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Sheena, Queen of the Jungle

December 30, 2010

Sheena, Queen of the Jungle was the first female heroine to appear in comic books. Her first appearance in January 14, 1938 was drawn by Mort Meskin for weekly tabloid issues of Wags created for British and Australian markets by comic book pioneers Jerry Iger (1903-1990) and Will Eisner (1917-2005).

Following the success of Wags, Iger and Eisner brought out Jumbo #1 in the USA in September, 1938. Sheena appeared in every issue until 1953 and was featured on the cover of 143 issues. She had her own comic from 1942 to 1952 with 18 issues published by Fiction House.

Irish McCalla, born Nellie McCalla (1928-2002) was a struggling artist from Nebraska who moved to Los Angeles in the late 1940s. To finance her art career she posed for cheesecake photos and modeled for noted pin-up artists Alberto Vargas and Fritz Willis. The statuesque beauty won the role of Sheena in the mid-1950s. Produced by Nassour Studios and Rodriguez Productions, 26 episodes were filmed in the jungles of Las Estacas, Mexico between December, 1955 and September 16, 1956 for syndication in the U.S.

The popularity of the series led to an appearance on the June 5, 1956 Milton Berle Show along with newcomer Elvis Presley. McCalla continued with her art career, completing 1,000 paintings by the mid-1980s.

Hearst International released the feature film Sheena: Queen of the Jungle with Tanya Roberts August 17, 1984 and Columbia Tri-Star produced the Sheena TV series with Gena Lee Nolin in 2001-2002, with 35 episodes.

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