The prototype of the modern “jungle girl” first appeared in the novel Green Mansions: A Romance of the Tropical Forest by W. H. Hudson in 1904—eleven years after the man-cub Mowgli popped-up in The Jungle Books and eight years before Tarzan the ape man started swinging from tree-to-tree.
Hudson’s jungle girl was a dark-haired beauty called Rima who dwelt in the uncharted forests of Guyana. Hudson was inspired by tales he’d heard of white families living wild and free in the jungles of South America. Rima was a smart cookie—she was kind and loyal but was smitten by the love of a white man and so ended up as firewood. But good old Rima started a trend that has filled up the content of many books, comics and even pop songs for over a hundred years.
Jungle girls can be generally divided into two camps—the rich abandoned white kids who were nurtured through childhood by friendly animals and the feral kids who kick ass and have incredible supernatural powers over their animal pals.
The first fully-fledged comic book to feature one of these dames was Sheena, Queen of the Jungle in 1937. Sheena was one hot powerful blonde who looked she’d come straight out of the pages of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Sheena not only had looks she was adept at fighting with knives, spears and deadly hand-to-hand combat. She could also talk to animals—a big bonus when trying to outwit those pesky big game hunters.
Sheena, Queen of the Jungle was the first comic dedicated solely to a female character. Its great success spawned a host of imitators with names like Tegra, Zegra, Jann, Princess Pantha and White Princess Taanda. These women were always white and most definitely blonde or brunette. They were guardians of nature and usually dwelt in some dusty savannah or unknown jungle in a mythic Africa.
The main era for these no-nonsense broads and their perilous adventures was the 1940s when a literal army of jungle girls made their appearance—some of which you can see below.
Sheena Queen of the Jungle—Issue #1 1938 (US) 1937 (UK).
Princess Pantha—June 1947.
More after the jump…