Saturday, April 10, 2010

Classic Character Profile: Firehair

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Perhaps the first significant comic book character from Fiction House Magazines was Sheena, Queen of the Jungle (depending on how one defines "significant character") who pioneered a whole genre of female versions of Tarzan. Fiction House also has a credible claim of having published the first female superhero (depending on how one defines "superhero"), Fantomah. In fact, over the years, Fiction House was an industry leader in the female aspects of heroism — not because of any precocious 1940s devotion to the cause of feminism, but simply to attract more of the adolescent male readers who made up such a large portion of their customer base. Firehair, a woman who adopted the culture of the Dakota Indians, was their most popular western hero.

At first, "Firehair" was the only real name the character had. She was introduced in Fiction House's Rangers Comics #21 (February, 1945), where she replaced Commando Ranger, a hero of the war that was just then winding down. There, she was depicted as the daughter of a wealthy Boston businessman traveling through the town of Plainsville (Texas?) under the assumed name "J.B. Smith". He addressed the woman later known as "Firehair" only by the pet name "Princess" (no relation). Readers never found out why he was trying to build a new life in a new land. Later in that issue, he was killed by criminals posing as Indians, who left the daughter for dead. But she was alive, tho she'd lost all memory. She was found and nursed back to health by Little Ax, son of Tehama, the local chief.

Over the next couple of issues, she adjusted to her new life, learning the skills she needed to be a productive — in fact, exemplary part of the tribe, outdoing many male members who had been there since birth. In the second story, she acquired her horse, Devil-Eye. In #24 (August, 1945) she recovered her memory — her name was Lynn Cabot, a fact that was mentioned now and then in the series. She traveled to Boston to claim her inheritance, but returned to the tribe and her heroic career as soon as the errand was accomplished.

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