Bara. Bara was created by J. Nemo and appeared in the Dutch pulp Bara. De Spion van den Negus #1-12 (1935-1936). Bara is an female Ethiopian who spies for Emperor Haile Selassie and is active fighting for Ethiopia against Italy during Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1935. Bara appears in stories with titles like “The Legions of Death,” “The Battalion of Lepers,” and “The Black Amazons.”
Now, I could write, here, about the Western pulp writers’ fascination with Ethiopia, one of the few African nations not to suffer through colonization, and how that resulted in an unusual number of pulp stories featuring Ethiopian heroes, especially fighting against the Italians, and how these heroes were portrayed in as non-stereotypical a manner as the (usually white) authors could manage. But I’ll get to them later–especially the Ethiopian heroes of George Schuyler, one of the few pulp writers known to be a person of color.
I could write, here, about the real-life pulp adventures of Herbert Julian, the “Black Eagle,” and his brief involvement with Selassie, and how one of the great small-scale what-ifs of history is what-if Julian could have swallowed his ego long enough to actually train Selassie’s pilots, what the Ethiopian air force might have been. (Julian’s a fascinating character, a larger-than-life scoundrel who is waiting–waiting, I say!–to have a film made about him–I wrote a bit about Julian here).
Instead, I’ll simply say: Bara! An Ethiopian woman spy, fighting during the pulp era against the Italian hordes! Appearing in stories with titles like “The Black Amazons!” From what I’ve been able to find out about the Bara stories, she is portrayed in a non-stereotypical manner, as a competent patriot and spy who happens to be an Ethiopian woman rather than someone who is defined first as Ethiopian (or female) and then as a spy.
Screw James Bond, give me a movie about Bara! (Look at that image above, and the long knife she’s carrying–Bara means business!)