Shanna the She-Devil was wasted by Marvel Comics, but hopefully the MCU won’t make the same error. When Shanna the She-story Devil’s begins in 1972, Marvel was just starting to branch out from the typical superhero fare. The character of Shanna, who resembles a jungle queen in appearance, was undoubtedly influenced by Sheena, a legendary Golden Age heroine (even the names are far too similar to be a coincidence). But Carole Seuling and George Tuska, the authors of Shanna the She-Devil #1, created Shanna as a much more fully developed character.
It’s interesting to note that Shanna the She-Devil is not just a jungle queen after reading early comics featuring her. She wears loincloths, but she does so because it makes it easier for her to move around in the jungle and — as she occasionally notes — because she finds it exciting. Shanna is an environmentalist who knows the natural world and is a bit of an action junkie who travels the globe on adventures that have a vaguely Indiana Jones or Jungle Cruise feel to them. Sheena is an intuitive character, but unlike Sheena, her knowledge is the result of research. She is a skilled veterinarian and an experienced ecologist.
Unfortunately, the hero was handled incorrectly by Marvel Comics. In 1983’s Kazar the Savage #29, Shanna became Ka-Zar the Lord of the Savage Land’s wife. From that point on, she essentially lost all sense of who she was and became the stereotype of “Ka-obedient Zar’s wife.” A jungle warrior wearing skins was obviously a victim of this sexualization due to the evolving trends in comic book art, which did not help the situation. The modern Shanna has pretty much lost everything which made her special, and she even got sucked into a supernatural tale, which caused an instinctive bond between her and the Savage Land. If Marvel’s writers simply remembered Shanna’s complexity and depth, she might still be saved, but sadly, it now seems improbable.
How Shanna Can Be Handled Correctly In The Marvel Cinematic Universe
I was reminded by chatting with @GavHigginbotham that Marvel's Shanna the She-Devil is a character who has a huge amount of complexity to her that is often just sort of ignored or brushed aside for the "sexy jungle queen" image. Which admittedly is easy to do. pic.twitter.com/vHRTnrDnrN— Comrade_Bullski (@Comrade_Bullski) January 8, 2023
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is Shanna’s best chance of success. The Werewolf By Night Special Presentation, which is essentially a Halloween special, confirms the MCU’s efforts to branch out into other genres will likely pay off. One of Marvel’s top films in 2022 was Werewolf By Night, which left viewers clamoring for more departures from the norm. It’s not difficult to picture Marvel producing a Shanna the She-Devil Special Presentation featuring Shanna as the action heroine in a jungle adventure.
The MCU would then have the chance to update Shanna for the present. Since most contemporary actresses would probably cringe at the thought of being treated as eye candy in skins, this would undoubtedly involve a costume change. That would be a much better strategy though, as it would encourage viewers to respect Shanna as both a formidable force and a fully realized person. Hopefully, Shanna the She-Devil in the Marvel Comics would then adopt a new strategy thanks to the MCU.