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Sheena, Queen of the Jungle is a fictional, American comic book jungle girl heroine, published originally by Fiction House. The female counterpart to Tarzan, Sheena had two things in common with Edgar Rice Burroughs' Jungle Lord: Both possessed the ability to communicate with wild animals and were both orphans growing up and learning how to survive and live in the jungle. She was fiercely proficient in fighting with knives, spears, and bows, and improvised with makeshift weapons. Her primary ability was to surprise her opponents, either human or animal.
She was the first female comic-book character with her own title, with her 1937 (in Great Britain; 1938 in the United States) premiere, preceding Wonder Woman #1 (cover-dated Dec. 1941). 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 was ranked 59th in Comics Buyer's Guide's "100 Sexiest Women in Comics" list.
Sheena debuted in Joshua B. Power's British magazine Wags #1, in 1937. She was created by Will Eisner and S.M. "Jerry" Iger of the comic-book packager Eisner & Iger, 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. To help hide the fact their studio consisted only of themselves, the duo signed their Sheena strip with the pseudonym "W. Morgan Thomas". Eisner said an inspiration for the character's name was H. Rider Haggard's 1886 jungle-goddess novel She.
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. Sheena also appeared in Fiction House's Ka'a'nga #16 (Summer 1952) and the one-shot 3-D Sheena, Jungle Queen (1953) — the latter reprinted by Eclipse Comics as Sheena 3-D (Jan. 1985) and by Blackthorne Publishing as Sheena 3-D Special (May 1985). Blackthorne also published Jerry Iger's Classic Sheena (April 1985. Fiction House, originally a pulp magazine publisher, ran prose stories of its star heroine in the latter-day pulp Stories of Sheena, Queen of the Jungle (Spring 1951) and Jungle Stories vol. 5, #11 (Spring 1954).
Blackthorne in the 1980s also published original Sheena stories in the three-issue series Jungle Comics (May-Oct. 1988). Bruce Jones wrote stories featuring Sheena and Ka'a'nga in at least one issue. All three covers are signed by the artist: Dave Stevens (#1); Dragan Flaese (#2), who also drew that issue's interior art; and Donnie Jupiter (#3).
A version of Sheena, transplanted from Africa to South America, appeared in London Night Studio's Sheena, Queen of the Jungle one-shot comic book and subsequent four-issue miniseries (Feb. 1998 - Spring 1999). As well, AC Comics publishes Sheena reprints, as well as reprints and some new stories of the jungle femmes that followed in her wake.
Model Irish McCalla portrayed Sheena in a 26-episode TV series aired in first-run syndication from 1955-56. 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".
A 1984 Columbia Pictures film, Sheena, produced by Paul Aratow starred Tanya Roberts, who had previously co-starred as Kiri in MGM's 1982 movie Beastmaster. Roberts' Sheena had a much-expanded vocabulary from McCalla's. Marvel Comics published a comic-book adaptation of the Sheena movie as Marvel Comics Super Special #34 (June 1984), reprinting it as Sheena, Queen of the Jungle #1-2 (Dec. 1984 - Feb. 1985).
Sheena was revived by TV syndicator Hearst Entertainment in October 2000, portrayed by Gena Lee Nolin. 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 she 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.
Galaxy Publishing, Inc., circa 1999, launched an animated Sheena series on the Web. In 2007, Galaxy licensed the comic book rights to Devil's Due Publishing, which announced plans to publish an ongoing title. In 2011, Galaxy and Moonstone Books reached an agreement to publish Sheena comic books and prose stories.
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