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JUNGLE COMICS, I PRESUME?
By Ed Sanchez
Jungle Comics debuted in January of 1940, and right from the start, this title was something different from just about anything else on the stands. During the early 1940s, there was a need to provide relief from the realities of WWII, and there was no further or more exotic place than the deep canopy of the jungle. Taking their queue from Edgar Rice Burroughs' sensational Tarzan pulp novels, Jungle Comics featured many Tarzan-like stories and characters.

The first issue alone featured a host of first appearances and origin stories of characters that would make up the regular line-up for the book for years to come. Kaanga Lord of the Jungle, The White Panther, Tabu Wizard of the Jungle, Wambi The Jungle Boy and Camilla & Captain Thunder all made their first appearances in the first issue.

Kaanga was a white boy orphaned when his family and their exploring expedition were massacred in the Congo. The boy is the only survivor and eventually hooks up with a tribe of ape-men who raise him to be one of their own. Later on the boy (whose real name is never revealed), meets up with some of his white kin and learns English. He falls in love and marries a woman named Ann Mason. Together, Kaanga and Ann fight off all manner of threats, including Nazis and even dinosaurs.

The last survivor of an ancient people whom once dwelled in a city deep in the Jungles of Africa, White Panther had the ability to foretell the future. Of course, the White Panther decides to use this power for good, and went on to be one of the many Jungle cops the title would feature.

Tabu saved a witch doctor from a hideous death, and in return, was given an extra sense that allowed him to be the strongest, swiftest, most agile creature in the Jungle. Thus Tabu was named the Wizard of the Jungle, and went on to use his "sixth sense" and intelligence to combat evil in the Jungle (a new origin was later introduced in issue #79).

The zebra costume clad Camilla, and her dog Fang, ruled over a hidden kingdom in deep Africa. Queen of the Lost Empire, Camilla was the descendant of Norsemen who visited Africa during the time of the Crusades. In issue #104, Camilla was pitted against a very evil villain named Dr. Wertham. Those familiar with the real-life Congressional investigations brought about by the real-life Dr. Frederic Wertham's book, "The Seduction of the Innocent", may find it no coincidence that issue #98 was used shortly before by Wertham as "evidence" during those hearings.

A Captain in the British Army, Captain Terry Thunder re-enlists as the leader of the Congo Lancers. None of these career soldiers had any super powers or secret Jungle origins, but they were assigned deep in the African Jungle to Yambezi, with a mission to combat slave traders and other unsavory Jungle ruffians.

Also appearing in the first issue of Jungle Comics was Wambi, a young Tarzan-clone, and his best friend, Tawn the elephant. Both Wambi and Tawn, as well as their friends Tiger Girl, Tiger Girl's pet tiger, Benzali, and Tiger Girl's Shikh servant, Abdola, patrolled the rough villages of the African Jungle.

Another jungle heartthrob was the Egyptian, Fantomah, who fought against all manner of Jungle baddies and Ivory hunters. Fantomah could fly and had the rare quality of being able to turn her head into a skull. Making her first appearance in issue #2 of Jungle Comics, Fantomah would go on to a new origin in issue #27; this time as a Daughter of the Pharoahs.

Jungle Comics was very popular and lasted until 1954 with issue #163. Many of the stories are considered silly by todays standards, but they were exactly what they were intended to be: big time jungle fun with lots of cheesecake!

 

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JUNGLE COMICS

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