Aug 26, 2014

Wild Boy: The Gay Jungle Boy of 1950s Comics

There were many variations of the Tarzan mythos during the middle years of the 20th century, but one of the most fondly remembered by the first generation of Baby Boomers was Wild Boy, Prince of the Jungle.

He had a short run, appearing in 8 issues of a  Ziff-Davis series (1950-1952), which oddly starts with 10.  Then St. John took over the title, renamed it Wild Boy of the Congo, and published 6 issues (#9-#15), in 1953.  That's it.

But what he lacked in longevity, Wild Boy made up for in gay potential.

His origin story: the young American boy David Clyde goes to the Congo with his uncle, who hires evil native to kill him.  He escape and grows up in the jungle, but speaks a stilted "me, Tarzan" patois.

He has two animal companions, a panther (Daro) and a monkey (Kimba), and a native boyfriend, Keeto (who speaks the same patois.)

Artists vary in their interpretation of Wild Boy: should he be a little kid or nearly an adult?  And just how feminine should his wavy hair, lipstick, and eye liner get?

But he's definitely a gay icon. He displays no interest in women, but he rescues and hugs Keeto every five minutes.

The comics are hilarious today for their stereotypes of the white Western colonial master and the "childlike" natives.

Hint: the good ones wear Western-style clothes, and the bad ones wear loincloths.

Here he uses the old chestnut "I will make the sun disappear!" to avoid execution by an evil tribe.  How corny can you get?

But at least he's holding hands with Keeto.

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