LEOPARD GIRLMedium: Comic books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1954
Creators: Don Rico (writer) and Al Hartley (artist)
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To the average comic book fanboy, who often doesn't even notice comics that aren't about superheroes, comics of the 1950s, between the major superhero trends of the 1940s and the '60s, are of little interest — despite the super guys' continually renewed presence, from Captain Comet to Nature Boy. Here's one from Marvel itself, meeting most requirements (not just a western hero with a mask and a secret identity, like The Black Rider) who flourished (at least to the extent that she flourished at all) after Namora, The Blonde Phantom and their other
late-blooming '40s heroes — and even the '50s revival of the '40s' "Big Three", Cap, Subbie and the Torch — had all bit the dust; but long before Fantastic Four #1 signaled the genre's return at the company.
A surface description placed Leopard Girl in the genre founded by Fiction House's Sheena, but she owed more to the same company's Red Panther — a Tarzan-style tree swinger, but one with a skin-tight costume that made him more of a superhero. Leopard Girl (no relation to Tiger Girl, Jaguar Man, The Black Panther or any other hero named after a jungle cat) was a tree swinger who wore a full-body cat suit just like Miss Fury's form-fitting panther pelt, but with a different fur motif and no tail.
She even maintained a secret identity. She was Gwen (last name not mentioned), a typist in the middle of the jungle, working for scientist and philosopher Hans Kreitzer (who apparently didn't have a doctorate, at least in some stories), who chose to live there because he couldn't concentrate on his work in the middle of civilization. Making all the story elements dovetail into a perfect circle, he was also there to study local folklore, and one of the legends he hoped to find out about was Leopard Girl, who was in the habit of swooping in out of nowhere and righting wrongs.
She also had a minor super power. By emitting the "Cry of the Leopard", she could summon a pack of real leopards, which would make short work of the bad guys but never seemed hungry for Gwen herself. Pay no attention to the fact that leopards don't travel in packs. She also had ties with the late Giboga, high priest of the local natives before his death, which didn't affect his relationship with her.
Leopard Girl was first seen in Jungle Action #1 (October, 1954), which she shared with three other jungle heroes — Lo-Zar (similar to Ka-Zar but coming between his two comic book incarnations); the generically-named Jungle Boy (similar to Wambi, age-wise, but without as much personality); and Man-oo the Mighty, a gorilla. The story was written by Don Rico (Lorna the Jungle Girl, The Sorceress of Zoom) and drawn by Al Hartley (Barney Bear, Della Vision). Rico stayed with her throughout her run. Hartley was replaced by Vince Colletta in Jungle Action #4.
Jungle Action ended with its 6th issue (August, 1955), and Leopard Girl ended with it. She hasn't been seen since.