Kaanga charges in. Artist: Maurice Whitman


Original Medium: Comic books
Published by: Fiction House Magazines
First Appeared: 1940
Creator: Alex Blum
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Long before Tarzan established a noticeable presence in comic books, the medium was crawling with his clones — straight-out ones like Ka-Zar, juvenile ones like Wambi the Jungle Boy, even female …

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… ones like Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. One of the longest-lasting — in fact, one of the more successful of all the early comic book heroes — was Kaanga, Lord of the Jungle (sometimes spelled "Käanga", "Kaänga" or "Ka'a'nga").

Like Tarzan, Kaanga was a young Caucasian boy whose parents died in the jungle, leaving him to be raised by apes. Unlike Tarzan, his name and exact ancestry were never given. Like Tarzan, he grew up perfectly at home with the wild beasts and other perils of his surroundings, but never felt quite right with civilization. Unlike Tarzan, he had blond hair. Like Tarzan, he nonetheless fell in love with a civilized woman (Ann Mason, whom he met while rescuing her from a slave trader), who became his lifelong mate. Unlike Tarzan — well, once you get past the hair, there wasn't much else about him that wasn't like Tarzan.

Kaanga first appeared in Jungle Comics #1 (January, 1940), one of the early comic books published by Fiction House, which was long established in the pulp magazine market. It was part of an effort to duplicate the publisher's pulp line in the new medium; and that line had included Jungle Stories, which starred a Tarzan clone named Ki-Gor, since 1937. Kaanga was the cover feature of the new title, and remained so as long as it lasted. The writer who created him (at least, to the extent the word "created" applies in this case) is unknown. The artist was Alex Blum, who also worked for Fox Feature Syndicate, where he co-created their Samson, and who drew quite a few issues of Classics Illustrated. But several others also worked on the character over the years.

Kaanga appeared in his own title as well, but it took him nearly a decade to get it. Kaanga Comics #1 was dated Spring, 1949. It ran 20 issues, the last of which was dated Summer, 1954. That was also the date of the final issue of Jungle Comics (#163). In fact, that's when the company itself got out of the comic book business, responding to the recent formation of The Comics Code Authority, which frowned on its extensive use of half-naked women.

A few years later, IW Enterprises, which issued unauthorized reprints of anything it could get its hands on, published several Kaanga stories. Some can also be found on the Internet, equally unauthorized. But that's okay, because Fiction House, having gone out of business many years ago, isn't in a position to object.


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Text ©2005-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Fiction House Magazines.