Saturday, June 20, 2009

Steranko’s Jungle Queen, Shanna the She-Devil

You may know that Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan began in the pulp magazines.  Ka-Zar actually first appeared in the pulps as well.  And if a man can run around in the jungle half naked, why can't a woman?  The pulp stories had women as supporting characters in Tarzan and Conan, but it took a comic book series to make a headline character.   Sheena, Queen of the Jungle was the first female character in comics to have her own title--appearing in 1942 three months before Wonder Woman.  Since that time, there's probably been more jungle queens running around than men.

Marvel decided to create their own jungle girl in 1972 when Shanna the She-Devil was published.

Shanna the She-Devil 1 cover by Steranko 1972

And A Jungle Queen Is Born!  One of the greatest covers Steranko has ever executed.  The cover, and the character, harkens back to the 1940s covers featuring Sheena.  Shanna's design is just classic, with the leopard skinned bikini that she runs around in, the claw bracelets on her legs/arms, and that wild red hair.  She's leaping out of the trees, towards the hunters, but also leaping at the reader.

Ka-Zar has his sabretooth tiger Zabu as his best bud.  Shanna has her pet leopards, Ina and Buri, who will do anything to protect her.  I thought this was a great idea, it made Shanna an animal lover and protector.  Unfortunately, Ina and Buri were killed by a villain in Savage Tales #9.

Shanna the She-Devil 2 cover by Steranko 1972

Our current era has a lot of artists who draw sexy women.  Adam Hughes, Terry Dodson, and Frank Cho immediately come to mind, although Amanda Conner is in that mix as well.  I like all those artists and their women are fantastic. 

But I think our collective senses are all too dominated by Maxim magazine.  The cover to Shanna the She-Devil #2 shows another way to draw a sexy woman.  Make her toned, athletic, and sensual with a classic face and flowing hair.  Shanna's breasts are normal sized and her ass isn't jutting out of a thong, but she's wildly appealing.  When I hit puberty, this cover was better than most Playboy magazines.

The women back in the 1970s that I liked were more normal.  Linda Carter, Victoria Principal, Catherine Bach, Heather Thomas, Markie Post, Bo Derek, Valerie Bertinelli.  I also liked Adrienne Barbeau, Raquel Welch, Ursula Andress, Loni Anderson.  Did the latter group have breast implants?  It's possible since those were developed in the 1960s.  Even if they did, those gals didn't appear too unreal.

Don't get me wrong, not everyone in comics draws unreal women.  There are lots of exceptions.  I just think Steranko has shown how a strong, lithe woman is sexier than heck.  Nuff said.

EXTRA!  Steranko's Jungle Queen on Comic Collector box.

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