Nyoka hides in the jungle.


Original Medium: Prose fiction
Published in: Blue Book magazine
First Appeared: 1929
Creator: Edgar Rice Burroughs
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When most people think of Nyoka the Jungle Girl (making the radical assumption that they think of her at all), it's as a movie character made famous (or at least, as famous as she ever got) by Republic Pictures. But she has a much better claim to …

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… being a comic book character, having been done by two publishers over a far longer time span than her movie career ever covered, then revived decades later by a third. However, she started out as neither — she's a pulp magazine character, first appearing in a short story by Edgar Rice Burroughs (creator of John Carter, Tarzan and more) in 1929.

Nor, against expectations, did she follow the usual pattern for a comic book jungle girl, using a non-standard name like Sheena, Tegra or Rulah and swinging half-naked through the trees. As much as "Nyoka" sounds like one of those names, it just happens to be the one her perfectly civilized parents gave her at birth. Nyoka Meredith had a relatively normal upbringing; and, tho she grew up in proximity to the African jungle (her father was a doctor working among the natives), was, and remained, perfectly at home in civilization.

After introducing her in "The Land of Hidden Men", published in Blue Book magazine, then expanding the story into the novel The Jungle Girl in 1932, Burroughs was through with Nyoka. Her novel was adapted into a movie serial of the same name in 1941 (first chapter released June 21 of that year), but it bore a considerably less-than-perfect resemblance to the book. In fact, so lacking in resemblance was it, that Burroughs went so far as to have his name taken off because it wasn't at all like anything he'd actually done. A second serial, The Perils of Nyoka (first chapter released June 27, 1942) resembled the first even less than the first had resembled the novel. For example, Nyoka's father was de-murdered in it, and their last name, for no apparent reason, was changed to Gordon. The two constituted Nyoka's entire movie career (tho the second serial was edited into a TV movie in 1966).

After that, the comic books kicked in. Jungle Girl was published by Fawcett (Spy Smasher, Golden Arrow) with a cover date of Fall, 1942. Fawcett's Captain Marvel had been the first comic book character adapted into a movie serial, and this was the first to go in the other direction. It was originally intended as a oneshot, with no further use of the character apparently contemplated.

But Nyoka did become a regular a couple of years later. In the 50th issue (May, 1944) of Master Comics, where Captain Marvel Jr. was the star, she began appearing monthly in the back pages. The series lasted until #132 (March, 1953), the second-last issue. A few months after starting in Master, she got her own title. Nyoka the Jungle Girl #2 (Winter, 1944-45) began a series that lasted to #77 (June, 1953). Several late '40s issues were notable for featuring the art of Bernard Krigstein, best known for his work at EC Comics.

Fawcett got out of the comic book business that year, and sold its remaining titles and unpublished art to Charlton Comics. Charlton was notorious for random changes of titles, so second-class postal privileges could be continued by the new ones rather than being paid for over again. Zoo Funnies, a funny animal title, became Nyoka the Jungle Girl with its 14th issue (November, 1955). After #22 (November, 1957) it was changed to Space Adventures (the one where, a few years later, Captain Atom debuted), and that concluded Nyoka's comic book career — for the time, at least.

In 1987, Charlton was parted out, its properties sold to various companies and individuals. Tho no good case could be made that it owned Nyoka, neither Republic Pictures nor Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. seems to have raised an objection when she was sold to AC Comics (The Avenger). AC published five issues of The Further Adventures of Nyoka the Jungle Girl, consisting of comics reprints and movie stills, between 1988 and '89. A move was made to place her in The Wild Side, a jungle-themed version of their Femforce, which also included Tygra, Princess Pantha and Cave Girl.

And that was the end of Nyoka. So far, at least.


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Text ©2007-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc.