When you hear the word jungle, what's the first thing that comes to your mind? If you said “white people in charge,” you're probably a racist. That said, white people have overcome some pretty astounding odds to become kings and queens and lords and princesses of a place they had no business being in the first place. Here are 10 Caucasian rulers of the jungle.
1) Tarzan, Lord of the Apes
It all began in 1912 when Edgar Rice Burroughs created Tarzan for The All-Story magazine. When the Earl of Greystroke, his wife and their infant child are marooned on the African coast, things get worse — the wife dies, an ape named Kerchak kills the husband, and the little Earl is taken in by Kerchak’s tribe and raised by an ape named Nala. Little Tarzan learned to talk to the animals, wrestled everything from lions to dinosaurs, eventually avenged his father and fell in love with an American woman named Jane who happened to get marooned on the same island he did. Unlike many people raised by simians, Tarzan can handle civilization well, but he’s most at home in the jungle, in a tree, and preferably wearing a loincloth. Tarzan’s adventures are innumerable, featured in books, movies, cartoons, radio shows, and even a musical.
2) Ka-Zar, Lord of the Savage Land
Originally Ka-Zar was a Tarzan rip-off for Timely Comics, who actually spent most of his time protecting the jungle from the white folk who would exploit its resources, which of course included Nazis. When Stan Lee decided Marvel needed a Tarzan equivalent in the '60s, he resurrected Ka-Zar, introduced hom to the X-Men and made him the Lord of the Savage Land, the jungle that lies in the middle of Antarctica. Born the son of the English nobleman who discovered the Savage Land and raised by Zabu the saber-toothed tiger, Ka-Zar has hung out with most of the Marvel universe, having once defeated Thanos (seriously).
3) Sheena the Jungle Queen
Sheena wasn’t the first of the “Jungle Queen” characters, but she was the first female comics character to get her own self-titled comic, beating even Wonder Woman. She was created by the legendary Will Eisner and Jerry Iger for the British magazine Wags, and quickly proved popular enough to warrant her own comic in 1938. Like Tarzan, she was raised in the jungle and could talk to animals, although her leopard print bikini outfit may have been more responsible for her popularity. She inspired two TV series, one in 1955 and one in 2000, a 1984 movie starring Tanya Roberts, and a Ramones song called “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker.”
4) Bomba, the Jungle Boy
One of the first Tarzan rip-offs was Roy Rockwood’s Bomba the Jungle Boy, a series of 20 books that became a film series in the ‘50s. You’ll be shocked to know that “Roy Rockwood” wasn't a real name, just a pseudonym for the books the Stratemeyer Syndicate commissioned from a variety of authors. Anyways, Bomba grew up in the jungles of Sputh America, then headed over tio Africa in the 11th book. Wikipedia says, “A common theme of the Bomba books is that Bomba, because he is white, has a soul that is awake, while his friends, the dark-skinned natives, have souls that are sleeping,” so, yeah, they’re super, super racist.
5) Greta Vanderhorn, Jungle Goddess
In the terrible 1948 movie Jungle Goddess (which received a much-deserved MST3K treatment), Great Vanderhorn is the daughter of a Dutch millionaire whose plane crashed in the jungle just before World War II. Obviously, the primitive native see her luxurious alabaster skin and blond flowing hair and assume she’s a goddess, and worship her as such. It’s actually going pretty well for everybody until two white adventurers arrive, looking for Greta, and manage to kill countless villagers before one adventurer loses his mind and the other rescues Greta. The African natives are all played by Mexicans and Filipinos, if you somehow needed any more reason to hate this movie.
6) Thun’da, King of the Congo
Although pretty much a Tarzan rip-off, Thun’Da was created by the legendary Frank Frazetta in 1952; plus, he was actually a U.S. Air Force officer who was shot down over the jungle instead of growing up there and being raised by animals, so that also sets him apart. Of course, he still beat the hell out a group of evil ape-men, made sexy times with an inexplicably white jungle queen, and then killed their giant snake with his revolver and was worshipped as a Caucasian god, so that’s pretty standard stuff. In the Thun’Da movie, he was played by Buster Crabbe of Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers fame.
7) Korak, Son of Tarzan
John “Jack” Clayton, the son of Tarzan and Jane, was kidnapped as an infant and taken to Africa. What are the odds?! With help from a great ape named Pahkut, Korak got the same jungle education his father received, except he also received the name “Korak,” the ape word for “killer,” because Korak faught like a lunatic. Korak is eventually reunited with his parents and shows up in several of Edgar Rice Burrough’s original Tarzan novels, as well as several comic series. In the 1950s Tarzan serial, however, he is replaced by an adopted boy named “Boy,” because — and this is absolutely true — Tarzan never formally married Jane, so he was unable to have been shown to have procreated with her. Yes, the fictional character who was raised by monkeys did not have an official ceremony and court document, and thus was not allowed to have a kid on TV. The '50s, everybody!
8) Shanna the She-Devil
Created by Marvel in 1972, Shanna is different from most of the alabaster jungle rulers on this list because she actually grew up in civilization. Sure, she was born in Africa and saw her dad accidentally murder her mom while trying to kill their pet leopard, but then Shanna O’Hara went to the States and became a veterinarian and Olympic athlete. Then she went back to the jungle to help at an African reserve, put on a leopard pelt to help raise some lion cubs there (so she smelled more like them, I guess?), and basically started protecting the place from poachers as the She-Devil. She palled around with various parts of the Marvel U. until ending up in the Savage Land and marrying Ka-Zar, although their relationship was rather tempestuous.
9) Lorna the Jungle Girl
Shanna wasn’t Marvel’s first jungle girl; that honor goes to Lorna, created in 1953 by Marvel’s predecessor Atlas Comics. She started out as “Lorna the Jungle Queen,” but got demoted a year later to “Jungle Girl,” which seems unnecessarily shitty. Lorna was raised in the jungle by her father, who lived there for no discernable reason; when he was eaten by a shark, Lorna started patrolling the jungle on her own with a monkey pal like Tarzan’s Cheetah, a giant ape like King Kong, and a lot of other things other jungle series did first.
10) The Phantom
Lee Falk’s long-running superhero The Phantom is known as “The Ghost Who Walks,” which is a lot better than “The White Guy Who Wears Purple Tights and Is Somehow In Charge of Africa.” Kit Walker is the 21st Phantom, a line of heroes who have been dressing oddly and protecting the country of Bengali from the Singh Brotherhood, evil dictators, drug runners, and various crime organizations for centuries. While the people of Bengali believe The Phantom to be immortal, it’s just that each Phantom inevitably manages to live until his son is of age to take on the mantle. The Phantom has a wolf named Devil, a horse named Hero, and operates out of “The Skull Cave” and clearly has a problem with naming things creatively.