August 31, 2011
SHEENA: Golden Age to Present
Sheena has survived the ravages of time. First seen in 1938, published by Fiction House, Sheena endured through the 1950’s as a comic book and and then as a TV series. She was introduced in “Jumbo Comics”, appearing in 167 issues, and then in her own title, “Sheena”, lasting 18 issues. Several artists worked on her adventures including Will Eisner, Mort Meskin, Bob Powell (who first gave her her trademark leopard skin outfit), Alex Blum and Robert Webb. The figure of Sheena was drawn by Eisner/Iger shop female form experts, Matt Baker, Jack Kamen and a few others. She was the first female jungle character to gain popularity and was followed by many imitators.
She was starred in her own TV series in the 50’s. Twenty six half hour episodes were released in syndication in 1956. It starred Irish McCalla, pin-up queen and cover girl, wearing the famous leopard skin outfit. Sheena then disappeared from the scene only to reappear in 1980 in a film version starring Tanya Roberts. Although fans were disappointed by this version, still it served to renew the love for the character and heighten interest in another TV series.
Also in the 1980’s, AC Comics was given permission by the former president and publisher of Fiction House, T.T. Scott, to reprint Fiction House characters. The rights to Sheena had been sold to film producer Paul Aratow who has granted AC Comics permission to reprint stories of the jungle queen. Many Golden-Age stories of Sheena were reprinted in the series “Jungle Girls” and “Good Girl Art Quarterly.” In 1992, AC’s parent company, Paragon Publications, published a book on Irish McCalla, the beautiful blonde actress who starred in the 1950’s TV show. This book includes two Sheena comic book reprints from the forties, in color, and a new story entitled “Irish of the Jungle”.
In 1997 permission was granted London Night Studios to produce a new art, present day version of Sheena. This jungle girl lasted four issues. Clad head to toe in leather and wearing high heeled shoes, this version did not appeal to fans of the original Sheena. In 1999, permission was again granted AC, by Paul Aratow now of Galaxy Publishing, to produce a book on “The Golden Age of Sheena” in which a number of classic stories from Fiction Houses’ run in the 1940’s were reproduced. Paul is in the process of launching new Sheena products in the classic tradition.
The TV series was long in coming, but in October of 2000, it was finally launched, starring Gena Lee Nolin. The series of hour long episodes is in syndication throughout the world. While very different from the original TV series, the production qualities are vastly superior. Filmed in Florida, stock footage from Africa has been seamlessly woven into the story. Sheena is portrayed as intelligent and is certainly able to take care of herself and those around her, including the men. However, she has been given certain paranormal powers, which make her more than human and in some ways detracts from her physical prowess. It remains to be seen how old fans of Sheena will react to this series.
To find the comic books in which reprints of Golden Age Sheena stories appear, go to the Online Store and place the word “Sheena” in the search box.