The only daughter of a wealthy diamond miner, Shanna grew up in the Zaire jungles. At age six, Shanna witnessed her father’s accidental fatal shooting of her mother, starting a lifelong loathing of firearms. Traumatized, she moved to America to live with relatives, studying to become a veterinarian; after graduation she worked for the New York Central Park Zoo. The death of a leopard she had raised led Shanna to quit, taking its cubs, Ina and Biri, to raise them in the African Dahomey Reserve, which she protected from poachers and others as “Shanna the She-Devil”.
When her father was kidnapped by the Mandrill, Shanna searched for him, but was kidnapped by the wizard Malgato and taken to the Savage Land. She was assisted against Malgato by Ka-Zar, enabling her to resume her search. In Africa Shanna learned that the Mandrill had killed her father; she journeyed to America, aiding Daredevil and the Black Widow in thwarting the Mandrill’s attempted U.S. takeover. After returning to Africa, her panthers were slain by the Cult of Kali priest Raga-Shah; she tracked and eventually fed Raga-Shah to her python Ananta.
Shanna returned to the Savage Land and became Ka-Zar's lover. They discovered their lost world was only part of a larger realm, Pangea, filled with wondrous races. The couple's relationship was tempestuous: Shanna married a widower, Mele of the Botor, who died in a hunting accident while with Ka-Zar; Shanna was also targeted by the demonic Belasco, who felt she resembled his lost love Beatrice. When Ka-Zar was seemingly killed while they were in New York, a distraught Shanna rampaged, was institutionalized, and nearly romanced Peter Parker. Shanna was rescued by a revived Ka-Zar, aided by Spider-Man, and the two returned to Antarctica, where they were married despite interference from Belasco and others. They employed the native warrior woman Zhira as nanny and protector of their son, Matthew. They survived the temporary destruction of the Savage Land by Terminus and its later re-creation by the High Evolutionary and Garokk. Shanna briefly attained a mystical bond to the spirit of Africa, foiling Sir Guy Cross-Wallace who slaughtered and consumed wildlife, seeking the bond himself to rule the continent. Shanna was also briefly given power over the natural world by the High Evolutionary. Together, Ka-Zar and Shanna fight to preserve the Savage Land from external threats and from pollution by technology.