If you grew up in the English-speaking parts of the world, it seems like everyone has at least heard the term "Jungle Jim". But where did the term originate? Why does it live on? Why is it everyone knows the name and no one knows the character? While other pulp heroes have had wild success in modern media, Jungle Jim rests in virtual obscurity. All while having more published material than almost any other character of the time.
1. Jungle Jim originated as a newspaper comic strip in 1934.
It was launched simultaneously with Flash Gordon by the same publisher as a companion strip.
2. The comic strip ran until 1954
But it never ran as a daily, and there were some breaks in the publishing.
3. During this same period the strip was reprinted in comic book format.
And several new stories were penned in comics format for 2 separate Jungle Jim series in the 40s and 50s.
4. New Jungle Jim comic books appeared through the years.
Most never lasted more than a dozen issues or so. Some of these were re-prints while others featured original content. The most recent revival was scheduled for 2015.
5. Jungle Jim appeared on radio starting in 1935.
The radio programs lasted for over a decade with original scripts for the first 5 years and in syndication after that.
6. By 1937, Jungle Jim had made it to the silver screen.
First appearing in a 12-part movie serial. Imagine having to go to the theatre during the depression every week for 3 months in a row in order to "binge watch" the newest serial.
7. The serial had enough success that it led to a feature film.
Actually, it led to 16 of them, between 1948 and 1955. All starred the same actor, Johnny Weissmuller. Weissmuller had previously gained recognition for his portrayal of Tarzan. The final 3 films never use the name Jungle Jim although it is obviously the same character. That is because by then Jungle Jim was exploring the new media...
Jungle Jim trekked his way through 1 season with 26 episodes in 1955-56, with Weissmuller again portraying our intrepid adventurer.
9. Jungle Jim leaps directly into the hands of your children.
Decades before Lucas taught us the power of merchandise, plastic Jungle Jim playsets became available starting in 1957.
10. Not the first. Nor the most well-known. But perhaps the most long lived in the lexicon.
Allan Quartermain was exploring the African interior before Jungle Jim first hit the papers. And real-life Frank Buck was a living legend just as Jim was introducing us to his adventures along Asia's jungle rivers. And no one wields a Fedora better than Indiana Jones. But how many others have so boldly marched among comics, radio, TV, AND the motion pictures? The list is small. Despite being nearly forgotten and unrecognizable to the modern reader, the term Jungle Jim still conjures an image in us all. And not just of the metal monstrosity at the playground.