Monday, September 19, 2011

Left in the Lurch: Jungle Action #22

Jungle Action #22 (July 1976)
"Death Riders on the Horizon!"
Don McGregor-Rich Buckler/Billy Graham/Bob McLeod/Jim Mooney

Doug: Uh oh. The teaser at the end of Jungle Action #21 said T'Challa was going back to 1876 to fight the Klan. In the midst of a story about social justice, can that be good? And what's more, when I look at the credits, I see that Billy Graham is not alone on the art chores -- witness Rich Buckler and Jim Mooney creeping into our cast of creators. Something is amiss here in part four of our look at the mid-'70's Black Panther series.

Karen: The switch from the Graham-McLeod art to the Buckler-Mooney art is jarring. I have to say most of my problem is with Mooney's inks. After McLeod's tight, detailed inking, Mooney's thick brush-strokes look odd.

Doug: And, right from the splash page I'm a little disarmed. We see T'Challa leaping onto the Lynne's front porch, from a Wakandan cruiser. And piloting the cruiser? Monica Lynne, along with intrepid reporter Kevin Trublood. OK, this isn't cool. We've come through three issues of somewhat-urban action with T'Challa -- no tech, no overt superhero powers. Just a guy wanting to set things right against the evil of the Ku Klux Klan. That seemed to be the way to go in telling that story. But now? Easy boy... OK, I'll try to be civil as we go through this.

Karen: It was kind of an odd choice, but then again, we've also discussed how it seems strange to have the Panther in his costume all the time.

Doug: As we turn the page, there's just some simple banter among the Lynnes (including Monica, now landed), Trublood, and T'Challa. It's actually sort of fun, the slice-of-life aspect of it.
Monica and her mother remark how they used to get together as a family all the time, to roast marshmallows and tell stories of the past. Monica thinks back to a story about a Cousin Caleb, and his fate after the Civil War. Momma looks pensive as Monica urges her to tell it now.

Doug: McGregor now weaves a strange tale, each part told on two pages: on the left, history as Mrs. Lynne remembered it. But on the right side of the magazine, we see Monica begin to daydream, and fantasize, about the same story. And here is where Buckler and Mooney come in (the eyes are where you find Jim Mooney's inks -- unmistakable!): they illustrate Monica's version of the story, which includes T'Challa in the Old South, to save the day.

Karen: Hey, wouldn't it have been cool if they'd had Graham and McLeod illustrate the 'real' story while Buckler and Mooney did the 'imaginary' one?

Doug: OK, just to give our readers a look inside the BAB editorial offices: if you'll notice above, I said that Buckler and Mooney illustrated Monica's version of the story. Karen duly noted that they actually illustrate both halves of the 19th century story! Man, I so had Graham/McLeod on the left-hand pages and Buckler/Mooney doing the right-hand pages. But nope -- a "look again", as well as confirmation of my fading skills of artist deduction from the Grand Comics Database proves my eagle-eyed partner correct! Back to the synopsis --

Doug: Caleb was now a freedman in 1867, yet without education or much to show in his name. One day a band of hooded men rode near his home, a beaten down old shack. Monica saw a nice homestead, complete iwth windows and a cellar. And as the Klan arrived, the Black Panther was waiting to greet them.

Karen: Monica's idea of Caleb's 'shack' looks very much like her own home.

Doug: Caleb was afraid of these riders. And they yelled at him and warned him not to go to the Freedman's Bureau or the Loyal League. If he did, he'd know the wrath of the Soul Strangler. Monica saw Caleb stand up to the Klan, and as they rose to strike him down, a black bolt descended like a missile from the trees.

Karen: Monica's Caleb is also tall and muscular, much like her super-hero boyfriend.

Doug: Caleb made his way to the Freedman's Bureau anyway. Surely someone would help him. But what he found were two white men who only wanted his vote. Now able to cast a ballot, the black vote became worth something to white politicians seeking to better only themselves. Monica saw Caleb being taken advantage of, but a hero burst into the room and put the white men in their place -- depositing them on coat hooks to dangle there while Caleb and the Panther had a laugh -- and exited declaring that they'd confront the Klan as individuals.

Doug: Caleb and his wife and their kids hurried back to their home, trying to make it before darkness fell. The sound of horses overtook them before they even got close. Monica closes her eyes -- if T'Challa had been there, the Klan would never have had a chance.

Doug: A man in a red robe and hood rode up to Caleb, and extended a skeletal hand. Caleb took his hand. The man informed him that he had died at Shiloh, and that he and the rest of his men were spirits. Caleb was then to turn around and meet his executors. Monica knew the Panther wouldn't back down from this Soul Strangler, and he didn't.

Karen: I thought it was a nice touch that in Monica's fantasy, the Soul Strangler's horse was red and aflame.

Doug: Caleb was shot in the shoulder, and as he fell as rope was tied about his neck. The Soul Strangler took the end of the rope, righted Caleb, and began to ride. Caleb's wife stepped forward and was beaten. The Panther had none of that, and as a noose was slipped around his neck...

Doug: The Soul Strangler dragged Caleb over to a tree, where the rope was thrown over a strong branch. Caleb's body was pulled higher and higher, and tied off. It was there that he died. Monica knew the Panther would work against the noose, and find a way to defeat the Soul Strangler and his henchmen. T'Challa beat the men into submission.

Karen: Monica gives her version a nice happy ending, something that unfortunately never happened for Caleb and many like him.

Doug: Before we wrap this one, I have to ask -- what did you think of this dichotomous story? To be frank, I found it offensive. I think I know what McGregor was going for, but it comes off as a real slap in the face to a people who were powerless to change the course of their history. Monica attests that she was indeed having a fantasy, but it's still a bit distasteful to me.

Karen: Hmm, I didn't actually have a problem with it. I took it on face value -Monica simply couldn't handle this terribly sad story, so in her mind, she re-wrote it, making her ancestors triumph in the end. It's simplistic but I think it's not unrealistic -haven't we all rewritten some episode from the past in our minds, as a daydream, trying to turn failure into success, or sorrow into joy? I don't feel any sense of disgust or contempt for Caleb -we all know that in the real world, these things happened and their was nothing one man could really do. I'm actually more concerned that this issue does nothing to move the Klan storyline ahead. That would have been fine, if we were going to get back to the story in the next issue. But that didn't happen.
Doug: I don't know that I have any contempt for Caleb -- he played the hand he was dealt. I guess I'd like to know if Don McGregor was making any criticism of his own, through Monica. It just struck a chord with me, I guess.

Doug: Well, as some of our commenters have mentioned previously, this one didn't get finished before Jungle Action was cancelled. Although Jungle Action lasted two more issues, #23 was a reprint of Daredevil #68 and #24 began a new tale -- yet written by McGregor! And what's even more puzzling is the fact that the ending didn't appear for another 3 1/2 years! And, when wrapped up, it was written by Ed Hannigan and drawn by Jerry Bingham -- I'm talking about Marvel Premiere #'s 51-53. Weird... I don't have any of those (although at one time I did have #51 -- I recall that it was actually the conclusion of JA #24 with a dude named Wind Eagle), so any of you who do and want to give us a quick synopsis, feel free! It would be welcome!

Karen: The Wind Eagle story does include the Dragon Circle, and gives some more insight into Angela's death, but that's it. Now I feel like I need to find those Marvel Premieres. I also feel that perhaps we need to review some of the Panther's Rage issues, seeing as how that storyline is so highly regarded.


Edo Bosnar said...

Hmmm, I was kind of hoping you'd review those Marvel Premieres. I could give you a synopsis, but it would be based on memories of the last time I read them, some time in high school (I actually broke down and ordered these issues recently to complement my BP Masterworks, but they haven't arrived yet). I know those Marvel Premiere issues are often looked down upon because McGregor didn't write them, but I have to say that back when they came out they prompted me to track down the original Jungle Action issues with the Klan story.
As for this issue, I recall it being quite effective when I first read it, and I agree with Karen that the heroic aspects of Monica's daydream kind of make sense.

Doug said...

Complimentary copies are always accepted for review by the Bronze Age Babies!

I'll tell you, the list of comics I used to have is almost as long as what I do have. But lots of cool Marvel Premieres are among those that I no longer own.

But if you want a bunch of crap from the 1990's-on, then I'm your guy! It's sad, isn't it? This is why I live in TPB/Hardcover land now.

So anyway, sorry that I can't give you a BP hook-up, Edo -- maybe Miss Karen has these in her collection?

Thanks for the comments,


Edo Bosnar said...

Doug, this: "...the list of comics I used to have is almost as long as what I do have" brought a wry smile to my face. The list of comics I used to have is several orders of magnitude longer than the list I do have, even counting TPBs, Essentials, etc.
However, of the floppies that I have re-acquired, which basically fit into a shortbox, a notable percentage are (or will be, once those BP issues arrive) various miscellaneous issues of Marvel Premiere - what a great series that was.

dbutler16 said...

I recently bought Marvel Premier # 51-53 at a local comic shop, and am reading them right now. Now, I need to go get Jungle Action! This stuff is tough to find unless you buy it online. Luckily I've got your reviews to fill me in. :-)

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