Jun-Gal fends off an attack, as Mammy looks on.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Rural Home Publications
First Appeared: 1944
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By modern standards, the entire "jungle goddess" genre, which flourished in American comic books from about the middle 1940s to the mid-'50s, was a pile of racist claptrap. The "goddesses" invariably had the "white" skin denoting European descent, ruling over the local dark-skinned natives because that seemed natural …

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… and just to readers whose only knowledge of such jungle regions came from comic books. But even if an entire genre is racist, there can still be individual examples of it that stand out for particular unenlightenment. Jun-Gal, a minor publisher's even more minor offering, outdid Rulah, Taanda, Tygra and all the rest in depicting its characters offensively.

In fact, the ignorant, superstitious, impossibly thick-lipped natives weren't even the only type of black stereotype in Jun-Gal. There was also Jun's childhood nursemaid, Mammy, who would have been right at home in a post-Reconstruction story about genteel white folks with black servants.

As the back-story went, in 1926, Professor John Teal, who was then living in Kolumbi, Africa (no more specific address available) heard from a friend that there was a lode of pure radium hidden deep in the jungle, and took it into his head that the world needed someone to retrieve it (despite the fact that radium is useless in making weapons of mass destruction). Of course, he and his wife, Marion, would never dream of launching an expedition to get it, exposing their family to the necessary hardship and danger — not without taking along Mammy to care for their infant daughter, Joan, at least.

After weeks in the trackless wilderness, their "electronoscope" (which seemed to function like a geiger counter) started going crazy, so they left Mammy and Joan in camp while they tracked down the source. Later, a bearer named Wombi (no relation) staggered back to tell Mammy that John and Marion were dead. Within minutes, Wombi had joined them and the remaining family members were prisoners of the Tagoma tribe, whose village was right next to The Pit of Death (depicted as a huge mass of flame) — the radium itself. The little girl was renamed Jun-Gal, which apparently means something besides "extra-cheesy English-language pun" in Tagoma-ese. Anyway, they were always saying "Tanaki, Jun-Gal", whatever that meant.

Often, comic book people who do stupid, dangerous things such as inject themselves with unknown chemicals (like Hydroman) or dive naked into vats of molten metal (like Steel Sterling) wind up becoming superheroes instead of dead. It was that way with Jun, growing up immersed in all that radioactivity (later seen killing people on brief exposure, indicating it was too strong even for hormesis), who became super-strong as a result. One would think it would work that way with the Tagomas, too, but maybe black people in this story just didn't have what it takes to benefit from deadly radiation.

Jun first appeared in the back pages of Blazing Comics #1 (June, 1944), alongside The Black Buccaneer (no relation) and Mr. Ree. The cover featured The Green Turtle, who did little besides demonstrate the paucity of good adventure hero names. It was published by Rural Home Publications, which put out a few mid-'40s titles, one of which featured Wiggles the Wonderworm. Rural Home also held the copyrights of Publicaciones Recreativas, publisher of The Bogey Man.

Blazing Comics lasted all of six issues, but Jun-Gal was gone after #5 (March, 1945). Nobody knows who wrote or drew any of her stories. Fortunately, nobody cares, either.


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Text ©2010 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Rural Home Publications.