Rima the Jungle Girl #1 (April-May, 1974)
“Spirit of the Woods”
Writers – Robert Kanigher (?) & Jack Oleck
Art – Nestor Redondo & Alex Nino
Letters – Esphidy Mahilum
Edits – Joe Kubert & Alan Asherman
Cover Price: $0.20
So… what’s Rima the Jungle Girl? I’m not ashamed to say… I haven’t the foggiest idea. I couldn’t tell you if this was an old licensed character, or an actual citizen of the DC Universe. Well, I’ve done some (admittedly, shallow) research… and can happily report: yes… to both!
Rima would first appear in Green Mansions: A Romance of the Tropical Forest (1904) by William Henry Hudson… which seems like a rather odd place to find an eventual comics property, dunnit? What’s more, Green Mansions would eventually be adapted into a film (1959)… wherein, Audrey Hepburn would play Rima? Dang! Dude from Psycho plays the male lead… and, ho-lee smokes, does he ever not look like a complete creep?!
That’s the smile of a man with a refrigerator full’a body parts. Anyhoo, with all that having been said… the story we’re about to look at apparently takes place on Earth-1! What’s more, Rima was even on the SuperFriends cartoon?! This probably isn’t all that mind-blowing to many reading this, but SuperFriends is definitely one of my DC “blind spots”. I never really watched it! I think it might’ve been just a hair before my time, and I never made it a priority to seek out.
There she is chatting up Batman in SuperFriends. Not to be confused nor conflated with Hanna Barbera’s Jana of the Jungle…
So yeah… Rima, right? This Jungle Girl has herself a pretty crazy little backstory… let’s take a look at her first (to my knowledge) four-color outing!
We open on a man frantically wandering through a Venezuelan Jungle… poisoned from a snakebite. He thrashes about and calls for help from anyone that might hear him. Unfortunately, he’s, ya know, way deep in the woods. Fortunately… that same blonde from the cover hangs out there. Next thing we know, our man wakes up… safe and sound… inside the hut of an old man named Nuflo. He wants to know what this strange white man is doing in this (literal) neck of the woods.
Our man figures, heck… the old man saved my life, the least I can do is tell him what brought me here… and so, we hop right into flashback land. This fella’s name is Abel… and he was a rebel against Venezuela’s military regime during the Venezuelan Revolution. He and his fellow rebels… well, didn’t quite stack up to the military’s firepower, and as such, went down like dominoes. Abel’s friends were all put before a firing squad, with Abel only getting away by virtue of being severely wounded on the battle field. He’d flee into the jungles.
Abel would follow the shores of the Orinoco River, hoping to stumble across a mythical treasure which he felt might turn the tide in the revolution. The days passed on, and he’d finally find his way into a small village. Lucky for him, these were friendly folks. They’d even teach him some of their own ways. Their only warning to Abel was to stay out of Tabu… the Evil Place. Which is to say, the place is called “Tabu”… or, it’s, ya know, “taboo” to go there? Whatever the case… Abel is told to stay out.
Naturally… he does not. That night, after the village has gone to bed, Abel sneaks over to the taboo Tabu… and is overcome by the sound of a bird’s song. As he wanders deeper, he feels the presence of… someone… watching over him.
He heads back to the village, where the stink of the Evil Place is just allllll over him. Runi, the villager, and Abel’s friend calls him a fool for letting his curiosity get the best of him… and warns of a “witch” who lives deep in them thar woods. One who can transform from human to beast, and back again. Those villagers who dared enter before… never returned!
The villagers decide to give Abel another chance… but, again… warn him that he’s kinda playing with bad juju in Tabu. Naturally, Abel only stays put for another day. The following morning, he’s back in the green… following the strange, exotic, bird song.
He finally finds himself stood before a snarled old tree… and can really feel the magic of the area. Then… Rima! Rima walks out toward him… and, well, doesn’t say anything. She’s almost playing “hard to get here”. Every time Abel approaches, she playfully prances away. Our man takes this as a sign that she’s “beckoning” him to follow… and so, he does.
They arrive at a thick brush, and Abel spies a poisonous snake coming dangerously close to Rima’s bare leg. Our hero lunges in to push Rima away from the snake, which only causes the wriggler to latch onto his own leg! Ya see, the snake was protecting Rima… a fact that isn’t lost on Abel.
This takes us back to the beginning… with poisoned Abel stumblin’ all over the place. Back in the present, he thanks the old man for saving his life… only to be corrected. It wasn’t Nuflo that drew the poison from Abel’s wound… it was Nuflo’s granddaughter: Rima!
Our back-up story features the creatively-named Space Voyagers! They are Armando, Bartt, Melong, and Nolan… and, well… as the name might imply, they’re voyaging through space. They decide to stop on an uninhabited planet to see if they might procure some actual food (rather than their normal “food tablets”). Upon hitting the ground, they spy a set of footprints leading into a weird forest, and figure they might be worth a follow. Yeah, what’s the worst that can happen?
What they find is… the owner of those prints, an old man… who is just about to be gobbled up by a giant green insect! The Space Voyagers attempt to blast at the thing, only to find that their weapons are powerless against it.
They decide to outsmart the thing, by making it give chase. When this happens, the poor bug winds up impaling itself on some of the spikier parts of the forest.
The old man pulls himself back up to his feet, and beckons the gang to follow him. Wow, two “beckonings” in one issue! You sure got your two-dimes worth back in ’74! Anyhoo… he leads them into a weird Mausoleum… and inside, are our titular “Four Tombs”… which look to contain… them!
Lemme tell ya… if not for this site, this is definitely not the sort of book I’d ever subject myself too… which, is another reason to be happy to have the site. I really, really enjoyed this!
I’m not going to pretend to be some sort of Rima expert or anything, or suggest that I’ve read more than like a paragraph and a half of the Wikipedia synopsis of Green Mansions… so, we’re just going to look at this as a comic book. As a comic book, I found that this story had a wonderful “flow” to it. It really felt as though I was being kinda “swept” into it. So often, it feels like our creative teams attempt to show and tell… which makes the read feel a little bit overbearing at times. This, was relatively light, and almost played out like a movie. For all I know this was a direct retelling of the first bits of the 1959 film… but, for whatever it’s worth, I really enjoyed the way this played out.
There were no credits in this issue… though, many of my research haunts attribute it to Robert Kanigher. Couldn’t find any concrete confirmation, but the speculation appears to be in agreement… though, Nestor Redondo is given credit in “expanding” Rima’s role. Considering this version of the Jungle Girl is only around for this seven-issue series, I’m not sure how much actual “credit” is involved.
Worth noting, that Rima was nyoinked outta the mothballs for the 2010 DC FirstWave stuff, which featured pulpy characters like Doc Savage and the like.
|Art by Rags Morales
This issue also came with a back-up feature I suppose we could spend a few lines talking about. It… was fine. Definitely my kind of back-up, in that it didn’t attempt to overwhelm the lead story… and was rather breezy to get through. I didn’t feel overwhelmed by a load of characters (I’ll probably never see or think about again) dropped in my lap, and having to keep straight. This was a pretty boilerplate space adventure, with some action, and a pretty cool twist of a cliffhanger. Good stuff.
Overall, definitely enjoyed this more than I thought I would… and I’m really glad I finally got around to reading it.