Saturday, March 17, 2018
JUMBO COMICS #1 AND SHEENA, QUEEN OF THE JUNGLE #1 -- A VERY LOPSIDED TRIBUTE TO ST. PATRICK'S DAY
Today is St.Patrick's Day -- time to celebrate all things Irish. In my warped mind, the first thing I think about on this day is Irish McCalla, Vargas model, pin-up girl, and -- most importantly -- the star of Sheena, Queen of the Jungle syndicated series from 1955-1956. So, as my sideways salute to St. Patrick's Day and to the lovely Irish, I thought I would rave about Sheena in the comic books.
Sheena was created by Will Eisner and Jerry Iger in 1937 under the pseudonym "W. Morgan Thomas." She first appeared in the British comic book Wags Comics #1; the following year she made her American debut in a five-page story in Jumbo Comics #1 (September 1938). Her adventures in Jumbo Comics continued through March 1953 for a total of 167 appearances -- for most of those issues she was featured on the cover. In 1942, Sheena appeared in her own title for an erratically paced 18 issues ending in 1952. (Two issues appeared in 1942; one in 1943; one in 1948; one in 1949; five in 1950; four in 1951; and four in 1952.) Sheena was the first-ever female comic book character to have her own comic book title, preceding Wonder Woman by three months. She also appeared in seven of the sixteen issues of Jungle Girls, which ran from 1988 to 1993.
Over the years, Sheena has appeared in several one-shot comics, including one in 3-D, Since 2017, she has appeared in her own title from Dynamite Entertainment with a bit more bosom and a bit more skin.
In other media, Sheena has appeared in at least two pulp stories from Fiction House, in a 1984 film straaring Tanya Roberts (with a movie tie-in comic book from Marvel), in a 2000 television reboot starring Gena Lee Nolan (35 episodes), and in a number of uncredited Bollywood films beginning in 1983. Another Sheena reboot is in development. Sheena has also appeared in songs by The Ramones and by Bruce Springsteen.
Just who is Sheena?
Basically, she's a female Tarzan. Her name was chosen as a tribute to H. Rider Haggard's novel She. The young blonde daughter of explorer Carwell Rivington is left orphaned during an African trak and is then raised by a native witch doctor in the ways of the jungle, eventually becoming the Queen of the Jungle. I don't now what her first name was, unless it was actually Sheena. Sheena is strong, brave, and athletic. Her only superhuman ability is being able to talk to animals. Her weapons include spears, bows, knives, and a strong sense of survival. In some later versions of Sheena, she has been transplanted from the African jungle to a South American one, and in the Gena Lee Nolan series she has be given the power to transform into animals. She sometimes goes by the name Rachael Caldwell. In Jumbo Comics #1 she meets white hunter Bob Reynolds (sometimes named Bob Reilly or Bob Rayburn, and in later incarnations, Rick Thorne), who becomes her mate. Every jungle hero or heroine needs a monkey companion; hers is named Chim.
Here's Jungle Comics #1, also featuring Hawks of the Sea, Spencer Steel, ZX-5, Wilton of the West, Inspector Dayton, and many others:
And here's Sheena, Queen of the Jungle #1, which features six (count 'em, six) Sheena adventures, as well as a number of shorter features:
Even though these two issues well predate Irish McCalla's 26 episodes as Sheena, have a great St. Patrick's Day!