by Jimmm Kelly
a romance of the jungle
In high school, other guys would turn up the radio to blast SMOKE ON THE WATER by Deep Purple. But as a nerdy teenager and an incurable romantic, I would turn the dial to find WILDFLOWER by Skylark.
WILDFLOWER had that hippy flower child feeling that was still in the air in the early ’70s. Long-haired nature girls made young hearts turn to thoughts of love.
High school crushes are nothing new and mostly doomed to end in tears. When we look back on them, we sometimes wonder what we were thinking.
Now when I think of her, Rima, the Jungle Girl, it is as if remembering such a high school crush. An exchange student, who was there in class for a year, and then returned to her exotic home somewhere.
Based on GREEN MANSIONS, W. H. Hudson’s 1904 novel–National Periodical Publications gave the bi-monthly RIMA, THE JUNGLE GIRL, a seven issue run: from the April-May ’74 issue to the April-May ’75 issue. One year in Eden, we readers had, and then the god of comics cast us out of the garden.
It made sense, nothing so good could last.
What was it about this funny book that made it so darned good? Nestor Redondo. That’s enough of an answer right there. There were other reasons, but it’s easy to get stuck on Redondo’s art and not bother looking for further explanations.
Carmine Infantino kept getting kicked further and futher upstairs at National Periodicals (DC) in the late ’60s, until he was running the operation as publisher, by the early ’70s.
As he tells it, in THE AMAZING WORLD OF CARMINE INFANTINO (2000, Vanguard), there was a movement by some artists to form a union and they threatened a strike. At that time, Tony DeZuniga, who was a Filipino artist working in the U.S., told Infantino that there were a lot of talented artists in the Philippines. So Infantino, DeZuniga and Joe Orland flew to Manila to meet these artists.
Infantino made an arrangement with about a dozen artists–among them Nestor Redondo and Alex Nino–to do work for DC in the Philippines. Carmine reports that this was not always a smooth operation–there were Filipino middle men who tried to cheat both the artists and DC.
For a time, Infantino worked it out with Nestor Redondo to act as go-between so the publisher wouldn’t have to “deal with those crooks any more.”
Not only were the Filipino artists talented, they were also fast. State-side many American artists were worried by this influx of offshore talent. Whatever the politics or economics of the situation, there’s no denying the expertise of Filipino artists like Nestor Redondo or Alfredo Alcala.
in a garden of eden
The jungle girl, Rima, may never have gotten her own DC comic, if National Periodical Publications hadn’t already acquired the license to Tarzan from Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., plus all of ERB’s other creations, after Gold Key had lost those rights.
It was Tarzan that got DC into the jungle game. And the main talent behind that was comic book legend Joe Kubert.
Kubert’s Tarzan was a revelation. Yes, Russ Manning and others before him were very good at the Jungle Lord. But Kubert brought a new savagery and vitality to the property. He reminded the reader that Tarzan was less Lord Greystoke and more Apeman. Not your naive Johnny Weismuller kind of Apeman–no this Tarzan was cunning and calculating. And his jungle was savage and unforgiving. No edenic world.
What’s more as editor/writer/artist on TARZAN, Kubert used all of his experience in knowing how best to adapt and tell the stories from Burroughs. His layouts were dynamic. Joe Kubert understood that less is more. I got the feeling reading his comics–studying them really, because his were master classes in the comic art–that as slap-dash as the artwork looked at first glance, Joe had probably cut and cut away all the detail until he had distilled the image to its rawest and most effective form.
And it was Kubert as editor who oversaw the RIMA title. Not only was he editor, but he was also cover artist and layout artist. Yet if Joe had done the full art on Rima, taking his covers as an indication, then the work wouldn’t have been half as effective. The Jungle Girl was a different kind of creature from Tarzan and she needed someone who could show the beauty of her eden.
Kubert’s layouts for Tarzan and Rima are almost identical, but Redondo adds detail where Kubert might have stripped it away. And yet with the layouts as his guide, Nestor never piles on so much detail that it ovewhelms the action and the emotion of the story.
beast or human?
The first issue, for example, has the image of Abel constricted by a giant snake, while Rima and a jaguar appear as two menacing apparitions–and the caption above the title reads:
Is She Beast or Human…?
Then you crack open the book and you find something entirely different inside . . .
the third man
But there was a third face to this creative team, who should not be overlooked. There never was a scripting credit for those first four issues that adapted H. W. Hudson’s prose. Yet, according to Kubert–in TwoMorrow’s BACK ISSUE 43 (September 2010)–the scripts were by Bob Kanigher. [Kanigher scripted the back-up features for issues 2 – 7 and is credited on the Rima stories for issues 5 and 6.]
Kanigher has many harsh critics and I’m sure they would say that he was just coasting on the brilliance of Kubert, Redondo and Hudson. They would be wrong. The scripting on these issues is clean, it serves the pared down plot. One doesn’t find Kanigher going off in purple prose like other scripters I could think of.
The story that the creative team have worked out is somewhat different from Hudson’s–it needs to be since they only have 58 pages to tell their story over four issues and the sensibilities of 1974 are different from those of 1904.
The guilt and savagery of Runi’s tribe is played down (or transferred to the underdeveloped headhunters). There’s a parallel built up between the young revolutionary Abel and the old revolutionary Nuflo. Less actually happens in the story, but that spareness serves the work–because RIMA is about feeling, it works more like poetry than prose.
The creative team know that the imagery will convey the emotion of the work, so the script must serve to connect these images in some meaningful way.
Each issue is a chapter and builds it own themes. The first is about Abel’s arc from near death in Caracas to near death in the jungle. The second issue is about Rima’s connection to Abel. The third issue is about Rima’s origins. And the fourth is about loss.
In all four issues, there is a big old tree that works as a symbol for everything. It could be the tree in the garden. It could be Yggdrasil the world tree. It could be just a tree, but by using one tree (rather than the many that are in the novel), they represent the greater theme of nature with a single repeated motif. Again more of a poetic sensibility than prosaic.
Even though what happens with the tree in this story veers off from the trajectory of what happens with a tree in the novel–the fact that we’ve been seeing this tree again and again serves to make its death by fire more potent in the fourth issue.
time is a great teacher . . .
As a teen, I read these four issues and I was wowed by their style.
Going back to them years later, I find them much more profound. Kubert, Kanigher and Redondo were all middle-aged men by the time they came to create this funny book (and W. H. Hudson was in his sixties when he wrote his novel). They are working from a base of knowledge: they have loved and lost; they’ve been in wars of one kind or another; they understand regret and the pitiful striving of humans for something more.
The comic isn’t padded out with those lessons, like some of the other comics at that time–written and illustrated by much younger men. They have cut their moral down to the bone, because these men know enough to know what needs to be said and what doesn’t.
the fall from grace
On the other hand–the final three issues of RIMA are a disappointment. With such talented people working on the book it’s still a beautiful sight–but a fine Camembert is still cheese just the same. Without the novel as a standard to emulate, the creative crew fall back on the old tropes of ’40s jungle adventure. The three stories are all commonplace plots I have seen in Rulah stories.
You have the evil scientist with visions of domination, conducting horrible experiments on people. You’ve got the bad, white hunters trying to kill beautiful creatures. And you’ve got the spoiled rich white woman, who has no place being in a jungle.
All three of these stories are about white people trespassing on unspoiled nature and doing bad things. Abel is reduced to playing Steve Trevor. And the jungle that was once a place no one dared enter–because it was protected by the mysterious Daughter of the Didi–now becomes like Grand Central Station.
In spite of this, Nestor Redondo does his usual good work on issues 5 and 6. And No. 6 is especially good because Nestor gets to draw so many wonderful, wild creatures. Redondo isn’t there for the final issue, but Abe Ocampo does a reasonable job of evoking the Redondo style.
Redondo had also been working on SWAMP THING around this time–which likewise met with a mediocre fate–before being revived in the ’80s and, it seems to me, that’s the kind of direction they needed to pursue. If there had been an Alan Moore (or a Steve Gerber) to rescue RIMA, her living arrangement with Abel could have been just as fascinating as Swampy with Abby.
meanwhile . . .
The Space Voyagers are four young people who travel from one weird world to another. There’s three guys–Bartt, Armando and Nolan–and one female–Melong. From their names they seem to be multi-cultural. In issue 3 of RIMA we finally get their back story. Near as I can understand, they were born on an asteroid, but their parents and grandparents come from an over-polluted Earth. Their elders don’t understand why these young people want to leave home to jaunt around the galaxy, but the Space Voyagers are restless to travel.
They occupied the back-up position in RIMA for the first five issues, with Jack Oleck scripting the first adventure that ends on a cliff-hanger. Bob Kanigher took over from then on–neatly disposing of Oleck’s cliffhanger on the first page of the next story. There wasn’t a whole lot of development of the four youthful explorers in the five to six pages alotted them per issue. The real show was the artwork by Filipino alumnus Alex Nino. This was the whole reason why they had to travel from one weird planet to the next–just so Nino could wow the optic nerve with his talent.
Both Bob Kanigher and Joe Kubert are known for their considerable work on DC’s war mags. Unfortunately, I rarely sampled these in my younger days–given the anti-war sentiments of the ’60s and ’70s.
But I made an exception for BLITZKRIEG when that title appeared in ’76, because it took a different turn on WW II–“through enemy eyes.” Joe Kubert was the editor (and cover artist), Bob Kanigher the writer, and Ric Estrada the artist. Estrada had a cutting style that was well suited to the behind enemy lines stories of suffering and hope. Of course, like RIMA, this series didn’t last long–only five issues.
The back-up story for RIMA 6–Jungle Justice: Devil’s Doctor–reads like a trial balloon for the BLITZKRIEG series to come. And at the same time the plot resembles that for the lead story in RIMA 5 (about another sadistic doctor).
After this brief mix of war and jungle adventure, the back-up spot returned to the science fiction theme with Space Marshal. Space prospector, Linc Wade mistakenly kills a man and to work off his debt to society he must train to be a Space Marshal. Again, Bob Kanigher wrote it, but the art this time is by another Filipino artist, Noly Zamora. The concept sounds promising, but unfortunately we only get to see Linc Wade in training to be Space Marshal. The story ends with him and his sidekick, Katto, taking off for their first adventure . . .
back to eden
One might ask why Rima only got two-thirds of the story pages in her own book, with the rest filled up by back-ups that had nothng to do with her series? I believe the answer is that Nestor was just too darned busy and Kubert wisely only gave him as many pages as he could handle.
Around the same time, Kubert and Redondo were collaborating in the same fashion (Kubert editor, layouts, covers and Redondo finished art) on THE BIBLE [the tabloid-sized LIMITED COLLECTORS’ EDITION C-36]–scripted by the venerable Sheldon Mayer. This came out two months after RIMA had ended her run and restored my hope for more of the same.
But I guess this Bible didn’t have the kind of sales that the other one enjoys, because there was never a follow up edition. And just to torture me some more DC announced that there was going to be a tabloid-sized series of King Arthur stories, illustrated by Redondo. I waited and waited in vain for that book which never came. Cruel jest of fate!
Ah well, by then my high school days were almost over and Rima–my high school crush–had gone back to her eden–a free and gentle flower growing wild.
For more on GREEN MANSIONS and its adapations, read my extra page: Mansions Green, I’ve Seen
For a checklist of Rima ‘n’ Rulah funny books, go to: 3 Faces of the Goddess
in August . . .
issue No. 9:
“It’s the BOTTOM OF THE 9th, Charlie Brown!”
issue No. 10:
“How I spent . . . MY SUPERMAN SUMMER!”
8 MORE DAYS, LOUISE! for July . . . for only time will tell us so . . .
Circa July 1 ’66, Harvey Comics publishes the first issue (of two) reprinting THE SPIRIT by Will Eisner (October ’66).
For the 2nd of July ’59, in SUPERBOY No. 75 (September ’59), one story tells of Clark’s first day at school, another story tells of a time when Pa Kent tried to punish Clark for his bad behaviour, and a third story tells about how Krypto travelled back through time and did many deeds that influenced history . . . And make a date with PAT BOONE for the first issue of his own comic magazine. The September-October ’59 cover dated comic tells Pat’s own story–plus many other yarns and features on Pat, his family and the swinging scene for all you cats and kittens–with art by the incomparable Bob Oksner.
The tenth issue of Dell’s Movie Classics line adapts Meredith Wilson’s THE MUSIC MAN, on sale July 5 ’62.
On July 15 ’58, Jimmy becomes Elastic Lad for the first time in SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN 31 (September ’58).
As ACTION COMICS reaches issue 500, Superman personally opens the Superman Pavillion at the Metropolis World’s Fair–an occasion which affords an extensive detailing of Superman’s origin story–by Martin Pasko, Curt Swan and Frank Chiaramonte, and a cover by Andru and Giordano–in the October ’79 issue at the direct sales shops on July 16 ’79.
Nick Cardy gives Wonder Girl a new look in the September-October ’69 issue of TEEN TITANS (No. 23), on sale July 17 ’69.
One-two-three-GO! On July 18 ’61, it’s a race to the newsstand to get THE FLASH 123 (September ’61). You’ll think you’re seeing double, but it’s true, it’s Flash times two in Flash of Two Worlds, by Gardner Fox, Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella.
On the comic racks July 21 ’70, the Hyborean Age begins in CONAN THE BARBARIAN No. 1 (October ’70).
. . . hot August nights for the first week in the month . . .
The first day in August ’63 will forever be remembered for The Showdown Between Luthor and Superman by Edmond Hamilton, Curt Swan and George Klein, in SUPERMAN No. 164 (October ’63). Lex Luthor challenges the Man of Steel to an ultimate battle to settle their hash, and the two take off for a distant planet that orbits a red sun, to duke it out. Voted the all-time best single-issue Superman story by the hard-working staff at MY FAVOURITE FUNNIES (y’can’t argue with the democratic process). See 50 Light Years to Lexor for more details.
Hey Superfans! on or about the 1st of August ’66 you have to check out these futuristic funnies from the House of Dell. First there’s Dell’s Movie Classic 12-190-612 adapting the movie DR. WHO AND THE DALEKS (December ’66), starring Peter Cushing. Then SUPER HEROES No. 1 (January ’67) presents the Fab Four–no not that Fab Four–these four teens are three ordinary guys and one cute girl but–well check out the description in the blog post: SUPER-HEROES BY ANY . . .
To raise money for refugee relief in what is then East Pakistan, on the 1st of August ’71, George Harrison holds the Concert for Bangladesh at the Madison Square Garden in New York City, which besides Hassa himself also features Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Billy Preston, Leon Russell, the Band, Badfinger and Ravi Shankar. And on the comic racks . . . visit GHOST MANOR No. 1 (October ’71) . . . if you dare!!
WHILE MY GUITAR GENTLY WEEPS–George Harrison, Concert for Bangladesh
JUNGLE TALES becomes JANN OF THE JUNGLE with issue No. 8 (November ’55) on sale August 3 ’55 (Atlas/Marvel Timely).
The special 200th issue of SUPERMAN (October ’67) presents an imaginary story that supposes what would happen if Kal-El had a younger brother–with a special surprise for Canada’s Centennial at the end of this story–on sale August 3 ’67.
Tadwaller Jutefruce is a square student at Benedict Arnold High School, but when he loses his temper he becomes the mod, happening hero of coolsville called Super-Hip, starting in ADVENTURES OF BOB HOPE 95 (October-November ’65)–from the comic minds of Arnold Drake and Bob Oksner–at your newsdealer on August 5 ’65.
On August 6 ’47, make A DATE WITH JUDY (October-November ’47) issue No. 1, based on the popular radio program. A DATE WITH JUDY began on the radio as a summer replacement show for BOB HOPE, first airing on June 24 ’41, on NBC. After airing for three summer seasons (’41, ’42, ’43) it returned for a regular run that lasted from January 18 ’44 until January 4 ’49, before moving to ABC to run from October 13 ’49 to May 25 ’50 in its final season on radio. In addition to the DC comic book, the radio program spawned a ’48 film, starring Jane Powell–with Elizabeth Taylor, Wallace Beery, Robert Stack and Carmen Miranda also in the cast. After the radio show ended, ABC ran a daytime television version of the show starting in June ’51, which was moved to primetime in the summer of ’52–ending on September 30 ’53. The DC comic book runs until 1960.
Hillman Periodicals, Inc., debuts the first issue of AIR FIGHTERS COMICS (November ’41) on August 7 ’41 [AIR FIGHTERS COMICS becomes AIRBOY COMICS with issue No. 23].
All on sale dates might be approximate, as provided by Mike’s Amazing World of Comics (The Newsstand) and by other sources.
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