Comics were only what, ten, fifteen minutes old, when somebody in the Eisner/Iger shop said, "Hey, I bet we could get away with showing a lot of skin if we made some jungle queen comics!" And that was the birth of the whole genre of ladies in leopard-print swimwear running around in the jungle battling evil and making prepubescent boys feel funny. Since puberty continues to wreak havoc on our young men, the jungle queen has been a staple of comics from the 1930s right on until today, and today we have an iteration from the early 1970s when the men writing comic books were starting to realize that maybe there was a little sexism and racism somewhere in the swirling libidinous White Jungle Goddess myth and that maybe this was something that could be addressed, maybe. But not really.
Here in this beat-up copy of Shanna The She-Devil #5 we get all the hallmarks of Jungle Queen comics - vine-swinging, sacrificial flames burning in menacing temples, the mystical voodoo power of (gasp) black people, and skin, lots of skin. And since this is a Marvel Comic from the 1970s we get dialogue and captions crammed into every possible space. But enough of the cover, let's see what kind of life-and-death struggle page one gives us!
What do we get? We get Shanna arm-wrestling with her White Hunter/Game Warden boyfriend, we get boyfriend's burlesque Irish dialect, and we get a list of credits that is all men, except for Jean Izzo's letters and the possibility that "L. Lessman" is a lady. Who says comics aren't progressive?
Shanna wins! Of COURSE Shanna wins. This comic book isn't called "Patrick The He-Devil."
What's that - a jet plane? Here? In the air, where jet planes normally fly?
Turns out Shanna is not only opposed to noise pollution but she's one of those "chemtrail" kooks as well. Curse you, internet conspiracy theorists!
S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Minority Hiring Project is in full effect here in 1970s comics. Later iterations of this policy would reverse the trend and make Nick Fury a black guy while everybody ELSE in S.H.I.E.L.D. would be painfully white. Don't worry, they'll get that mix right eventually.
That's right Shanna, bring your two killer jungle cats on board the tiny jet plane that has to make a carrier landing. What could go wrong?
Huh, the leopards went crazy and started busting up the place and now the plane is going to crash. Who could have predicted that?
"Ha ha," says Sheena. "Two grown men afraid of a couple of cats nearly causing a jet plane crash resulting in a fiery explosion with the jet fuel burning the flesh off our bodies at 1500 degrees Fahrenheit. How foolish! It's as if I should have left the damn leopards at home, or something! Ha ha!"
Since this is a Marvel comic we have to shove in a cameo appearance by a character from a completely different comic book, just to make sure you know full well that Marvel Comics all exist in the same world, and also to make sure that in fifteen years, when you're collecting every single appearance by every member of the X-Men, that you have to track down "Shanna The She-Devil" #5. Because collecting comic books is fun and not obsessive-compulsive at all in the slightest. Oh no.
Last issue Shanna fought "The Mandrill", who is a super villain with the amazing super power of having a mandrill's face. We are kind of down in the third or fourth tier of Marvel characters here, folks. Sorry to have wasted your time. I think you can still pick up the latest Fantastic Four or Captain America, turns out Captain America is beating up Richard Nixon this issue, might wanna check it out instead.
Singh has read of the group called "The X-Men," which at this point was in the middle of a five-year stretch of nothing but reprints and cameos. That is some real dedication to comic book collecting there, Singh.
So let's recap -we flew out to the jungle, piled Shanna and her boyfriend and two deadly leopards onto a tiny jet plane, and flew out and nearly crashed onto an aircraft carrier, just so Professor X and Pipe Smoking Man could tell them to "look out for stuff". Your tax dollars at work, people
MEANWHILE IN THE JUNGLE - the West Africa Hot Yoga class is going in a spooky new direction!
"Shanna must perish by the power of hate - and glammy Las Vegas showgirl-style dancing!" Fascinating how Nekra was clearly a black woman on the cover, but once we get into the comic she's more of a weird olive beige color. I blame "L. Lessman".
This is the part where a woman screams about hating all men and literally attacks a literal straw man. I think we just invented "Tumblr."
Since this is a 1970s Marvel Comic written by Steve Gerber and edited by Roy Thomas, there are lots of panels where a garishly dressed super being questions their existence as a garishly dressed super being, so that the readers know they aren't just reading a dumb super hero comic book, they're reading a dumb super hero comic book that KNOWS it's a dumb super hero comic book.
What's that? Maybe people should just quit reading dumb super hero comic books entirely? Oh no. No sir. Not an option.
I am Nekra! Priestess of the Mandrill! Owner Of a Zippo Lighter that apparently does not use lighter fluid, but Hate Itself!
Nothing can stop the living power of hate! Not all the splayed limbs of all the jungle queens in the whole jungle!
Just kind of want to admire the 1950s Suburbia decor that Patrick managed to replicate here in his jungle headquarters here in the deepest darkest jungle. He even has a desk and an office chair and a waste paper basket full of all that annoying paperwork that comes with being a darkest-Africa game warden jungle boyfriend guy. You'd be surprised!
Remember kids, when battling the evil Priestess Of The Mandrill and she's throwing you to the ground and your long jungle-queen legs are splaying out all over the place, when you're being slammed against the ground, make sure to take that blow squarely on your spine, which as we all know is sinewy and super strong and not prone to breaking and paralyzing you for life if not killing you instantly, not at all.
Hey Shanna remember you have a knife! Use your knife! Just remember to wound, not to kill, because this is still a Code-approved comic and our heroes aren't allowed to kill, because for some crazy, stuffy, square, no-doubt-censorship-driven reason, "heroes" don't go around "killing" people. Darn you, Comics Code!
Didn't work anyway, but at least she tried.
Suddenly, on the last page of the comic, with all her jungle cunning, Shanna realizes she can just take Tyler Perry's advice and choke that hoe out!
Thus does super heroism triumph, by choking the evil lady into unconsciousness. Think of all the super hero battles that could be ended quickly and conveniently if our heroes would only use this simple method! Next time... try choking.
And hey, guess what, this was the last issue of Shanna The She-Devil, joining "Night Nurse" and "The Cat" into the recycle bin of Marvel's great failed 1970s experiment of "Dudes Making Comics They Thought Chicks Would Like But Turns Out Dudes Have No Idea What Kinds Of Comics Chicks Like, Seriously, Why Not Just Ask Some Chicks Next Time."
AND NOW... MISTER KITTY'S STUPID COMICS PRESENTS:
THE AWARD FOR "LETTER COLUMN NAME THAT PROBABLY SOUNDED OKAY AT THE TIME BUT YEARS LATER IS HILARIOUSLY INAPPROPRIATE" -
So long Shanna, see you in the pages of Daredevil and your own black and white magazine and at your wedding to Ka-Zar in the Savage Land. Well, we didn't go to the wedding, but we sent a nice card.
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