Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Review: Golden Age Sheena- The Best of the Queen of the Jungle Vol. 1


GOLDEN AGE SHEENA: THE BEST OF THE QUEEN OF THE JUNGLE VOL. 1(Devil’s Due, 2008; Softcover)
Collects selections from Jumbo Comics Nos. 8, 30, 48, 58, 74, 79, 90, 100, 148 and Sheena No. 12 (cover dates June-July, 1939- Summer, 1951).
Writer: Unknown
Artists: Bob Powell, Bob Webb, Matt Baker, Dan Zolnerowich, Joe Doolin, Nick Viscardi, John Martin, Artie Saaf, Will Eisner and possibly others.
Sheena, Queen of the Jungle is an important comic book character. Her first appearance in comic books pre-dates Superman, while also earning her the distinction of being the first female comic book character to headline her own title. The vile Dr. Frederic Wertham unfairly targeted Sheena, along with EC Comics, in his book Seduction of the Innocent. This all led up to the Senate sub-committee hearings on comic books contributing to juvenile delinquency in the 1950s. But I am getting ahead of myself.
I was blown away by the high quality writing and artwork throughout this book. This is a sampler, and it is apparent that a high standard was maintained for a prolonged period of time. These comic books reflect the mores of the time, and as such, the rampant sexism and racism portrayed here could be considered offensive to modern audiences. I find this stuff unintentionally funny, and find it hard to believe that this sort of stuff was openly passed off as entertainment to children and teenagers at the time. I adore the violence and action throughout this book, though. This is pretty hard-edged stuff. I love this title, and it's a pity that there are only two collections of this vintage material available. 
It's unfortunate that Devil's Due is essentially belly up at this point, because I'd love to see a comprehensive series of hardcovers collecting the whole of the run of this title. I believe that Moonstone has taken up the franchise as of late, but their low-fi trade paperbacks are not optimal for this material. I hope that Dark Horse or Fantagraphics or Craig Yoe would take it upon themselves to bring this material back to the masses.
The OCD zone- This book has the biggest contrast in presentation that I've ever seen. High resolution scans, with no touch-ups, reveal a warts and all approach the belies the slick coated stock of paper used. To see aged comic books and covers with dog eared corners and chunks missing on modern paper is a bizarre combination that really seems to work for some odd reason. It doesn't sound like it, but it really does, and it is extremely pleasing to the eye. My only gripe is that the gutters are extremely tight, the result of jamming the wider Golden Age comics into the narrower modern comic book dimensions.

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