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Another Friday in the Jungle

I should just get the disclaimer out of the way up front. There’s just no way I can cover the whole sub-genre of Tarzan knockoffs and jungle-adventure comics in a single column. This is really something that deserves a book. Several books.

But I did find out all sorts of fun things, researching this, and I figure I can at least share a few of those with you.

To start with, let’s talk a little bit about where the feral-human idea began. This is a notion that you can trace back to Romulus and Remus, if you want to get all purist college-lit professorial about it. There are lots of fine books on the subject and even several websites.

Feral humans are a literary staple.

But here we are mostly concerned with popular culture, and so you can move that start date up quite a bit if we choose to begin with Rudyard Kipling’s Mowgli, Tarzan’s most obvious predecessor in popular fiction.

Technically, Mowgli came first.

The odd thing is, Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book not only came before Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes, but it is generally better-written, more highly regarded by scholars and historians, and it only beat the ape-man to print by a couple of decades. But in terms of fame, it was Tarzan that scored big. All the loincloth-clad folks you’ll see in this column are generally known as Tarzan rip-offs, not Mowgli ones. It could be that Kipling is seen as a bit too lit’ry for readers just wanting some hardcore jungle action, or it could be that Kipling’s Mowgli is usually marketed to kids — despite, again, Kipling’s books being far more adult in theme than anything Edgar Rice Burroughs ever did.

Of course, there’s the cartoon juggernaut that Disney created in the 60’s that pretty well sealed the deal for the book being dismissed as kid stuff.

Usually, once Disney gets you, that's all she wrote.

Once a book gets gobbled up by Disney, that’s usually all anyone ever sees of it again. (Who remembers that Pinocchio originally was a novel by Carlo Collodi? Show of hands? Okay, I rest my case.) And Disney did Mowgli TWICE. He was a brand-name for the Mouse Corporation for decades.

Disney actually did Mowgli TWICE.

Nevertheless, the authentic Kipling Mowgli’s appeared a couple of other places in comics and cartoons. Chuck Jones did a magnificent adaptation for television in the 1970’s that’s recently been made available on DVD.

Actually, this is my favorite intersection of Kipling and comics.

(I really wish someone would package this with Jones’ other two equally brilliant Kipling adaptations, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi and The White Seal; seems like a natural boxed set to me, but I guess it’s too easy.) Don’t let the charming character design work fool you; it’s a dark, violent piece of work and very faithful to Kipling’s original.

Craig Russell also did a couple of Mowgli stories in his classic anthology Night Music. This is a wonderful overlooked treasure that somebody, somewhere, needs to reprint all of in trade (not just the opera stuff — ALL of it) if they haven’t already. I have a horrible feeling that it’s snarled up in the same McFarlane/Eclipse rights muddle as Miracleman, but maybe not.

Craig Russell, comics' classic-lit crusader.

And of course, Mowgli’s a recurring character in Fables, but I think that’s getting rather far afield. I just wanted to note that yes, I counted Mowgli in the feral-adventure-hero roundup… but sometimes being first isn’t enough. After all, Somerset Maugham’s Ashenden was the first modern British super-spy, but it’s Ian Fleming’s James Bond that everyone knows. And so on.

Which is to say that for all intents and purposes, really, the guy that started the rock rolling down the hill for the massive success of jungle-adventure pulps and comics was Tarzan. He remains the template.

Where it all began.

You really have to do the research to get an idea of the STAGGERING number of noble savages that swarmed the pulp magazine racks and later, the comics racks, in the wake of Tarzan. And they were there for decades. The GCD lists some 69 books with “jungle” in the title alone. Bomba the Jungle Boy. Nyoka, Queen of the Jungle. Jann of the Jungle, not to be confused with Jan of the Jungle. Jungle Jim. Jungle Jo. Jungle Lil. Lorna the Jungle Queen. Jungle Action, Jungle Adventures, Jungle Drums, and there have been five different books from five different publishers called simply Jungle Comics between 1940 and 1998.

Feral humans are pretty popular in comics, too.

Seriously, I hardly scratched the surface over the last few days. Bottom line, from roughly 1925 or so to the early 80’s, a month did not go by without some feral jungle-savage hero — maybe Tarzan, maybe Ka-Zar or Sheena, but somebody — made available to consumers either in a pulp magazine or in comics. Clearly, this is an archetype that popular fiction keeps gravitating to, the same as it does the urban masked crimefighter, or the teen hero on a journey of discovery. There’s no way we’ll get to them all (and, to be honest, not that many of them are worthy of attention) but it’s worth looking at some of them.

The most obvious Tarzan knockoff is the official one. Korak, Son of Tarzan. Burroughs never did much with him in the books; Korak gets to star in one novel and he has a cameo in one or two of the others. And in the one novel he gets to headline, the Korak story is about Korak running off to the jungle and becoming Tarzan junior, and except for the part where Tarzan and Jane are looking for him, the book is mostly a replay of the adventure and romance riffs that were in the preceding three books. Only starring Korak instead of Tarzan. He meets a girl, they come together, they are torn apart, they get back together, there are evil jungle invader types, Korak has to find the girl and save her, and so on. Edgar Rice Burroughs was one of those writers who had a million ideas but only one plot. By the end of the book he has married Korak off to Meriem, and that was that. It’s a fun book, but it’s Tarzan Lite.

Fun book... but it's Tarzan Lite, really.

Korak in the comics was rather more interesting. He had a pretty fair run from Gold Key and a short-lived run after that at DC, maybe fifty-plus issues in all. The novel and the romance with Meriem are acknowledged, but for almost all of his run in comics Korak is basically looking for the missing Meriem and having to solve other people’s problems along the way. As a story-generating device, well, it’s okay, but the fun part is that Korak is the member of the Tarzan family that the really WEIRD shit happens to.

Weird Korak from DC.

A lot of this is due to his adventures being scripted at DC by Robert Kanigher, who never, ever, threw away a story idea because it was too freaky. But a lot of the Gold Key Koraks are just as nutty.

Weird-shit Tarzan. That was Korak.

Korak always LOOKED good, he was blessed with a number of comics greats drawing his book. Russ Manning and Nestor Redondo, particularly, turned in some really lush, gorgeous pages. But the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink attitude hurt the book…. it’s hard enough to believe in Tarzan stumbling across ten or twelve different lost cities as it is, let alone his kid meeting aliens and sorcerers and dinosaurs and God knows what-all else.

Korak wasn’t actually the most successful of the Tarzan swipes, though. In the pulp era that honor went to another fella whose name started with K — Ki-Gor the Killer, the star of Jungle Stories Magazine (not to be confused with the various COMICS with that title.)

Ki-Gor was the most successful pulp knockoff...

Ki-Gor ran for quite a while as a pulp-magazine headliner and he is of some interest to Burroughs collectors simply because of his success. There were 59 Ki-Gor novels in all, more than double the number of Burroughs’ Tarzan novels. His writers kept him busy rescuing his gal pal Helene (a “society aviatrix” whose plane had conveniently crashed in Ki-Gor’s neck of the woods) from all manner of horrible drooling menaces like the Wandarobo beast-men or the strange and mysterious V’Lorians. Ki-Gor was the Avis of pulp jungle lords, he tried harder. Ki-Gor stories had more violence, sex and implied perversion than Burroughs ever thought of, yet if you read the High Adventure reprints from Adventure House you’ll find them somehow charmingly innocent despite all the sneering half-naked voodoo priestesses. I think they are great fun, though your mileage may vary.

...but the Ki-Gor comic was frankly an embarrassment.

Ki-Gor added an R for his comics debut in the 90’s, but it was just a little blip in the black-and-white boom and nobody noticed. It was the pulps Ki-Gor was really Lord of, at least the jungle ones.

In comics, I think you have to say the next-most-successful after Tarzan wasn’t a jungle king at all. It was a jungle queen.

The ORIGINAL jungle babe... accept no substitutes.

Specifically, Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.

Sheena actually has had a fair amount of success in several different media. She had her own pulp, one of the very few to be inspired by a comic character rather than the other way around.

One of the very few times comics went TO the pulps rather than the other way around.

She’s had two different TV series… In the 50’s, there was Irish McCalla’s —

Hot chicks in jungle rags. Always in style.

And Gena Lee Nolin’s in the 90’s —

Seriously. Always in style.

And there was a movie in between and IT inspired a comic.

Hard to believe this wasn't a monster hit...wait a minute. No it's not.

Most of these are, admittedly, pretty awful. Particularly the modern revivals.

Story? There's a story in there somewhere?

The thing is, Sheena’s mostly been an opportunity for artists to draw a hot chick in rags. The story’s an afterthought.

Um... does it even matter what's IN the comic?

Mentioning her here, well, it’s a bit like including Baywatch in a serious discussion of naval adventure stories. Despite her pedigree — Sheena was one of the earliest female headliners in comics, she even beat out Wonder Woman for the honor of first female comic book hero to get her own book, and was originally a product of the Eisner/Iger studio — despite all that, the bottom line is, Sheena’s just not terribly interesting. She’s always been more of a pinup girl, and I think that’s why her sales success is a red herring. It’s not her feral qualities or the jungle setting that sells Sheena’s books, unless you count when those things lend themselves to having her undress.

Sheena has her own set of imitators in comics too. (Remember, in mainstream comics, the rule is “if it works, find a way to do it again.”) DC took a swing at the jungle-girl thing in the 70’s with Rima the Jungle Girl. Rima is worth noting simply for her incredibly convoluted history. She comes from a novel written in 1904, by a naturalist named Hudson. The book was called Green Mansions: A Romance of the Tropical Forest and was swooningly Victorian, not in a good way. In the novel, the teenage Rima the Bird Girl, as she was then called, was rather passive and treated as more of a magical wood sprite than as the true feral child we’ve been talking about here. DC aged her to adulthood, bleached her hair, and turned her over to the Kubert editorial machine, hoping to cash in on the Tarzan success he was having for them at the time.

Another hot chick book... but Rima was no Sheena.

Rima had gorgeous art, again from Nestor Redondo, and the Kubert covers were a treat– but Robert Kanigher’s eco-crusader stories fell flat and Rima folded after seven issues. Her role since then has been to cameo all over the DCU, whether it’s in a Crisis book or the Super Friends cartoon. She and B’Wana Beast are, I think, the only jungle adventurers that DC owns outright, which is why they keep showing up, I guess. Fun footnote: a young Audrey Hepburn played Rima in the 1959 movie of Green Mansions, which makes Rima the answer to “Which one of the Super Friends was played by Audrey Hepburn?”

Hepburn as Rima. God bless the internet!

See if you can’t win a couple of bar bets at your next convention with THAT one.

More interesting in terms of character and story is Marvel’s shameless swipe of Sheena, Shanna the She-Devil.

Marvel swipes Sheena.... dare I say nakedly?

Shanna actually got her start in her own short-lived title in the seventies, during that time when Marvel was ready to greenlight damn near anything. The book ran five issues and then Shanna was relegated to the occasional back-up story in whatever black-and-white book needed a fill-in– Savage Tales, Rampaging Hulk. Most of these were written by Steve Gerber and they are pretty good stories, though there’s nothing particularly innovative about them. Recently Marvel’s tried to kick-start a ‘re-imagined’ version from Frank Cho that has mostly been famous for its last-minute censoring of some naughty shots. Which brings us full-circle to the pin-up girl thing again.

Speaking of nakedly...

Where Shanna is more interesting than Sheena is in her relationship with Marvel’s actual Tarzan steal, Ka-Zar. (Bet you thought I’d never get to him.)

Ka-Zar actually began his career in 1936 in the pulps, but he was no Ki-Gor and his book folded after a couple of issues.

Ka-zar's pulp beginnings were not terribly distinguished.

Undaunted, Martin Goodman drafted him in 1939 to help carry the original Marvel Comics title and Ka-Zar ran as a backup feature there for quite a while. Back then he was originally just yet another British noble heir stranded in the jungle and raised by animals, and there was absolutely nothing to distinguish David Rand from the legion of other loinclothed white savages on the stands.

It was when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby revived him in X-Men #10 that he got interesting. Now he was Lord Kevin Plunder, and he had been stranded in a secret jungle hidden somewhere under the Antarctic ice. This makes Ka-Zar the only steal from TWO different sources by the same author — not just Burroughs’ Tarzan stories but also his Pellucidar setting from the At The Earth’s Core series. You can only admire the chutzpah.

Ka-Zar take one...

Ka-Zar kept showing up any time any Marvel hero needed a Tarzan figure to guest-star, and the hidden Savage Land made a great storytelling hook. It’s a bit like complimenting a shoplifter on being a snappy dresser, but Marvel’s re-imagining of Ka-Zar as not just Tarzan, but Tarzan at the Earth’s Core, really worked rather well. Zabu the saber-toothed tiger and his vaguely telepathic link to Ka-zar was a nice touch too.

...annnd Ka-Zar take two...

Every so often Marvel would try to give Ka-Zar a solo series — he had several tryouts in the 70’s both in the color books and the black-and-white Savage Tales. But nothing really stuck until the 80’s relaunch from Bruce Jones and Brent Anderson, Ka-Zar the Savage, which is how I like to think of him.

....Ka-Zar take three. This was the good one.

That was the book that put him together with Shanna and it was a match made in jungle heaven. It ran 34 issues and they were great, great fun. Jones made the couple an actual pair of grown-ups, and watching the two of them trying to hammer out a real relationship amidst all the various Savage Land perils was a set-up tailor-made for Marvel melodrama… AND it distinguished not only this particular run of Ka-Zar from the others but it also set it apart from all the other jungle books out there. The art from Brent Anderson was terrific too. This is one to hunt for on eBay.

There was another revival in the late 90’s, Mark Waid and Adam Kubert did some nice work there, but it didn’t really take.

...Ka-Zar's fourth try. I think after this Marvel gave up.

Since then Ka-zar’s been relegated to the occasional guest-star gig again, but as far as I know he and Shanna are still together.

Which brings me, more or less, to the end of the jungle-adventure survey. Those are the high spots. But in doing all this reading and Googling and library research, it really struck me as odd that a genre that once was so huge is now pretty much dead and gone except for Disney’s straight-to-video Tarzan cartoons. Where’s our feral-human savage hero gone?

Well, a large part of it is probably simply that you can’t sell readers the idea of a trackless unexplored jungle any more. There’s plenty of wilderness left in the world, but Africa the Dark Continent is pretty much a relic. Nowadays Africa is AIDS and famine and Hotel Rwanda in the public mind. Elsewhere, South American jungles are being paved over by fast-food companies or used as the stronghold of various drug cartels. You can’t get the reader to buy a modern jungle setting, which is why you have to use a dodge like Ka-Zar’s Savage Land, or else make it a period piece like every Tarzan book since 1969 has been.

But that doesn’t seem like an insurmountable obstacle to me. The template Burroughs set up is still perfectly good: the beast-man forced to choose between nature and civilization, knowing that whichever way he goes, he loses half of himself. There’s plenty of juice left in that idea. How to do it for modern readers?

And then it dawned on me. Tarzan’s alive and well in modern comics. He just looks like this now.

What happened to Tarzan comics? This guy did.

There’s no need to do Tarzan when you’ve got Wolverine dominating the comics scene. He’s got everything in the Burroughs template except the noble ancestry, but I think that can be safely dismissed. Plus he’s got the X-label. And he can move freely through the modern world as easily as the wilderness. The trouble is they’ve layered so much samurai crap and mutant continuity over him it’s hard to see the feral-human template underneath.

But the core of the character, the choice between civilized or savage, that’s pure Tarzan. And that’s the decision that drives all the best Wolverine stories, it’s the take on the character that seems to resonate the most. The thing people seem to like about Wolverine is that he could revert to the animal at any time, the civilized veneer is just a suit he puts on so he can deal with other people. Tell me, Burroughs fans, does that remind you of anyone?

Nowhere was this more obvious than the Hugh Jackman portrayal on display in theatres. Forced by the necessities of adaptation to peel away decades of continuity crap, in the movies you see Logan revealed as the traditional feral hero, made to choose which way he’s going to live his life.

Trade the leather duds in for a loincloth and hello, here's our feral beast-man, popular as ever.

Seeing it play out on screen, it was the first time I ever really liked Wolverine, and it finally dawned on me what I was responding to. It was the Tarzan vibe, the knowledge that when you choose to grow up you have to give up something dear to you no matter which way you go. I’m just speculating now, but I wonder if that barely-civilized-savage idea isn’t the quality that made Wolverine a star, when Byrne and Claremont decided to play up that angle all those years ago. You have to squint a little, but I think there’s a jungle lord there under the spandex if you look for him.

The moral of the story, I suppose, is this. Archetypes are always with us. They just change clothes. But they never really go away.

See you next week.

22 Comments

You know, I never saw the Wolverine-Tarzan connection before, but I think you’re onto something here. And it actually gives me a little bit more respect for Wolverine as a character.

I feel honored to be the first to post here.

1. Chuck Jones’ “Rikki–Tikki–Tavi” and “The White Seal” specials are adaptations of OTHER stories from Kipling’s work, actually entitled “The Jungle BookS” [emphasis mine], and are so labeled. Jones did not do Mowgli himself, no doubt because Disney just had.

2. “Jungle Jim,” originally a newspaper comic strip (by Alex “Flash Gordon” Raymond, if memory serves; him or Lee “Phantom” Falk, one, anyway; the other’s second strip was Mandrake the Magician) owed much more to H. Rider Haggard’s “great white hunter” Alan Quartermain (“King Solomon’s Mines” and several now mostly forgotten sequels) than to the
Ape–man, despite the baggage ex–Tarzan Johnny Weismuller brought with him to Columbia’s 16 “B” features (even though the studio dropped the name to save licensing fees for the last three films and he ostensibly played himself) and 39 TV series episodes (reconciling this production with those last three “Jim”–less movies has never been done, to my knowledge, so don’t blame ME for the seeming contradiction in terms). DC did a knock–off of this feature itself, “Congo Bill,” and it also became a Columbia serial.

Oops! I can’t believe it took me that long to compose, proofread, and polish my posting, but Apodaca did indeed get in ahead of me. I forgot to mention something, anyway:

3. Marvel/Ka–Zar’s Hidden Land always reminded me of ERB’s Caprona, a.k.a. “The Land That Time Forgot,” rather than Pellucidar. I CAN see where you’re coming from here, however.

That’s really smart about Wolverine.

I’m proud to say that I’ve read the Collodi ‘Pinocchio’ (as well as Dodie Smith’s ‘The Hundred and One Dalmatians’ and Eric Knight’s ‘Lassie Come Home’).

Sir Percival may be something of an intermediate step between Romulus and Remus and Mowgli. He wasn’t raised by animals or anything, but when he first arrives at Camelot he’s often portrayed as being dressed in sticks and leaves and stuff, and completely ignorant of civilization. Maybe it’s a reach.

My favorite Tarzan knock-off was My Brothers with Wings, that ran as part of The War that Time Forgot series in Star Spangled War Stories back in the sixties. An American pilot gets shot down on Monster Island and is adopted by Pteradactyls. While not raised by the beasts, he does don a loincloth and lives among them. Until the Japs come back, of course.

The cover of the guy in a loincloth, riding a Pteradactyl and shooting down a Jap Zero with a tommy gun is my favorite in all of comics history. (And I can’t find a scan of it on the web anywhere!)

The War that Time Forgot. Greatest. Comics. Ever.

Personally I think Wolverine’s recently added Victorian backstory and the much older “samurai” stuff are both stabs (if subconscious ones) at adding the noble ancestry into Wolverine’s incarnation of the “feral man” template. The samurai stuff with Wolverine always emphasized the tension between being deadly and honorable, and also gave him his first recurring love interest. The Victorian stuff is… honestly inexplicable if you look at it any other way.

I read a few of the 70s/80s Ka-Zar, and what’s amusing about him is that they ret-con him into a Spidey-type hipster, using modern slang, which is hilarious. I really would like to see the character come back–I guess his wife is still tied up with the Frank Cho series.

By the way, it’s just an offhand comment of yours, but I’m not sure I’d agree that the Disney version is ALWAYS the definitive version of a fairy tale or story. I’d argue Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty both have a life of their own outside Team Rodent, as does Aladdin (though I guess not lately)…

Oh, and I’m sure I’ve seen some of those P. Craig Russell stories in TPB–I actually read a collection of his Mowgli adaptations in my local library. I just think they were adapted seperately, each to a book.

P. Craig Russell also inked some Mowgli Jungle Book tales that were scripted and pencilled by Gil Kane. They were back-up features in several issues of Marvel Fanfare in the early 1980s (issues 8, 9, 10, & 11).

Russell also had a different connection with Mowgli-in-comic-form when he inked Gil Kane’s (I believe unfinished, though I could be wrong) adaptation which saw print in Marvel Fanfare (which undoubtedly was an inventory story, as so much of the Fanfare material was).

Looked beautiful – Russell brought a delicate, fluid line to Kane’s work.

The Black Condor was also a feral child according to his Golden Age origin. Orphaned by Mongolian bandits, little Richard Grey was raised by Tibetan condors who taught him to fly! The fact that there’s no such thing as a Tibetan condor doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the mental image of a flying naked baby going potty a la the boidies.

To add to what Prankster said, Disney actually did a Tarzan movie! You know, with the incredibly awful Phil Collins soundtrack? Granted it was several decades after “The Jungle Book”, and much, much worse, but still: There it is.

Nicely done. . . but as for:
“Kipling’s books being far more adult in theme than anything Edgar Rice Burroughs ever did.”

Perhaps open to debate : )

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I agree that the Wolverine/Tarzan connection is an interesting one. I would disagree that the “Samurai crap and mutant continuity” aren’t any more harmful to the character than the numerous weird permutations made to Tarzan, even by Burroughs. Does it matter that he travelled to the center of the earth and found a magic kingdom there, or that he was an officer in the RAF? Nah, those are just some adventures Tarzan had, and none of them are as important to remember- or as essential- as “noble savage/lord of the jungle.”

This has to be one of the all-time great hooks for a comic I’ve ever seen:

“Korak becomes ‘live bait’ to trap alien beings into a battle with ferocious giant insects!”

How could you not want to find out what happened in a comic with that plot line?

One thing that might explain Tarzan’s popularity over Kipling is that Edgar Rice Burroughs recognized the value of merchandising pretty early. The introduction to the Modern Library Classics edition of the first book points out that ERB was one of the first authors to incorporate, and points out that Tarzan cross-promotional marketing pre-dated the Mickey Mouse Merchandising Monster by several years. Tarzan made the jump to toys, costumes, food products, comic strips, radio, and movies with incredible speed — all under the supervision (the intro describes it as “micro-management”) of Edgar Rice Burroughs himself. Nobody ever thought to market the hell out of Mowgli until Disney did the movie.

The Frank Cho Shanna is also not in continuity at all. They pretty much let Cho do whatever he wanted for 6 issues or so, so this Shanna shares a name and an outfit with the original. She and Ka-Zar have been mostly MIA, as far as I know.

And does anybody else see “Lorna, Queen of the Jungle” and envision some school-marm-ish bespectacled type ruling over apes and tigers and elephants?

Anyway, great post!

Greg:
Two points, the first of which is a semi–mea culpa.

That cover box image for “Mowgli’s Brothers” didn’t download for me before. What little information the IMDb has does indeed make it sound like a straight adaptation of the original story, even though the title suggests a sequel or spin–off. They date it to 1977, years after his two other Kipling adaptations mentioned above, while Amazon.com places it a year earlier. Note the label: Family Home Entertainment/fhe (lower case their choice), so there’s little chance of it being owned by somebody who could package it in a DVD set with the other works, which were made through MGM.

I’ve remembered another, better precedent for Marvel/Ka–Zar’s Hidden Land, one which is nearly identical (just the place itself, you understand): “The Land Unknown,” a B–thriller from Universal International (as the studio was known at the time), 1957, starring king of the stuntmen Jock Mahoney, and Shawn Smith (Shirley Patterson in her first go–round as an actress in the 1940s, including the first Batman serial). It’s concealed in Antarctica (ERB’s Caprona wasn’t THAT far south and was a surface island, I freely admit), is inhabited by dinosaurs, and so on. Only a VHS release is indicated.

I am so absent–minded. I also forgot to point out a slip in my first post here. In 1937, years before the programmer features with Johnny Weismuller, Columbia first filmed “Jungle Jim” as a serial, with Grant Withers. Got so caught up in the ex–Tarzan that I neglected to mention that the first time around, but I swear I had it in mind.

Ted Watson said…”That cover box image for “Mowgli’s Brothers” didn’t download for me before. What little information the IMDb has does indeed make it sound like a straight adaptation of the original story, even though the title suggests a sequel or spin–off.”

I assure you it’s the real deal. It’s a straight-up adaptation of trhe first Mowgli story, pretty much, and — it’s been an awfully long time since I saw it — but it was done the same way as Rikki-tikki-tavi where Roddy McDowall essentially just READ the story and changed his voice as needed, I think he did all the vocal work, and they animated the scenes he was reading. It was enormously effective, especially the night scenes where Mowgli is confronting Shere Khan with the Red Flower.

Greg:

I didn’t mean to suggest that after checking the IMDb I still harbored doubts about the nature of the program. And they also indicate no voice cast beyond the late Mr. McDowall, so I’m sure you’re right about that, too.

I think you’re forgetting Enkidu from the original Gilgamesh saga, the oldest surviving fictional narrative. Gilgamesh was a hero, one-third god, an übermensch. Enkidu was a man who grew up in the jungle. Gilgamesh broke Enkidu’s ties to the wild by sending him a prostitute. Enkidu then sought out Gilgamesh, they fought, and at the end of the fight laughed and became friends — making this, literally, the oldest plot twist in history, and the Feral Jungle Man just as literally the second oldest hero stereotype.

I’ve always loved the ‘jungle genre’ but if we take its core element (displacing a young one from conventional society & putting it in an unconventional or otherwise perceived ‘hostile’ setting) it spills out further – Red Raven (raised by bird-people), Marvel Boy, Robert Heinlein’s Stranger In A Strange Land (raised by aliens) just to name a few – variations of a theme. BTW Mutt, great call on the War That Time Forgot – loved those Star Spangled War Stories too!

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