• Steven Heller

The Italian Tarzan Was a Voman

Pantera Bionda was an Italian comics series launched in 1948, featuring Ms. Bionda (“Blonde Panther”), a jungle girl with a sisterly resemblance to Sheena of the Jungle. She was created by writer Gian Giacomo Dalmasso and artist Ingam (Enzo Magni). The series was published by Giurma, first biweekly and then weekly.

The artists including Mario Cubbino were responsible for the semi-nude body of Pantera, while others drew the face, backgrounds and other necessary features. Pantera was a blonde Western girl raised by a Chinese woman, and the series was set in the forests of Borneo and Sunda Islands after the end of World War II. She fights criminals and the last gruesome Japanese Army holdouts who had not surrendered to the Allies.

Pantera got along famously with jungle critters but was a proto-feminist woman, and her attire consisting of bikinis and perizomas caused increasing pressure for censure from the conservative Italian establishment and Catholic church. The success of the series, which at its apex sold up to 100,000 copies per week, started to decrease proportionally to the increasingly longer dresses of the character. The series ended with #108 in June 1950.

You have to ask, however, whether this jungle was a metaphor for the urban, sexist, hypocritical jungle, which certainly Pantera would have handled bravely. She was Tarzan, not Jane.

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