Friday, May 27, 2016

Number 1898: Sheena makes her debut to American readers

Here is the third and last of our Jungle Jive week.

In an event best appreciated by Golden Age comic fans, scans of Jumbo Comics #'s 1-8 have been released by the Digital Comics Museum. In an introduction by Edward ‘Josh’ Petrie which accompanies the individual issues, the story (as much as is understood after 75 years) is told of Eisner and Iger's fledgling business, producing comics, and finding their first markets in Australia and the UK.

As the article says, Eisner was able to buy the printing plates for the issues published, and because of the large size, it made it necessary for Jumbo Comics to be larger than usual newsstand comic books. After those issues were printed, they went to a more regular comic book size. They also printed in one color, black, on a couple of different color papers. It was a bold experiment and luckily it worked. Jumbo was published until Fiction House went out of business in 1953.

Note: The first Sheena is printed on a bright orange paper, and it is hard on my old eyeballs. So I used my software and blew out the color, leaving just the black line on white background. If you want to see what it looks like, here is an example of page 31, the first Sheena page, as it appears in the comic book:

We are dropped into the Sheena story. A number in the first panel say “11” so are there 10 pages missing? Apparently Eisner wasn’t able to get all the printing plates, but it looks like the beginning of a storyline. The man who became Sheena’s “mate,” Bob, is introduced as he meets Sheena for the first time.

The issues of Jumbo Comics are very entertaining, and you can read them by going to the Digital Comics Museum’s Jumbo Comics pages. The art for Sheena is done by comics journeyman Mort Meskin.


Daniel [] said...

'Twould definitely be nice to see the implied pages 1 through 10! Let's hope that some Australian or Briton finds them, recognizes them, and makes their content available!

I have read that Sheena were named in allusion to the title “She[-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed]” given to the character of Ayesha in Haggard's book She. There seem to be stronger parallels here than in the later Sheena stories. For example, this is a lost-race story, and the Witch-Doctor is something of an analogue of Bilali (a benign character in the novel, though a malevolent one in the '65 movie).

BTW, New Comics (which became New Adventure Comics and then Adventure Comics) had a platinum-age serialization of an adaptation of She. I have one of the issues with an early installment (in which Ayesha had not yet made an appearance); that installment is likewise monochromatic, though not everything in the issue is.

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

Interesting, I'll give a look to that link.
I'm pretty sure we had golden age comics printed on color papers here, but I can't remember the titles now.
But we definitely had some underground comics printed on that kind of paper in the 70's...
Sheena is comic book history, so I will refrain from making silly comments.
She does not look like a Punk Rocker, anyway.

Brian Barnes said...

Sheena might be queen of the jungle, but she's not queen of her own darn book!

She hardly does anything here, and I doubt she's doing anything in the first 10 pages, either, it's really jungle Bob getting in and out of scrapes and in and out of exposition dumps. Which is a very wise choice; Sheena might be beautiful, but it's hard for boys (who this was aimed at) to project through her; it's much easier to project through Bob's very serial adventures of punching things in the jungle.

I love reading these really old comics; quaint, kind of static, as artists and writers are getting the feel for the medium and what it can do, and how forced they were by having to deal with the serial nature of one page scripts. They do a good job here.

Idol Trailblazer said...

Hi Pappy. I've been lurking here for a few weeks. I like your blog. I'm sort of just getting into Golden Age comics but I was a comic collector back in the 1980s. I used to love reading DC's The All-Star Squadron. I can only use my phone for the internet for the time being (computer's broke), but I love reading old comics when I can. Thanks for sharing all this great stuff.

Sheena is one of my favorite characters. I loved the Sheena movie from 1984 with Tanya Roberts, although Tanya's nudity might have something to do with that. I've read a few of the Sheena comics on Digital Comics Museum and the above story now and I find them entertaining. I have since checked out Rulah, Judy and other jungle girls. This is a fascinating genre. Thanks for removing the color from the Sheena pages. I like them in b&w just fine. I don't know how to do something like this myself so I appreciate the efforts of those who take time to restore classic entertainment so future generations have these comics, movies and music to enjoy.

Pappy said...

Idol Trailblazer, thanks for the comments! I hope you get your computer back soon so you don't have to use your phone. I'd need much stronger glasses to read comics off my phone.

I hadn't thought of what I do as restoring classic entertainment, but I appreciate the thought. My hope is that my blog will be online for long after I'm finally unable to do it, and that people can experience the old ocmics and go on to the other restoration sites.

Pappy said...

Brian, I see the Sheena pages as being "Sunday" pages. I believe they were trying to give that impression, anyway, since most comic books of the time were reprints of newspaper strips.

Read a long run of 1930s and '40s Sunday-only newspaper continuities and some of them can really drag. The best writers kept them concise, but other writers kept them going on too long for my modern short attention span.

Pappy said...

J D, you give us another reference to American pop culture. "Sheena is a Punk Rocker" by the Ramones. Yep, I like that one. Listening to it speeds up my tired blood.

Pappy said...

Daniel, there are many comics I think would have looked better printed in black line...horror comics, especially. The superheroes with gaudy costumes are good in color.

I don't mind the early comics with only partial coloring. Years ago a reader (Darkmark?) in the comments called them "Jurassic," which I think is funny.

Daniel [] said...

Bob, Punching Things in the Jungle” (à la Brian Barnes) really ought to have been a golden-age serial.

rnigma said...

I recall a Sheena comic from the '80s with a nice Dave Stevens cover; I don't recall if it was an adaptation of the movie, or a reprint of the original comics.
The '50s TV series is fondly remembered, mainly because of gorgeous Irish McCalla as Sheena. Many fans who met her in person expected her to be taller (she was 5' 8" or thereabouts). Irish explained that the guy who played Bob was on the short side.
There was another attempt at a Sheena TV series, in the late '90s or early 2000s, with Gena Lee Nolin from "Baywatch"; Sheena had been given shape-shifting powers so she could take animal form, and her male companion was a former Florida State quarterback, Matt Cutter (the show's producer was an FSU alumnus). This version didn't last very long.

Darci said...

migma is recalling It was Blackthorne's attempt to jump on the short-lived revival of 3-D comics. The stories were reprints of 1940s-era Jumbo Comics, with separations by Ray Zone. IIRC there was a specious text article about Sheena's creation by Jerry Iger too.