Cliff interacts with Jumballah shortly after becoming a duck. Artist: Doug Gray.

THE EYE OF MONGOMBO

Medium: Comic books
Published by: Fantagraphics Books
First Appeared: 1989
Creator: Doug Gray
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The early years of the comic book Direct Market's growing dominance of comics distribution were a time when bizarre, off-the-wall comics concepts, which could never be accepted in the corporation-dominated industry of earlier eras, could be placed before the public to find an audience on their own. Concepts like Fish Police, Xenozoic Tales, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and its many camp followers, like Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters … It was in this environment that The Eye of Mongombo, which concerned the adventures of an Indiana Jones-like …

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… college professor who got transformed into a duck, was able to find its way into comics shops and even achieve a measure of success.

The tone was set in the first few pages of the first issue, dated July, 1989, starting with Dr. Cliff "Cincinnati" Carlson, head of the Anthropology Department at San José State University, getting fired by his boss and academic rival, Professor Norbert Nuskle (whom Cliff called "Numbskull"). Later, he was musing that he may go on another quest for lost treasure, when a grad student named Mick invited himself along so he could continue his studies without finding a new faculty advisor. But before he could get started, Nuskle stole his map, and an old enemy named Jumballah showed up and turned him into a duck. Jumballah was dead by the end of the sixth page, but the quest, beginning with recovering the map, was just getting started.

The story was written and drawn by cartoonist Doug Gray, who doesn't seem to have pursued a career in comics, and whose subsequent credits are sparse.

The Eye of Mongombo was the name of the treasure Cliff and Nuskle were vying for. Being a mere duck, Cliff took Mick, as well as his former assistant/secretary, Raquel, along to perform mundane tasks requiring such things as fingers. Their hair-raising adventures, which involved the occasional old enemy of Cliff's, took them into jungles, ancient temples, and all the other types of places one would expect of an Indiana Jones adventure.

But Cliff was still a duck.

The Eye of Mongombo continued, at the rate of approximately three or four issues per year, from Fantagraphics Books (Little Orphan Annie, Love & Rockets). The last issue (#7) was dated December, 1991.

— DDM

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Text ©2010 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Doug Gray.