Tentacle Tuesday: The Jungle Queens

« Beware, bwana — beware its tentacles! »

Cue in the taut, frantic jungle drums! Picture this: through a thick tangle of brush and tropical vegetation, prances a fair maiden who is quite unaffected by spiky plants or venomous insects. She’s the staunch defender of jungle animals, friend to jaguar or hippo (or whatever other animal the artist’s imagination conjures, even if it’s entirely inappropriate to a jungle… but who cares about zoological accuracy?) One creature this wild child is definitely not a friend to, however, is the octopus: anything with tentacles gets stabbed and killed, as expediently as possible. That’s little cause for concern, however – the real octopus, who lives only in oceans, has little use for a jungle… so whatever’s getting killed must be an impostor or a mutant.

I am amused by jungle comics, which perhaps require an even more dramatic suspension of disbelief than many an equally action-oriented genre.  The female protagonists, usually clad in some sort of leopard/jaguar skin (which makes one wonder why big felines even want to hang out with someone wearing their relatives’ pelt), are usually portrayed as guardians of the wilderness… but some of them kill an awful lot of animals for supposed protectors of the feral kingdom. The blonde Sheena (first female comic book character with her own series), equally blonde Lorna the Jungle Girl (Atlas-published, a rival to Fiction House’s Sheena), Avon’s Taanda – White Princess of the Jungle, Camilla – Wild Girl of the Congo (a case of Fiction House knocking off their own Sheena)… the list definitely goes on. That’s quite a few jungle queens bouncing around, dealing with hostile tribesmen getting uppity, lethal white hunters up to no good and would-be Romeos perpetually being held hostage. Sometimes they even have cat fights and overthrow one another. Very amusing indeed. Pepper the dialogue with lots of bwanas, toss in an epic rescue of hapless natives, and you’re all set.

To be fair, however, some Golden Age jungle comics boast fetching art and compelling stories in which natives are their own agents and her Royal Highness gets to show off her wits (and her gams) to best advantage. It’s hard to dislike stories in which a strong, clever woman gets to save the day.

Without further ado, I present Jungle Queen vs Octopus!

First up, there’s Sheena, who has struggled with quite a few tentacles in her day:

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Page from «Voodoo Treasure of Black Slave Lake», scripted by W. Morgan Thomas, pencilled by Robert Webb, and inked by David Heames, published in Jumbo Comics no. 31 (September 1941, Fiction House).
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«Sargasso of Lost Safaris», pencilled by Robert Webb and inked by Ann Brewster, published in Jumbo Comics no. 87 (May 1946, Fiction House). What the heck does the Sargasso sea have to do with a jungle? I’d like to know.
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Untitled story from Sheena, Queen of the Jungle no. 5 (Summer 1949, Fiction House). Art by Robert Webb.
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Panels from «The Beasts That Dawn Begot!» drawn by Robert Webb, published in Sheena, Queen of the Jungle no. 12 (Summer 1951, Fiction House).

Time for other queens to borrow Sheena’s spotlight:

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«The Red Witch of Ubangi-Shan», with art by John Celardo, published in Jungle Comics no. 105 (September 1948, Fiction House). Technically, this inclusion goes against my main theme – for Käanga has a very stupid mate who has to be rescued at every turn. She may wear a leopard bikini, but she’s nothing but a Damsel in Distress. Boo.

This Camilla story was scripted by Victor Ibsen and drawn by Ralph Mayo, and was published in Jungle Comics no. 144 (1951, Fiction House):

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A raft full of musclebound men and Camilla has to be the one to stab the octopus. Her contempt is well justified, as Asheley is clearly a loser.

We’ve had a lot of blondes so far, how about a redhead?

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White Princess of the Jungle no. 4 (August 1952, Avon), cover by Everett Raymond Kinstler.

The cover story, «Fangs of the Swamp Beast»:

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White Princess of the Jungle #4-1

Back to our regularly scheduled blonde heroine! This is «The Devil’s Lagoon», scripted by Don Rico and drawn by Werner Roth, published in Lorna the Jungle Queen no. 4 (December 1953, Atlas):

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Lorna has the talent of plunging into water boobs first, and using them to optimize buoyancy.
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Again with the bust-ridiculously-stuck-out pose in the first panel.

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For a chuckle, read Stupid Comics‘ critique of Devil’s Lagoon here. Moving on, I have no wish to be unfair to brunettes, especially given that I generally prefer them:

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All Top Comics no. 16 (March 1949, Fox). Cover by Matt Baker. Sure features plenty of top, doesn’t it? That’s Rulah, by the way – you guessed it, Rulah, the Jungle Goddess (well, at least she’s not a queen), one of those run-amok women who has no qualms killing animal or human.

Here’s a rather amusing explanation for Rulah’s raison d’être from Toonopedia: «One day, while piloting a small plane across Darkest Africa, she crash-landed where civilization had scarcely been heard of. Her clothes were damaged to the point of leaving her butt naked (“like Eve in the Garden,” she mused), modesty preserved only by shadows and strategically-placed vegetation — yet, her skin wasn’t noticeably scratched or abraded. Fortunately, her plane had whacked a giraffe on the way down, so she skinned it and skillfully fashioned a fetching bikini from the raw, uncured pelt. Her uncovered parts were no more bothered by thorns, rough bark, poison ivy and the like, than were her bare feet. Next, she saved a tribe from the local tyrant, a white jungle queen much like herself, and was proclaimed its ruler — provided she could prove herself by killing a starving leopard with nothing but a dagger, which she did.»

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Another brunette! Vooda no. 22 (August 1955, Farrell). Note that Jungle Queens are only allowed to have hoop earrings, preferably gold.

Phew, that tromp through the jungle wore me out! Until next Tentacle Tuesday…

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Seafaring octopuses and the men they have shamelessly devoured

Ahoy, landlubbers! Today’s Tentacle Tuesday goes back to the good ol’ days of nautical journeys, ships crushed by mighty tentacles, and brave men who end their lives as snacks for the mighty cephalopod.

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Printed in Pilote Hors série aventure no 17 bis (October 1975, Dargaud). The story is titled L’Antoinette Pécuchet, from the cycle Les histoires de Pemberton, written and illustrated by Sirius (real name Max Mayeu, Belgian cartoonist).
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After most of the crew is swallowed up by the starving octopus, our narrator gets the bright idea to stick some dynamite into the pocket of the next sacrificial lamb and lights it just before he’s eaten. “The octopus savoured Nolasque with a healthy appetite. Suddenly, she hiccuped loudly, like a burping baby… Pale, she threw us a glance of bitter reproach, and dove into the water, never to be seen again.”

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Speaking of the Sargasso Sea (frequently depicted in fiction as a perilous area where ships go to die, mired in Sargassum seaweed, unable to escape), here’s another vignette about that mysterious spot. Incidentally, it is the only sea that doesn’t have land boundaries, enclosed by the Gulf Stream on the west side, the Canary Current on the east, the North Atlantic Current on the North and the North Atlantic Equatorial Current on the South. No wonder people thought it was full of mystery and danger! Even I, more or less immune to the siren’s call of wild maritime adventure, feel a little thrill at its mention. *Ahem* back to comics.

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Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery no. 29 (March 1970), painted cover by George Wilson.

As is often the case, the original painting has a lot more detail than the printed version:

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The original painting for “Creature of the Sargasso Sea” by George Wilson.

What does this peculiar, one-eyed beast look like closer up, one might ask? Something like this:

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A page from Creature of the Sargasso Sea, pencils by John Celardo and inks by Sal Trapani. Furry octopuses are my favourite!

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The sea can bring many (other) strange things, including a sword-wielding octopus… who should have stayed in the water, where he had the home advantage, instead of attempting to wage battle on sort-of land.

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A couple of pages from Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser, a comic adaptation of Fritz Leiber’s cycle of sword-and-sorcery stories. Adaptation by Howard Chaykin, art by Mike Mignola, who’s inked by Al Williamson. This 4-issue series was anthologized in 2007 by Dark Horse; these pages were scanned from Book 4, published in 1992 by Epic Comics.
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One can only hope to be as stylish while fighting a many-tentacled monster.

~ ds

… in which a carnivorous reptile fights a man masquerading as a T-Rex

Yes, I’m sure that jungle inhabitants had to fight off vicious, anatomically impossible pterodactyls all the freaking time. Man, has John Celardo, the artist of this cover, ever seen a pterodactyl? … Oh, right, I guess he hasn’t. That still doesn’t justify this monstrosity, though.

Mark Twain comes to mind:

« The less said about the pterodactyl the better. It was a spectacle, that beast! a mixture of buzzard and alligator, a sarcasm, an affront to all animated nature, a butt for the ribald jests of an unfeeling world. »

*This* pterodactyl certainly looks like a butt for jests, given that its spine is twisted like a strand of DNA, and that its head has been put on backwards.

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Jungle Comics no. 17 (May 1941). Cover by John Celardo.

The premise of Valley of the Killer-Birds is exactly the same as the raison d’être of all the other ‘Jungle Lord’ comics: Kaänga (who, judging from the umlaut, is probably Danish, just like Häagen-Dazs) has to rescue his damsel-in-distress yet again. I’m sure you are dying to know what the plot is like, so here it is in more detail:

Ann, Kaänga’s mate, is “blown off her perch” (where she was roosting, presumably) by a strong wind, and is carried off by a pterodactyl that just happens to be passing by at the moment, probably on its way to the grocery store. Kaänga tries to follow, but falls off a cliff, is carried (unconscious) through a watery tunnel, and lands in “a weird prehistoric valley”. He then effortlessly kills a a dinosaur that looks like a slightly smaller-than-average T-Rex and climbs into its skin (that somehow fits him perfectly), plays dead, gets carried off by another pterodactyl and dropped off at some random cave, miraculously the same cave where Ann is captive, and even more preposterously just a few meters away from her standing coyly by in a typical “just look at my bikini!” pose.  Then he waves at her with his paw (understandably, she doesn’t understand why a dinosaur is waving at her – it’s those super-short front paws, you know), then she gets carried off (again) by a giant ape that shows up from nowhere, and Kaänga, still in T-Rex form, hotly pursues them and kills the ape. Then the hero of our tale, as clean and Arian as he can possibly be (nevermind that he just climbed from the bloody insides of an animal corpse), takes Ann’s hand and leads her out from the tunneled cave, reasoning at some point that if there’s human skulls in the passage, there must be a way out of those tunnels. (Um, no, it just means the pterodactyls and/or giant ape have had a lot of silly little humans for supper that they’ve brought in from elsewhere.)

~ ds

 

Hallowe’en Countdown, Day 13

« It is Friday the 13th and you are right on time — ten minutes to midnight! »

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The Anti-13 is that rarest of creatures: an unflinchingly skeptical tale published in the pages of a supernatural-themed comic book in the midst of the 1970s occult craze. Hats off, folks!

As the thirteenth fatefully falls on a Friday this month, I’m inspired to trot out a story from my very favourite issue of Gold Key’s Grimm’s Ghost Stories no. 26 (Sept. 1975). So what elevates this particular entry above its brethren? Admittedly, the competition from other issues is pretty tepid. Truth be told, though, all comers are swept out the door by a winning pair of yarns from the great Arnold Drake (1924 – 2007, co-creator of The Doom Patrol, Deadman and the original Guardians of the Galaxy): « The Servant of Chan » (illustrated by Luis Dominguez) and this one, the bracingly skeptical « The Anti-13 » (illustrated by John Celardo).

Intrigued? Read The Anti-13 for yourself!

And find out more about history’s real-life Anti-13 clubs right here.

– RG