Monday, August 29, 2011

Southern Inhospitality: Jungle Action #19

Jungle Action #19 (January 1976)
"Blood and Sacrifices!"
Don McGregor-Billy Graham/Bob McLeod

Doug: Your favorite Bronze Age commentators, volunteers as we are, are from time-to-time willing to lay out some hard-earned cash just to keep you, our loyal readers, fully apprised of all things beautiful from the 1970's. Today's, and for the next three weeks, fare is one such example of this -- and here's a recommendation for all of you: If you don't own the original comics already, then go find yourself a decently-priced copy of Marvel Masterworks #141.
Said volume reprints the entire Black Panther run from Jungle Action #'s 6-24 (excluding #23, which was a reprint of Daredevil #69). In that volume you'll find Don McGregor's magnum opus, "Panther's Rage", and also his excellent four-parter featuring the Ku Klux Klan. It's the latter story we embark on now.

Doug: We pick this one up in a somber setting: T'Challa's girlfriend, Monica Lynne, has come home to the American South to mourn her recently-deceased sister. It's at her gravesite that we join the story. But as Monica is silent in from of the monument, she is approached by a silent mob -- a mob wearing purple cloaks and pointed hoods over their heads. The Klan has come! In the trees, however, watches the Black Panther and he doesn't like what he's seeing. T'Challa springs from the tree the moment he sees a knife's blade glint in the light. Monica, no slouch herself, reacts with equal force. The wild card in the fracas is an arriving vehicle; T'Challa puts one of the goons right through its windshield. What seems at first to be an accomplice or getaway car turns out to be an ally -- a reporter from the local paper. As the dust settles, Monica checks on the reporter, Kevin Trublood, who has broken his hand assisting against the Klan. As they talk, T'Challa leaps to a tree where he'd deposited one of the thugs. Despite this talk of the Klan, and Trublood told Monica that the Klan may have had a hand in her sister's death, T'Challa tells that there is more to the story -- one of their would-be hooded assailants... is black!

Karen: I have to say, this opening sequence was pretty confusing. Obviously these weren't your typical Klan members -but who were they? Still, the graveyard sequence was effectively moody. The insight into Monica's childhood via her memory of fighting with her sister, was well done. The Panther's athleticism is also nicely on display here.

Doug: I was stunned that one of the "Klansmen" was an African-American. Even when I was a kid -- and I'm sure I was pretty ignorant of the Klan for the most part -- this didn't make sense to me.

Doug: After gathering up the mess, Trublood provides his car as transport to take the bad guys down to the local precinct. Along the way, scribe Don McGregor provides the reader with a quick synopsis of what the Klan was all about. I also learned something -- tell me if you knew this: the T in T'Challa is silent. I always pronounced it as Trublood is admonished for pronouncing it -- Ta-Challa. Nope. Once at the station, the sheriff tells our heroes that the four attackers are locals and not Klan members. And in spite of that fact, they'll get no special treatment. They are given the chance to tell their story, but all decline. We are told that they gather strength from their numbers, and from the indoctrination they've received.

Karen: Yes, the plot thickens as we see more of this cult. I have to say, I was expecting the sheriff to be a stereotypical prejudiced redneck but McGregor surprises by having him be a decent man.
And no, I didn't know the T was silent!

Doug: Years later, when "In the Heat of the Night" was on television, I could have seen this sheriff as akin to Carroll O'Connor's character. Although the tv version was softened quite a bit compared to the original character in the film of the same name.

Doug: We then head to the countryside, to the family home of Monica. We meet her parents and the Panther attempts to learn a bit more about her sister. But Mr. and Mrs. Lynne aren't really willing to discuss it. T'Challa goes over the previous attack, and the mystery surrounding the men with Klan symbols and even a Klan newspaper -- but certainly due to their racial integration, they aren't Klan! While the family talks, we see now white-robed men approach, with guns drawn. One of them lights a Molotov cocktail and hurls it toward the home. T'Challa catches the light and leaps through the picture window. In a single motion he grabs it and hurls it back from whenst it came. Exploding at the feet of two men on horseback and another on a motorcycle, the Panther engages! Then it gets a bit weird -- help me out here: there are suddenly two of our purple-cloaked guys looking at the white-robed "real" Klan. Then we're back to T'Challa kicking butts but taking prisoners. He manages to round up two white-hoods while a much larger number flee into the night. As the Panther drags them back to the house, Mr. Lynne informs him that he's not one to shy away from trouble... and that's good, because the Panther's brought down a whole heap of trouble!

Karen: I have to admit that while exciting, I felt this whole attack on the Lynne household was very confusing. Besides the two groups, I also felt that the art didn't do a good enough job of explaining what was going on. Don't get me wrong, the art itself is gorgeous, but this sequence just didn't quite work for me. However, once we learn more about what's going on, that may be less of an issue. One last thing: didn't it seem odd how T'Challa is lounging around the place in his costume? He's unmasked as he eats dinner but then puts his mask back on as he hangs out with his girlfriend and her parents!

Doug: It did seem somewhat out-of-the-blue, but I suppose these guys have it in not only for Monica's sister, but by extension Monica herself. And yes, T'Challa in full costume was a bit odd. Sometimes I think that's really overkill on the part of the creators -- even as a kid, I could grasp that these men and women were not always superheroes.

Doug: When you break the story down to the three synopsizing paragraphs above, it seems like not much happened in this issue. However, McGregor's script is so wordy that it took me longer than my standard 20 minutes to read! There is just detail and character development on every page, and he's woven this mystery of Monica's sister's death throughout every page. I don't know about you, but I'm hooked for the second part.
And hey -- how about a tip-of-the-hat for Billy Graham and Bob McLeod? What a nice-looking book. I remember reading this arc off the spinner racks when I was 9; my current re-read holds up just fine!

Karen: Seeing as how every page is smothered in words, I actually timed myself on this to see how long it took me to read it: 25 minutes! At times it seems a bit much, but I enjoy how McGregor is building the story, and the tension. The art is really exceptional; I particularly like the faces -very distinctive, individual -no cookie cutter features. I'm looking forward to part two.


david_b said...

Arguably, I find Don McGregor's run on 'Jungle Action' the BEST graphic fiction Marvel (or anyone) had to offer in the Bronze Age.

Quietly presented, never flashy, Don's art perfectly captured T'Challa's somber loner/majestic royalty theme, at many times suggesting 3-dimensional depth, along side depicting the 'poetry-in-motion' masterful fighting skills. His action panels are intense and beautiful, equaling Kirby's renditions of Cap's classic fighting scenes, Colan on DD, you name it.

(And yes, I believe EVERYONE pronounced Panther's name as 'Ta-Challa', how would we know different..?)

The only issue I had growing up was ish 6 and THAT was a beauty.. Excellent cover and beautiful art inside.

For many growing up in the midwest (for me just a hundred miles north of Doug..), it was a wonderful glimpse into the beautiful, yet challenging and haunting Africa.

And Don did it perfectly.

J.A. Morris said...

I may get kicked out of the Bronze Age fan "movement" for admitting this, but I'd never read this before recently picking up the Masterworks book (I owned one of the back issues, that was it).

I've just started the last chapter of 'The Panther's Rage' and I'm loving it so far. I hope to get to the "Klan" portion by next week.

Billy Graham did some great work on this series, it looks great on the glossy Masterworks pages.

dbutler16 said...

I have to get a hold of this Marvel Masterworks! I’ve always loved the Black Panther. He was one of my all time favorite Avengers, yet I mostly just knew him from the Avengers. I’ve more recently picked up some of his series from the 80s (mediocre) and the 2000s (decent) and I bought the TPB collecting the first 6 issues of the Jack Kirby series, which was a lot of fun, in an Indiana Jones sort of way, but I really need this classic, seminal 70s stuff to add to my collection.

I love the art in the panel with the Panther picking that guy up over his head. Very realistically done! Excellent narration here, too. Hey, anything that was great when you were 9, and still holds up 35 years later, must be really well done.

I also didn’t know that the T in T’Challa is silent, so thanks for the education!

Edo Bosnar said...

Man, I hate you guys for doing this now while I'm on vacation (we're in a nearby town this evening in a cafe with internet service); my reasonably priced copy of the Black Panther Masterworks (found fortuitously on ebay) only arrived earlier this summer, and I have yet to read it. Otherwise, back in the day I had the last few issues of the Panther's Rage story plus the entire Klan story - I was prompted to track down the original Jungle Action issues after reading the 3-issue conclusion written by Hannigan (I think?) in Marvel Premiere...
Anyway, I remember it as a really well-written story.

J.A. Morris said...

Re: T'Challa's name, I always wondered about that too, I figured if it was pronounced "Challa", it would have been spelled that way.

In the recent Avengers animated show, it's pronounced "Ta-Challa".

Then again,Denny O'Neil say Ra's Al-Ghul first name is pronounced "Rayshe" not "Roz" as in 'Batman Begins'. So who knows?

Stan Lee is the only one who knows for sure how to pronounce "T'Challa", but he has a lousy memory, even when it comes to stories/characters he worked on.

Dougie said...

The Avengers animated show also gave us M'Baku as Mmm-Baku. As a kid I thought it was Meh-Baku. So Killraven's buddy would be Mmm-Shulla and Belit's subchief Mmm-Gorah. So, is it Shooma-Gorath or Shumma-Gorath? And Nih-Gar-eye or Unn-gar-ay?
(I now find Don McGregor's writing awfully pretentious. I couldn't finish the Morbius stories in Vampire Tales Vol.2)

Inkstained Wretch said...

I've had many, many good things about this run but have never seen any of these issues so I am very interested in your guys take on it.

Steve Does Comics said...

I'm proud to say I always pronounced it Challa - but then again, round my way we tend to treat all Ts as silent.

Inkstained Wretch said...

Err .. I meant to say: "I have heard many, many good things about this run ..."

J.A. Morris said...

FWIW,he pronounces it "TaChalla" in the 90s FF series too, here's a clip:

Hoosier X said...

I was 11 in 1975 when this issue of Jungle Action came out.

Jungle Action #17 was not the first comic book I ever bought, but it was the comic book that enticed me back to the drug store for the next issue, and I was soon hooked on Daredevil, Hulk, Iron Man, Fantastic Four, Defenders, etc. and so on, for the next decade.

I picked up about half of the chapters of "Panther's Rage" over the next few years at used book stores. It's awesome, and I'm very happy to say I finally acquired the whole set, years and years later.

As for "Panther vs. the Klan" ...
I didn't have all of them, distribution was not great in rural Indiana, but I think I missed #19 and #20 and had the rest. I definitely remember being PISSED that there was no Jungle Action #25, just a completely different story in Black Panther #1 WITH NO EXPLANATION!

(Which is not to say I didn't like Kirby's Black Panther. That was some CRAZEE SH*T!)

I was very thankful when they finally finished the Klan storyline in Marvel Premiere.

I don't remember ever thinking it was weird that the Black Panther was fighting the Klan. Somebody had to.

Mars Will Send No More said...

You're right that putting in the racially integrated pseudo-Klan and the regular KKK was confusing. McGregor would have wrapped it all up for us, but that was left to Marvel Premiere as one person here commneted. (It was issues 51-53 if anyone wants to read the conclusion.)

McGregor had a great idea but his reach exceeded his grasp on this storyline. He muddled it up with that flying idiot in green and yellow which drove the story to the cumbersome depths of superhero fisticuffs. His conflict resolution at the Klan rally is really weak. The King of Wakanda gets tied to a cross and set on fire and he DOESN'T kick the a$$ of everyone in a white hood later? Yeah right.

It's too bad, because it's an ambitious work that really could have risen to the heights of the previous McGregor sagas, but ends up limping along.

Anonymous said...

Still very hard book to find. This is gonna be a big sleeper investment with the rise of BP popularity and the movie!!!

Juice Head said...

Just tracked this bronze age beauty for 30 bucks on ebay. I'm not disapointed. Love the art and the introduction to the KKK. It's the rise in racial tensions today that gave me interest in this particular issue. I'm hoooked! I need to track down this Masterworks or some affordable single issues to read this full run.

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