They say Hollywood is where anything can happen, and sometimes that's almost true. Sometimes a boy raised as an elephant driver can be discovered by a filmmaker and go on to star in dozens of glamorous films as, well, an elephant rider, riding various elephants to fame and fortune and - the pinnacle of success - his very own comic book.
Sabu was a real guy, he really did come from Mysore in India, he really did star in films as varied as 1940's "Thief of Baghdad, 1947's "Black Narcissus", and 1956's "Jungle Hell," he married a woman who played a princess in one of his films, he served as a tail gunner on B-24 Liberators, and he had his very own paternity suit. How Hollywood can you get? As befitting a famous movie star, Sabu's likeness was licensed out to Fox - the comic book Fox, not the movie Fox - for a series of jungle adventure comics that unfortunately were kind of stupid. How stupid? Let's see.
We can tell a few things from the very first page of this issue of "Sabu". First off there's some Wally Wood action happening in the artwork, but it's early period Wally Wood when he was still honing his skills and still had empty places in his art reference file. This is a Canadian edition so you'll notice it was published by Superior Publishers at 2382 Dundas West which is now a grocery store. And of course we don't know which jungle he's in, is he in India or Africa or Southeast Asia or South America, we don't know and this comic book is never going to tell us. All we know is that like all the best jungles it's absolutely jam-packed with white jungle queens and princesses.
Already we're confused! The splash panel has Sabu menaced by a tiger controlled by the Tiger Queen, but the next panel has a girl who's pretty much identical to the Tiger Queen being menaced by a tiger and no Sabu to be seen. Aieeeee, says our brain.
Wah, the fanged one is not dead! Meanwhile, Sharla the Tiger Queen, I guess that's the Tiger Queen, delivers her ultimatum to the identical white woman who apparently is the Chief of N'Segi. That's classic Sharla for you!
No, wait, that guy is Chief of N'Segi, and the white women are his daughters? I'm confused.
What I'm not confused about, however, is the main appeal of these jungle comics for the 1950s reading audience, which, regardless of the ostensible main characters of the stories, are actually concerned with giving the reader as much bare jungle goddess flesh as the law will allow. Tie that jungle girl up and cover her with oil, says the bikini-clad jungle girl!
Sabu and Naga, his faithful elephant companion, take a hand in this mysterious oil-smeared tiger murder mystery! But the Tiger Queen is prepared to deal with Sabu - with dynamite! Dynamite? Why isn't she called the Dynamite Queen?
Fun fact: usually in Hollywood the "boom powder" is laid out in neat lines on a mirror or another flat surface.
Thrown from his elephant, Sabu braces himself for the awful bikini jungle queen oil torture while millions of prepubescent 1950s readers wonder exactly why this whole half-naked people running around the jungle thing makes them feel so strange. Maybe it'll make sense when they're older.
You see, when
victims are coated,
that the tigers,
are trained to attack,
upon catching the scent of,
they are poorly written!
Dang it Naga, we really need your elephant help here, and what are you doing? Wasting your time fighting a water buffalo? Come on Naga get it together!
Aw yeah, this what we paid our ten cents for, elephant rampage destroying the native village!
Remember to let loose one of your pets to care for the elephant boy! And I'm pretty sure that's not how you meant that to sound. But whatever.
Even though you're covered with the witch's oil, your pale jungle princess flesh glistening in the warm jungle light as Wally Wood waits impatiently for underground comics to be invented, you have nothing to fear because those tigers are being completely demolished by their mortal enemy, the elephant. It's nature's way.
Meanwhile back in the jungle, Sabu is with the Tiger Queen - no, wait, that's the other sister. Dang it Wally, learn to draw more than one woman! - Sabu is ready to spring a trap on that other tiger, if only the girl would cut the rope in time with the sharp stone he's given her. You could have given her your knife, if cutting the rope is so gosh-darned important, but no. Sabu cannot surrender his knife to a mere girl!
Anyway, where did Sabu get that rope from? Is there a Home Depot in this jungle?
Luckily here in the Rope Jungle ropes are everywhere, conveniently helping Sabu and Not Tiger Queen escape all the jungle hazards.
Turns out wandering through the dense vegetation of a subtropical jungle while wearing only a bikini might not make for the best footing. On the other hand, for the third time somebody's about to be covered in Tiger Oil!
so this explains why her memoir "Life Of A Tiger Queen" is filed in the "deeply ironic" section of the bookstore
You are both free
now! And when your
father comes tell
give one of you a different haircut or something because I swear to God you're identical. Now it's time to return to the jungle for a nice long rest, until the next crew of jungle princesses is menaced by an evil jungle queen. Happens a lot around here for some reason.
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