Page 1: Sheena Prehistory

The two men responsible for the creation of Sheena, S. M. "Jerry" Iger and William Eisner, first collaborated in mid-1936.  Jerry Iger was born to Austrian immigrant parents in Manhattan on 22 August 1903.  He liked to draw cartoons as a child and when he was 19 he spent a year working in the fledgling animation business for Max Fleischer, the creator of Betty Boop. Soon after he landed a job as a news cartoonist on the New York American newspaper, despite no formal training.  In 1925 he began contributing one-page humour strips, like Bobby, to Famous Funnies.
Will Eisner was born in Brooklyn on 6 March 1917.  The son of Jewish immigrants, he was a talented child who did drawings for the school newspaper.  He studied under Canadian artist, George Brandt Bridgman, and at the Art Students League of New York, before working for the New York American newspaper as an illustrator.  He also provided artwork for several pulp magazines.
In 1936, a friend of Eisner's, Bob Kane, co-creator of Batman, suggested that he should try selling cartoons to a new comic book, Wow, What A Magazine! (left)  The founding editor of that publication, Jerry Iger, bought several of Eisner's strips during the short run of the publication and also published the first ever Eisner cover - the Captain Scott Dalton illustration on the cover of Wow No. 2 from August 1936 (top right) (Wikipedia).
Only four issues of Wow were published between July and November 1936 and the reasons for it's collapse are lost in obscurity.  Black and Feret, however, report that The Iger Shop, the entity that provided the art for the magazine, went bankrupt.
In the 1930s "comic books" were tabloid-sized collections of reprints of newspaper comic strips, but in colour, and Wow, What A Magazine! was no exception.  However, when Will Eisner's creative genius came on board he began providing original adventure strips, like Captain Scott Dalton, a H Rider Haggard-style adventurer who travelled the world looking for rare artifacts.  Following the collapse of The Iger Shop, Will Eisner and Jerry Iger entered into an equal partnership deal in 1937 and formed Universal Phoenix Features Syndicate, producing original newspaper strips.  Soon after, they were contacted by Joshua B Powers, of the Editors Press Service (EPS) to supply eight pages a week to a black-and-white British tabloid named Wags, that also had distribution Australia.  The first issue went on sale in England on 1 January 1937, but it wasn't until Wags No. 17, released on 23 April 1937, that the first contributions from Iger and Eisner appeared.  Eisner contributed his own Hawk of the Seas and Spencer Steel, while his old buddy, Bob Kane, provided Peter Pupp.  Wags also featured Dick Breifer's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which was also published in Wow, and Don De Conn's The Adventures of Tom Sherrill.  Later issues of Wags also contained a masked detective strip by George Brenner called The Clock Strikes.  And finally, on 14 January 1938, a fateful day for comicdom, an adventure strip about a blonde goddess living in the wilds of Africa made it's appearance.  The artwork was by Mort Meskin and, as everyone now knows, it was called Sheena Queen of the Jungle (Feret & Black).  The strip shown at right, illustrated by Bob Powell, is from the later February 1939 Australian issue of Wags
    Click on image to enlarge:

Click on the image below to view a complete set of Jumbo and Jungle Comics covers, and examples of other Fiction House titles:

• Entries on Jerry Iger and Will Eisner on Wikipedia
TV's Original Sheena - Irish McCalla, by Bill Black and Bill Feret, Paragon Publications, 1992
• Essay, The Saga of Sheena, by Bill Feret & Bill Black, in The Comic Book Jungle, by Bill Black, Paragon Publications, Mar 99

• The montage of Wow, What a Magazine! covers were pilfered from an eBay auction item
• The early Sheena strip by Bob Powell is from Panel By Panel, An Illustrated History of Australian Comics, by John Ryan, Cassell Australia 1979
• The montage of Fiction House covers was created from a CD-ROM of comic covers in my private collection

SHEENA © is the property of Sony Pictures Corporation
This independent, fan-based analysis of the Sheena material is copyright © 2006 Paul Wickham