Dynamite Comics launched a new series of Sheena Queen of the Jungle at the start of November and we get an exclusive writer’s commentary for the debut issue from New York Times best seller, Stephen Mooney who talks through his thought process behind the first issue…
[+++ WARNING: Potential Spoilers! Buy and read the book, then come back here for the commentary! +++]
Hi everyone – cheers for joining me on this creative stroll through the debut issue of our bombastic new Sheena series!
I initially received the invitation from Dynamite to pitch a brand new Sheena series whilst I was still knee-deep in the initial issues of the Bettie Page series we just had wrap up, so I was already mired in all things female-led pulp and Dynamite. Sheena struck me as a very cool opportunity to do something entirely different from Bettie, whilst retaining several of the flavors that Jethro Morales and I had established on that book.
It was a rather intimidating assignment too – some serious industry heavyweights (Will Eisner!) having tread this very ground before us. All told though, it was too cool a gig to turn down and I dug in.
Join me now as I take ye through my thought processes!
The issue opens in a plush hotel room in Val Verde City. Right off the bat, I wanted to transpose Sheena from her familiar jungle surroundings to a place far more threatening and intimidating to her – civilization. Sheena is unsure as to where she finds herself and how she got there, but she definitely isn’t pleased.
She can remember being at home in the Val Verde jungle, playing with her animal friends, but everything from that point on is a painful blank.
Sheena takes her frustrations out on the hotel room, before being confronted by her long-time adversary, the mercenary Ransome. The merc encourages Sheena to don the clothes provided and to join him on an excursion.
Given little choice, Sheena reluctantly plays along in order to get her bearings and decide a course of action. The lady isn’t best pleased and that provides Ransome no end of amusement.
Sheena emerges from her gilded prison clad in more colloquial garb. A sleek, futuristic limo awaits – we wanted to show that Val Verde is super-developed as far as technology goes, while still existing in our current timeline.
Ransome and Sheena are delivered to the headquarters of the mighty Cardwell Industries, a company very familiar to longtime Sheena readers. Inside, however, Sheena is granted an audience with Cardwell’s second, Laura Jeffries, as opposed to the man himself.
Sheena has had dealings with this woman before and makes her displeasure clear. She demands that Jeffries reveal the location of her missing animal friends, before rearranging Jeffries’ office a tad.
After calming down a little, Sheena acquiesces and observes a short film that Jeffries shows her. The film displays a brand new, ultra high-tech project from Cardwell Industries – The BioDome. An entirely self-contained artificial environment for the most endangered species of the world. A Theme MegaPark of sorts; Jeffries plans to charge wealthy tourists top-dollar to trek through the park on Safari and observe to only remaining living examples of these species. Win-win, she reckons. The animals survive and perhaps even flourish, and Cardwell lines its pockets.
Sheena’s initial reaction is mixed, as while she can see the benefit in such a park, she is still furious at being apprehended against her will. And where the hell are her friends?
Jeffries reveals that Sheena’s animal companions are indeed in the park, with the other species. The problem is, they’re in grave danger. Something or someone is killing the tourists who enter the park as well as several of the animals. Cardwell security has no idea what is happening in there, as the omnipresent surveillance simply isn’t registering anything actionable.
They need the world’s foremost jungle expert. They need Sheena.
Realizing that she has no choice but to accept Jeffries’ terms for the time being, Sheena agrees to be air-dropped into the huge BioDome. Once inside, she instantly feels far more comfortable and at home, despite the somewhat artificial aura of the place.
Ransome is to act as Sheena’s contact in the security wing of the Cardwell building and will liaise with her throughout.
Sheena immediately begins to make her way to the site of the first major incident, where contact was lost with a large group of park patrons. At the edge of the site, she notices a strange artifact, constructed of twigs and mud. Ransome has his people get on analytics.
Inside the site itself, nothing is alive. Bodies, vehicles, equipment; all decimated. What the hell could do this?
Sheena discovers a second strange symbol, entirely different from the first. Curiouser and curiouser.
Suddenly, a major disturbance nearby. Sheena takes to the treetops, as a herd of elephants tramples the investigation site beneath them. So much for Ransome’s evidence…
Sheena resolves to head for the next documented attack site, making her way swiftly through the undergrowth. As she travels, she comes across yet another strange, somewhat-arcane looking symbol, this one carved into the trunk of a tree. Sheena’s curiosity is most definitely piqued by this point and she’s becoming more and more invested in solving this mystery.
As she arrives at the second site, Sheena encounters another horrific scene. Bodies torn limb from limb and strewn across a wide space. Something possessing massive strength must have been responsible. Sheena is puzzled further when she discovers weaponry onsite. Why would tourists need to be armed?
Ransome explains to Sheena that a park security detail accompanied each safari party as standard procedure, though these men and women were obviously woefully equipped to deal with whatever they encountered here.
As Sheena continues to document the second site, it becomes clear that she is being observed by something as-yet unseen. Sheena is as yet unaware of her watcher and has her hands very full with the wandering pack of wolves that just surrounded her! Why would there be wolves in this part of the park, which simulates a tropical environment?
Sheena is reluctant to do harm to these animals, as she senses that they’re just protecting something. She’s forced into action though, as the animals have no such compunctions.
The wolves suddenly turn and flee without warning, leaving Sheena thoroughly perplexed. What were they spooked by? She uncovers what the wolves were fighting to protect – more dead tourists’ bodies. Why would they abandon such a prize?
Finally we discover what caused the wolves to flee and what has been watching Sheena and slaughtering the denizens of the park, as a huge, unearthly Jaguar confronts the Jungle Queen! This is the biggest jungle cat Sheena has ever seen and it’s got one thing on its mind – KILL SHEENA!
Sheena Queen of the Jungle #1 is out now from Dynamite Comics