CCI: Comic Character Investigation #271 novembre 2012
[ENGLISH] This month: Nyoka, The Jungle Girl. Since the inception of The Golden Age of comics in 1938, many heroes, and many villains, have splashed their battles across artistic pages, have endured their struggles in those same pages and have intrigued a readership which has loved their adventures for 72 years. This column celebrates such characters by taking a look each month at one of them. Some you will know and some are more obscure, but all hold a significant place in comics, for the world of stories in any medium is about the characters who populate it. The spectacular citizens of the universe who inhabit the comic book nation might be brave or sinister, bold or fearful, but all are characters who we can never forget. So, The Golden Age becomes the Silver Age, The Silver becomes The Bronze and so on, until today and until tomorrow. . . in The Endless Age of comics, and the beings who live inside them.
Nyoka, The Jungle Girl
When we first think about jungle girls in the comics we usually have an image of a skimpily-clad adventuress, maybe one who has control of the animals which lurk within those depths or raised by some native tribe. Nyoka was a different kind of jungle girl to come out of the powerhouse in the late forties, Fawcett Comics.
It is hard to pinpoint the writers of the series which ran for an impressive 77 issues under its own title and in Master Comics from issues 50 to 132. The artists on the series included Harry Anderson, Jack Sparling, H.C. Kiefer and R.S. Pious. Bernard Krigstein also worked on the books and is one of the more notable contributors. However, the books were not known for their great artwork so it was not the draw for readers despite that visuals are the main part of comic media. What held readers could only have been two aspects, the stories and perhaps even moreso the variant in this jungle girl character from her competitors, how she was presented.
She wore adventurous outfits, usually a hunter outfit and carried plenty of guns with her.. The character leaned more towards the true female adventurer with all the practical equipment necessary to survive. The series were not void of presenting some sexual undertones, however and despite her more conservative outfits, Nyoka was drawn in bondage situations a great number of times. This may have helped intrigue fans but considering the number of issues that sold the power of story doubtlessly fed readers what they were not getting anywhere else.
In essence the barely-dressed “other” jungle girls were getting grabbed off the rack right and left but here was a new kind of woman facing the jungle. Sexy but could hold her own with her male counterparts and do something her female counterparts couldn’t, be sexy and adventurous without shedding a lot of clothes. Her full name was Nyoka Gordon and she did have a boyfriend in the series named Larry Grayson, often with both of them involved in some kind of life-threatening danger from issue to issue. In almost 160 books this fearless brunette charged through the jungle overcoming one obstacle after another. She was not primitive but educated and her roots were not in comics but in movie serials, called “chapter plays” at the time. Republic which made lots of these movies in that era had released one called Perils of Nyoka from which the comics later sprang.
This woman of screen and comic panels adventured throughout the world when first introduced but later developed into a jungle woman who ran a trading post in Africa as she moved through her different stories. The charcter found her home at Charlton Comics after Fawcett stopped publishing her and in 1987AC comics brought her back in The Further Adventures of Nyoka The Jungle Girl. Her adventurous essence did not fade with the decades that passed and as strong female characters have appeared quite a lot in many mediums over the years she will always be welcome in comic fare asreaders and viewers have embraced these kinds of women.
She is a character who despite her long run is not very well known but try not to hold that against her. She has toughed it through her time and made it into our own and strikes us a woman who can handle any jungle. If you want to find them those other jungle girls are there in the old comic racks and boxes, but if you want to check out one just a little different but still with enticing appeal, look for Nyoka and if you are lucky, you just might find a lost jungle treasure.
James Parducci (www.jparducci.blogspot.com) is the creator of the comic series Nighthunter. He has been published in multiple periodicals and runs his own freelance writing business in San Diego.