Saturday, June 3, 2017

SHANNA, THE SHE-CAT (The New Avengers #41, 2008)

From Tarzan and Jane to Ki-Gor and Helene, and from Zor and Dela to Kalar and Pamela, the several jungle couples from the pulp and comics traditions are clear iterations of the biblical Genesis story of Adam and Eve and the loss of earthly paradise. Or, more precisely, a record of the effort to regain such a paradise. To build it in some lost corner of the world and to protect it from all foreign threats that might bring about a new fall. Sure, it has more than a passing resemblance to the luddite worldview, but it seems somehow deeply enticing, as if touching something deep in the core of our humanity. It speaks to us about innocence. The irretrievable loss of primal innocence.

It is thus telling that such a loss is signified by the consciousness of one’s own nudity. The death of innocence comes with a certain biased perception of nakedness and the body as being somehow wrong. The fall from innocence brings with it the death of freedom, as one needs to be shackled to common mores, subject to the diktat of the several thought polices that segue one after the other throughout time. Oh, but deep in the jungle, the thought police is at a disadvantage. It needs the force of numbers of the mindless masses. There, under the shadows of the tallest canopies, amidst the carnivorous id-beasts and threatened by the purest instinctual sexuality, it succumbs. To regain paradise, one must regain freedom – freedom of being.

Innocence is free from convention, free from moral codes, free from political diktat. Shanna in the above panel is innocence personified. She exposes her buttocks to us, the readers, indifferent to our voyeuristic appetites. Brainless people would call it a fuck-me-pose. Well, fuck them, she seems to say. Shanna is undoubtedly gorgeous, the pose erotic, the compositional identification with saberteeth Zabu, savagely sexual. But everything about her speaks of innocence and freedom. She can’t avoid our eyes, I’m sure she knows that, but she is free from such considerations. Her beauty is her own. Her pose is that of a curious child, intent on a fairytale, filled with wonder-lust, as if yet unaware of the effect of her semi-nudity over any intruder, be it Spider-man or the reader. Shanna and Ka-Zar belong there, in paradise. Spider-man is the interloper, covered from head to toe as if to isolate himself from paradise. But his costume is torn here and there, as if bespeaking the fight against nature… or simply the first steps into embracing it, his body slowly emerging from the civilization’s chrysalis as a new being.

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