Among Canada's first comic-book superheroes was a woman. Her August, 1941 appearance predates Wonder Woman's in the United States, and places her among the first comic super-females anywhere, while her heritage arguably makes her one of the first non-Caucasian superheroes. Nelvana of the Northern Lights, created, written, and drawn by Adrian Dingle, appeared in Triumph comics, one of several Canadian magazines which appeared after World War II made the popular, but non-essential, American heroes difficult to find on the northern side of the border.
Dingle took his inspiration from Inuit legend, as related by Franz Johnston, a member of the Group of Seven painters. Nelvana is a daughter of Koliak, mythic King of the Northern Lights, and a mortal woman. She can fly, turn invisible, and occasionally alter her form. Nelvana calls on her father's lights, which can be concentrated to do useful things like melt enemy weapons. She works with her brother, Tanero, with whom she can communicate telepathically. Despite her mythic origins, her costume is pure superhero: blue minidress, green or red cape with matching gloves and knee-high boots, and a winged headdress. This costume went through some variations throughout her history.
Nelvana battled an assortment of Axis villains, criminals, and even saved a Native village from a mysterious force that was killing the fish. She also led a brief, alternate career as Alana North, Secret Agent. In 1945, she received her own title, though this short-lived comic only reprinted earlier adventures. She retired in May, 1947, when the diminishing superhero market and increased US competition rendered her unprofitable.
In 1995, Canada Post issued a series of commemorative superhero stamps: these included Nelvana, quebecois heroine Fleur de Lys, Johnny Canuck, and DC's Superman-- one of whose creators, Joe Shuster, was Canadian born and raised. Marvel Comics also has ties to Nelvana; John Byrne made Alpha Flight's Snowbird her daughter (Marvel refers to the mother as Nelvanna, likely to avoid copyright issues, but it seems clear the original is intended).
Her name has been taken by a Canadian animation company, responsible for adaptations of Franklin the Turtle, the Berenstein Bears, and other properties.
Guardians of the North. http://www.nlc-bnc.ca/3/3/t3-302-e.html
Nelvana Homepage. http://www.nelvana.com/
"Nelvana of the Northern Lights." International Catalogue of Superheroes. http://www.internationalhero.co.uk/nelvanna.htm
David Schultz. "Nelvana of the Northern Lights."