Jul 4, 2016

The DC Comics Jungle

When I was a kid in the 1960s and 1970s, DC Comics were not known for their beefcake -- Batman, Superman, and their superhero coworkers were fully clothed all the time.  You had to go to Gold Key to get your quota of loincloth-clad jungle hunks.  But suddenly in the 1970s DC got on the bandwagon, and a dozen jungle, prehistoric, far-future, and sword-and-sorcery musclemen appeared all at once.

A precursor, Congo Bill, who wore a Jungle Jim style pith helmet, appeared in various DC Comics in the 1940s and 1950s, until he was transformed into a giant gorilla in 1959.  He got his own 7-issue series in 1954-55.  His sidekick was the loincloth clad Janu the Jungle Boy, a pint-sized Bomba who spoke in "Him no friend" patois. Here he worries about the competition.

B'wana Beast appeared in two issues of DC Showcase in 1967.  He drank a special magic elixer in a cave on Mount Kilimanjaro that allowed him to talk to animals, including his gorilla sidekick. A special magic helmet allowed him to control them.

DC took over the Tarzan title from Gold Key in 1972, and printed adaptions of the original Edgar Rice Burroughs stories: Tarzan of the Apes, The Return of Tarzan, Jungle Tales of Tarzan, Tarzan the Untamed, Tarzan and the Lion Man and Tarzan and the Castaways.  It lasted until 1977.

Korak, Son of Tarzan also migrated from Gold Key from 1972 to 1976.

The anthology series Weird Worlds  adapted some other Edgar Rice Burroughs books, including the John Carter of Mars series (shown here with the Conan-style woman supine at his feet),  plus the far-future sword-and-sorcery hero Ironwolf.   It lasted for 10 issues (1972-1974).

Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth, inhabited a post-Planet of the Apes world of sentient animals from 1972 to 1978.

Tor, a warrior from "The World of a Million Years Ago!", with his monkey companion Chee-Chee, bounced around several comics companies after his debut in 1953.  DC had him for 6 issues beginning in 1975.  Those are sentient apes fighting him.

Claw the Unconquered, a Conan the Barbarian clone all the way down to the woman lying supine at his feet, also began in 1975, and lasted for 12 issues from 1975 to 1978.  His deformed hand, a "claw," wasn't caused by an accident or birth defect: his father was punished for consorting with demons.

Another sword-and-sorcery hero, The Warlord (seen here in cosplay), debuted in an anthology series called 1st Issue Special in 1975 before going on to a successful run in his own title (1976-1988).  He was an American pilot who accidentally flew into a hole at the North Pole and ended up in Pellucidar...um, I mean Skartaris, where he rescued the scantily clad Princess Deja Thoris...um, I mean Princess Tara.

Kong the Untamed, a blond prettyboy caveman (top photo), ran for 5 issues in 1975.

Two backup sword and sorcery hero in The Warlord eventually spun off into their own titles: Arak Son of Thunder, left (who changed from Conan clone to Mohawk Indian) from 1981 to 1985, and Arion, Lord of Atlantis,  from 1982 to 1985.

Pop quiz: how many of the 14 Lords of the Jungle have a "k" sound in their names?

Answer: 7.  I guess something about "k" spells "jungle."

See also: The Comic Book Jungle; Kamandi