Showcase #66, featuring B’wana Beast (DC, Feb. 1967)
“The Birth of B’wana Beast”
Written by Bob Haney? Pencils by Mike Sekowsky. Inks by George Roussos. Cover by Sekowsky and Joe Giella. Edited by George Kashdan.
The setting is a new country in East Africa. The Zambesi tribe are holding a celebration. They have new copper mines and the first loads of ore are about to be trucked to the coast. The ore is the tribe’s hope for a better future.
Rupert Kenboya has returned to the village to escort the ore by helicopter. He is the National Police Commissioner and the son of the tribe’s chief, Kilo. He is modern-minded, and sees the old ways as superstitious. His father considers his visit a good omen. Getting the trucks to the coast will not be easy.
The witch doctor, Mondoko, casts bones to determine if the trucks will reach the coast. He predicts two giant beasts will fight after they pass Zambesi Falls and there will be danger. Rupert kicks dirt over the bones and sets the convoy going. His father taps him with his golden spear for good luck.
Some miles ahead Mike Maxwell, a white(1) game warden, sights something that spurs him to action. (We’re supposed to think it’s the convoy.) He gets in his helicopter and races to Mt Kilimanjaro. A shaggy gorilla(2) on the peak spots him and joins him as he lands in the crater, running down a flight of steps. (Outside the crater is depicted as snowy but inside the crater is not.)
Mike calls the gorilla Djuba. At his command it gives him a goblet from which he drinks a liquid that makes him bigger and stronger. Then it places a helmet on his head. When he has completed his change to B’wana Beast he utters a cry, “ki-ki-kuuuuuueeeee!” Then, bidding Djuba farewell, he races off “with a strength and speed only the jungle animals themselves possess”. From the splash page we know that he’s both an outlaw and a hero.
As the convoy reaches Zambesi Falls(3) someone flashes an SOS from the top of the falls. The helicopter leaves the convoy to investigate. As the trucks round a bend in the trail B’wana Beast shows himself and utters his cry. An elephant appears and blocks the road with a tree. Then the convoy is charged from other directions by a buffalo and B’wana Beast riding a rhinoceros. They overturn one of the trucks and the Zambesi flee. (The Zambesi are armed and shoot at them, and it makes no sense at all that B’wana Beast and his animals don’t all get shot.)
At B’wana Beast’s direction the elephant, Tembo,(4) rips off the cargo hold from the toppled truck, places it on its own back, and reloads it. (B’wana Beast says they have little time, but I think that would take forever.) Then they head off into the jungle.
Meanwhile, the helicopter has reached the falls. Whoever sent the S.O.S. has gone. Rupert realises it was a phoney and directs the pilot to hurry back to the trucks.
The Zambesi return to their trucks. Suddenly the head and shoulders of a giant in Arab headdress with an inhuman face appear in the jungle. The Zambesi recognise the figure as “He Who Never Dies”. Their rifles have no effect and they flee again.
A giant mechanical crocodile on caterpillar tracks emerges from the jungle. We see it is being driven by “He Who Never Dies”, Hamid Ali. He says he has lived a thousand years and panicked the Zambesi with an illusion of his face.
Ali has a gang of international scum with him in the crocodile. He orders a black giant with an eyepatch called Tonka to “read the signs”. Tonka examines the ground and tells Ali that B’wana Beast was there. Ali calls B’wana Beast his “greatest enemy” and deduces has taken part of the ore. He knocks the trucks off a cliff with his crocodile and heads into the jungle after him.
Rupert’s helicopter lands and the Zambesi tell him what’s happened. Rupert doesn’t believe Ali is immortal and chastises the Zambesi for thinking so. He and his pilot head off after B’wana Beast and Ali.
By this point B’wana Beast and his animals are crossing barren ground. Ali’s crocodile emerges from the jungle. B’wana Beast tells Tembo to continue ahead while he, “Rhino” and “Old Shatterhorns”(5) delay their pursuers. B’wana Beast, his rhino mount and the buffalo commence a charge. As they charge B’wana Beast places his hands on the sides of his helmet and starts making his strange cry, and in the issue’s most striking moment the “fabulous powers of the helmet” emanate into the charging animals and cause them to merge into a giant beast with characteristics of both. With B’wana Beast riding the rhinuffalo rams the crocodile.
As the helicopter arrives Rupert’s pilot says the clash was what Mondoko’s bones predicted. Rupert dismisses the idea and orders him to take them lower. The rhinuffalo has gotten in under the head of the crocodile and Ali can’t use his cannon on it. But he spots Rupert (his “other greatest enemy”) and tries to shoot him down. B’wana Beast sees the danger and has the rhinuffalo knock the crocodile so he misses. Rupert’s pilot tries to drop a grenade on B’wana Beast, but Rupert shifts the stick as he lets go and he misses too.
With the fight still raging, the story segues into an account of B’wana Beast’s origin. Mike and Rupert are pals from university. As athletes and scholars they always tied. When they graduated Rupert asked Mike to come with him to Africa to be a game ranger, “head of all our new national animal preserves”. They flew to Africa in a small plane provided by Mike’s father - he is a millionaire - with Mike piloting. But as they neared Zambesi country the plane was struck by lightning and crashed on Mt Kilimanjaro. A shaggy gorilla approached the wreck.
Rupert got Mike out of the burning wreck and took him into a defile on the rim of the crater in an attempt to escape the gorilla. He found a cave which appeared to be inhabited and gave Mike a drink from a cup filled with water (“must be rainwater in it from the dripping cave walls”). The gorilla entered and made sounds like speech. (“The gorilla…it talks! But…how? Must be some weird mutant-species!”) Rupert attacked it to protect Mike, but the gorilla quickly got the better of him. Then Mike, recovered and transformed, took over. After a terrific battle he defeated it with a wrestling hold and gave his cry for the first time, pounding his chest.
Mike told Rupert that the drink had improved his senses. It was as if he had become part animal, with “animal strength, cunning and reflexes”. Rupert observed he now prowled instead of walking. The gorilla fetched a strange helmet and placed it on Mike, “like a servant offering a king a crown”. Mike found it attuned him to the gorilla’s mind so he could understand its feelings and direct its actions. He said its name was Djuba and demonstrated he now had the power to command it.
Mike speculated the helmet was a product of an ancient civilisation “with knowledge and science beyond ours”, and that his transformation was due to minerals from the rock. Rupert suggested that Mike’s new power could be used to help Rupert’s people, and between them they hatched the plan of Mike’s taking on a second identity to fight evil and do good. They set out for Rupert’s village.
Rupert was appointed National Police Commissioner and Mike became a naturalist and game ranger.
The natives named Mike’s other identity B’wana Beast. He broke up Hamid Ali’s poaching network. But the President ordered Rupert to arrest him due to many reports he had committed crimes. (Rupert attributed the crimes to Ali, but the President refused to accept this.) Mike thought of quitting superheroing, but Rupert told him he needed him to continue, and that he’d use his position to protect him.
I have this story in an Australian comic from the 80s called Savage Tales #7.(6) The final page is a condensation of the final two pages of the original story, so I don’t actually know how exactly it ended. The last two panels in my edition return to the present. One shows Tembo continuing its mission. The other shows B’wana Beast and the rhinuffalo fighting the crocodile, but the image looks truncated and was possibly altered or supplied by an Australian artist.(7) There’s can’t have been room to wrap things up, so apparently the issue ended with the fight still in progress.
The feature’s Showcase try-out lasted two issues, and the second reportedly ended on a cliffhanger too. Cliffhanger endings were unusual in Showcase. The issues appeared during a period (#60-#71) when the try-outs were mostly three issues long with the third one separated from the first two. The pattern suggests the “Binky” try-out in #70, made up of reprints, took B’wana Beast’s third place, and the cliffhanger ending of the second issue supports this.
There’s a story that Sekowsky wasn’t willing to draw the third part as he thought the feature racist. I think this mostly a bum rap. I can see three issues: the use of “b’wana” in the name; the portrayals of the Zambesi and Hamid Ali; and B’wana Beast’s character as a white jungle lord. I’ll discuss these in turn. The Tarzan parody in Inferior Five #3, which Sekowsky also drew, appeared the same month as Showcase #69.
“Bwana” means “master” or “sir” in Swahili. (Apparently the transliteration “b’wana” is not correct.) In older movies and books it appears as a term of deference black Africans use when speaking to whites.(8) So using it in the name of a white superhero in Africa feels dubious, although it apparently doesn't have that racial connotation in Swahili. It was probably chosen as redolent of Africa, and for the alliteration. But the character's name also reminds me of the title of Bwana Devil (1952), which was a hit in its day as it was the first of the 1950s wave of 3-D features.(9)
The story's attitudes aren't colonialist. It's emphatically set in post-colonial Africa, and reflects the hopes of the period that the post-colonial governments would work for and achieve the modernisation of their nations. The unnamed nation was possibly modelled after Tanzania or Kenya.(10) It’s depicted as a nation where black people are running affairs. (The only white official we see is Mike, a field worker who apparently works alone and has his appointment from the black government.) The most prominent black character is Rupert, who is depicted as a modern man determined to modernise his country.
Still, calling a white character “B’wana Beast” is a bit on the nose. For English speakers it's too much like calling him “White Jungle Lord”, although in Swahili the term is apparently racially neutral
The Zambesi are depicted as premodern, but there were (and are) such people in Africa. They’re not unaware of the modern world. The copper mine is apparently the tribe’s project, not something operated by people from elsewhere, and they drive the trucks themselves.
Rupert is intolerant of what he sees as their superstitions, but I thought that believable characterisation, the flipside of his desire for progress. No-one gets angry when he kicks dirt over the bones Mondoko is casting. Perhaps this is acceptable behaviour in the son of a chief. The writing doesn’t wholly take his side: despite his dismissal of it Mondoko did predict the fight, and the Zambesi who tells him that he’s wrong to disbelieve in Hamid Ali’s immortality is right too.
Unfortunately the story twice has the Zambesi run away. I don’t think it means to portray them as cowardly. When he attacks the convoy they fight back until he overturns the truck, at which point they flee. One can’t really evaluate their behaviour here as the sequence cheats and depicts their guns as ineffective when there’s no reason they should be. The second time they flee after their guns prove ineffective against the giant Hamid Ali. In their defence, they know he’s capable of murder and never learn the giant head is only a projection.
Hamid Ali is an evil Arab, but a criminal mastermind, not a Muslim extremist. His gang consists of outcasts from all over. His face is slightly monkey-like, as if whatever gave him immortality has also left him not quite human. He apparently has vast scientific knowledge and a criminal network, and he has plagued the Zambesi for a long time.
B’wana Beast is really a Super-Tarzan. My guess is the strip started with the idea of upgrading that kind of character for the new age, so they gave him superpowers and put him into the real, modern Africa. The GCD points out that the cover and splash logos have the sub-title “The Jungle Master”. It amazes me that I’ve looked at the cover many times without noticing that. According to the cover “His very name invokes terror”, but he’s shown defending an injured Rupert from a gorilla, and with his bare chest and spotted shorts he looks enough like Tarzan for it to be obvious he’s a hero.
My defence of white jungle lord characters is they’re fantasy projection figures originally created for white audiences. The jungle provides the environment in which adventure can occur, and the audience-member projects himself into that environment as a superhuman by identifying with the hero.(11) In this case, though, there’s the wrinkle that Rupert, much more than Mike, is the character the reader follows the story through. The story starts with Rupert, and Mike’s motives are concealed from the reader when he switches to B’wana Beast and attacks the convoy. We’re supposed to initially think he’s attacked it for the purpose of stealing the ore. While Mike is B’wana Beast we’re not made privy to his thoughts, so when he charges the crocodile uttering his cry we don’t know what he’s up to. In the crash sequence it’s Rupert we identify with as he rescues the unconscious Mike and tries to escape Djuba.
In his superhero identity B’wana Beast’s outside society; an outlaw, although Rupert and Mike didn’t plan it that way. I suppose the natives might think him someone who lives in the woods with the animals, like Tarzan, and not suspect he has a second identity; especially since, according to the flashback, he’s animal-like when he’s B’wana Beast. In the flashback we see him taking on a gang of poachers which has just killed an elephant for its tusks. It’s interesting that poaching was already viewed as a serious concern in this period. One can imagine the locals thinking he fights it because he identifies with animals rather than humans.
According to the origin sequence he communicates with animals telepathically, although he also gives them orders verbally. In the origin sequence when he first commands Djuba he uses animal-speak (“Djuba… alemb alemb…”). At other times he uses English. During the fights he directs them with his cries.
The most interesting of his powers is his ability to merge animals. I suppose if he’d won a series he could have done this with different animal combinations. I don’t know how long that would have stayed fresh.
Apparently after a while the drink wears off and Mike returns to normal, although we don’t see this happen. There’s no reason why Rupert shouldn’t try it. Possibly Djuba wouldn’t be happy with his trying the helmet.
On the splash Rupert speaks of the story as “the greatest adventure safari of them all, from Kilimanjaro to the Mountains of the Moon”. I take this to be a way of saying “from one end of Africa to the other”, but actually the Rewenzori Mountains, if they're the ones he means, aren’t that far away.
The opening caption on p.2 calls Africa “mother of man-- continent of fantastic mysteries, last home of high adventure”. But there are wild places elsewhere: what about the Amazon?
On p.3 Rupert refers to his “professors at Harvard”, but on the splash he speaks of “State University”. The caption at the start of the flashback speaks of “a great American university”. Although the flashback speaks of Rupert and Mike as having tied academically they likely took different courses as Mike’s specialty is zoology.
There are women background characters in some panels, but none that plays a role in the story or has any lines.
Bob Haney is commonly identified as the writer. I haven’t read if there’s a foundation for this other than the issue’s zanier elements. The GCD’s page on #66 tentatively suggests Haney or Sekowsky due to an Amazing World of DC Comics reference to “Mike Sekowsky’s B’wana Beast”, but its page on #67 just says Haney. The dialogue doesn’t have the hip excesses that were showing up in Haney’s work by that point. (The issue went on sale Nov. 1966, the same month as Blackhawk #228, Metamorpho #10, Teen Titans #7.) On p.12, as the crocodile enters the barren area, there’s a caption that refers to it as “an area of volcanic “badlands””. I don’t associate Haney with that kind of attention to scientific detail, but perhaps wrongly: I’ll have to look for it in future. It reminded me of Gardner Fox, but it doesn’t appear from the GCD he wrote for Kashdan in the period. Here’s an exchange from p.16:
Mike: Yeah, Ken…Dad’s not such a bad guy--for a millionaire! Ha! Ha! But then, your father’s a pretty big man himself!
Rupert: Sure, pal--he’s loaded! He’s got more leopard claws than anybody in Africa… Ha! Ha! Ha!
That could be Haney, but perhaps also Arnold Drake. The dialogue is a bit flipper in the final chapter: “that weird gorilla”, “that bozo is still on our tails” (p.18), “some weird mutant-species” (p.19), “that big buster” (p.20).
The issue is glaringly badly-structured. On p.15 the story we’ve been following suddenly stops and the origin takes up almost all the rest of its length. But it looks like a feature the creators were invested in, not something just tossed off. The African details haven’t just been faked. Kilmanjaro is a real location (and an extinct volcano), throwing the bones is a real practice, the story is set in the right region of Africa for Swahili words. Rupert’s and Mike’s partnership is interesting. Sekowsky does a good job depicting the more authentic Africa. As jungle adventure goes, it’s a pretty good comic.
My hat-tip to Wikipedia, from which I drew all the geographical information. Date information from DC Indexes.
Update July 2016: Haney called B'wana Beast one of his "failures" in his interview with The Comics Journal, which can be read here (see part four).
(1) The flashback establishes Mike as American.
(2) My copy of the story is B&W. Djuba is twice shown in Kilimanjaro’s snows and I wondered if it was intended as an African version of the Abominable Snowman. But a caption in pt. 3 calls the gorilla red.
(3) Possibly modelled after Victoria Falls, which is on the Zambezi River, on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. The river is obviously where the author got the tribe’s name.
(4) “Elephant” in Swahili.
(5) The name seems to echo that of Karl May’s hero Old Shatterhand.
(6) The cover shows a mostly-naked woman riding a giant turtle underwater and brandishing a ceremonial sceptre. This gives me hope for mankind.
(7) Older Australian reprints of DC comics often extended the art on pages with advertisement or fill-in tiers. Savage Tales is from a later period, but it may have reprinted an old reprint of the story, and the part-page conclusions of parts 1 and 2 are both extended this way. On the splash Rupert refers to “State University 75’” instead of “‘61”, as originally. The splash omits the “Showcase presents…” logo. Surprisingly, it also omits the border around B’wana Beast and the caption on the bottom left, from which I’ve taken the title of this thread. (And there's a little redrawing of the dust on the left.)
(8) Not all Africans speak Swahili, of course. Wikipedia has a map of where it’s used here.
(10) Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania, but close enough to the country’s north-eastern border that the Zambesi’s territory could be in Kenya. The President is balding, like Tanzania’s contemporary leader, Julius Nyerere. But he lacks his moustache and his face is a fairly standard Sekowsky one. The Zambezi River is quite distant from Tanzania, to its south-west and south.
(11) Rudyard Kipling’s Mowgli is Indian, but the male young reader has a different basis on which to identify with him: he’s another boy.
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Jungle Comics #1 (Fiction House, Jan. 1940) part one
According to DC Indexes the issue appeared in Oct. 1939. It was Fiction House’s second comics title. An advertisement showing Jumbo Comics #11 and the first issues of Fight Comics and Planet Comics appeared on the back cover. Sheena had acquired her leopard-skin costume but was not yet Jumbo Comics’s superstar.
Jungle Comics had a particularly attractive logo. The lettering was backed by an image of a jungle coloured a single colour. It uses fine-line drawing and chiaroscuro, and the effect is as if the logo were backed by a B&W photograph. Presumably the art was by Lou Fine, as the lion on the right looks like the one he drew in the cover's main image. I think it one of the best logos of the Golden Age.
The cover shows Kaänga saving a woman from a lion while some guy shoots at him from behind. The GCD attributes it to Lou Fine. It’s better-drawn than any of the interior features. The Kaänga figure is attractively-done but when I look at it closely I think his anatomy is off in places. Isn’t his head too low?
The issue has nine features. All the stories are set in Africa.
Kaänga was a blond Tarzan clone. He starred in the title to the end. According to the GCD this first instalment was drawn by Alex Blum.
Kaänga’s origin is given in a flashback. When he was a child his father and his party were killed by natives. He fled into the jungle, and was taken in and raised by a village of ape men. They’re only called ape men at the climax, and if that term had not been used in the narration I don’t know I would have guessed that’s what they are supposed to be. They’re small, slight and bald, with big ears. (But all Blum’s Africans are bald.) Possibly Blum was going for a monkey look, but they look more human than anything else. In the flashback they’re coloured white, and in the splash and at the climax brown.
On the cover Kaänga has leopard-skin trunks (like the newspaper strip Tarzan), inside ripped blue shorts. These must be the ones he was wearing when his father was killed. They’re long and baggy in the flashback, so I guess there was room to grow into them.
In the story a safari under the leadership of a Professor Mason is attacked a white slaver called Blacton and a band of Africans (described as "terror ruled"). Blacton shoots Mason. Mason’s daughter Ann flees, and Kaänga rescues her. She teaches him to speak in broken English and he tells her his origin. She wants to take him to civilisation, but when they reach a town Blacton is there and has them seized. He keeps Ann for himself and auctions Kaänga as a slave. The bidders are all whites. My inference is this part of Africa has slave plantations. Kaänga escapes and rescues Ann. Blacton and the other whites pursue him, and he lures them into an ambush by the ape men. There is a big fight, and Kaänga and the ape men are victorious. (The story is discreet about what happens to the evil whites. Presumably they’re all killed.) Kaänga and Ann part, as he wants to stay in the jungle and she feels obliged to continue her father’s work. But he secretly keeps watch over her, “for danger still threatens and is imminent…”.
The use of white slavers as villains, the slave auction, and the kindly ape men are interesting elements in this story. I don’t know if the ape men were ever seen again. Blum’s art is in an early Golden Age style and varies between competent and weak. There are a couple of large action panels.
Kaänga swings through trees, but he isn’t depicted as able to talk to animals. He gets off a one-liner at the climax. When Blacton seems to have Kaänga cornered he says “Don’t shoot! He’s worth more to me alive!” When Kaänga socks him in the big battle he crows “Kaänga no disappoint you, Blacton. Kaänga very much alive!”
I called Kaänga a blond, but in the scans of this story at Comic Book Plus his heir looks ginger. I assume it’s meant to be blond. It is on the cover.
This character is an out-and-out superhero. He wears a bone white body stocking, has a face of the same colour, and wears a mask, winged cap, cape, and winged shoes. (Or is he naked from the belt up, with a bone white torso and arms?) He comes from a “ruined city deep in the jungle” which was apparently inhabited by a white (that is, pink) race. Only his father and himself are left. His powers are moderate super speed (he’s called “swifter than any man on Earth”) and an ability to know the future (which he doesn't obviously use). According to DC Indexes Jungle Comics #1 came out one month before the Flash’s debut in Flash Comics #1.
The White Phantom’s father commissions him to protect a Doctor White, who with his daughter is searching for “rare stones that possess a healing power for the sick”. An evil Professor Zaroff overhears White and his daughter talking about it and decides to trail their expedition and steal the discovery. The White Phantom warns the Whites they’re in danger. Zaroff shoots an associate who has refused to take part in his plans, and he manages to reach the Whites' camp and warn them before he dies. Just after they break camp a tribe of cannibals discover their traces. The White Phantom uses his super speed to lure them away, but after a while they give up chasing him and turn back. White and his party find mine with the stones. Zaroff and his mean appear and hold the Whites’ party at gunpoint. The Whites' guide, a native, bravely tackles Zaroff’s scout, and the latter fires a shot that causes the roof to collapse. Only the Whites, Zaroff, and one his men survive. Zaroff and his man are about to shoot the whites when the White Phantom arrives and stops them. The cannibals arrive. Zaroff’s man is speared but the others flee on a handy raft. Zaroff decides to swim for it but the river is full of alligators. The net tells me that should be crocodiles.) The White Phantom bids farewell to the Whites and they return to civilisation with knowledge of the healing stones.
As in the Kaänga story the main villain is a European, but this time we also have black cannibals. I consider the bit where the Whites' guide tackles the scout a hero moment, even though the result is a cave in. It’s good to see a black character used that way.
The fun element here is the story’s ruthlessness at killing off characters. I don't think the White Phantom did a particularly good job all told. The Whites survived: but no-one else.
Most of the stories in this issue are signed, but not always with real names. For example, the Kaänga story is signed “by Alex Boon”. This one is signed “by Taylor Martin”, but the GCD has no other credits for him. The action is mostly in the middle distance and there are a lot of small panels, but it’s a solid job with decent detail, albeit in an early Golden Age style. So it may be by someone who made a career in the industry.
Next: Fletcher Hanks! Immortal Norsemen! Casual genocide! And the original Captain Thunder!
The first version of this post displaced the thread Mars One #1 from the homepage.
Jungle Comics #3 part two
4.“Camilla Queen of the Lost Empire”
In this story Camilla is again a blonde in a belly-dancer outfit.
But she also wears her helmet from #1 (now coloured blue, to match the rest of her costume) and sometimes a cape, and story is otherwise a sequel to the first adventure.(1) Camilla is discovered in the ruins of her city, mysteriously young and alive.(2) An elderly Norse seer appears. He does some scrying and tells her that if she sacrifices herself “in flames” her empire and people will be restored. They build a pyre and Camilla offers herself as a sacrificial victim, praying to Bal:
When the smoke clears it’s as if her city and people never perished. She declares a sacred feast day in celebration.
Meanwhile, Jon Dale and Ruth have returned to the plateau to explore the ruins. They are taken prisoner. Camilla threatens them a bit and then makes a pass at Dale (again). He turns her down (again), so she takes revenge by having Ruth thrown into her “other spring”, the Blue Bath. This turns her old.
Dale sticks by Ruth, so Camilla has him thrown into a pit with a giant python. The python wraps itself around Dale, but he has a knife and cuts it into pieces. The panel showing this looks like the “Join, or Die” cartoon.
No-one’s watching (?), so Dale gets away and finds Ruth. He takes her to the Spring of Eternal Youth, and it restores her youth. Camilla spots and threatens them, so Dale throws a brand into the spring (again). It explodes (again), but this time only takes with it “Camilla’s youth”. Dale says - you’ll have to see it:
I hope she kills them next time.
I like the introduction of a supernatural element,(3) as it makes the strip more like She. Camilla’s sacrifice of herself to restore her kingdom is good stuff, very much in the spirit of H. Rider Haggard. Caw’s art is also pleasing to look at. The writing in the second half lets the story down badly.
(1) The GCD speaks of the backstory as an “amalgam” of the previous episodes, but no elements from #2 are used except her costume and hair colour. I think the indexer took this story as continuing directly from the end of #2, but in my opinion Camilla dies there.
(2) On the pyre she speaks of dying “again”, which I think is a reference to her death in #1.
(3) In #1 when Camilla ages she says the “spell” is passing from her, and Dale later speaks of the “spell of eternal youth”, but the instalment doesn’t depict the spring as magical.
5.”Captain Terry Thunder of the Congo Lancers”
An Arab man races to the fort on horseback. He tells Thunder his tribe has been wiped out by the N’Dorobos before dying of fatigue. Thunder decides upon an expedition. The soldiers march to the vicinity of the N’Dorobo village.
Thunder reconnoitres and sees the chief bargaining with an Arab. He is detected and captured. On the advice of the Arab the tribesmen plan to burn him alive. His men go looking for him and are captured too.
They attempt an escape but are discovered. A cavalry force searching for them arrives just in time to save the day.
Thunder’s fort is still in the desert, but the expedition reaches the jungle after a gruelling march through desert, swamp, and more desert. The cavalry is from Thunder’s own fort. (If he had horses, why did he make his men march all that way?) Last time around Thunder’s fort was Fort Dearth, this time it’s Fort Death. It’s the perfect name.
Astarita is recognisably the same artist, but his style had evolved between this and the last instalment. His work doesn’t have as much of that fine-art look, and he doesn’t keep the action at a distance from the camera all the time. I was thrown by how much his art changed in a month. He’s still a superior artist, though (and the difference is less striking after the opening pages).
Unfortunately, Astarita’s depiction of the N’Dorobos is awful. He draws them like cavemen, with deep shadows on their bodies no matter how the scene is lighted. What’s worse, the colourist coloured them blue (and sometimes green). They look bizarre.
Reading the last instalment I wondered if it was intended as the first instalment of a Foreign Legion feature and converted into a Terry Thunder one. I didn’t suggest this as there’s no sign of relettering when his name appears. But if that’s right it could mean the instalments were done some time apart.
6.“Wambi the Jungle Boy”
Illegal trappers net a tigress, but she breaks free, forcing them to kill her. Her mate comes looking for her and falls into a pit trap. Wambi moves to rescue him, and when the trappers intervene tells them to set him free. They agree to, but it’s a trick to net the tiger more easily, and they take Wambi prisoner too. They cage them together and mean to exhibit him as a tiger boy. Wambi calls for help. The jungle animals organise a force and attack the camp, freeing Wambi and the tiger.
Kiefer’s art is even better this time. He draws a great tiger. I don’t like some of his depictions of the black people working for the trappers. (The next panel is an exception. They look fine there.)
This is one of those stories where nature is good and evil comes from man. Don't tell Wambi what carnivores eat, it'll break his heart.
The leader of the trappers, Buck, is comically driven away by monkeys, and in the last panel Wambi wonders if he’ll return. It’s not at all clear the others aren’t all killed.
Next: Roy fights cattle raiders! Simba fights a serpent! Simba fights a rhino! And more Fletcher Hanks weirdness!
Jungle Comics #3 part three
This instalment describes Lance as a "famous African explorer". (He was a hunter/guide last time.) He is visiting the peaceful Wasangora tribe when a drum message warns them that men from the fierce Nyama tribe are coming on a cattle raid. Roy tells the Wasangoras to drive their cattle into the jungle. The Nyamas fire the village and enter the jungle in search of the cattle. Lance and the Wasangoras fight with them.
There's someone new on the art this time, but the GCD doesn't have a guess as to who it was. This artist has a much cartoonier style. The approach of the writing is also different: in place of last issue's epic scope we have a tale of local conflict. The intention was apparently to do a real-world adventure story about tribal life. That's interesting, because it contrasts with the fanciful approach of all the other features except "Simba". It's probably the least memorable story in the issue, though.
8.“Simba, King of the Beasts”
A small boy has gotten separated from a safari. (Just like last time; he even looks like Dick.) Simba saves him from a giant snake and takes him into his family, taking good care of him. (Farmers take good care of their pigs, too.) After weeks of searching the hunters are close to giving up looking for him. They nearly clash with Simba, but the boy prevents it, and the Simba afterwards accompanies them. A rhino charges the safari. Simba attacks it. He can’t really hurt it but he turns it, and the hunters shoot it.
This is the third python fight this issue. The instalment is much like the last one.
A couple of fortune hunters mean to steal the jewels from a jewelled idol in a secret jungle city. The guards detect them coming. The fortune hunters attack with tommy guns but the defenders chase them off with arrows and spears. So they infect a sacred mandrill with a plague and release it to scatter the guards. They reach the idol and begin to strip it. Fantomah cures the mandrill, transforms the fortune hunters, and restores the statue.
This must be before Fantomah became hard. She lets the fortune hunters live! But they don’t get away unscathed.
The text calls the territory “Jungleland”. The city’s inhabitants aren’t negro and the architecture could be Asian, but Wikipedia tells me mandrills are only found in Africa, in a specific region.
This is a more typical Hanks story than last time’s, but pleasingly strange. Hanks’s art is more naïve this time out, but visually pleasing and striking.
Fantomah looks like she did last time, but is more naively drawn.
The text story is “The Crawling Death” by Pete Wentworth. Spoiler warning. A scientific party is nearly killed by hostile natives, but survives because the natives are killed by army ants. The natives in the story use blowpipes, which might be an indication the writer meant the setting to be South America. But the blowpiper in the spot art looks African.
The interesting question here is whether all stories like this stem from Carl Stephenson’s “Leiningen Versus the Ants”. I’ve long assumed they do, but the story was a fairly recent one in 1940; it appeared in German in 1937 and in English in 1938. Its English appearance was in Esquire, so a lot of people may have seen it, but I suppose it’s possible ant terror was a theme of pulp fiction before that.
I found it hard to pick a best story, but I'm giving the palm to "Fantomah": it's the most visually striking and imaginative.
All images are from the scan of the issue at Comic Book Plus. Click to enlarge.
Jungle Comics #4 (Fiction House, Apr. 1940) part one
The covers of #1 and #2 don’t illustrate moments from the stories. #3’s doesn’t either, but Kaänga does fight a black panther inside. Images of jungle men fighting big cats go all the way back to the cover of Tarzan’s first appearance in The All-Story, Oct. 1912. Compare the cover of Marvel’s Tarzan #1 (1977), by John Buscema.
This time around the cover shows Kaänga wrestling a rhino like a steer. I suppose that’s absurd, and there’s nothing like it in the story, but I like the blocky composition. The GCD again attributes the art to Charles Sultan.
There is again a new artist on “Roy Lance”, and probably also on “The Red Panther”. Otherwise the artists are as for the last two issues. There was another mystery strip promotion this month.
Kaänga and Ann are still on their way home. Broot means to revenge himself on them. He captures them and enslaves Kaänga. Cheba gives Kaänga the chance he needs to fight back, and he defeats Broot and his men. The travellers resume their journey.
These last two Kaänga stories have mostly been told using captions. Only Broot has speech balloons. That might be due to the influence of the Tarzan Sunday strip. Whereas in #2 Ann assisted in their escape, here she’s just a girl hostage.
Kaänga’s hair is ginger on the cover and inside. Ann’s is sometimes ginger, sometimes blonde.
At the climax all Kaänga does is throw Broot and his crowd into a pit. He even saves Broot from Cheba. I can’t say that’s out of character, as Kaänga hasn’t been a killer, but you’d think he’d not be content to just let Broot go. The story is signed by Jackson in the final panel.
2.“The Red Panther”
A tribe has pitchblende mud on its territory. A pair of white crooks recruit another tribe to wipe it out so they can get rich from the pitchblende. The Red Panther warns the former tribe and assists it in the war. He punishes the men by covering them in pitchblende mud so they will die of radium poisoning. He subsequently finds their dead bodies.
The GCD again tentatively ascribes the story to Arthur Peddy. Comparing the stories is tricky as this time there are more panels per page, the colour is more garish, and there’s a difference in the Red Panther’s cowl. But I think this artist’s style is less cartoony. The new artist also draws the Red Panther with tight rather than loose boots.
The change in the Red Panther’s cowl is the dropping of the black mask part. The previous artist sometimes left it out, and it didn’t appear in the splash panel last issue. That panel is drawn in a different style to the rest of the story, but I chalked that up to the artist spending more time on the splash panel. Perhaps instead the editor had the panel redone by someone else. The mask does appear in the splash panel here, but I don't doubt it's by the artist of the rest of the story.
The pitchblende plot is interesting, as is the Red Panther’s execution of the villains at the end. They have it coming - they attack women and children with grenades - and presumably the tribesmen would have executed them if he hadn't.
3.“Tabu Wizard of the Jungle”
An explorer has heard reports about Lion-Leopards. Tabu tells him they’re bred by a tribe too hostile to contact. He won’t tell him who they are, but the explorer guesses and tries to contact them anyway. They seize the explorer and his men and kill them one by one. Tabu races to help but he’s delayed on the way and only in time to save the explorer.
This is an example of a story that treats porters like redshirts. Since he knows the explorer is going to keep searching Tabu gives him a magic ring so he can summon him if he is endangered. The signal is sent by turning it on the finger. (Turning its top, or turning the whole thing around? If the former this recalls how the Legion’s rings work.) Tabu saves the explorer, but no-one else, and we’re supposed to think that a happy ending.
Tabu is delayed by a breaking branch, a lioness and a crocodile. The artist colours the lioness blue, so it looks like a black panther. Golden’s art is weaker this time but I still like it.
Next: Camilla’s icy revenge! A desert fort falls to jungle savages! And Wambi is hunted!
Corrected. The first version of this post displaced the thread AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. “Once More With…” from the homepage.
Jungle Comics #4 part two
4.“Camilla Queen of the Lost City”
This instalment continues from where the last episode left off. Camilla has become tyrannical because she’s “losing her youth” (it doesn’t show in the art), and is deposed by a rebellion. She comes upon Dale and Ruth and in revenge has the gods change Dale into an ice pillar.
To restore him Ruth must find “the Spring of Eternal Youth”. They locate the spring in a cavern. It has a serpent guardian, but Dale and Camilla are restored and Dale kills the serpent.
Exiting, they find themselves near the lost city and that its own spring has been restored. Camilla’s people receive her back and Dale and Ruth depart as friends.
Fiction House is known for its use of cheesecake, but it took a while for it become established. We’ve had cheesecake shots in the splash panels of the last two instalments, but here we begin to get them in the story too.
The art is worse this time and the story meanders.
Last time Camilla was billed as “Queen of the Lost Empire” again. This time it’s “City”.
Camilla, we learn, is normally a kindly ruler. Where's the fun in that? I want her to be iron-willed and capricious.
5.”Captain Terry Thunder of the Congo Lancers”
A native people called the Ingaras sneak attack the fort and capture it. Thunder escapes through a secret tunnel. He reaches the next fort and it provides him with a rescue force. They recapture the fort by entering through the tunnel.
There’s a tunnel under the fort? Well, I suppose there was in #1! But I could quibble over whether it's the same fort.
I’ve liked Astarita’s instalments for their art. Story-wise they’ve been so by the numbers they could’ve been unbearable.
The natives don’t have dark shadows all over their bodies this time, but they still look very primitive, and they’re in more panels so they’re harder to look past. They’re called “brown devils” and “evil blacks” in the narration.
Panels from this story appeared in Hubert H. Crawford's Crawford's Encyclopedia of Comic Books.
6.“Wambi the Jungle Boy”
Buck Larsen seeks revenge on Wambi. He captures some of his animal friends, but Wambi rescues them.
Larsen and his men hunt Wambi and corner him and his friend Ogg the gorilla on a mountaintop.
They escape by using a python as a rope and toss the python onto Larsen to kill him.
Ogg also appeared in the last two stories. Other animals have also been getting names - this time there's Lupa the wolf, and Kaa the python - and I expect we’ll see more of at least some of them. So the series is developing a supporting cast. The stories and handling of Wambi have been getting more interesting. At this point it’s the feature that’s shaping up best.
The name "Kaa" for a python is drawn from The Jungle Book. This is evidence Wambi was partly modelled after Kipling's Mowgli. I don't know how much weight a python can carry, but I doubt one could support a gorilla.
Next: “Simba” gets back on track! Crazed superintelligent gorillas with guns! And a desperate jungle rescue!
Jungle Comics #4 part three
7.“Simba, King of the Beasts”
There is a terrible storm. The lions take shelter in a cave. When it’s over they find two cubs are missing. Simba finds them trapped under a fallen tree and can’t free them.
He fetches an elephant to help. Returning, he finds two leopards about to attack the cubs and fights them, killing one and scaring off the other. The elephant frees the cubs.
This instalment returns to the lives of animals approach of the first episode, which I prefer. The opening storm sequence is well done.
A scientist has created a serum that both makes gorillas smarter than humans and enslaves them. He means to use them to conquer the world. A warning from Fantomah causes his men to desert, but he arms the gorillas and sends them destroy a village.
Fantomah drops him in the midst of his crazed army and he’s torn apart. She restores the gorillas to normal.
As the GCD points out, this is the story with the line “You shall die by your own evil creation!”, which Fantagraphics used to title its second collection of Hanks’s work.
This time out Fantomah’s face is less severe and she wears a strapless black bathing suit under her diaphanous gown.
The premise is wild, but the art is less striking than previously and the villain’s comeuppance uninspired (but gory).
The "Kaänga" story in #2 had basically the same ending.
Lance is heading an expedition searching for ivory. With him are John Mitchell and his daughter Ellen.
They are near the home of the “wild Zungo tribe”. Against Lance’s advice Mitchell and Ellen head off “to see what we can find out about the Zungos”. The Zungos bribe the porters with the Mitchells and seize the pair. The porters tell Lance they’ve been killed by a tiger, but when they squabble over their payment he finds out the truth. With the help of his other porters he rescues the Mitchells.
The last instalment made me think the series was going to be about the paternal explorer Lance helping the natives with their problems. This time, instead, we get a standard tale in which whites on safari are threatened by a violent tribe. The art is sloppy and the storytelling at times unclear. The artist had talent, though:
The GCD currently doesn’t have a guess as to who he was.
The bits about the traitorous porters rub the reader’s nose in their racism. But the other porters are loyal and go with Lance to rescue the Mitchells at the end.
The text story is “Son of the Lion” by Bob Clark. The lion that raised a jungle boy has recently died. The boy moves to a valley and befriends the leader of the local gorillas by saving him from black leopards (sic). The boy’s name is Ran-tog. He's much more Tarzan-ish than Wambi. It’s possible he’ll prove to be a series character. Here he is in the spot art:
“Wambi” is my pick for the best feature this time.
All images are from the scan of the issue at Comic Book Plus. Click to enlarge.
Jungle Comics #5 (Fiction House, May 1940) part one
The cover shows Kaänga up against bloodthirsty ape-men with maces ruled by a femme fatale in an evening dress whose throne is adorned by a giant skull. It even gives a title: “Empire of the Ape Men”. But there’s no such story.
To this point one could regard the covers as generic, but we’ve thrice had titles for the Kaänga tales: “Prey of the Slavers” on #1, “Terror of the Bush” on #2, “Crocodiles of Death River” on #3. Inside none of the features have had them. The title on #1 matches the story; #2’s could match anything; #3’s doesn’t match at all. #4 instead had a title for the Wambi story, “Thundering Herds”. The instalment has a scene where Wambi’s animals all escape together, but no herds.
There is a story in which Kaänga fights apes under the control of a femme fatale in #26. Did this cover inspire that one?
The GCD attributes the cover art this time to Will Eisner. I can see it in the handling of the woman.
Four features have new artists this time out: “Kaänga”, “Tabu”, “Camilla” and “Captain Terry Thunder”.
From this issue the title also makes use of filler items of one or two pages. This issue’s is an unfunny gag page. There was also another promotion strip.
Broot sends men in uniforms to capture Kaänga and Ann. They only get Kaänga, but Ann falls into their hands later. When Kaänga sees they’ve captured her he breaks out and fights Broot’s men, allowing Ann to get away. She and Cheba then help him escape, and he disguises himself as Broot to lead Broot’s men into the jungle. Broot sends his men after the pair again disguised as ordinary natives. Kaänga isn’t fooled and calls his animal friends to chase them off.
Ann is described as Kaänga’s mate here. She dresses Cheba’s wound after Broot's men shoot her. There’s also a sequence where Kaänga is caught by a python and Ann saves him with her archery.
Kaänga’s speech is grammatical and colloquial, and he also cracks wise:
Broot is miscoloured white, as the GCD notes, although he’s called a negro in the narration.
The GCD identifies the new artist as George Tuska and says he continued to #13. If that’s correct at this point his familiar style hadn’t emerged at all. The art shows more skill than Jackson’s, but I like how he draws Kaänga and Ann less. Kaänga he initially dresses in a one-shoulder animal-skin leotard. Tarzan was sometimes dressed this way early on. Half-way through the shoulder strap is torn, leaving him naked to the waist. Kaänga is still ginger, but Ann is back to being black-haired.
Ann’s outfit sometimes seems to be a leotard and sometimes a slip.
2.“The Red Panther”
The Red Panther’s antagonist this time is an evil woman who lives under a giant ant-hill. She is able to command the ants and has slaves.
The Ant Woman hears of a safari transporting jewels and sends her ants to attack it. The Red Panther spots the swarm and saves the safari.
He guesses the woman will send her slaves next. At his suggestion, when they arrive he and the two whites allow themselves to be captured while the porters hide in the river breathing through straws. The porters then trail the others.
The captives are taken to the Ant Woman's base:
She suspends the trio with ropes, smears them with honey, and sends ants to attack them, but the Red Panther breaks his ropes and frees the others. They escape, meet up with the porters, and fire the ant hills. The Ant Woman is killed by “fire crazed ants”.
The GCD tentatively attributes the art to Arthur Peddy, but notes a previous indexer doubted this. I think it's certainly by the guy who drew the strip last time, but whether that was Peddy I don't know.
This story isn’t very well-told, but it’s fun to see the Red Panther up against a jungle supervillainess.
We've seen the ant horror theme previously in the text story in #3. As far as I've been able to learn the South American ant terror of "Leiningen versus the ants" and The Naked Jungle is science fiction, and the world's really scary ants are driver ants, which are most common in Africa.
In the latter part of the story the Red Panther is no longer coloured as having a bare chest.
3.“Tabu Wizard of the Jungle”
The Jibu tribe kill a leopard that has menaced their community. In revenge the Zsingos, leopard worshippers, kidnap their children. Tabu follows their trail and survives magical attacks they send again him.
At their caves he spears their chief to prevent a child’s sacrifice and merges the rest with the rock. As he and the children return they are menaced by a tiglon which he makes disappear.
With Golden’s departure Tabu’s powers change again. In this instalment he appears in a flash of light in the village and transforms other things rather than himself. The GCD tentatively attributes the art to George Carl Wilhelms.
The Zsingos's motivation and their attacking Tabu from a distance with magic are the best things about the story. Except for when he spears the chief Tabu now fights with his magic instead of with his strength as in Golden's episodes. His victory at the cave is too easy and comes with two pages to go. As a result this story lacks the excitement of Golden's instalments.
Next: a new era begins for "Camilla"! "Captain Terry Thunder" post-Astarita! And Wambi dispenses jungle death!
Jungle Comics #5 part two
4.“Camilla Queen of the Lost Empire”
A Nordic warrior called Lief Thorgson has outfitted a native army and demands the surrender of the Lost Empire. Camilla challenges him to a magical duel.
Thorgson sacrifices a native and claims the thunder which follows show the gods’ pleasure. Camilla declares thunder “the angry voice of the gods!” and means instead to give the gods a sacrifice of the wealth of the city. Thorgson, who wants it, is appalled by this and breaks the truce. As their men fight he seizes Camilla and proposes matrimony, and she fatally stabs him.
Camilla escapes back to the city. Thorgson’s men go to grab the gold so Camilla throws an electrical switch to explode the altar.
But Thorgson’s men get away with much of it, so Camilla, in a chariot, leads a lancer army in pursuit. They use zebras in place of horses.
She and her men triumph in the battle. After the surrender she invites the natives to join her army as they fought well, and they agree.
Back at the city a banquet is held in celebration. A nobleman, Count Knuten, plots against Camilla.
With this issue Camilla becomes a warrior queen, decisive and indomitable. The new byline is "Ted Carter", but the GCD identifies the penciller as Bob Powell, and I don't doubt it's correct.(1) The story is not all that memorable, but the new take on the character is good, and it's a good introduction for it. Crawford's Encyclopedia of Comic Books singled the Ted Carter period of the strip out for praise. It won't last long, though; the GCD only attributes six instalments to Powell, one tentatively, and the byline became "Victor Ibsen" with #16.
(1) According to Roy Thomas Powell often used assistants, but I don't know when that started.
5.“Captain Terry Thunder of the Congo Lancers”
The fort is attacked by a force of masked horsemen that we later learn is called the Masked Archers. The Lancers fight off the attack. When a column of smoke is spotted Thunder reconnoitres. (Shouldn’t he send a man to do that?) He finds a village has been sacked and burned. Soon the Masked Arrows have done this to five more. Thunder leads a force to investigate. In four of the villages the natives fled in time, but in the fifth they waited too long and were slaughtered. The lancers find a blind and insane survivor. He says the Masked Arrows took their idols.
As the away party returns to the fort a Lancer runs to meet it but collapses and dies. Thunder realises the fort has been taken by the Masked Arrows. They have placed an idol on the battlements at each of its corners. Thunder recruits the local natives, who worship those idols, to join him in an attack on the fort. But when the battle starts they flee, believing the gods angry.
Thunder picks volunteers for a raid. They get into the fort, “crawl into the hollow gods”, and leave wearing them. The guards who see them leaving are so terrified they don’t give the alarm.
In the person of the idols they present themselves to the natives and order them to avenge them. So the natives join with Thunder in another attack, and this time it succeeds.
Although Astarita’s gone, we still have the anomaly of a desert fort near the jungle. (The "Fort Death" name from #3 hasn't been used again.) Astarita's Thunder was all business, but with this issue the gung-ho attitude of him and his men and the comedic element returns, and the story has a more playful plot.
The art is on the low end of so-so. The GCD tentatively ascribes the pencils to Bill Bossert and the inks tentatively to Bossert or Leonard Frank. I didn't like the story's portrayal of the natives as superstitious, easily fooled, and unreliable.
6.“Wambi the Jungle Boy”
Ivory hunters and a native tribe work together to trap a herd of elephants in a stockade. The hunters’ leader is a man called Wolf Lawsen. Wambi slips onto Lawsen’s boat and demands he free them. Lawsen throws him overboard to be killed by crocodiles. They instead line up, and he walks on them back to shore.
Wambi has Bimi the badger did a tunnel in and directs the elephants in an escape. Lawsen, goes after Wambi with dynamite. Tawn grabs him as he prepares to throw it and Ogg kills him.
They load his dead body with dynamite and catapult it onto the ivory hunters’ boat, blowing it up.
I thought Wambi was going to prove a wimp hero, because of how he's drawn. At this point it's just the opposite: he's ruthless.
Next: Slavers in "Roy Lance"! A poisoned water hole in "Simba"! And giant reptiles from space in "Fantomah!"
Jungle Comics #5 part three
Travelling through the jungle Lance’s safari is attacked by the Kubutti, using poisoned blowdarts.
Lance and his men retreat to the savannah. During the night the Kubutti attack in force. Lance gets his men away by starting a brush fire.
A slave train emerges from the jungle. Lance confronts the head slaver, and then strikes him, starting a fight.
But the slavers outnumber Lance and his men, so they’re forced to retreat. Lance uses a fire extinguisher to get through the fire to contact the Kubutti, who he now realises thought his lot were the slavers. He leads them to the slaver camp. They attack it, kill them all, and set the slaves free.
Despite the new byline I think it's clear the artist was the same one as last time. He draws Lance the same way. The GCD doesn't have a guess as to his identity. The art is still sloppy but the story is better.
8.“Simba, King of the Beasts”
A water buffalo tries to prevent Simba drinking at a water hole. They fight, and Simba wins.
That night a party of hunters poisons the water hole to get dead animals to skin. Simba sees them taking the bodies away and drives away any animals that try to drink.
John Mason and Dick from #2 have returned to Africa. Dick sees the hunters, realises what they’re up to, and tells his father. Mason confronts the hunters, and their leader tells him to mind his own business. Mason strikes him, and one of the others stops the fight by threatening Dick.
The hunters mean to put the Masons “some place where you won’t interfere with our business” i.e. kill them. Seeing Dick, Simba attacks the hunters, forcing them to flee. The Masons detoxify the water hole.
This one is mid-way between being a story about animals and a story about humans. I liked the fact that Simba chase the other animals away from the hole instead of talking them away: that’s more animalistic.
The bit where Mason confronts the hunters about what they’re doing is the third scene like that this issue. In “Roy Lance” the villains are slavers, but in the “Wambi” and “Roy Lance” there’s a case that they’re not really doing anything wrong, just making a living. Poisoning a water hole is dubious because it kills animals you don’t want as well as those you do, but in this story the hunters take all the dead animals we see. One doubts they were going to bother detoxifying the water when they were finished, but they could have.
In the "Wambi" story the ivory hunters' deal with the natives is guns and bullets in exchange for their help. I suspect we're supposed to think this wrong, because it's giving guns to natives. The "Wambi" and "Simba" stories both tip their antagonists firmly onto the villain side by having them attempt to harm sympathetic characters.
An asteroid crashes in the jungle. An evil scientist called Mundoor investigates it and discovers a super-vitamin plant, giant reptile skeletons and eggs.
He raises the reptiles with the intention of using them to conquer the jungle. He toughens their hides with drugs, controls them by hypnosis, and smears them with a “phosphorous mixture” to make them scarier.
He sends the reptiles to attack the palace of Prince Abdul.
Fantomah raises the residents and all the buildings into the sky to protect them. The reptiles are able to leap high enough to destroy some buildings but not the treasure vaults. Mundoor gives up and sends the reptiles to attack a city.
Fantomah intervenes, orders them to return to their asteroid, dumps Mundoor on it, and sends the asteroid back into space.
This is like last issue’s story: a wild premise, a rote conclusion. Fantomah's bathing suit now has straps.
The text story is “Death of the Laughing Terror” by Lin Davies. This features Ran-tog from last issue. Ran-tog dresses the wound of a gorilla, and the gorilla later saves him from three hyenas.
My favourite story this issue is easily the Red Panther Ant Woman one. It’s sloppily drawn, though, so I don’t think it’s objectively the best. “Camilla” is interesting for the new take on the character, its details (like the zebra mounts), and the respect with which it treats Thorgsen’s negro soldiers. "Wambi" has an OK story, good animal art like that hippo above, and is visually striking despite the naïve element in Kiefer's style.
The issue can be read at Comic Book Plus.
Jungle Comics #6 (Fiction House, Jun. 1940) part one
The cover is nicely drawn. The GCD tentatively ascribes it to Will Eisner with the note that Tony Rose thinks it was “heavily re-touched by Eisner” but “at the very least, the Kaänga figure was penciled by someone else”. Once again there’s a bit of an Eisner look in the woman’s face.
This time out there’s a partial correspondence to the Kaänga story. The title, “Tigress of the Deep Jungle Swamp”, fits it. The cover shows Ann in the slave train of a North African slaver, whereas in the story Ann is chained by Anitra’s tribesmen when they take her captive.
One might quibble over the women on the cover have all been Ann. On #1 and #4 she wears Western clothing. On #1 she has short, black hair, and on #4 long, red hair. On #2 she has a leopard-skin outfit and long, black hair; on #3 the same outfit and long, ginger hair; and on #5 and #6 a leopard skin outfit with a bare-midriff and long, blonde hair.
I’ve often wondered if Kaänga’s orange hair, which I’ve been calling ginger, is supposed to be read as blond. I’ve been taking it as ginger as there have been cases where hair is clearly yellow. This time out he’s clearly blond on the cover but orange inside.
There are two other titles on the cover; “Vengeance on the veldt” and “Phantom of the tree-tops”, but they don’t correspond to any of the stories.
The cover lists “Fantomah” among the features, but misspells the name “Fantoma”. “Tabu” was misspelled “Taboo” on #1.
Broot is trying to capture Kaänga again. Anitra, the white queen of a jungle tribe, decides she needs a white king. She aids Kaänga against Broot’s men and propositions him. Kaänga turns her down, so she has him seized and threatens him. When Ann appears with Cheba she changes tactics and lets them go. She has her men seize Ann while KKaänga is away and throws her to the crocodiles. Kaänga rescues her.
They escape by boat, but Anitra sends boats after them.
The artist is still Tuska (so the GCD), but he here draws Broot younger. Apparently there was a new writer, as Broot suddenly speaks in Southern dialect.
This time out Kaänga speaks good English, but in a way befitting a jungle man, without wisecracking. When he finds the traces after Ann is kidnapped he instantly works out what’s happened and beats his chest in his rage. I found the sequence where he rescues Ann more exciting than the series has been to date. I think this is because the art does a better job of conveying his speed, and he shows brains, strength and skill meeting the challenges.
There are a couple of panels where black characters speak in “tribal” broken English, which I didn’t like.
At the story’s end Broot vows revenge, but the GCD doesn’t list him as having appeared again.
Anitra has a throne with a mounted skull like the one on the cover of #5.
2.“The Red Panther”
A botanist and his daughter discover a black orchid. The Red Panther tells them not to touch it as it “brings death”. Three thugs learn of it and try to torture its location out of him.
The Red Panther saves him, but the result is the botanist becomes obsessed with the orchid. He sneaks off to get it and the thugs trail him.
Just in time, the Red Panther and the botanist’s daughter intervene. The thugs start a fight.
A shot from one of the thugs severs the orchid’s stem. One of the thugs grabs it and instantly dies, ending the contretemps
The GCD attributes the art to Arthur Peddy. It does seem to be by the artist who drew the instalments in #2-#3, but I’ll have more to say about this another time.
I’ve grown fond of this series, but this episode lacks the zaniness of last time’s. The writer deserves a nod for doing something different. The Red Panther might’ve told the botanist what he meant and saved some trouble.
The Red Panther’s chest is drawn as bare, but the colourist mostly colours it as if clothed.
3.“Camilla Queen of the Lost Empire”
Camilla visits the salt mines as their shipments have stopped. Count Knuten means to use a deaf hunchback called Caredodo as his assassin. At the mine Caredodo is nearly caught in a cave-in, but Camilla saves him. He declares undying loyalty to her. Camilla and Caredodo find the miners have been captured by monkey-men. They are spotted and a fight starts.
Camilla’s bodyguards enter the mines looking for her. They arrive just as Caredodo and Camilla are overcome.
The monkey-men are taken captive. Caredodo murders Count Knuten for his treason.
Last time around the Lost Empire troops wore chitons and crested helmets, but they still had an ancient look and Thorgson and his men wore pseudo-Viking helmets, so I didn’t notice. Camilla's lancers had tasselled helmets. Count Knuten wore 19th century-style dress uniform on the last page. This time around the troops of Camilla's bodyguard have skin-tight blue uniforms and tasselled helmets.
Knutan's outfit this time is similar. I think the inspiration was Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon once it took on that Ruritanian look. Caredodo looks medieval. (The GCD observes he was based on the Charles Laughton version of Quasimodo.) Camilla now wears a hair net.
The story is merely OK, but I like the feature’s new approach and Powell's Camilla is regal. I regret the abandonment of the Viking/ancient look but I can live with that.
Next: a pretty scientist fights sleeping sickness in French Equatorial Africa! Fantomah’s weirdest opponent yet! And Simba vs a gorilla king!
Jungle Comics #6 part two
Roy been asked to accompany a woman scientist called Jill March on her trip into the interior of French Equatorial Africa.
She is in Africa to fight tsetse flies, which spread sleeping sickness. The governor of the district has discovered and enslaved a white tribe and is using it to make armaments. He tries to prevent the safari but Lance and Jill head off anyway. They discover the slave village and are seized by the governor’s men.
The governor comes to the village, but he and then the villagers fall ill of sleeping sickness. Jill treats them, with Lance’s help.
When the height of the epidemic has passed they urge the villagers to revolt.
The revolt succeeds, and Lance captures the governor. The French authorities thank the pair, and the two kiss before parting.
The narration says the enslaved tribe is white, but the colourist colours them as black until the last page. The governor’s agents are black tribesmen except for one man.
I could be accused of burying the lede here, as the GCD tentatively identifies the artist as Nick Cardy. His later style isn’t apparent, but the art is attractive, in a slightly cartoony style. The story's only six pages long but has seventy-one panels as it’s mostly told using a regular twelve-panel grid.
The injection of a romantic element into the feature is a good step, but Jill didn’t return.
The opening refers to “the port of Angola, French Equatorial Africa”. They were different colonies, and Angola was Portuguese.
Years ago a giant snake found and raised a lost baby boy.
He grew up into a good man, but is turned evil by jungle berries and acquires supernatural power through experimentation with roots and herbs.
Accompanied by the snake, “Powerhouse”, he seizes control of a city. The inhabitants flee except for some he knocks out with his power so they’ll be available later.
He directs the snake to start destroying buildings so he can build a palace, but Fantomah warns him to stop. So he instead wakes up his captives and has them scour the rivers for jewels.
Rather than pay them he orders the snake to kill them. Fantomah intervenes again. She stops the snake, makes the “Jungle Demon” eat leaves that return him to his former self, and exiles him and the snake to live together in isolation.
Artistically, this instalment is a return to form after the last two episodes. The basic story is similar - an evil man has plans of conquest, Fantomah warns him or intervenes in a limited way, he persists and she steps in to resolve things - but what the “Demon” actually does is subtler than the violence of the last two instalments. On the debit side her actions at the resolution are once again not very inventive.
6.“Simba, King of the Beasts”
Simba saves a cub from an ape. The ape complains to Golox, the gorilla ruler “of all the monkey tribe”. He challenges Simba and they fight.
Filmmakers who have come to Africa for footage attempt to film the fight, but this disturbs the apes and they attack them. During the confusion Golox breaks off the fight and makes off with a woman called Gloria.
Simba pursues him, and Golox throws Gloria away.
They resume their fight and Simba wins. Simba helps Gloria back to her compatriots.
This is another one with humans, but more inventive in what happens, if also less realistic.
Next: Captain Thunder finds romance! Tabu assists a boy chief! And Wambi wins a war!
Jungle Comics #6 part three
7.“Captain Terry Thunder of the Congo Lancers”
Gloria Frazier, the daughter of General Frazier, is touring Africa. The fort is cleaned up for her visit.
When she arrives she proves to be a bombshell and a handful, and Thunder has trouble managing her.
She gets Thunder to let her go riding with a guard. The guard is shot, and the shot is heard from the fort. Thunder finds him dead and guesses Gloria has been seized by the local Arabs. He attempts a rescue but is captured due to her non-cooperation.
The Arab chief has him staked in a wooden collar in the sun. But Gloria is a crack shot. She lifts the chief’s gun and uses it to free Thunder, and they escape.
The chief pursues them alone, and there’s a gunfight. Gloria shoots him, and she and Thunder kiss.
With this instalment the feature becomes broadly comic. This gives it a unique identity in the line-up. It’s an example of how a change in style and tone can completely change a feature while the premise remains the same.
The GCD again tentatively attributes the art to Bill Bossert. I’m inclined to think it was pencilled by the same artist as #5’s instalment. It looks different but that could be due to some else’s having inked the last one or the artist’s having the freedom to draw more comically this time.
I like the instalment’s boisterousness and romance, but I suppose it’s not going to make anyone laugh out loud. Gloria appeared again the next issue but didn’t stay permanently.
8.“Tabu Wizard of the Jungle
Sometime previously the chief of a tribe was saved from an assassin by a white man. In gratitude he promised the man’s son would succeed him. The chief has just died, and the son, still a boy, is installed as chief.
Batau, an ambitious tribesman, stirs up the tribe against the boy.
He has to flee, and Tabu saves him from his pursuers.
Batau becomes the new chief and rules as a tyrant. Soon many of the tribesmen want the boy back.
Tabu uses his powers to prevent an execution. Batau flees, and the tribesmen and Tabu search for him. Tabu locates him and his henchmen. While Tabu is fighting the henchmen Batau slips away. He spots the boy in a tree and attempts to kill him.
Tabu transforms Batau into a rock and delivers him to the tribesmen, who execute him. The boy is restored to the chieftainship.
This instalment sees the arrival of another new artist, whom the GCD identifies as Charles Sultan. His art isn’t as good as Golden’s first two instalments’, but it’s competent and arguably better than his third’s. The GCD attributes Sultan with seven instalments.
Tabu starts wearing a cape this issue. He now can transform himself and other things, and also has running and leaping abilities. The instalment lacks the danger of Golden’s ones, and Tabu is here less of a super-Tarzan, the depiction of him I liked. But his powers have found what might prove a sustainable level.
9.“Wambi the Jungle Boy”
Wambi is friends with a tribe of pygmies. A violent tribe becomes jealous of their prosperity, and attacks and drives them from their homes.
Wambi and his animal friends assist the pygmies.
The invaders attack the animals while they’re in council. Tawn fight them off, and the animals become united against them.
Wambi goes to the invaders with a peace offer, having ordered the animals to attack if he fails. The invaders seize him and lash him to a stake. The animals and pygmies attack, and the invaders flee.
There’s a lot of animal art in this one, and I like the sympathetic portrayal of the pygmies. They're shown as fighters, even though the other tribe defeats them the first time. Wambi worships an idol with them in the opening sequence.
My top tier this time is “Roy Lance” and “Fantomah”, but for their art more than their stories. It feels odd putting "Roy Lance" in the top tier as it's the title's blandest feature in concept.
The text story is “The White Slave” by Bob Clark. Ran-tog sees his first human beings, a partly of slavers and slaves. He is captured and added to the slave chain. With the help of a monkey he frees himself and the other slaves, and his fellows fight and overcome their captors while he returns to the jungle.
There’s also a Ripley’s Believe It or Not!-ish “Jungle Facts” filler page.
All images are from the scan of the issue at Comic Book Plus. Click to enlarge.
Jungle Comics #7 (Fiction House, Jul. 1940) part one
The explorer Red Longjohn asks Kaänga the way to a lost valley. He doesn’t return, so Kaänga and Ann go looking for him.
The valley is inhabited by descendants of Romans who settled there in 100 B.C. Their ruler is white but most of those we see are dark-skinned.
They are plagued by “cannibalistic monkey men” and take outsiders captive and gift them to the monkey men for peace. They hand over Longjohn, his assistant, and Ann.
Kaänga rescues the explorers but is captured when he tries to rescue Ann. The explorers and the Romans join forces and attack. Kaänga frees himself and releases Ann. Longjohn blows the monkey men up.
The GCD continues to attribute the art to Tuska. The art is competent and dull this time. The story is mostly told in small panels (eight most pages) with small figures, and the monkey men are very dully designed. The action is not very interesting.
Longjohn has a red beard and is overweight. His assistant is dark-skinned and dresses like Kolu from Jungle Jim.
The dark-skinned people among the Romans also wear turbans, except for the man who captures Ann, who wears a fez.
Perhaps I should call Kaänga’s hair strawberry blond.
2.“The Red Panther”
The Red Panther rescues a man who has been buried up to his neck from vultures. The man tells him he is a former chief who has been deposed by Boku, a usurper resolved on plunder. The Red Panther undertakes to stop this.
He finds a battle in progress and warns the attacking tribesmen they face disaster. They move on to another village and are suddenly surrounded by fire(?)
The Red Panther tells them they can be saved if they call back their old chief. He has a herd of elephants put out the flames.
The tribesmen take their old chief back and return their plunder. The two sides celebrate the new peace. Boku attempts to kill the Red Panther with a blow-dart. But the hero's instinct warns him:
The two fight, and Boku is killed.
So, can the Red Panther talk to animals, or does he just have a good rapport with the elephant herd’s leader? How does he surround the tribesmen with fire?
The GCD again attributes the art to Arthur Peddy. It credits him with pencils and inks, but I think at least two hands have been involved in the stories to this point, possibly working as penciller and inker or often working that way, for reasons explained in the next post.
My panel selections from this issue show the art's strengths and weaknesses. The story has a moody darkness seen in the splash panel and opening sequence, and the elephants are well-drawn. But one also sees stiff figures and underdrawn panels as in the panels from the Boku/Red Panther fight.
3.“Camilla Queen of the Lost Empire”
Camilla has Caredodo freed because she needs to someone to go with her to the Cave of Sighs, which is the entrance to Hades. She is going because she needs to “drive the Devil and his demons” away from her empire.
In the cave there is a long stairway that leads down to Hades:
Hell proves to have a copper gate. Camilla saves Caredodo from a seductive lady demon and Mephistopheles leads them to the Devil, who is a two-headed monster.
They fight the Devil, and Camilla defeats him by carving a cross. The Angel of Faith offers to grant her a wish as a reward. Camilla requests that Caredodo be transformed into a handsome man, and the wish is granted. She makes him her prime minister and renames him Sir Champion.
A soldier reports that the Empire is being attacked by “fierce warriors with slanted eyes and yellow skin”. Camilla recognises them as “the pagans of Carthage”, and the attack as the fulfilment of a prophecy that the Empire will be attacked by “the yellow hordes of Genga Khan”. The instalment ends on this cliffhanger.
The GCD again ascribes the art to Bob Powell. He has Camilla in a ballgown in the opening sequence, but she wears a short skirt and tight cap in the main part of the adventure. I didn’t expect to see this kind of fantasy in this series. The descent into Hell reminded me of the one in Shazam! #35, but that's not saying much as these kinds of stories always do. I was sorry to see Caredodo transformed as he was more interesting as a very unusual sidekick.
Next: the art of "The Red Panther"!