While the title of Jungle Queen isn’t official per se, Lorna certainly embraces the worst stereotype of a royal, like exerting her power in whimsical and radically inconsistent ways. Lorna, The Jungle Queen is pure nonsense, completely devoid of both morality and direction. However, if you go into the book without any intention of holding the characters as role models, and instead embrace the psychopathic mania of it all, Lorna, The Jungle Queen is a really great read. Like, wow.

Origin: Domesticated. Raised in Africa by her father. 
Affiliations: Wiseman M’Tuba, Mikki the monkey, and entrepreneur Greg Knight. 
Powers/talents: Hunting. Manipulation. Has working knowledge of vehicular craft. 
Outfit: Two-piece outfit, sleeveless red top and leopard print shorts and skirt. Laced shoes. Earrings, belt, gold arm bands. 
Habitat: Sub-Saharan Africa(-ish). 
Equipment: Knife. 
Spoken Language: English, numerous local dialects. 

Her Majesty, Lorna

Hi, Dad. Bye, Dad.

Despite being on the continent from youth, Lorna is something of an alien (Or rather, invasive species. See below.) in her environment, having been raised under the tutelage (and seclusion) of her father. 

We meet Lorna and her father on the first page of issue one, living in their own little slice of paradise – for about three frames, after which her father is killed. Alone in the wilderness, Lorna decides not to stay home, nor use the readily available supplies and equipment they depended on for survival. Instead, Lorna quickly goes feral and wanders off into the jungle. 

Strong and capable as Lorna is as a result of her training, the jungle is a whole different ball game from taking pot shots at passing wildlife from the front porch, and she needs a bit of help getting started. Luckily, local wiseman M’Tuba and local monkey Mikki come to her aid before she makes any more ill-conceived, malaria-fueled decisions. However, because Lorna exudes that weird homeschooled kid vibe, M’Tuba decides against letting her into the community, instead gifting her a pet monkey before sending her on her way. In the final frame of the first issue, M’Tuba watches Lorna and Mikki walk off towards their likely death, the warm sunset framing a happy snapshot of what should certainly be their last moments alive.

Miraculously, Lorna and Mikki survive. Quickly establishing herself as a protector of the wild (After stabbing a rhinoceros just to see it die. See hypocrite.), who only sometimes needs the help of a monkey sidekick, she sets out to fight all manner of injustices in (insert location here), Africa. 

We’re soon introduced to Agu the Giant and Greg Knight, asshole extraordinaire. Agu is, aside from the occasional fit of hyper destructive gorilla rage, a perfect gentleman, while Greg is a hunter/wrangler/closeted homosexual who really hates women and “natives”, so decided it would be a good idea to settle in a rural environment on the second most populated continent on the planet for some peace and quiet. 

Unluckily for Greg, he’s only the third man Lorna’s ever seen, and right in time for her hormones to kick into overdrive. Her priorities soon shift from protecting jungle stuff to finding a way to get Greg’s penis out of his khakis. Greg, however, has no interest in Lorna, which in turn prompts her to go absolutely Urkel on Greg, ruining his manly outdoor escapades.

This is not healthy. The monkey is trying to tell you this is not healthy. When you lose a monkey as a friend, your life is out of control.

Lorna and Greg’s tumultuous relationship is the main gag of the series. They often cross paths (Lorna, much to Mikki’s protest, stalks him.) and wind up getting into all manner of crazy situations. An early trek has them fighting against greedy prospectors trying to rob a diamond mine. Greg does his best to put a stop to their operation while Lorna fights from the shadows, nobly protecting that handsome face she hopes to one day sit upon. In the end, the two white warriors learn that the jungle is a harsh place, doling out its own karma. The mine, as it turns out, was a “great snail” (Lorna declares without the slightest bit of surprise as she watches the mountain-sized blob swallow the thieves whole). Just another day in jungles of (insert location here).

Hate it when that happens.

You’d think if any monsters needed killing in the depths of the African jungle, it would be a giant snail posing as a diamond mine. Alas, Greg and Lorna spend their time irritating more traditional fare. Lorna saves Greg (a theme that repeats throughout the series) in Killer Rouge, a strip about a rampaging elephant where Lorna takes little issue in leading the animal to a suicide pit before returning to the task at hand: tricking Greg into lov– I mean protecting the jungle. 

Beasts are not the only things hiding in the jungle, and the book wastes little time moving from hunting stories to science fiction. A cult of crocodiles led by a mad doctor stands as a particularly entertaining romp in The Black Swamp, especially at the end when Lorna, Greg, and their companion ride down the river atop a tamed bask.

You know you’re a bad bitch when your ride is a raft of obedient crocodiles. #jungleasfuck

Later, the pair is kidnapped by headhunters, and Lorna is forced to use to her intellect to navigate the (insultingly simple-minded) politics of the headhunter tribe, while also knowingly putting Greg in mortal danger just so she can claim a compliment from him later. Again, this all could have been avoided if she had just listened to the monkey and gone looking for a new man (not a sentence I thought I’d ever write).

In The Lost City, Lorna and M’Tuba find a coin allegedly from a lost kingdom. Despite the fact this supposed kingdom is in fact lost (says it right there in the name), Lorna finds it about a page later and is quickly taken captive by the city guards. A mishmash of white-washed Egyptian culture infiltrated by communist spies follows, and proves interesting to see just how deep fears of communism were when Lorna, The Jungle Queen was published.

Ah, the elusive rainforest Dame.

Later, they fight (and pilot) a giant mechanical vulture (Also a communist plot, after Operation Nile Smirnoff failed. See above.) Either Greg spends a lot of time talking about those damn Ruskies off-screen or Lorna has a subscription to the paper, because her hatred of not just foreigners, but specifically communists, is a bit head-scratching. 

Lorna and Greg wind up fighting on the same side against voodoo horrors, cultists, prehistoric monsters, and more, though Greg is never happy sharing the spotlight with a woman. He constantly complains about women getting in the way and causing more trouble than they’re worth. At first it seems like Greg is just a hardcore chauvinist, but as the series progresses it feels more like he’s repressing his sexuality.

One of many times Greg ends up with egg on his face.

In Double Danger, Greg seems to accept that Lorna isn’t going to leave him alone, and invites her on one of his trips to the city. She comes along with glee, though once there, Greg wants as little to do with her as possible. At one point he tells her to go and buy some dresses to doll herself up a little. Lorna is a jungle girl, sure, but to say she’s unkempt or unattractive in the least is ridiculous. Greg might as well be blaming his impotence (or, again, homosexuality) on her.

You mean hot women, Greg?

Lorna does in fact end up in a dress later in the strip, though this temporary transformation is less of an event when compared to similar arcs in other jungle girl stories due to the fact that Lorna is more or less familiar with Western clothing styles, only forgoing them to wear more revealing jungle attire after her father’s passing. While stammering back to the jungle, she even states that she needs to get her “duds” back – a slang term she learned from who knows where – cementing the fact that Lorna is, despite her rural upbringing, perhaps more American than African.

What Greg actually does in the jungle is ambiguous for the first several issues. He kills a lot of animals, and puts some in cages, which led me to believe that perhaps he was a poacher of some sort, and Lorna’s feelings for him would someday come into confrontation with the fact that he was setting out to destroy the home she held so dear, leading to a dramatic faceoff between the lovers. 

In fact, Greg works at an animal refuge, and takes care of animals – until he sells them to the circus, at least. He doesn’t want them poached, and only kills when in danger and lethal force is absolutely necessary – or he just feels like it. Lorna has no issue with this because, as established, she is also a bit of a bitch.

Tonight on Coast to Coast, Lorna, Jungle Queen talks to us about the Soviet’s secret ape mind control program for the full four hours.

By Track of the Killer in Lorna, The Jungle Girl #8, Ricco had evidently run out of ideas, and introduced a hybrid crocodile-gorilla. It is, in spite of its unintended hilarity, one of the weaker scripts, with a tag and chase plot too similar to Killer Rouge. This holds true for much of the book’s remainder, with stories running over old territory and redundant setups. Lorna, The Jungle Queen, unfortunately, runs out of steam quite fast. There is no conclusion, character building, or end to the story. Greg and Lorna make no progress in their deeply unhealthy relationship. The Marvel collection (reviewed here) ends with a strip by Riot called Loona. It is, unfortunately, not that funny (aside from poking fun at the ‘white hunter’), and does little to spoof the series’ actual tropes, instead opting for left-field antics like playing dice with a pack of gorillas.

This is a major scientific discovery, btw.

Lorna, The Jungle Queen uses a split vantage, giving the perspective of both a woman (a thirsty, thirsty, woman) and a “civilized” man. This dichotomy keeps the reader (kids who grew up in the 1950s, I guess) grounded in the Western connection, while Lorna provides a kinder* and more feminine perspective. She is, however (like most jungle girls) closer to her Caucasian brethren and animals than Africans, keeping that (typical, and problematic) divide evident.

The hook, or inside joke, between Lorna and the reader is obviously that she is entirely capable, but is too kind to take any credit for her work. In Trial of the Fang, a madness overtakes man and beast alike, with only Lorna seemingly unaffected by the hysteria. This light-horror scenario proves that Lorna is more than just a capable woman, but that her femininity is in fact a super power of its own.

In The Man Killer, Lorna must stop a mad warrior named Kativa who dresses in hyena skin. It’s another interesting turn for the comic, as Lorna and Kativa are treated as fighting equals. Furthermore, Greg actually expresses genuine (as opposed to back-handed) concern over Lorna’s wellbeing. Still, all this is set against the backdrop of the evil African, with foreigners (or in this case, a native Caucasian African) leading helpless natives away from superstition.

Though Lorna, The Jungle Queen doesn’t shy away from tropes and prejudice, the inclusion of M’Tuba as a wise and steadfast character is worth noting – though he’s evidently only “cool” because his nifty fez hat and cross necklace. He teaches Lorna how to hunt, and even gets a few strips of his own, serving as a central pillar in Lorna’s (distraught and nonsensical) life. Sadly, M’Tuba gradually fades out from the storyline as the series progresses, despite his pronounced role in the early strips.

Total Carnage 

Lorna may be one of the most titillating jungle girls of her time. Her clothes are conservative (for a jungle girl), only revealing the skin of her arms, legs, and head, with her torso and pelvis concealed. However, her shapely figure is constantly threatening to burst out from the vacuum-sealed attire; this constraint further stressed by the tightly wound leather sandal straps around her legs. Her top’s high neckline and gaudy necklace of teeth and bone hides her cleavage and stomach, though Lorna’s silhouette is flaunted throughout by way of sprawled out action poses, the fur clothing barely able to contain her pronounced features.

The outfit too showcases an interesting mix of African and Western influences, with Lorna sporting a belt and hunting knife, but wearing leopard fur shorts and a red striped top. It communicates Lorna’s pull between cultures, fashioning an outfit that resembles athletic wear, but made from local materials.

That’s not to say she’s all business. Lorna sports large wooden earrings (stretchers, almost), and always has her hair done immaculately. Her hair does grow and change over the course of the series too, which is a nice touch. Other changes, like a higher cut in her shorts starting with the December 1953 issue, also shows the refinement (or wear and tear) of her outfit.

Characters sport big and expressive features, giving them a bulbous and cartoonish look. Lorna is perhaps the most extreme example of this, with her inflated eyes, lips, hips, and breasts. She isn’t fully cartoon (as can be seen in her Riot rendition) but her proportions do toe the line. Other characters share these exaggerated features, though still adhere to “standard” golden-age comic book proportions.

Lorna, The Jungle Queen takes places almost entirely in jungle landscapes, as opposed to the desert or savanna, and this lushness is always well-communicated through layered backgrounds and detailed foliage. Though the main Lorna, The Jungle Queen strips have great line of action, with details like Lorna’s movement often accentuated by Mikki or other background details, one could criticize the character modelling as inconsistent. Still, even though Lorna’s face does vary from time to time, and certain angles don’t work all that well for keeping said details in line, the fact that both Roth and Mooney were so ambitious in their action and set design more than makes up for these nitpicks. Action is superb in Lorna, The Jungle Queen, and nearly every frame has its own detailed backdrop. Few frames aren’t full landscapes in their own right. When the occasional flat-coloured backdrop is used, onomatopoeia bubble or block letters are sometimes used to keep momentum.

Thick inking is used to great effect in emphasizing both action and drama. Heavy shadows and florescent colouring are cleverly utilized in horror themed strips, like Voodoo Madness, as are cropped frames. Shadow is also used to build form, giving the characters a convincing volume. Colour temperature is expertly applied, with pleasing orange and blue sunset horizons, or creepy purples and greens illuminating the sinister happenings of the jungle at night, effectively setting the tone of each scene.

Some animals, like the elephants in the book’s final strip, The White Death, look great. However, big cats and apes aren’t always as convincing, with the cartoonish liberties taken in their construction not being as charming as the human casts’. Other creatures, like the ape-croc hybrid, are somewhat baffling, with details like the beast’s tail covering up its anus (how does it poop?). The dinosaurs and plants found in the Lost Kingdom look more like animatronic props than actual creatures, being a bit too angular. The communist’s hilarious angry sphinx is a highlight, being a ludicrous divergent from the alluded Egyptian style, but ultimately many of these bizarre designs add to the book’s charm.

Narration boxes are used heavily in Lorna, The Jungle Queen. There isn’t much poetry to them, but they do a good job of keeping the reader caught up with the action on page. Two to four page stories from the original magazines have also been preserved in the Marvel collection which is a real treat, and those hoping for extra-pulpy prose will still get it here.

Greg Knight also has his own strip, The Jungle Adventures of Greg Knight, with art by Mooney and a number of others. These short adventures do not feature Lorna. They’re less detailed and refined overall, with some of the aforementioned inconsistencies being more egregious here, or details like a plot of grass in Trail of Sudden Death that they, I guess, just forgot to colour in.

Though Lorna’s bombshell figure is teased, the book is kept PG-13 throughout, even when it descends into horror territory. In Man Killer, Lorna’s foe, Kativa, is seen skinning a hyena (who Ricco went to the effort of naming Huki the Hyena, which is adorable and breaks my heart). Though the skin is shown being lifted from the corpse, the shot is close, not showing much of Huki. The palette of baby pink coloured muscle and baby blue coloured sky further soften the gore factor while still alluding to what is transpiring.

Jungle Fury looks quite different from the rest of the Greg Knight stories thanks to George Tuska’s unique style. Details are reserved, and flattened, relying more on two-tone light and shadow with minimalistic line work, giving the strip a more serious tone, even though the narrative remains lighthearted.

Lorna, The Jungle Queen is a love (or rather, lust) story. Lorna is prominently flung about in suggestive positions, perhaps to communicate the longing (or frustration) of Greg’s desires compared to those of Lorna. It doesn’t just excite the reader (assuming, as Greg put it, “you like the type”) to see Lorna on full display as she twists and swings her way through the jungle – the seams of her clothing barely able to keep up. It also highlights the unrequited feelings between the two leads. Unlike other jungle girls, who are more or less off-limits and not interested in relationships (or already taken), Lorna fully communicates that she is up for grabs. Greg, however, is not taking the bait, and thus the reader is put in the awkward scenario of wanting to be in Greg’s position – that of the strong alpha lead – but left with the puzzling conundrum of wanting to change his personality in one key way – to accept Lorna’s affections.

Mikki, it seems, is the voice of reason more often than not. Not only does he get the two out of trouble from time to time, but he seems echo what the reader is thinking. Though he doesn’t have much of a personality, his blank slate is almost more fitting for the segment of the audience that finds Lorna attractive than Greg. Yet, Mikki is a monkey, and cannot be her mate; only her friend. Thus, the reader is once again left to experience the adventure, and lust, from afar rather than project themselves into the scenario, creating an addictive sort of frustration.

A nice detail in the second last frame of White Death shows Greg’s pipe smoke trailing to Lorna’s eyes – An apt metaphor for their relationship.

I didn’t vote for her 

Unlike traditional royalty, Lorna has no audience, no subjects, and no particular duties. She’s a royal only insofar as she acts like the worst stereotype of one, spending her days claiming she’s fighting for the greater good when really she’s just taking out her pent-up sexual frustration on the helpless living things around her. The moral lessons in Lorna, The Jungle Queen are questionable at worst, non-existent at best.

By the end of collection, Greg is still a cunt and Lorna is still a virgin bending to his hissy fits, hiding her contributions throughout their (admittedly destructive) wanderings in the hope that the more she suppresses her capabilities the more likely she can calm his ego, and perhaps he’ll slip her some dick. Lorna, The Jungle Queen is a fascinating cold-war propaganda piece, romance/erotica story, and superhero comic all at once. In the end, it’s an unfulfilling tale about toxic relationships, animal cruelty, and a hyper-intelligent monkey side-kick. Highly recommended.

You can buy Atlas Era Jungle Adventure Masterworks Vol. 1 for Kindle/Comixology here.

Reference 

“Lorna, The Jungle Queen.” International Hero. Accessed February 28, 2022. http://www.internationalhero.co.uk/l/lorna.htm 

Sedlmier, Cory. 2019. Marvel Masterworks Present Atlas Era Jungle Adventure: Volume 1. Marvel. 

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