Talking to the Jungle Girl 2 Team

Talking to the Jungle Girl 2 Team

The first time we met Jana, she was crossing paths with pirates, dinosaurs, and other strange menaces. Don’t assume her life is getting any easier now that her first adventure has wrapped up, though: she’s about to come face to face with strange visitors and monstrous horrors!

You may not know the name Jana, but the odds are much greater that you will recognize her as the star of Dynamite’s Jungle Girl. Jana and her friend Togg are paying a return visit to comic shops this fall in a new jungle adventure produced by the same creative team of Frank Cho, Doug Murray, & Adriano Batista.

So just who is Jana, the Jungle Girl? “She’s a teenage girl who has been born and raised in a very strange world,” Murray explained. “In her world, dinosaurs co-exist with people and large mammals of all kinds. She has learned to survive in that world—and, in fact, has some physical gifts (aside from the obvious assets) which give her the ability to do so.”

While the concept of a sexy, scantily-clad jungle heroine sounds like a Cho creation, it was actually Dynamite publisher Nick Barrucci who came up with the idea for the series. “Dynamite had decided to do a Jungle Girl book and they asked us to put something together,” Murray said.

So the concept came first, and Cho & Murray came into the picture later? Exactly, as Barrucci explained. “As Doug mentioned, we’d been putting the concept together for a while. Frank and I have gotten to know each other over the last few years, Frank has shown his love all of things ‘barbaric,’ and we’ve grown fairly tight. And when the time came to discuss working together and what possibilities there were, Jungle Girl came up as part of the discussion. Frank expressed his interest in the concept, and his desire to work with Doug again, and that made it easier for Frank to commit, as Doug had worked with us on Savage Red Sonja. One thing lead to another, and here we are today.” 

Murray explained how he and Cho became a writing team. “Frank and I became friends after meeting at a convention some years ago. We both like the same movies and characters and, although I'm not a superhero person, I love his work and he respects mine.

“When we teamed up for Jungle Girl, we arrived at a pretty good working system--we huddle together (usually on the phone) and work out a basic plot, then I write it down and send it to him. He suggests changes and enhancements, then I do a final version which he approves and we send it to Nick at Dynamite. Same with the script.

“On the new series, the only change has been one of time spent talking about characters--we know who Jana and Togg are now, they took us a lot of time to conceive, but obviously, we don't have to worry about them now.”

Not only is Cho working with Murray on the story, he’s also supervising the art once again.

“Frank is looking over the art as he’s done before and offering some suggestions,” Barrucci said. “We’re proud to have him and his guidance, and Adriano is drawing the series again. Adriano’s art flows so well and works perfectly on a title like this.”

As it turns out, the series-of-miniseries approach is the primary reason that Batista is able to continue illustrating the series. “Adriano is very meticulous and he can draw approximately five books a year,” Barrucci explained, “so giving him lead time to create thumbnails and allowing him to focus on a book without too much pressure is what we need to do. This series allows him to do just that.” 

As far as his role as Jungle Girl’s art director is concerned, Cho described it as “a fancy title for being a character designer and a visual editor. I make sure that the readers can follow the story visually, and that the costumes and characters look like the way I designed them.”

The first series managed to convey a strong Edgar Rice Burroughs vibe; will the second series follow in the same spirit? “I love Burroughs, and there are certainly more of those elements this time around,” Murray said, “but the main storyline has more of an HP Lovecraft approach--eldritch Gods, ichor, nasty creatures... that sort of thing. Without giving too much away, Jana and Togg decide to find the source of strange 'visitors.’ They travel to what they think is the origination point--and they find themselves in a very dangerous place...”

Is there room in today’s grittier, more realistic comics market for a timeless adventure that harkens back to early 20th century writers like Burroughs and Lovecraft? “I certainly hope so, since we have this new series coming out!” Barrucci said with a laugh. “But seriously, I think that there’s always room for great stories that are executed well.”

Barrucci is confident that the strength of the creative team is Jungle Girl’s strongest asset. “We’re very fortunate in that we’re working with a creative team that executed a superfragilisticexpealidocious story the first time around, and we know that they can deliver a second time around, too. We realize that Jungle Girl is a passion project, and keeping creative team intact was key in moving it forward the follow up.”

Batista is illustrating a book co-written by one of the field's most recognized artists; does that put some pressure on him to live up to Cho's reputation, since his name is also on the book? “Yes, that inspires me to excel artistically,” Batista said. “I know I have to do my very best on this book. I'm trying to do this in my style, but it is impossible not to be inspired by Frank's babes. That's why I'm working so hard and I'm trying to do my best to draw the hottest women as possible, because I know that the book’s readers will have high expectations.”

While there will be lots of images of beautiful women in scanty jungle garb, Dynamite stresses that the book will be no stronger than a typical PG-13 film. “There will be a lot of the female form, courtesy of Frank’s covers and Adriano’s interiors, but all within the mostly all-ages rating,” Barrucci said.

The first Jungle Girl series ran into some scheduling and publishing delays; has Barrucci been able to address those problems before launching this sequel? “Without going into too much detail, I can say that what happened last time was an oddity that should never happen again,” Barrucci said. “I believe that we have two issues ‘in the can’ and can ship every issue on time. At the rate we are going, we should have the third issue complete and the fourth issue well underway by the time the first issue ships.”

Murray is confident that Jungle Girl will continue to find a supportive audience. “On the one hand, a beautiful girl in a brief bikini is always going to be popular. If you can add a storyline that has high adventure and a bit of comedy, it makes it a bit more so—so that’s just what we’re doing!”

Jungle Girl Season 2 #1, a $3.50 comic by Cho, Murray, & Batista, is scheduled for November release.

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