Sheena, Queen of the Jungle first appeared in 1938 as well. She made her debut in Jumbo Comics #1 and kicked off a jungle girl/good girl art craze. Sheena first appearance was credited to a W. Morgan Thomas, but that was a pseudonym Will Eisner used. Helping Eisner on the early issues was artist Mort Meskin, who was working out of the Iger-Eisner shop of comic artists. The character Sheena was inspired by a popular novel titled She by H. Rider Haggard. The book tells a story about travelers going to Africa and meeting a beautiful but deadly female goddess. The comic character was a bit closer to Tarzan. Sheena was brought to Africa as a young girl by her father. He would befriend a local witch doctor named Koba. The father would die accidentally because of a potion that Koba created. Koba then adopted Sheena and raised her to be a strong Jungle Queen. The contents of Jumbo Comics were originally printed in a British magazine called Wags. Because the British comic was printed in tabloid size, this book reprinting much of contents had to be "Jumbo" sized as well. There are several jungle girl characters in prose fiction so it was no big leap to put one in comic books. The inspiration for Sheena physically is movie star Cynthia Evans. Sheena would eventually get her own title and would be among the earliest popular female adventure characters in comic books. Jumbo Comics was in black and white and in Jumbo size from #1 to 8. Starting with issue 9 they were regular size and in full colour. Sheena would be the main seller for Jumbo Comics until July 1952, with issue #161. She also had her own series that lasted from 1942 to Winter 1952/1953. During and after her time in comics many similar characters would be published by various companies. Sheena would also be licensed for several TV shows and movies throughout her history.
Also notable about Jumbo Comics #1 is it's the first comic work by Jack Kirby. He would become one of the most influential comic artists of all time. He worked on a story called "The Count of Monte Cristo." Bob Kane's work would appear here as well in a story called "Peter Pupp." You will read more about these two very important creators soon.
Behind the Scenes - Ethnic slur origin?
S. M. "Jerry" Iger also claimed to have created Sheena. He said a client wanted a Tarzan knock off character and he came up with the idea of a female version. When he was trying to think of a name for the character his mind went back to what they called Jewish people in New York. 'Sheenies' was an insult for Jewish people, Iger used Sheena for her name.
Eisner's version of the creation is much more believable considering he was the writer and artist. Iger only did the lettering on the comics, his main job was to sell the books. It's pretty hard to believe the story of naming a character after a Jewish slur, considering most of the comic artists and publishers during this period were Jews.
This comic would also be the first from a publisher called Fiction House. The name of the comic represented it’s size as Jumbo was the same tabloid size as New Fun and 1929’s The Funnies before them. But by issue #10 they would reduce it to what were then normal sized comics. Fiction was owned by Thurman T. Scott who published Pulp books and owned a Pecan plantation in Georgia. He would slowly hire away many of Iger’s and Eisner’s staff artists. When WWII come out both Iger and Fiction House began hiring a large number of women and men that couldn’t be drafted. As a publisher Fiction House ran things a little differently, they had a big room with a glass office in the middle. On one side was a room for the artists, the other the pulp writers. Inside the glass office was the editors and office staff keeping an eye on everyone to make sure they were working.
Come April of 1939, Charlie Max Gaines decided to become a publisher again. He would team up with Donenfeld and would create a "sister" company that would be known as All American Comics. He would debut two new titles called All American Comics and Movie Comics. The latter would show still pictures of actors doing their famous movies with dialogue from them. This comic would be similar to how the Italians make comic books. There they use still pictures of real people in poses and use thought and word balloons. Their term for comics is Fumetti, meaning "Puffs of Smoke" a description of the balloons. Movie Comics only went for 6 issues. While the execution of the comic didn’t work, the idea did. Dell would use Movie adaptations for it’s Four Color Comics series and do quite well with them. All American Comics was the success of the Gaines line. Like Famous Funnies it would use comic strip reprints and original material (Sheldon Mayer’s Scribbly appeared in here as well). It would eventually feature superheroes and change it’s name to All-American Western and later, All-American Men of War when those were popular genres. Overall the series would go until 1966.
In May, 1939 Detective Comics #27 would debut Batman created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger. With the success of Superman, Bob Kane noticed Siegel and Shuster was getting paid more than he was and wanted to know how he could get a raise. DC editors told him to create a superhero that was as popular as Superman. So he came up with an idea for a character called "The Bird-Man". The original idea had the character flying with stiff mechanical wings strapped on to his arms and wearing a mix of red, green and with a domino mask. He took the idea to friend and respected writer Bill Finger who thought a detective comic should have something more noir then a bright flying birdman. He changed him to Batman and re-worked the character to be closer to the pulp heroes he enjoyed as a kid. He redesigned the costume to what you see on the cover and specifically adding gloves so Batman wouldn’t leave finger prints. He made the character powerless and had him rely on intellect, athletic ability and strong desire for justice. He created the idea of millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne as an alter-ego, The Batcave, The Batmobile and Gotham City. Among the villains Finger created or co-created were The Joker, The Cat-woman, Penguin, Riddler, Two-Face and Clay-Face. Also contributing to the Batman world was writer Gardner Fox who often did stories when Bill Finger couldn’t meet his deadlines.
Bob Kane had his father (a printer who knew the industry) represent him and negotiate a very good contract on his behalf. During the period where Siegel and Shuster were suing for Superman, Bob Kane would tell DC he was a minor when he signed his original contract. Faced with potential lawsuits of both their biggest cash cows, DC would renegotiate a much better deal with Kane. Truth was, Kane was in his early 20's when he co-created Batman. As per then Jewish tradition, Kane's father got rid of his son's birth certificate. Without any paperwork indicating Kane's actual birth date the courts would have to rely on the word of his family. Kane said his family was willing to lie on his behalf.
Bob would get a very high page rate to do the Batman stories (only a part of which would get paid to the people making it) and credit for everything regarding Batman. Under this contract Kane would become much wealthier than the Superman creators but Bill Finger would not. Bob would sell the Batman character to DC in the 60’s during the height of the Batman TV show craze. He would go on to work in animation creating Courageous Cat, Minute Mouse, and Cool McCool. He also did paintings of Batman, some of which were swipes from freelance artists that drew Batman comics.
Bill Finger would continue to work freelance for DC until the early 1970’s until he was fired along with other older freelancers for asking for health benefits and money for his reprinted stories. DC began reprinting Batman stories and ended up selecting Fingers work because they were among the best. This meant they didn't need so many new stories and Bill Finger had less work. Bob Kane died in 1998 at 83 years old. Bill Finger would die frustrated, out of work and penniless in 1974. For years Bob Kane very strongly denied anybody but himself was responsible for Batman. But just before he died he did admit that Finger had a lot to due with Batman's creation and success. Despite this only Bob Kane can be legally be credited as Batman's creator due to contracts between DC and the Bob Kane estate.
Did You Know? - Co-Creator extraordinaire Bill Finger. What many do not realize is Fingers influence went beyond Batman. He would also be credited as writer of the first Green Lantern and Wildcat stories. He likely was the co-creator of those characters too. Finger would also co-create Lana Lang, Superboy's love interest.
One of the first people that realized Superman’s success was Victor Fox. He started up a publishing company and hired the Iger-Eisner shop to plagiarise Superman. Fox wanted Eisner specifically to do the story. The result was Wonder Man in Wonder Comics #1 (May, 1939). The differences were the red costume, blonde hair and he got his powers from Tibet. His strength came from a power ring and his real name was Fred Carson. DC sued and won the case. Victor Fox would state that DC owner Harry Donenfeld had seen Wonder-Man in January 1938 (prior to Action Comics #1 was published) and insinuate that Superman was a copy of Wonder Man. His lawyers also tried to argue that both characters were inspired by The Phantom. Trial transcripts show that Eisner said he hadn't no knowledge of Superman when he created Wonder Man. He also backed up Fox's claim that Wonder Man was created in January of 1938 and was inspired by among other things, the Phantom. DC countered with evidence showing similar drawings and story elements appearing in Fox's comics after being published in DC comics. Jerry Siegel gave testimony and evidence of his co-creating Superman much earlier than January 1938. The evidence was enough to convince the judge that Wonder Man was plagiarism. Wonder Man only made one appearance due to the lawsuit. Despite this setback Fox would continue to publish comics. In fact he would pull the same stunt again by publishing a character named Moth Man that was very close to Batman. He appeared in Mystery Men Comics #9 to 13. DC threatened to sue and that character was also pulled. Publishers threatening to sue over the slightest infractions was common in this period, in part because there were a lot of business men that tried to cash in on what was popular by doing cheap imitations. Some of them were successful by doing this too!
Wonder Comics #1 is in the public domain and you can download and read it by clicking here. (38.6 MB - Scanned Microfiche)
Did You Know? - Will Eisner would tell and once drew a very different version of events when it came to the Wonder-Man lawsuit. In his version, he gave honest testimoney about following Fox's orders on copying Superman to make Wonder Man, causing Fox to lose the case. As a result, Fox refused to pay the $3000 he owed the Eisner-Iger Studio.
Behind the Scenes - "When going broke, go big!"
Will Eisner said Victor Fox told him that when you are going to go bankrupt you should go big. Victor did this and at least one time it helped him. Victor Fox once went bankrupt owing his printer almost $400,000. Said printer then financed his return to comic book publishing so that they could get their money back! Again, according to Will Eisner Victor Fox would go bankrupt 4 times before he quit comics for good.