In January of 1935 the first DC comic book was released – New Fun #1.
It featured the first female title character of DC Comics – Sandra of the Secret Service.
The one-page more or less monthly comic strip was created by Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson and Charles Flanders. Others continued the series until 1938, after which Sandra McLane disappeared from popular culture forever.
“Sondra of the Secret Service and The Cuban Affair,” story by Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson and art by Lee Marrs is currently appearing as a serial in David Lloyd’s online magazine Aces Weekly. David Lloyd, artist for V for Vendetta is carrying on the Major’s legacy with his innovative online publishing magazine. Lee and I are pleased to be included.
Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson, granddaughter of The Major, and Lee Marrs, renowned comic artist, have joined forces to return Sandra (now Sondra) to the secret service.
Sandra in the process became Sondra since Lee says that is the way I pronounce her name.
Volume 56 of Aces Weekly contains the new story.
Friends, In Aces Weekly this volume we’re proud to present a fab resurrection of a character from the earliest days of US comics publishing! In 1935, the great innovator and all-round cool guy, Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, took it into his head to produce New Fun No 1 … In that first issue of New Fun was Sandra of the Secret Service, and our two new Aces, Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson – the Major’s granddaughter – and the terrific, Lee Marrs, have celebrated her in a rebirth they’ve renamed as Sondra of the Secret Service! She’s the same smart operator she was in her origin, and as prone to misfortune, but this time she’s rendered in a mix of traditional art style and totally modern technique that braves the waves of the possibilities of the new in the same exact way that the comic she originally appeared in did.
Aces Weekly: Who suggested, and why, the radical blend of photo and line – a non-traditional approach – to bring her back? And why the new name? A copyright threat or just a need for freshness?
Lee: I developed the style. Nicky liked it. And Nicky consistently pronounced “Sandra” as “Sondra”, so I suggested we change the name. It sounded classier and kept the same alliteration.
Nicky: The radical approach is all Lee. At first I wasn’t sure about it, but as we continued, I realized how cinematic it is, how it creates a three-dimensional quality. The characters practically move through the frames. It was a brilliant idea and I think it works especially well in the online format.
As for Sandra/Sondra, there’s no copyright issue to my knowledge, and I’ve been careful about anything legal with DC. There isn’t exactly a great background, there.
Aces Weekly: Lee, tell us the process in your art for Sandra. Was it easier than a traditional art process for you, or was it worth the effort to make change for the sake of the result?
Lee: I knew a fully-realistic style could take forever to draw from the years I assisted Tex Blaisdell on Prince Valiant and the sci-fi work I’d done on Mike Friedrich’s Star*Reach. So to begin with, I was trying to develop some way to convey the richness of ‘30s movies without going crazy.
Down the Tubes features an interview with Nicky and Lee about Sondra.