Monday, February 12, 2024


Obscurity of the Day: Jungo


According to attorney John Duncan and syndicate president Arthur Lafave, what the newspaper world needed in 1954 was a funny strip to relieve the sameness and drama of all the story strips. What they produced as the miracle antidote to this sorry state was Jungo, a strip about a super-strong but very friendly ape who lives in the world of humanity. Why a gorilla, you ask? Duncan had a ready answer. Because in a zoo the gorillas "get the most response from the public." 

Armed wih this unassailable logic the syndicate and a lawyer who really wanted to be a cartoonist loosed Jungo on an unsuspecting world. Duncan produced a strip that was unrelentingly cheerful, casting the ape as a do-gooder whose enormous strength sometimes works out well, other times causes unintended mayhem. 

It's a perfectly decent idea, I suppose, except that Duncan immediately falls into a rut of about three basic gags, none of which is exactly holleringly funny. And Jungo the ape, not being one of those talking varieties native to Disney, has a one-note personality that wears thin very quickly. Duncan did provide Jungo with a human family to play against, and that could have offered a little more variety to the jokes. But Duncan seemed rather uninterested in them and they were not often seen. Maybe he was afraid he'd be classified as one of those awful story strips if some humans spent a lot of time jawboning in his strip. I dunno. 

Jungo debuted on February 8 1954* as a Sunday and daily strip, and the Lafave syndicate did manage to get it placed in a number of good-sized papers. But when the features editors saw that Jungo was an ape of limited comedic abilities the papers started jumping ship pretty quickly. The latest I am aware of Jungo running is February 27 1955**, just a little over a year after its debut. 

* Source: Memphis Commercial Appeal

** Source: Cleveland News


Am enjoying your Stripper's Guide, and thank you for your efforts. Could it be that this strip was in-part inspiration for Hanna Barbera's Magilla Gorilla Show? The design shares similarities.
The 1950s seem to have been a golden age for talking gorillas, for some reason. DC Comics were a major perpetrator, but I suppose others (Ready?) aped them.

As cartoon strips about talking apes go, Rudy is far superior to Jungo.
Magilla does wear a derby hat like Jungo, but that conceit seems like a traditional prop for strong man characters. That said, I imagine Duncan could have gotten a few bucks out of Hanna-Barbera for 'stealing' the likeness.

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