When it comes to comic superheroines, fans are familiar with well-known characters like Wonder Woman and Black Widow because they’ve been part of popular stories. Yet there are so many other wonderful female characters out there to discover and one of the most underrated is Snowbird. A member of the Canadian superhero team, Alpha Flight, Snowbird is a Inuit goddess with shapeshifting abilities and an interesting backstory.
Like the other members of Alpha Flight, Snowbird was created by John Byrne. However, as a ‘fan character’ she was unique because Byrne created her years before he began working in comics. The daughter of the goddess Nelvanna, Narya was conceived in order to battle the mystical Great Beasts of the Canada: Tundra, Kariooq, Ranaq, Somon, Kolomaq, Tolomaq and Neooqtoq the Ravager. She called herself Snowbird and her future teammate, Shaman, was chosen to be Nelvanna’s midwife and helped to deliver the child. He used a spell to bind her to Canada and raised her in the wilderness. The spell weakened Snowbird every time she was outside of Canada, such as when she almost died during a fight between Alpha Flight and Omega Flight in New York.
Snowbird grew rapidly and gained the ability to transform into any animal native to Canada. In the past she’s changed into an owl, wolverine, sperm whale and wendigo. Originally, when she transformed her personality became dominated by the traits of the animal she turned into. For example, during the Chaos War arc, Snowbird transformed into Neeoqtoq, the most terrible of the Great Beasts. She lost total control and tried to destroy everything in her path. Another issue was that the longer she stayed in animal form, the greater the risk of her remaining stuck as whatever she turned into.
Over time, Snowbird was able to gain greater control of her abilities and stopped being strained by her transformations. This happened after her first death, during a time when her life was filled with great tragedy. Snowbird lost her husband and child to the villain Pestilence. Snowbird died as well, but she refused to enter the realm of the Inuit gods until her family were admitted. After her resurrection, she had better control of her powers and the spell that bound her to Canada was broken.
During her superhero career, Snowbird has demonstrated her courage many times, especially during Chaos War when she was able to regain control of herself at the last moment and rescue Amadeus Cho from Skrull gods. It’s also been revealed that she suffers from survivor guilt after not being present at the battle between Alpha Flight and Pointer.
Survivor guilt is a common mental health condition that many people suffer from. As a goddess, Snowbird isn’t subjected to the same mortality as a human, so that could possibly have made her survivor guilt worse. While her friends and loved ones fought and died, she continued to exist, which likely made the condition worse. However, Snowbird didn’t let her condition stop her from fighting for the greater good. It takes an incredible amount of bravery to move beyond survivor guilt and Snowbird is a great role model for anyone who’s suffering with it.
Even a goddess can be tormented by mental health issues, which makes Snowbird a relatable character. Her versatile powers and courageous outlook act as a symbol of Canadian resilience.
Alpha Flight is an underrated team full of awesome characters. I looked into the history of the team, so be sure to read the article I wrote for Word Of The Nerd so you can gain an appreciation for Canada’s finest superheroes.