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.

(9) Bwana Devil was written and directed by Arch Oboler, the man behind the Giant Chicken Heart. The film is based on the true story of the Man-Eaters of Tsavo, which is fascinating.

(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.

This post displaced the thread QuizUp Questions - PLASTIC MAN questions needed from the homepage.


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.

2."White Panther"

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.

Views: 3907

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Jo-Jo Comics #7[b] (Fox, 1947)

The artist of the second story this issue might be the one who did the first story last time. The first story might be by the same artist with a different inker.

As was mostly the case in #7[a] the women in the stories are coloured as whites. In the first story Jo-Jo isn't shown to have a girlfriend. In the second his girlfriend is Safra, the daughter of the chief of the Estau. Like both his romantic interests last time she wears a bikini with jagged yellow dots.

The first page of the first story appeared on the inside front cover. This was often the case with Fox titles.

Jo-Jo doesn't have that balding look this time out. His hair is also shorter, particularly in the first story.

"Jo-Jo Congo King": "Double Doors of Doom"

A group of gorillas abduct the daughter of the Torrenggi chief as she is bathing. Her father asks Jo-Jo for help. 

Jo-Jo heads for a nearby ape colony and asks its leader if they were responsible for the abduction. As they are conversing an ape reports a band of apes has taken a woman to the dancing place.

Jo-Jo heads there, and sees something he has never seen before: gorillas dancing, around a gorilla sitting on a throne...

The woman on the cover is Yolda from this story, but Jo-Jo doesn't save her from a panther. At the end of the tale she makes a pass at him, but he doesn't take her up on it.

At the climax Jo-Jo is confronted with a dilemma borrowed from "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

The leader of the ape colony seems to understand what Jo-Jo says, but Jo-Jo doesn't understand the ape language. They talk by arranging sticks. This is "the language of the sticks, as old as the jungle itself". 

"Jo-Jo Congo King": second story

A tribe of six-foot warrior women attack the Estau with the intention of killing the women and enslaving the men.

Safra is on the silly side, but her father is shown to be sharp. She and Jo-Jo are seriously involved: she's after him to marry her, and he means to do so if she decides she can share his dangerous life.

Jo-Jo defeats the warrior women in a way I haven't seen before. Once again he's shown to be a jungle hero who can come up with a clever plan.

"Pop-Gun Pete"

This is a comedy Western. Pete arrives in Hollywood meaning to become a star, and introduces himself to the director Max Saltenpepper. Saltenpepper thinks he's a fake and chases him off, then heads for Pete's home town to film a movie. He hires two locals to play holdup men who are actual holdup men who mean to kidnap his female lead. As they are filming Pete returns...

Another Pop-Gun Pete had appeared in several comics from Fox previously. He was short and this one is gangly, but the stories' humour was similar and his horse had the same name, Spunky, so it looks like this one was intended as the same character. I think this instalment was drawn by a different artist, but Spunky is drawn very similarly. The character made no further appearances.

The text story is about the adventures of a wildlife photographer and his pet monkey.

Jo-Jo #8 (Fox, 1947)

With this issue the indicia title became Jo-Jo. It went back to being Jo-Jo Comics in #14 so the GCD lists all the issues under that title.

This was the first issue with only Jo-Jo stories. The cover is tied to the first story and amazingly risqué.

"Jo-Jo Congo King": "The Mountain of Skulls!"

A band of native murderers is led by a scheming white woman.

The villainess is an utterly conscienceless evil blonde. Her costume in the story isn't as risqué as the cover one, and I think the story wasn't done by the same artist. The native band boils the flesh off the skulls of its enemies and keeps them, so the story has much grisly skull imagery.

We here meet Tanee for the first time, but she's really the same character as Geesa and Safra. Like them she's a native woman coloured as white, and she's portrayed as living in her native village, where her father is the chief or king.

In this story her relationship to the chief isn't stated, but it's probably taken for granted. The writer may have intended them as Safra and her father from last issue. At the climax she saves the day, but purely by luck; she's not portrayed as an effective heroine. Her portrayal in the third story is different.

The art of this story is at the cartoony end of the Iger range. Tanee wears a polka-dot bikini, a bracelet and armband on opposite arms, and flowers in her hair.

"Jo-Jo Congo King:": "The Screaming Village!"

Tanee's village is suffering from a famine due to a drought, and because her father sold their stores to two whites for salt.

A native boy called N'Gagk in prominent in this story, and appears with Jo-Jo and Tanee in the splash and final panel. He was possibly meant to be a recurring character. Tanee's father is also prominent and named Nemba. He's killed p.6, and his death motivates Jo-Jo's actions at the climax.

The story was apparently altered from its initial version, as its parts don't fit together. P.2 depicts Nemba as present in the starving village, but on pp.3-4 he's some distance away with the men herding buffalo. Pp.5-6 place him in the village again, and in p.6 panel 2 you can see he's been starving.

What the whites are after isn't clear. N'Gagk says p.5 they're trying "to bribe our people with food so they can make more trouble". In the following panel they offer Tanee a basket "if you'll only be our friend", which sounds like an offer of food for sex.

The art has shifts in style which indicate more than one artist contributed. Possibly the people who completed the story weren't the people who started it, and this is the reason for the discrepancies. I think Robert Webb was one of the artists, and he may have touched up Tanee's face in parts of the third story.

When Jo-Jo sees Tanee bounds to the stake he calls her "the daughter of my friend", as if they're not involved yet. Tanee here wears a yellow bikini with a stripe design and hair flowers.

The splash image shows Jo-Jo and N'Gagk herding buffalo while Tanee watches.

"Jo-Jo Congo King": "Minature Men!"

A witch doctor shrinks and imprisons Tanee and her father.

Some parts of the story are more naively drawn than others, which could mean different parts of the story were done by different pencillers, or it had the same penciller throughout but several inkers. I'm inclined to think the latter, and that the penciller was John Forte. His style is particularly evident p.3 panel 7, p.4 panel 1, p.5 panel 5, and p.11 panel 4. The splash looks to me by the same hand as the cover - note the handling of the women - so I think Forte drew the cover too.

In this story Tanee's father is named Kuni. Tanee is Jo-Jo's girlfriend when the story starts, but it appears she originally wasn't going to be named Tanee. On p.7 the canoeist says he's been looking for Kuni and "Gessah". On p.4 Tanee calls herself Talya.

Tanee is shown to be capable and brave, and is responsible for the heroes' triumph. She wears a yellow bikini with jagged dots, bone hairpieces, and earrings.

As in "The Screaming Village" Jo-Jo hunts with Tanee's people.

The title is spelled as given.

The issue also has a filler page titled "Jungle Oddities" and a half-pager about alligators.

In the text story an American bankrobber flees to Africa.


Crown Comics was published by McCombs and appeared from 1945-49. But for most of its run it was a quarterly, so there were only 19 issues. "Voodah" was a jungle hero feature that appeared in #3-#8, #10-#19.

The hero was solo-cover-featured on #5, #6, #12, #16, #19, and co-cover-featured on #14, #15. The interesting thing is he was coloured as a native African for his first three instalments and again in #13. His features and hair were always Caucasian in appearance, so when his skin colour changed his design didn't.

The distinctive element in his design was a headband. Initially he wore a loincloth rather than trunks.

"Voodah": untitled story, Crown Comics #3 (McCombs, 1945)

A white criminal with a pet monkey convinces the inhabitants of a village that worships monkeys that his pet is a monkey god.

The GCD ascribes the art of this instalment to Matt Baker. Its heroine is an attractive native woman who Baker draws with negro features.

The instalment doesn't explain who Voodah is. He's first seen lying in a tree and he gets around by swinging on vines, so he's apparently a jungle lord like Tarzan. He's not shown to have the ability to communicate with animals.

"Voodah": untitled story, Crown Comics #4 (McCombs, 1945)

A tribe can no longer fish in its traditional waters because its men keep getting attacked by a giant fish. The witch doctor says the only remedy is to offer the chief's daughter as a sacrifice, so the chief sends to Voodah for help.

Hero Histories points out the GCD's credit is from the story's byline and ascribes the art to Matt Baker. I can believe he had a hand in it - the depictions of Voodah and the heroine at the top of p.4 are in his style - but the other native men don't look like his work and are clumsily drawn in places, so if he was involved I think he didn't do the story solo. As in the first instalment the tale's heroine is an attractive negro woman.

"Voodah": untitled story, Crown Comics #5 (McCombs, 1946)

A frozen dinosaur thaws out, revives, and kills all but one of a hunting party. Voodah and the survivor track it to kill it.

Voodah is coloured as white on the issue's cover, but as a native African inside. The GCD ascribes the cover to Matt Baker and Al Feldstein. It's a generic image rather than a scene from the story.

The story's art is less impressive than the previous instalments', but serviceable. The GCD identifies the artist as Bob Hebberd.

"Voodah": untitled story, Crown Comics #6 (McCombs, 1946)

A hag controls a native tribe through fake magic.

The GCD ascribes the cover to Matt Baker. It shows Voodah confronting the hag who is the story's villain. She's topless in the story as well. The image of her standing in a column of smoke reminds me of images of Ayesha from She standing in a column of fire.

The instalment is bylined "by Forte Heames", which the GCD interprets as meaning John Forte and David Heames. That must be right, but I can't pretend I spotted Forte's style.

This repost displaced the thread Today's Purchases from the homepage.

"Voodah": "The Drum That Was Human!!", Crown Comics #7 (McCombs, 1946)

A drum soloist has a drum made from a human skull he never plays. He tells two women its story, which has to do with a conflict between Voodah and a drum priest named Skolla who made drums out of human skin.

This is a grislier story than those before it, but the grisliness is in the writing more than the art. Its theme of African savagery is unusual for the series.

Voodah is represented as the ruler of the jungle, "just... but stern".

The GCD attributes the story's art to Jack Kamen, but notes the opinion of Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr that it was pencilled by Gus Schrotter.

"Voodah": untitled story, Crown Comics #8 (McCombs, 1946)

The maidens from an African village are being taken by crocodiles. They ask Voodah for help.

The villagers in this story are depicted sympathetically. The men of the village are coloured brown, but the women are coloured orange. The villains are a traitor and a slave-trader. A brave village girl provides Voodah with assistance.

The story is attractively drawn in an Iger style. The GCD tentatively attributes the art to Alex Blum and David Heames.

"Voodah": untitled story, Crown Comics #10 (McCombs, 1947)

Voodah warns the inhabitants of the jungle city that the volcano is going to erupt. The ruler decides to evacuate the lower part of the city and move the treasure. The city is being visited by three whites. They have been planning to steal the treasure, and seize the opportunity.

Here the people of the lost city are civilised and the visiting whites are the villains. Voodah is coloured orange, like the women from the previous instalment, but I think this is to represent his tan. The locals are coloured brown.

At the end the ruler thanks Voodah for saving his people's treasures, but p.5 panel 4 it looks like the woman is throwing the box into the lava.

The GCD attributes the writing and art of the story to Frank Bolle, plot and pencils, and Leonard Starr, script and inks. The art is a little stiff, but clean and attractive. The story opens with some good storytelling on the splash page. The final fight at the climax is silent.

"Voodah": untitled story, Crown Comics #11 (McCombs, 1947)

Voodah helps a woman rescue her father and sister from a cave people who dress like crocodiles and apparently worship them.

In this instalment the villains are a small, primitive tribe. A native man calls Voodah using drums at the start, and there's another in the group of captives.

The art is evidently by the same hands as last time's, and the GCD again attributes the writing and art to Bolle and Starr.

Heritage Auctions has images of a page and roughs for an unpublished page by John Coleman Burroughs here. It says the page was intended for Four Color #134, Tarzan and the Devil Ogre, and rejected by Dell's editors. Four Color #134 was the first original Tarzan comic book, as opposed to comic with newspaper strip reprints, and Jesse Marsh's first Tarzan story.

This post displaced the thread From the Archives: Deck Log Entry # 57 Saturday Morning Silver Age:... from the homepage.

Reply to Discussion


Publisher News

The Justice League comes to an end in 'Justice League' #75

Posted by Captain Comics on January 20, 2022 at 5:30pm 4 Comments

Joshua Williamson & Rafa Sandoval Team up to kill the team on April 19…



© 2022   Captain Comics, board content ©2013 Andrew Smith   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service