Sheena, Queen of the Jungle

Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, is a fictional American comic book jungle girl heroine, originally published primarily by Fiction House during the Golden Age of Comic Books. She was the first female comic book character with her own title, with her 1941 premiere issue (cover-dated Spring 1942) preceding Wonder Woman #1 (cover-dated Summer 1942). Sheena inspired a wealth of similar comic book jungle queens. She was predated in literature by Rima, the Jungle Girl, introduced in the 1904 William Henry Hudson novel Green Mansions.

Sheena, Queen of the Jungle
Sheena, Queen of the Jungle #18 (Winter
1952-53). Cover art by Maurice Whitman.
Publication information
First appearanceWags #46 (1938)
Created byWill Eisner
Jerry Iger
In-story information
Alter egoSheena Rivington
Janet Ames
Shirley Hamilton
Sheila Fortner
Rachel Cardwell
  • Ability to communicate with wild animals
  • Proficiency with knives, spears, bows
  • 1984 film version:
  • Telepathic communication with jungle animals
  • 2000 TV series version:
  • Ability to shapeshift into any animal she makes eye-to-eye contact with

An orphan who grew up in the jungle, learning how to survive and thrive there, she possesses the ability to communicate with wild animals and is proficient in fighting with knives, spears, bows, and makeshift weapons. Her adventures mostly involve encounters with slave traders, white hunters, native Africans, and wild animals.[1]

Publication history edit

Fiction House edit

Sheena debuted in Joshua B. Power's British magazine Wags #46 in January 1938.[2][3] She was created by Will Eisner and S. M. "Jerry" Iger.[2] One source says Iger, through his small studio Universal Phoenix Features (UFP), commissioned Mort Meskin to produce prototype drawings of Sheena.[4] UFP was one of a handful of studios that produced comics on demand for publishers and syndicates, and whose client Editors Press Service distributed the feature to Wags.[4] To help hide the fact their studio consisted only of themselves, the duo signed their Sheena strip with the pseudonym "W. Morgan Thomas".[5] Eisner said an inspiration for the character's name was H. Rider Haggard's 1886 jungle-goddess novel She.[6] Iger, who maintained that Eisner had nothing to do with the creation of the character, claimed that he picked the name because his mind wandered to the derogatory name "sheenies" that Jewish people were sometimes called in his early days in New York.[7]

Sheena first appeared stateside in Fiction House's Jumbo Comics #1, and subsequently in every issue (Sept. 1938 – April 1953), as well as in her groundbreaking 18-issue spin-off, Sheena, Queen of the Jungle (Spring 1942 – Winter 1952), the first comic book to title-star a female character.[3] Sheena also appeared in Fiction House's Ka'a'nga #16 (Summer 1952) and the one-shot 3-D Sheena, Jungle Queen (1953)[3]—the latter reprinted by Blackthorne Publishing as Sheena 3-D Special (May 1985). Blackthorne also published Jerry Iger's Classic Sheena (April 1985).

Sheena #4 (Fall 1948). Cover art by Joe Doolin

Fiction House, originally a pulp magazine publisher, ran prose stories of its star heroine in the latter-day pulp one-shot Stories of Sheena, Queen of the Jungle (Spring 1951) and Jungle Stories vol. 5 #11 (Spring 1954).[8]

Contemporary appearances edit

Blackthorne in the 1980s published original Sheena stories in the three-issue series Jungle Comics (May–Oct. 1988).[9] A reboot of Sheena written primarily by Steven E. de Souza and set in South America rather than Africa, began with London Night Studios in 1998, and continued at Devil's Due Publishing from 2008–2009, and at Moonstone in 2014. London Night Studios published Sheena, Queen of the Jungle #0 (February 1998), a one-shot color comic book, followed by three issues of a planned four-issue black-and-white miniseries of the same name (May 1998 – February 1999). Devils Due Publishing releases include Sheena, Queen of the Jungle #1–5 (June 2007 – January 2008), a Sheena, Trail of the Mapinguari one-shot (April 2008), and Sheena, Queen of the Jungle: Dark Rising #1–3 (October 2008 – December 2008). Moonstone published Sheena, Queen of the Jungle #1–3 (2014). Additionally, AC Comics publishes Sheena reprints as well as new stories of the jungle femmes that followed in her wake.

Dynamite Entertainment edit

Dynamite began publishing Sheena comics in 2017.[10] Co-written by Marguerite Bennett and Christina Trujilo, with art by Moritat (issues 1-4) and Maria Laura Sanapo (issues 5-10), it ran for ten issues. A special 25¢ issue 0 preview comic surpassed 100,000 pre-orders.[11] A new Sheena comic series came out in November 2021. It is written by Stephen Mooney and drawn by artist Jethro Morales.[12] Another new comic was announced in 2023 with writers co-writers Steven. E. De Souza, Wes Clark Jr and artist Ediano Silva.[13]

Fictional character biography edit

Sheena is the young, blonde daughter of Cardwell Rivington, who is exploring in Africa with his daughter in tow. When Cardwell dies from accidentally drinking a magic potion made by Koba, a native witch doctor, Sheena is orphaned. Koba raises the young girl as his daughter, teaching her the ways of the jungle and various central African languages. The adult Sheena becomes "queen of the jungle" and acquires a monkey sidekick named Chim.[1]

According to Jess Nevins' Encyclopedia of Golden Age Superheroes, "Assisted by the great white hunter Bob Reynolds, Sheena fights everything under the sun, including but not limited to: hostile natives, hostile animals, giants, a super-ape, the Green Terror, sabre-tooth tigers, voodoo cultists, gorilla-men, devil-apes, blood cults, devil queens, dinosaurs, army ants, lion men, lost races, leopard-birds, cavemen, serpent gods, vampire-apes, etc."[14]

Originally costumed in a simple red dress, by issue #10 of Jumbo Comics Sheena acquired her iconic leopard-skin outfit.[1]

In time, Sheena's home village is destroyed, leaving Sheena with a white safari guide named Bob Reynolds (alternately called "Bob Reilly" or "Bob Rayburn"), who becomes her mate.[15] In later incarnations, Sheena's mate is Rick Thorne.[1]

In the 1998 reboot set in South America, Sheena's real name is Sheila Fortner.

In the 2007 reboot also set in South America, Sheena's real name is Rachel Cardwell, daughter of Tony and Ramona Cardwell.

Reception edit

Sheena was ranked 59th in Comics Buyer's Guide's "100 Sexiest Women in Comics" list.[16]

In other media edit

Irish McCalla in 1950s publicity photograph as TV's Sheena.
Gena Lee Nolin as Sheena in the publicity still of the syndicated television series Sheena (2000–2002).

Model Irish McCalla portrayed the titular character in Sheena: Queen of the Jungle, a 26-episode TV series, aired in first-run syndication from 1955 to 1956.[17] McCalla told a newspaper interviewer she was discovered by Nassour Studios while throwing a bamboo spear on a Malibu, California beach, famously adding "I couldn't act, but I could swing through the trees."[18] Although the Sheena character was often called "the Queen of the Congo,"[citation needed] the TV series clearly located her in Kenya,[citation needed] which is hundreds of miles from the Congo River. Though the character was created in comic books by Will Eisner and Jerry Iger many years earlier, a 1956 New York Times obituary for Claude E. Lapham, a 10-year editor at Fiction House, says, "His story 'Sheena' was the basis for the television story of that name."[19]

The 1984 Columbia Pictures film Sheena, produced by Paul Aratow, starred Tanya Roberts, who had previously co-starred as Kiri in MGM's 1982 film Beastmaster. In this version, the character's name is Janet Ames, daughter of Philip and Betsy Ames, before being renamed Sheena by Shaman. Roberts's Sheena had a much-expanded vocabulary from McCalla's (as well as a telepathic connection with jungle animals). Marvel Comics published a comic-book adaptation of the Sheena film as Marvel Comics Super Special #34 (June 1984), reprinting it as Sheena, Queen of the Jungle #1–2 (Dec. 1984–Feb. 1985).

The Bollywood film industry in India produced a string of uncredited Hindi versions of Sheena, beginning with Tarzan Sundari, also known as Lady Tarzan (1983); Africadalli Sheela (1986); and Jungle Ki Beti (1988).[citation needed]

Sheena was revived by Hearst Entertainment in October 2000, portrayed by Gena Lee Nolin. In this version, the character's real name is Shirley Hamilton. Sheena was given a new power in this 35-episode Columbia/TriStar series: the ability to adopt the form of any warm-blooded animal once she gazed into its eyes. She was also depicted as a ferocious killer, capable of becoming a humanoid creature called the Darak'Na; this form killed numerous individuals, though in her regular form she was also seen in numerous episodes stabbing soldiers and other villains to death. As with Tanya Roberts, Nolin's Sheena spoke whole sentences.

In 2017, Millennium Films was developing a Sheena reboot.[20]

The Ramones song "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker" was inspired by Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.[21] The song first appeared on the band's third album, Rocket to Russia, in 1977. A cartoon drawing of Sheena appears on the record sleeve of the LP version.[citation needed]

The Bruce Springsteen song "Crush on You" contains the lyrics "She makes the Venus de Milo look like she got no style/she makes Sheena of the Jungle look meek and mild."

Ike Turner credited Sheena, Queen of the Jungle as one of his inspirations for creating Tina Turner's stage persona. He chose the name "Tina" because it rhymed with "Sheena."[22]

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d Sergi, Joe. "Tales From the Code: The Near Extinction of Sheena," CBLDF website (January 25, 2013).
  2. ^ a b Wags [UK] #46 (January 14, 1938) at the Grand Comics Database.
  3. ^ a b c Sheena, Queen of the Jungle at Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original November 10, 2011
  4. ^ a b "Sheena 3-D Special". No. 1. Blackthorne Publishing. May 1985. {{cite magazine}}: Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  5. ^ Schumacher, Michael (2010). Will Eisner: A Dreamer's Life in Comics. Bloomsbury USA. p. 3. ISBN 978-1-60819-013-3.
  6. ^ Archive of Heintjes, Tom. "Will Eisner's The Spirit: The Wildwood News, Chapter 2 – Setting Up Shop", Reprinted from The Spirit: The Origin Years #2 (Kitchen Sink Press, July 1992). Original page
  7. ^ Jerry Iger (April 1985). "Heroine in the Jungle". Jerry Iger's Classic Sheena (#1): inside front cover.
  8. ^ Sheena (character) at the Grand Comics Database
  9. ^ Jungle Comics (Blackthorne Publishing, Inc., 1988 Series) at the Grand Comics Database
  10. ^ "Dynamite - the Official Site | Dejah Thoris Vs. John Carter of Mars, James Bond: Agent of Spectre, Vengeance of Vampirella, the Boys and More!".
  11. ^ "Dynamite Entertainment's Sheena #0 From Marguerite Bennett and Christina Trujilo Breaks 100,000 copies in initial orders".
  12. ^ "The Queen of the Jungle returns with new Sheena series". 2 September 2021.
  13. ^ (2023-06-22). "Sheena Heads To the Jungle Of Exam Conditions". Retrieved 2023-06-23. {{cite web}}: |last= has generic name (help); External link in |last= (help)
  14. ^ Nevins, Jess (2013). Encyclopedia of Golden Age Superheroes. High Rock Press. p. 240. ISBN 978-1-61318-023-5.
  15. ^ Mitchell, Kurt; Thomas, Roy (2019). American Comic Book Chronicles: 1940-1944. TwoMorrows Publishing. p. 37. ISBN 978-1605490892.
  16. ^ Frankenhoff, Brent (2011). Comics Buyer's Guide Presents: 100 Sexiest Women in Comics. Krause Publications. p. 41. ISBN 978-1-4402-2988-6.
  17. ^ Woolery, George W. (1985). Children's Television: The First Thirty-Five Years, 1946-1981, Part II: Live, Film, and Tape Series. The Scarecrow Press. pp. 450–451. ISBN 0-8108-1651-2.
  18. ^ "TV actress Irish McCalla dead at 73", Associated Press via The Honolulu Advertiser, February 11, 2002. WebCitation archive.
  19. ^ "Claude E. Lapham [Obituary No. 5]". The New York Times. September 25, 1956. p. 33. Retrieved February 4, 2015.
  20. ^ Busch, Anita (September 5, 2017). "'Sheena: Queen Of The Jungle' Reboot Feature on Works at Millennium Films". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved September 5, 2017.
  21. ^ Eby, Margaret (3 April 2012). Rock and Roll Baby Names: Over 2,000 Music-Inspired Names, from Alison to Ziggy. Penguin Group US. p. 269. ISBN 978-1-101-56153-9.
  22. ^ Bego, Mark (2005). Tina Turner: Break Every Rule. Taylor Trade Publishing. ISBN 9781461626022.

External links edit