“Dixon of the Mounted” is one of numerous Canadian comic heroes who thrived during the Second World War.
Behold the raven-haired demi-goddess Nelvana, born of human woman and Koliak, god of the northern lights. With the power of light and heat, Nelvana battles the enemies of Canada’s north and, as alter-ego secret-agent Alana North, she protects us from the perils facing a country at war.
Arriving a few months before Wonder Woman, Nelvana was the first female comics superhero, and rode a wave of Canadian comics known as “Whites” (for their typically black and white interior pages).
Nelvana was born to protect our borders in 1941, in response to the War Exchange Conservation Act (WECA), prohibiting the import of luxury items, including comic books, from the United States. But Nelvana was not alone. Between 1941 and 1946, Canadian kids (and other comic enthusiasts) feasted on the adventures of Johnny Canuck, Canada Jack, Tang the Wonder Horse, Brok Windsor, Dixon of the Mounted and many more.
Now, thanks to a generous gift from an anonymous donor, 119 of these rare and extraordinary works are part of the collection of the Ryerson University Library Special Collections. “It’s the holy grail of Canadian comics,” says Ryerson professor Andrew O’Malley. O’Malley’s current project, “Comic Books, Children’s Culture, and the Crisis of Innocence, 1940-1954,” was awarded an Insight Development Grant by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).
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