Shanna the She-Devil #3 (1973)

They call the era between about 1971 and 1980 the Bronze Age in comics. I assume this is because the ’40s were the Golden Age, the ’50s were a dark age (except for EC Comics and a few others), the ’60s were the silver age. What comes after silver? Gotta be bronze, right? It’s actually an issue of deep debate among comics readers where one age ends and the next begins. Did the Silver Age begin in 1956, with the first appearance of the Barry Allen Flash, or when the Martian Manhunter first appeared, or with Fantastic Four #1 if you’re Marvel biased. It’s like the old debate about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin after awhile.

Oh yeah, since it’s my blog, the golden age ran from 1938 to the end of the Spirit section in 1952. The Silver Age began when the Flash first appeared and ended when New Gods #1 came out in 1971. New Gods signaled a new era (Kirby is HERE! the cover screamed) and ended with the introduction of Elektra in Daredevil #168. Oh, and an infinite number of angels can dance on the head of a pin because they have no mass or size, just spirit. But I digress.

The nice thing about Ages is that you can paint an era with a very broad brush. After JFK was assassinated, they called his time as President Camelot, despite the fact that the US almost got into a nuclear war with the USSR, blacks were still segregated in the South, and Kennedy’s personal habits would make Bill Clinton blush. In the same way, fans can point to the so-called Bronze Age and highlights like the aforementioned New Gods, and Swamp Thing, and Howard the Duck, and Steve Englehart’s Doctor Strange, smiling to each other knowingly and praising the era as the best ever.

They forget one key fact. During every era in comics there is a hell of a lot of schlock produced. Schlock has, in fact, been the historical norm for comics over the years. Every era of comics was plagued by comics ranging from mediocre to terrible, and in every era those comics are alternately forgotten and celebrated. Such a comic is Shanna the She-Devil. Shanna was a kind of ersatz queen of the jungle type (note the similarity of her name to Sheena, who was around long before Marvel’s version, and who, by the way, has perhaps the sexiest comic book cover ever to her credit.). Shanna’s series ran five issues in 1972 and ’73, and is infamous for being part of a short-lived and ill-considered line of feminist hero comics, which also brought us The Claws of the Cat and the horrific Night Nurse. Later Shanna would become the girlfriend of Ka-Zar the Savage in the terrific Bruce Jones/Brent Anderson series of the early ’80s, and of course she is currently appearing in her own mini-series by Frank Cho.

Okay, enough, Sacks, I hear you say, enough. Stop talking around the comic and start talking about it. Did you get the idea I was avoiding talking about this comic? Well, let me tell you, in that ’80s series… oh damn, you caught me.

Okay, Shanna the She-Devil #3. Written by Carole Seuling, illustrated by Ross Andru and the infamous Vice Colletta. Shanna lives in an African jungle with her two pet leopards Ina and Bini, running around in a leopard-skin bikni and living in a tree house. In this issue, she finds out about the destruction of a village by a cape buffalo and, while investigating, stumbles over a lost city that worships a magic golden bull. Yeah, it’s based on that Shakespeare play, You know the one, it’s called ummm… not Hamlet or The Merchant of Venice. The name slips my mind….

Yep, shlock. The dull art by Ross Andru and Vince Colletta doesn’t help at all. I’ll save my Vince Colletta rant for another posting, but Andru is a real pro whose work isn’t destroyed by Colletta’s inks as much as some artists’ work is.

With issue four, the great Steve Gerber would arrive and drive the comic into mediocrity, then with issue five it was gone. Just another average mid-’70s assembly line Marvel Comic. The same month this comic came out, a real feminist comic was released: the classic "Song of Red Sonja" in Conan #24. Now that’s a woman who knows her way around a fight.

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5 Responses to “Shanna the She-Devil #3 (1973)”

  1. Sean Says:

    "Night Nurse"… OMG, I hope someone got fired for suggesting that title.

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