Rulah with crocodile in hot pursuit.. Artist: Matt Baker.


Original Medium: Comic Books
Published by: Fox Feature Syndicate
First Appeared: 1947
Creators: Unknown writer and Matt Baker (artist)
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In the late 1940s, when the superhero craze had run its course, American comic book publishers turned to trendier genres, such as crime, romance and jungle heroes, to sell their wares. The first two were responses to break-out hits (Crime Does Not Pay and Young Romance, respectively), while the …

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… third, which had been around since the early days of comic books (tending to be more like Tarzan than Jungle Jim), probably owed its increased exposure to publishers' growing propensity for exposing a lot of skin.

Female skin sold more comic books. Thus, the mid-'40s saw the introductions of, among others, Tiger Girl from Fiction House (Kaanga), Princess Pantha from Better Publications (Supermouse) and Rulah, Jungle Goddess, from Fox Feature Syndicate (Wonder Man, Samson, The Green Mask).

Rulah didn't grow up in the jungle like Sheena, "granddaddy" of the female Tarzan knock-offs. She was originally Jane Dodge, a bored society girl who got her kicks from risking her life, like Miss Fury or Lady Danger. One day, while piloting a small plane across Darkest Africa, she crash-landed where civilization had scarcely been heard of. Her clothes were damaged to the point of leaving her butt naked ("like Eve in the Garden," she mused), modesty preserved only by shadows and strategically-placed vegetation — yet, her skin wasn't noticeably scratched or abraded. Fortunately, her plane had whacked a giraffe on the way down, so she skinned it and skillfully fashioned a fetching bikini from the raw, uncured pelt. Her uncovered parts were no more bothered by thorns, rough bark, poison ivy and the like, than were her bare feet.

Next, she saved a tribe from the local tyrant, a white jungle queen much like herself, and was proclaimed its ruler — provided she could prove herself by killing a starving leopard with nothing but a dagger, which she did. The natives hailed her as Rulah, Jungle Goddess. She decided being a goddess suited her just fine, so she stuck around. All this happened in Zoot Comics #7 (June, 1947), where she made her debut.

Apparently, the role conferred instant jungle lore. In the very next issue, she was demonstrating deep knowledge of obscure magicks, and lecturing an explorer with many years' experience that "There is more to the jungle than you realize." At this point, she hadn't yet picked up with Saber, her panther pal, who would occasionally intervene on her behalf in later stories.

Rulah's writer wasn't credited, but her artist co-creator was Matt Baker, widely known for portraying attractive women such as Fox's Phantom Lady and Fiction House's Sky Girl. Other than a few covers by Jack Kamen, Graham Ingels (both best known for work on EC Comics) and the like, Baker drew Rulah from beginning to end.

After a few months, Rulah was added to All Top Comics, where Fox got extra mileage out of its bigger stars, such as The Blue Beetle and Dagar, Desert Hawk. She even got the cover. Before long, everybody got kicked out of the Zoot Comics back pages, replaced with more Rulah stories; and in 1948 the title was changed to Rulah, Jungle Goddess. It was in Rulah #20 (November, 1948) that her origin story was expanded and modified.

The first surprise to the readers was that her name was different — without a word of explanation (or any apparent reason), she became Joan Grayson. Second, she had a boyfriend, Tim Pointer, who was offstage during the original origin because of amnesia. But he got better and followed her into the jungle where, by an odd coincidence, both (separately) became prisoners of Sivo, a rival white jungle goddess. Rulah saved the day, convincing Tim in the process that she wasn't going to come home and marry him.

With its 28th issue (July, 1949), the title was changed again, this time to I Loved, and the content switched to non-series romance stories. At the same time, the All Top title bit the dust, and Rulah was left homeless.

Three years later, after the demise of Fox Feature Syndicate, Star Comics, which inherited many of its properties, reprinted several of her stories, as well as some Jo-Jo, Congo King, in its titles Jungle Thrills and Terrors of the Jungle. In the early '60s, Israel Waldman, who was less concerned with property rights than whether or not he could get away with it, reprinted a few stories in his Jungle Adventures, using the imprint "Super Comics". The following decade he did the same, using the imprint "Skywald", which he shared with co-publisher Sol Brodsky (Marvel).

Rulah has since, ever so slowly, faded to oblivion.


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Text ©2007-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Fox Feature Syndicate.