Thursday, June 23, 2016

Angola in the Comics Part 6: Roy Lance

Yesterday I looked at the creative and moral bankrupt ways of DC Comics. What's my transition? Well, Angola went financially bankrupt. Boom. Welcome back to Angola in the Comics!

This time I'm heading back to Fiction House's Jungle Comics and issue #6 (June, 1940). The Grand Comics Database does not know who wrote this story, but they think it might be Nick Cardy.

Our hero is one Roy Lance (who appeared in Jungle Comics from 1940-1942), one of that popular breed of action heroes best described as "the great white hunter." Unlike other brands of jungle heroes, the great white hunter seems to owe more to reality than fiction. Journalist Henry Stanley did his part to popularize his own brand of fiction - depicting himself as an unstoppable explorer, the type art would imitate with pith helmets and jodhpurs. This type of hero flourished in the first half of the 20th century (when jungle heroes were at their peak), with the likes of Allan Quatermain managing some staying power. As independence came to Africa the idea of white men "taming" the wilderness went out of fashion, but the romanticism associated with them endures to this day - witness the recent Cecil the lion story.

Our tale begins with Roy (clad in a smart red shirt and - of course - a pith helmet) aboard a ship bound for "the port of Angola, French Equatorial Africa." Er, what? Being a country, Angola is rather more than a port. At that time it was under the control of the Portuguese, not the French. Right here in panel number one, I'm tempted to give up; the problem with comic books set in Africa - no matter what era they're created in - is that so few comic book people have ever set foot in the continent, thus their ability to render the place believable is limited to the state of their reference files. Right here, it seems like someone totally misunderstood Africa's borders. Angola lay just beneath French Equatorial Africa.

Anyway, Roy is accompanied on this trip by Jill March, a "young woman scientist" whose mission is to combat "the dreaded tsetse fly." However, the governor of Angola, Malraux, orders them to stay out of the interior. Lance quickly decides to ignore him and leads Jill to the interior with a few Africans bearing their supplies. On their second night, a band of "savages" steal some of their supplies, but Lance heroically shoots them in the back. They finally reach a small village on the floor of a valley where they discover a population of white people who have been enslaved in order to manufacture weapons for Malraux.

One of the imprisoned men explains he used to work for Malraux and that the white people are a "lost tribe" and Malraux "took advantage of their ignorance. They were easily enslaved by Malraux's black brutes." Ugh! Once again, simply terrible; much like the popular H. Rider Haggard fiction of the day, this story posits the existence of white civilizations in Africa, a subtle way to validate the white man's supposed ownership of the continent. Further, the native Africans are the "brutes," the ones inflicting slavery upon white people. This is the kind of comic a racist of the time would look at, nod and remark, "sounds legit."

Anyway Malraux hears Lance is in the hidden village and sets out to confront him, but he's bitten by the tsetse fly and needs Jill to save his life. Jill does so and Lance uses Malraux's sickness as an opportunity to rally the white slaves to rebel. "You have a right to rule yourselves," Lance states. Which would be great, if the African population he was addressing had been, you know, African. Lance's words are effective and the slaves destroy the munitions factory. Lance brings Malraux back to Angola where the French authorities take charge of him. Lance kisses Jill, then goes on his way.

  • -5 estrelas for lousy understanding of African geography
  • +1 estrela for depicting the tsetse fly in Angola
  • -5 estrelas for putting the French in charge of Angola
  • -10 estrelas for immensely problematic racism

TOTAL SCORE: Negativos dezenove estrelas!

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