Monday, October 25, 2010

Ki-Gor: King of the Jungle

I've talked about Ki-Gor, the other jungle Lord in previous posts, but here's a quick refresher. Of all the various imitations of Edgar Rice Burroughs' iconic jungle lord Tarzan of the Apes, the most successful in the pulp magazine format was Ki-gor. Ki-gor appeared in the Fiction House pulp magazine Jungle Stories from 1938 until 1954. He also appeared as a comic book character called Kaanga. No one remembers why the name was changed for the comic, but Ki-Gor and Kaanga were the same character for all intents and purposes.
Fiction House is long out of business and any number of publishers have been putting out reprints of the Ki-Gor stories, most notably Adventure House who publish Ki-Gor both in pulp replicas and as an occasional feature in their anthology title, High Adventure. The Adventure House folks do a great job and I recommend their books.
Recently however, Altus Press announced that they intended to get all of Ki-Gor's adventures into print in trade paperback volumes. My buddy Cliff ordered copies of Ki-Gor:The Complete Series Volume 1 for himself and me. Volume 1 contains the first six Ki-Gor adventures, including Ki-Gor's origin story, Ki-Gor, King of the Jungle. I already knew the Tarzan clone's origin, having read about it in Don Hutchinson's terrific book, The Great Pulp Heroes, but it was fun to actually read the story.
One thing I noticed right off was that it was better written than some of the later Ki-Gor stories. I'm talking mainly about the prose, which seemed to get a bit wonky in some of Ki-Gor's adventures. The author of the first story was someone named John Murray Reynolds, about who I know absolutely nothing. When the story was reprinted several years later, it was credited to the house name John Peter Drummond. According to various sources, there were around a half dozen writers on the series, which doubtlessly explains the varying quality of the stories.
Anyway, Ki-Gor, King of the Jungle, is a fast moving little story that explains how Ki-Gor met Helene, the woman who would one day become his mate, though in this first story, like in many romances, they don't get along so well initially. Ki-Gor does all the standard Tarzan stuff, killing big cats with only a knife, fighting native warriors, swinging through the trees, and mangling the English language. (Okay, that one's only true for the early movie Tarzan. ERB's apeman learned to speak several languages fluently.) In fact, Ki-Gor is sort of a mix between the pulp and movie versions of Tarzan, pulling elements from both.
I'm having a lot of fun reading these old pulp stories and I'm glad that Altus Press is collecting all the Ki-Gor tales in convenient format. I hope they stay at it until all the stories have been reprinted. I'm already ready for volume 2.


Howard Andrew Jones said...

Hey Charles,

I look forward to the middle period collections. I think the early Ki-Gor's are a little wooden in comparison, and the later ones are a little wonky, as you say, but the high points are REALLY high. The best ones, and I'd say there are somewhere between 15 and 20, read like Robert E. Howard or Mickey Spillane writing a Tarzan story.


Charles R. Rutledge said...

I know the ones you mean, Howard. A couple of them I've read are all out action from the word go.