Marvel Fanfare #56-59 (Shanna)
Issue(s): Marvel Fanfare #56, Marvel Fanfare #57, Marvel Fanfare #58, Marvel Fanfare #59 (Shanna the She-Devil story only)
In Gerber's defense (but not in defense of cover artist Joe Chiodo or Editor Al Milgrom), the plot (at a minimum) for this story was written before Jean Grey became Dark Phoenix, before the Invisible Woman became Malice at the hands of the Psycho-Man, before Scarlet Witch became crazy at the hands of John Byrne. The Rampaging Hulk story was published in 1978. Steve Gerber left Marvel soon after that, but not before plotting this story. Carmine Infantino penciled the first part in 1978 as well. The inking for the first part of this (#56) was by Bret Blevins, and the second and third part of the story are penciled and inked by Blevins. This would have happened years after 1978, but before Blevins fully developed the style that he became known for on Cloak & Dagger and, especially, New Mutants. For issue #57, Blevins is credited as A. Novice because Blevins was actually embarrassed by his early work here. Issue #58 might have been completed closer to publication date - the Editori-Al shows Milgrom pulling teeth to get the pages - but based on the style the bulk of it was probably done at the same time as issue #57. Then issue #58 is by Tony DeZuniga, which brings things full circle; DeZuniga did the art on the Rampaging Hulk story.
But Gerber's original plot never made it to the fourth part of this story. By happy coincidence, however, Gerber was back with Marvel in 1991, so he wrote a new plot for the final part, with no recollection of how he originally intended to end the story. It seems that Gerber even wrote scripts for the first three parts (per a quote on Shanna's Wikipedia page).
The story begins with Shanna in a disassociative state. She's running on the beach, and she bumps into an egotistical bodybuilder whose name can only be Dirk Mantooth.
Dirk chases after Shanna and attacks her. Shanna beats the crap out of him and walks away without even being aware of what she's done. She snaps out of her state when two young women, impressed with her handling of Dirk, approach her.
They ask if they can visit her sometime, and she agrees.
When Shanna gets home she finds that she's been invited to a private meeting at an exclusive hotel by a group called the Pride.
Before going to that meeting, though, she first snuggles with her serpent, Ananta...
...and then visits Dr. Betz.
Then she goes to the meeting, and finds that in addition to herself, a few Hollywood figures have been invited. There is Martin Friend, a comedy writer. Slam Sanders, an actor with an interest in politics. And Kinsey Gardner, an exec in charge of television programming.
But we've yet to meet the hosts. This is all happening in California, and if you're thinking "The Pride" and the West Coast, you may have in mind the parents of the Runaways. But that's not these guys. Well, unless they are wearing masks.
Shanna's inclusion with three Hollywood types is never adequately explained, and unlike the others she immediately rebels when the Pride tells them that they're going to grant them their desires in return for murdering people.
Shanna is subdued by a mental blast, but, remembering the words of her psychiatrist, she is able to snap out of it and renew the fight. However, when she touches the grey lion guy, she's transported to the mental plane.
So embarrassed by the fact that she forgot to put on pants, she passes out. She's found by the hotel staff, writhing on the floor, and Dr. Betz is summoned. But when Shanna recovers, she doesn't want to stick around.
We are now into the Blevins art. Blevins' later work always makes me need a cup of chamomile tea after i'm done looking at an issue. With this story, i see the elements that i like about Blevins, but without the frantic business. So i actually like this better.
Despite the fact that she's "officially an escaped mental patient", she goes home, and the two ladies that she met at the beach show up.
Their relevance to this story is pretty minimal, but it's noteworthy to see some of early Blevins' characteristics as well as the amount of cheesecake in this story even when Shanna isn't in her leopard bikini.
The pattern for the remainder of the story is to follow each of the Hollywood dupes as they perform murders for the Pride while Shanna tries to track them down.
Shanna arrives too late to stop the first murder...
...but then at the end it turns out the victim is not dead after all.
And that pattern repeats in the next issue, after some panels of Shanna snake wrestling...
...and the beach ladies sitting around in bikinis.
In the second case, the victim is a Larry Flynt analog, and instead of killing him directly, Slam Sanders manipulates someone whose sister starred in a porno to assassinate him.
What's happening is that the spirits of the Pride are taking over the bodies of the people that have been murdered. When Shanna tries to fight them, she's brought back to the mental plane, and plagued with doubts about all the people in her life that have been killed (we are now into the DeZuniga art and the plot that was written in 1991).
Of course all people in the real world see is Shanna attacking a regular person. So she is taken to the hospital. While she's still being attacked mentally, Dr. Betz declares that Shanna's test results are normal, i.e., she's not crazy.
And to confirm that, Dr. Betz also starts seeing visions.
And that's really all we need to know: that Shanna is not crazy. The specifics of the mystic-babble origin of the Pride isn't really important, especially since whatever Gerber had in mind for the start of this story, it wasn't what he ended with. Suffice it to say that everyone that needs to be stabbed gets stabbed, and Shanna being a "pragmatist, not a dreamer" makes the difference.
But that doesn't mean that Shanna isn't still going to tangle herself up in snakes when the mood strikes her.
Doing a story about PSTD is great, and it's probably something super-characters should be dealing with a lot. But the problem is that this stuff doesn't go away. Shanna's sanity will be brought up in the Ka-Zar the Savage series, for example. And this story doesn't so much examine or resolve Shanna's PSTD as it does give her something to punch while it's being worked out in the background. And it's hard to take the psychological aspects of a story seriously while we're simultaneously being asked to oogle the main character.
All that said, as far as Marvel Fanfare's mission goes, rescuing this from the file cabinet was a more worthy task than most issues. It is nice to see the trauma in Shanna's life not being (entirely) glossed over, and it's nice to see early Bret Blevins art, and it's cool that Gerber was around to finish a story he started 13 years earlier.
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 51,338. Single issue closest to filing date = 38,852.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: This takes place after Rampaging Hulk #9, which is after Shanna's appearances in Steve Gerber's Daredevil and before Kazar the Savage #1. There's a big gap between those appearances; i am placing this at publication date for the Rampaging Hulk story, which is Jun 78. The back-up stories in these issues are in separate entries: Toys & Captain Marvel, Vision & Scarlet Witch, and Hellcat & Hellstorm.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
In this arc, Shanna makes Emma Frost and Psylocke look like conservative dressers.
Posted by: Michael | August 11, 2015 8:59 PM
If Gerber ever intended to address anything in the Rampaging Hulk story, he probably would have done it in the fourth issue, and it was probably forgotten when Gerber wrote it in 1991. I didn't see anything addressing the Raga Shah story.
I think Shanna would probably draw a distinction between killing someone that she was fighting (and who was responsible for the death of Biri and Ina), and seeking out an innocent to kill for the Pride.
Posted by: fnord12 | August 12, 2015 8:11 AM
Yeah, but Shanna seemed crazy when she was killing Raga Shah. And if the Pride weren't responsible for that, then that raises the question of whether Shanna really is crazy. Which gets back to your point that the net effect of this story is to make Shanna look crazy.
Posted by: Michael | August 12, 2015 10:54 PM
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