The biggest reason for the increase in characters was the creation of a sister book for Fiction House's Jumbo Comics that featured Will Eisner's Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. The new comic was called Jungle Comics and it followed its name, featuring only jungle characters. It ran for 163 issues from January 1940 to Summer 1954. In the first year, Jungle Comics offered Kaanga, Wambi the Jungle Boy, White Panther, Tabu, Camilla, Captain Terry Thunder, Simba, King of the Beasts, Drums of the Leopard Men, White Hunters of the African Safari, Roy Lance, and Fantomah. Some of these characters were so popular they spawned comics of their own like Wambi Jungle Boy #1-18 (Spring 1942-Winter 1952) and Kaanga #1-20 (Spring 1949-Summer 1954).
All of Fiction House's competitors took notice and jungle lords and ladies began to show up shortly afterwards in many comics. Fox’s Science Comics #1 (February 1940) largely filled with costumed heroes, created their first jungle gal, Marga the Panther Woman. (This was seven or eight years before Rulah, Jo-Jo Jungle King, Zago, Tegra, and Fox's other jungle denizens.) Marga and also Hillman's awful Blanda the Jungle Queen were the first out of the gates in the race for the comic jungle. The comic's author and artist, James T Royal is not known, though it may have been Emil Gershwin using a pseudonym. Louis Cazeneuve is known to have inked other people's pencils on the strip.
Again, since Marga appeared in a science fiction comic, her next adventure is in a weird, futuristic city where brave flyers like Ted Grant face off against the evil Uchunko and his spaceship marauders. Marga takes a back seat as Tom rescues her from a pit filled with snakes. The story ends and the next time we see Marga, she is living in the jungle like any self-respecting jungle lady. No more sky pirates or spaceships. From now on, Marga will be a terrestrial (if highly unusual) earth dweller.
The next story was obviously inspired by the film The Wizard of Oz, because an evil scientist named Professor Meier is capturing animals and turning them into winged monkeys that he can control with his mind. The winged attackers capture Marga, and the Professor plans to make her into the general of the army of flying beasts. The serum he gives her does not turn her into a drone, but increases her already super powers. With the help of a rogue flying monkey that she calls Homer, she goes to the army of the nearby city and destroys Meier. An antidote is given to the animals and she returns them to their natural state. Homer turns out to be a police dog; now Marga's bosom companion (though we never see him again!)
The following story is better drawn in places (with small cribs from the Sunday funnies Tarzan) but almost lacks any real logic. The local Africans are trying to kill a rogue elephant, but Marga intervenes. With the elephant's help she rescues the village warriors. The person who was aggravating the pachyderm (not really sure who that is?) is killed, so all is well again.
The artwork up to this point has been inconsistent, with the style and conventions for speech bubbles and lettering changing each time. Now that the strip was being drawn by a single team, a standard opening was created for Marga: "Inoculated with the traits of a black panther, MARGA, an attractive white girl, joins aviator TED GRANT on an expedition into the jungle fastness." Ted Grant, now an African adventurer rather than a spaceship captain.
GW Thomas has appeared in over 400 different books, magazines and ezines including The Writer, Writer's Digest, Black October Magazine and Contact. His website is gwthomas.org. He is editor of Dark Worlds magazine.