We continue our series featuring the Obscure Marvel Women of the Original Marvel Universe with an African queen who proved herself to be vicious, avaricious, and pernicious while showing off Jack Kirby’s flair for avant-garde fashion design.
Princess Zanda was the only child of the Emir of Narobia and was born during World War II. She was raised amidst opulence and indulgence, as her small African nation had grown rich from exploiting its petroleum and diamond deposits. Her father was both shrewd and ruthless, and Zanda inherited these qualities, channeling them into her passion for collecting priceless and mysterious artifacts. Her lust for acquisition was so insatiable that in the early 1960s she conspired to have her ailing father removed from power so she could devote all her nation’s resources to building her collection. Zanda feared that her country’s Muslim population would not accept her atheistic and hedonistic reign, so she hired an army of foreign mercenaries to enforce her will. Zanda understood the value of fear in maintaining absolute power, and she soon brought her subjects under her heel.
Zanda became involved with a cabal of wealthy collectors who collaborated only so long as it served their individual interests. The five men called themselves Abner Little, Alfred Queely, Count Zorba, Colonel Pigman, and Silas Mourner. Though they found Zanda’s imperious attitude and unflagging arrogance to be grating, they agreed that Narobia was perfect as a haven from international authorities and as a launching pad for their campaigns of plunder, thus they tolerated her. Zanda, however, was ready to betray any and all of them to further her own ends.
In the spring of 1969, Zanda learned that Alfred Queely had discovered the legendary Brass Frog, an ancient artifact believed to possess the power of time-travel. She sent a squad of mercenaries to take it from him, but Abner Little got there first. With more of her men, Zanda quickly headed to Little’s secret headquarters in Mongolia and was waiting for him when he arrived. She was surprised to find that Little had recruited the help of T’Challa, king of Wakanda, better known throughout the world as the Black Panther.
During the ensuing scuffle, the Brass Frog was inadvertently activated, and it caused a strange creature to materialize from the distant future. The creature’s psionic powers were so overwhelming that Zanda’s mercenaries fled in terror. However, T’Challa managed to knock the creature out, and then agreed to cooperate with Zanda and Little to retrieve the Brass Frog’s twin from King Solomon’s tomb in order to send the dangerous creature back to the future. The trio took one of Little’s advanced aircraft and flew across the Sahara Desert to the Atlas Mountains, where the tomb was located.
Upon arrival, the creature from the future revived and menaced Zanda, T’Challa, and Little as they frantically searched for the hidden burial chamber. With the inadvertent help of the creature’s psionic disintegrator beam, the trio soon found the cache of treasure and, locating the second Brass Frog, was able to send the creature home before it could destroy them. Zanda was nearly overwhelmed with greed when faced with King Solomon’s immense storehouse of unique objects, and she struggled with T’Challa to gain possession of the Brass Frogs. He threw them across the chamber and they exploded on impact, forcing the three fortune hunters to flee before the crypt collapsed on top of them.
After a harrowing escape from the mountain, Zanda, T’Challa, and Little were picked up by Zanda’s men and flown to Narobia in a jet-copter. Back at her palace, Zanda learned that one of her mercenary squads had captured a samurai in a remote region of the Himalayas, confirming legends of a band of ronin who had fled Japan hundreds of years ago and discovered the Fountain of Youth. She immediately summoned Count Zorba, Colonel Pigman, and Silas Mourner, and they agreed to recruit the Black Panther to find the lost samurai city and seize the fabled waters of immortality for them. When T’Challa rejected her appeals and resisted her attempt to seduce him, Zanda resorted to blackmail, threatening to drop a nuclear bomb on Wakanda unless he complied. Thus, the Black Panther spent the next several weeks as an unwilling guest in Zanda’s palace as preparations were made for his expedition to the Himalayas. During this time, Zanda tried repeatedly to seduce T’Challa, but he was unmoved by her feigned charms.
Finally, T’Challa set off on his mission, accompanied by Abner Little. However, they returned about a day or so later, claiming to have been unable to overcome the samurai warriors. Zanda was furious, believing T’Challa was merely trying to keep the secret of immortality for himself. She threatened to launch the nuclear missile, but T’Challa called her bluff, reminding her that the nations of the world would never allow her to remain in power if she launched a nuclear first strike against a peaceful neighbor. She argued with her co-conspirators until Little confirmed her suspicions by revealing he had smuggled a vial of the water out in his pocket. The collectors instantly pounced on Little to wrest the vial from him, but he managed to toss it to T’Challa. They immediately attacked him as well, with Zanda vowing to kill him unless he surrendered the vial to her. However, the Black Panther easily overpowered his four assailants, fought his way to one of Zanda’s jet-copters, and escaped back to Wakanda. The vial of water was shattered in the melee, and the secret of immortality was lost.
Thoroughly disgusted with each other, the collectors went their separate ways, and Zanda was left to pursue her acquisitive schemes on her own. She spent vast sums of money attempting to rediscover King Solomon’s tomb, but never succeeded.
First Appearance: Black Panther #1
Final Appearance: Black Panther #7