Wambi (riding the elephant) and a few of his jungle pals.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Fiction House Magazines
First Appeared: 1940
Creator: Unknown writer and Henry Kiefer, artist
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By 1940, the comic book business was starting to get off the ground, and pulp magazine publishers such as Ned Pines (The Black Terror), Martin Goodman (Captain America) and the partnership …

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… of Coyne, Silberkleit and Goldwater (Archie) were entering it in droves. But superheroes were just starting to become the dominant genre, so when Fiction House Magazines got into the act, they started out emphasizing other types of story. The success of Sheena, Queen of the Jungle may have been what prompted them to launch a monthly comic devoted entirely to jungle heroes.

Jungle Comics #1 (January, 1940) introduced men (e.g., Kaanga), women (Camilla) and children (Wambi the Jungle Boy) in that role. Wambi was one of the two most successful characters to come out of the title, the other being Kaanga. He was created by an unknown writer in collaboration with artist Henry Kiefer, a pulp magazine illustrator who later did a lot of work on Classics Illustrated. Kiefer stuck with the character throughout his run, tho others occasionally worked on him over the years. Still, Kiefer's retirement in 1953 coincided with Wambi's cancellation, just five issues before Jungle Comics itself ended.

With his red turban and matching breechclout, Wambi looked more like a denizen of the Indian jungle than that of Africa. But most things around him, from the native villages to the presence of such fauna as zebras, looked African. The occasional tiger, not found in Africa, was simply an anomaly. No explanation was given for the discrepancy. In fact, Wambi's very presence in the patchwork jungle wasn't explained, nor was any information about his family background ever given. Also not explained was Wambi's ability to communicate in articulate detail with the lower orders, even when the animals made no sound at all. Parallelling the young Tarzan with his elephant, Tantor, Wambi's best friend was an elephant (Indian variety, by the way) named Tawn. The other continuing characters (e.g., Ogg the Gorilla and Hyda the Hippopotamus) were also beasts.

Aside from his original venue, Wambi also appeared in his own title for 18 issues, the first three published in 1942 and '43 and the rest starting in 1948. The final issue was dated Winter, 1952-53. His last appearance in Jungle Comics was in #158 (Spring, 1953).

He turned up one last time five years later, when comic book entrepreneur Israel Waldman, whose IW Enterprises would issue unauthorized reprints of anything that wasn't nailed down (the many examples include Doll Man, Yankee Girl and Phantom Lady) put out a single issue. After that, Wambi the Jungle Boy was history.


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