creatures hibernating, trapped in ice, and eventually a great prismatic door. From there Nelvana explored a futuristic, Flash Gordon -esque frozen city. Everything had been apparently frozen solid five million years ago – though a strange underground sun was now thawing everything.

In a street, Nelvana found a soldier named Targa. Defrozen seconds before, his only priority was to save his father from a giant monster-man. Both the monster and his father were about to thaw.

While the Glacians had little time for Nelvana, this changed when Targa’s father, King Rano, saw her great power. Seeking her help, Rano explained the threat of the wicked scientist Vultor, whose distorted mind had transformed him many years ago into a monster. Vultor had hypnotised other monsters such as Mammoth-Men to attack Glacia to conquer it.

Threat of the Mammoth-Men !

Visiting Glacia, Nelvana realised that the Glacians had no notion that they had been frozen for five million years. They thought that there had just been a brief interruption of their life support system.

The gigantic Mammoth-Men serving Vultor were also unaware of the passing of time. Within hours the battle resumed where it had been frozen five million years prior.

Nelvana running in a blizzard

Nelvana helped win the battle – apparently the Mammoth-Men were afraid of her Northern light. She also saved Targa, toward whom she had a romantic interest. However, there was a power feed accident during the victory celebration, and Vultor escaped from the Glacian jails. Soon a traitor joined Vultor, offering a plan to take over Glacia.

Will Glacia fall ? Will Nelvana save the day ?

I don’t know. The microfiche archives I have stop there. However, there exists a thread on CGC forum  that covers the events in this entire runs of “whites”.


Nelvana and Tanero both look White. They usually have features that seem Caucasian and Tanero has light hair.

Some covers give the impression of a more Asian or Amerindian complexion, but on others she has the same skin tone as Hitler – and a 1940s German spy could pass for her without too much trouble.


Graceful and dutiful heroine who fights for the common good and justice.


“I shall quickly search the evil Toroff’s quarters. Lest his secrets be lost in the ocean’s great depth.”

“We must travel swiftly, o my brother, to the land of Tadjo, the great chief.”

Nelvana's brother Tanero


“So ! The evil ones are enslaving our people and forcing them to work in this mine.”

“The endeavours of the barbaric Dictator to overthrow the forces of right are slowly tightening the noose that is forming around his own neck. If every boy and girl in this great continent of ours makes a a gigantic effort to buy war saving stamps, the tyranny now on this earth will vanish into its own nothingness.”

“Don’t shoot, fool — would it not be best to rescue your father while the brute is still frozen ?”

Marvel Universe History

Nelvana arguably exists in the Marvel Universe, as Nelvanna of the Northern Lights, daughter of Hodiak, mother of Narya (aka Snowbird).

Working her 1940s adventures back into the Marvel Universe would be simple. For instance, Axis occultists could summon one of the Great Beasts and create the conditions for it to summon occasional servants. The symmetry between the Great Beasts and the Inua means that the ritual also allows Nelvana to come to Earth and occasionally summon her brother.

This could have lasted for several years until Nelvana managed to destroy the Axis ritual, restoring the banishment of both Great Beasts and Inua.

Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG

Tell me more about the game stats


Dex: 02 Str: 01 Bod: 03 Motivation: Responsibility
Int: 06 Wil: 06 Min: 08 Occupation: Quasi-divine protector
Inf: 08 Aur: 07 Spi: 09 Resources {or Wealth}: Unrevealed.
Init: 016 HP: 050

Cold immunity: 05, Comprehend languages: 09, Running: 04

Bonuses and Limitations:
Comprehend Languages might only work on languages spoken within the Arctic Circle.

Acrobatics (Athletics): 03, Gadgetry (Identify gadget)*: 06, Occultism (Ritual casting): 11, Scientist: 04, Thief (Pickpocket, Stealth): 05

Area Knowledge (Arctic), Attractive, Life support (spending so much time in auroras, Nelvana is likely immune to radiation poisoning), Local Hero (Inuit nations), Sharp Eye, Sidekick (Tanero), Misc.: Nelvana has a psychic link with her father and can telepathically communicate simple notions and her location to him, Misc.: Nelvana’s grip has a STR of 03 (to hang onto her brother’s dog collar, catch falling people, etc.), Misc.: Nelvana doesn’t touch the ground when using Running, and can thus probaly run over snow without sinking.

Inuit nations (High), Koliak the Mighty (High – Mystical Entity Connection), Canadian military (Domestic theatre, Low).

MPR (may occasionally faint from exertion, stress, fatigue, etc.), Power Loss (cannot use any Ritual if demagnetised).

Fur cloak [BODY 09, Zoomorph: 07, Limitations: This enchantment takes about 20 seconds to work, and may be restricted to willing subjects. It is also possible that it is restricted to animals who live in the Great North.].
When Nelvana throws her fur cloak over another person, it can transform that person into an animal form. As animals people can’t speak, but they can still understand speech.

All Rituals used by Nelvana have, as a side effect, Neutralise: 07 with an Explosive Radius, which Neutralises radio communications and sensitive electronics and electrical circuits. This is caused by the powerful electromagnetic field of the aurora borealis. It is accompanied by heat – though in intensities that are far too low to be expressed in non-negative APs.

All of Nelvana’s Rituals are within the occult remit of her father. Since she has a High Connection means adding 2 APs (see the short guide to Marvel magic).

  • Call on Koliak [Casting time: 3 APs, Components: Must be under the open sky and within the Arctic circle, Effect: Magnetic control: 11, Limitations: Magnetic control limited to pulling magnetic/ferrous objects skyward or starting a geomagnetic storm, Note: With her High Connection to Koliak, 13 APs are normally available for this Ritual].
  • Invisible light [Casting time: 2 APs, Components: Must be under the open sky and within the Arctic circle, Effect: Invisibility (Area of effect 0 APs): 05]. This “super light ray” comes from the sky. It can be invisible and everything it bathes is invisible too, for days on end if needed.
    It is possible to “soak” into the light to remain invisible after moving out of the beam, but this will fade after a dozen minutes or so. Most limitations of this ability are forgotten in a later story.
  • Shaft of Northern Lights [Casting time: 4 APs, Components: Must be under the open sky and within the Arctic circle, Effect: Warp: 16]. Though Nelvana generally prefers to fly with her brother, she can travel more quickly by calling down a shaft of aurora which transports her and those nearby to another place. Even hundreds of miles south of the Arctic Circle.
  • Sky-strider [Casting time: 4 APs, Components: Must be within the Arctic circle, Effect: Flight: 10, Limitation: Flight is accompanied by a bright aurora shaft from the heavens]. This allows Nelvana to run in the sky as quickly as a fast 1940s plane, but it is certainly not discreet.
    The open sky limitation is dropped in a later story, but it is possible that some trace amount of Northern light must still be able to reach Nelvana (for instance by shinning through clear ice and being reflected off various surfaces).
  • Incandescence [Casting time: 4 APs, Components: Must be under the open sky and within the Arctic circle, Effect: Heat vision: 05 (with a Special +8 Range Bonus), Limitation: Heat vision only affects ferrous metals]. An aurora beam from the sky which irradiates and heats metal, destroying airplane engines within a few Phases.
  • Lightning crashes [Casting time: 1 AP, Components: Having been in contact with a manifestation of her father within the previous 24 hours, Effect: Lightning: 15, Limitations: Range is capped at 3, Grenade Drawback]. An energy field that manifests around her then leaps and crashes into an opponent like lightning. This powerful ability is a typical “but why didn’t she ever do that before ?” ability. So we’ve assumed that it’s one-shot and only becomes available after a very specific condition is met.

Tanero brother of Nelvana

Dex: 06 Str: 09 Bod: 06 Motivation: Uphold Nelvana
Int: 04 Wil: 03 Min: 06 Occupation: Mythological figure
Inf: 05 Aur: 04 Spi: 06 Resources {or Wealth}: Unknown
Init: 017 HP: 025

Cling: 00, Cold immunity: 04, Flight: 10, Jumping: 03, Running: 05, Swimming: 05, Water freedom*: 06

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Cling represents perfect balance – Tanero can stand on almost any solid surface, even in strong winds, vibration, slipperiness, etc..
  • Flight can only be used when Tanero has been shifted to an animal form by his sister’s cloak.

Acrobatics*: 06, Thief (Stealth): 04

Life support (spending so much time in auroras, Tanero is likely immune to radiation poisoning), Lightning Reflexes.

Misc.: Tanero’s taboo is that he must never be seen in his human-like form by a non-Inuit person (though later stories ignore this).

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Triumph Adventure Comics published by Hillborough Studio (and later Bell Features and Publishing) in the 1940s. Stories and art by Adrian Dingle. Nelvana arguably exists in the Marvel Universe – see the M.U. History section.

Helper(s): Ethan Roe, Darci.

Writeup completed on the 8th of October, 2011.