Man-oo looking typically mighty. Artist: George Tuska.

MAN-OO THE MIGHTY

Medium: Comic books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1954
Creators: Don Rico (writer) and Paul Hodge (artist)
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Cartoon anthropoids tend to belong to the funny animal genre, like Magilla Gorilla and The Great Grape Ape — or at least borderline, like Detective Chimp and Sam Simeon. Actual lower primates are rare, unless you count the newspaper comics star Rudy, who was fairly urban as chimpanzees go, or DC's Golden Gorilla, who wasn't, but was still pretty superheroized for an ape. But in the 1950s, the company that …

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… would become Marvel Comics made a hero of a normal gorilla, living in the African jungle, who was no more subordinate to a human progagonist than was Charlton's Black Fury, a mere feral horse.

Man-oo the Mighty was a Marvel character back when the company called itself Atlas Comics, the imprint it was using when it published such things as Homer the Happy Ghost and The Yellow Claw. One thing those two had in common was that unlike the vast majority of Marvel's series characters, they weren't superheroes. They came out during a period when that company, like most other comic book publishers, was experimenting with other genres in hopes of finding something its readers would take to, in place of the heroes who had dominated its output in the past and would dominate again before long.

The genre the company was experimenting with at the time was jungle action. In fact that was one of their two titles, Jungle Action (the other being Jungle Tales). Both ran divided covers, split among the title's four regular series. In Jungle Action, those four covered just about all the bases. There was a man (Lo-Zar), a woman (Leopard Girl), a child (or at least, a half-grown juvenile hero called Jungle Boy). and Man-oo, who represented the beasts.

Man-oo was just a gorilla, living among the gorillas, having gorilla-like adventures. In one issue, he'd join the other gorillas in fending off a predator; in another he'd distract a hunter from a jungle friend, putting himself in danger. His stories were all written by Don Rico, whose contemporary jungle characters include Lorna the Jungle Girl and Jann of the Jungle.

The illustrator side of Man-oo's creative team wasn't so stable. The first story was drawn by Paul Hodge, whose sparse credits at the company are scattered among its western, war, horror amd other genre comics. But his second adventure was drawn by George Tuska (Luke Cage, Hero for Hire), and the third by Syd Shores Two-Gun Kid). After that, Shores was the regular artist, staying as long as the series lasted.

Jungle Action and Jungle Tales were alternating bimonthlies, starting in successive months of 1954 and each continuing every two months thereafter. Tales was the second, debuting with a cover date of October, 1954, with all four of its series present. Each lasted about a year. Jungle Tales ran until #6 (August. 1955). After it folded, Man-oo was never seen again, a rare exception to the rule that Marvel characters are never truly dropped.

— DDM

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Text ©2011 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Marvel Comics.