Zanya was the product of a brief affair between Zartan and a woman from Chicago. The affair ended before Zartan even knew Zanya's mother was pregnant. Zanya grew up never knowing her father. Zanya lived with her mother in an apartment building in a rough neighborhood in Chicago. By the age of nine, she was acting out violently in school, due in no small part to living with an angry, bitter mother, and her mother's abusive boyfriend. It was also at this age that she first heard the name "Zartan." One night she put her mother's bed on fire, and later her mother found the her still playing with the matches. Her mother was about to beat the defiant girl, but she grabbed her mother's wrist and stopped her. A burning match fell to the ground and hours later, the building was ablaze. Zanya got out via the fire escape, but her mother and her mother's boyfriend died in the fire.
At the age of fourteen, Zanya started traveling with an older boy named Keven Shulte, who made money by taking bets on staged fights between Zanya and any takers. She could beat up men much older and bigger than her. Kevin dreamed of joining the Dreadnoks, which had become a powerful, national criminal organization, and he hoped he'd have amassed enough money to do so between his criminal activites and Zanya's fight money. Zanya kept her own goal to her self. She wanted to confront her absent father. When they both made it to a Dreadnok gathering in the Everglades, Zanya's fighting impressed the Dreadnoks who were there, including some of the higher ranking ones like Monkeywrench, Zanzibar and Gnawgahyde. Kevin's stories of his criminal career impressed them much less.
Their first test to gain membership was taking part in an attack on a group of gang members in Miami, who had been selling weapons on the Dreadnoks' turf. During the fight that followed, Zanya did most of the work while Kevin took most of the credit. Afterwards, they came face to face with Zartan, at a Dreadnok party. Zanya shocked everyone by picking a fight with him. He eventually held her down and stopped her, but was highly impressed by the girl's spirit. She then told him, "You should be. Remember Chicago? I'm your daughter." Zartan walked away, refusing to believe her. Zarana then told her she had better think twice if she expected to pull a con on them. But Zartan later confided to his sister that he remembered a woman in Chicago fourteen years ago that Zanya reminded him of her. After looking into her claims about her mother's death, Zartan concluded that she was really his daughter. He gave her the choice of leaving and moving on with her life, or staying with him and the Dreadnoks, as long as she followed his rules. She chose to stay, and joined Zarana and Kevin in a mission to a guarded building supposedly filled with advance vehicle prototypes in which to steal. When Kevin told her to take the opportunity to kill Zarana, she agreed, but then beat Kevin to a pulp instead, and told him to leave and never come back. Zarana then told her she passed, and the lights came up, revealing the other Dreadnoks. They congratulated her on her membership, as her father looked on proudly.
After a few years passed, Zartan seemed intent on passing leadership of the Dreadnoks onto Zanya, much to the dismay of Zarana, who had always been seen as Zartan's successor. When Cobra Commander reemerged after an absence of several years, he contacted his former lieutenants, hatching a new plan for world domination. He held a meeting at Zartan's Dreadnok compound in the Everglades, hoping to add the growing number of Dreadnoks to Cobra's ranks. But not long after Destro would arrived, and he forcefully took control of Cobra. Zartan wasn't thrilled by the idea of following Destro, but the weapons supplier claimed that he knew how to cure Zartan's condition, and persuaded him to work for him. The first battle between Cobra and the reinstated G.I. Joe team occurred in the swamps outside of the Dreadnok compound. Destro revealed his plan to take over the world using nano-mites, microscopic machines, to infect not only people, but computer systems around the world, which would bring the planet's technology to a standstill. He revealed that Zartan was infected with the nano-mites. Eventually, the Joes defeated Cobra after a battle in Washington. Zartan, Zanya and many of the Dreadnoks escaped the clutches of the Joes. It was later revealed that "Destro" had in fact been Destro's son, Alexander.
After the end of the nano-mite threat, Cobra Commander returned to take control of Cobra. He threatened the lives of his old high command to ensure their loyalty, and made Zartan believe that a brainwashed Storm Shadow would carry out his long-forgotten revenge against Zartan. The Dreadnoks continued to work for Cobra, and Zartan was surprised to learn that his previous nano-mite infection had cured his skin condition. Zanya then joined her father and her Aunt Zarana at the Dreadnok chapter in Chicago, where Dr. Mindbender was working on an advanced Battle Android Trooper. When the B.A.T. went berserk and escaped, the Dreadnoks and the Joes had to work together to stop the rampaging android. Some time later, Cobra Commander was captured by the forces of a revived Serpentor and was being held on Cobra Island. Zarana joined the Dreadnoks, Cobra and G.I. Joe on an assault on Cobra Island. Some time later, Zartan switched places with Cobra Commander, and was arrested and held in a government facility for interrogation. Hidden behind the Commander's helmet, which was rigged to explode if tampered with, Zartan fooled the government agents and Joes stationed there. Zanya came to her father's aid by disguising herself as a psychiatrist named Dr. Edmonds. Eventually, the Dreadnoks rescued Zartan and he and Cobra Commander reclaimed their true identities. After the Commander revealed plans to unleash the weapon known as the Tempest, Zartan and the Dreadnoks left Cobra's employ once again. Zanya and the others remained in the Everglades while the Joes defeated the Commander's plans and dealt with a new threat known as the Red Shadows.
In the wake of their defeat at the hands of the Joes and the attack by the Red Shadows, Cobra was again scattered across the globe. Cobra Commander's whereabouts were once again unknown. Zanya later encountered the Joes, Duke and General Philip Rey when the pair came to the Everglades searching for answers about Rey's past. After the Joes got the information they needed from Zandar, they left the swamps. Zartan, Zanya and the Dreadnoks have since had no contact with G.I. Joe or Cobra.