KORAK, SON OF TARZAN #26; Dec. 1968; Gold Key Comics (Western Publishing Inc.). On the painted cover, Korak leaps from the back of a giant eagle to tackle a knife-wielding witch doctor (with a tail) as in the background, a girl sacrifice tied to post appears to be screaming. Cover blurb: "The Unconquerable Team... Korak and Sky Chief! WINGS OVER PAL-UL-DON"
Review by Bill Henley
The booklength story is written by Gaylord DuBois (prolific writer of hundreds of Tarzan and Korak stories and thousands of other comic book stories for Western/Dell/Gold Key) and drawn by Dan Spiegle, known to more recent fans for his work with writer Mark Evanier on comics like BLACKHAWK (80's version) and CROSSFIRE. Opening caption: "Exploring the farther reaches of lost Pal-ul-Don, Korak barely avoids an encounter with strange 'Ho-Don', the tailed humanids of that ancient land!"
(If anyone isn't familiar with ERB lore, Pal-ul-Don was a "lost land" somewhere in the middle of Africa, full of prehistoric dinosaur-like animals and rival tribes of "tailed humanids", which Tarzan visited in the 1921 Burroughs book "Tarzan the Terrible". I don't think Tarzan ever went to Pal-ul-Don again in the books, but I've been reading some of the book collections of the DuBois/Jesse Marsh Tarzan comics, and I note that DuBois used Pal-ul-Don fairly often in his stories, as did Russ Manning when he wrote and drew the Tarzan newspaper strip. Despite the failure of modern exploring expeditions and airplane overflights to find Pal-ul-Don, DuBois and Manning evidently found it a convenient locale to vary the adventures of Tarzan and Korak without their actually having to leave Africa.)
Anyway, as he paddles a canoe along the shores of a mountain lake, Korak at first thinks he is watching a normal funeral-type ceremony, but then he sees the head of the girl, being carried on a litter to a stone altar, move! Our young hero nocks an arrow and resolves, "If he (the witch doctor/priest conducting the ceremony) makes a move to harm her, he'll get the surprise of his life!" But instead of slaying the girl, the worshippers paddle off in their canoe to watch from a distance. A large eagle stoops from the sky to seize the girl! Korak shoots an arrow into the eagle's neck, but as the injured bird flies away, one of its talons gets caught in the girl's bindings, and she is pulled along into the air! Korak dares not shoot another arrow, lest the girl fall to her doom, but he follows in his canoe, hoping to trail the eagle to its "nest amidst the mighty crags". Finding the mountain where the nest is located, Korak begins to climb, figuring that the Ho-Don girl is probably dead by now but nonetheless he must make sure. The eagle still shows signs of life, lying on its nest, but by the time Korak climbs to the nest, it is dead. Korak pulls the girl out from under the eagle's body and finds her alive though unconscious. But before he can check how badly she is hurt, he is attacked by the she-eagle's even bigger mate! An arrow fired into the eagle's chest is barely felt, but Korak manages to kill Big Bird by shooting another arrow directly into its open beak. As he examines the injured girl, Korak still has trouble with the eagle family, as a young chick-- nearly as big as he is-- bites him on the leg! Declaring, "I can't blame you for that nip, but it won't be repeated!", Korak ties some vines around the chick's beak to form a muzzle.
Korak climbs down to ground level with the girl's arms tied around his neck, and administers jungle-style first aid. As the girl regains consciousness, she exclaims, "You have no tail! You are a child of the Sun!" She thinks that she is dead, "carried hom to the Sun by his messengers, the eagles." When Korak tells her that she is alive because he killed the eagles, she refuses to believe that any mortal could do such a thing. But when Korak offers to show her the dead eagles, and she tries to get to her feet, she is forced to acknowledge, "Ohh! Aiee! It hurts to stand, so I can't be dead!" The girl introduces herself as Lo-Za, meaning "Star-girl," (ERB made up a fairly elaborate language for the Pal-ul-Don natives in "Tarzan the Terrible,") and explains that she was chosen at a young age to be the sacrifice to the Sun (or, as Korak calls it, "eagle bait") at the age of 16. Now she wants to know what Korak, whom she still thinks is a "Child of the Sun," will do with her. Since she is still too injured to travel, Korak builds her a treetop next, gathers food for her, and promises to remain within call while she recovers. But he warns her to stay in the nest and avoid prowling wildlife.
Korak kills a wild boar to feed himself and his patient, but a "jato," a Pal-ul-Donian spotted lion, challenges him for his prey. Korak brandishes his knife and growls, "Korak bundolo!", (Korak kills) and the lion is successfully bluffed and runs away. He takes some of the leftover meat up the mountain to feed the baby eage. "I dont know why i'm doing this, except that you're a plucky little orphan!" Over the next two weeks, Lo-Za recovers from her injuries and the eaglet grows rapidly. When he broaches to Lo-Za the idea of taking her back to her people, she objects; she's perfectly happy hanging out in the jungle with the "child of the sun" taking care of her, and if she tried to go home, "the priests would kill me-- torture me-- because the Sun rejected me!" Korak declares that if she can't go home, he'll figure out somewhere else to take her. As Lo-Za sobs that nobody wants her, Korak swings away, grumbling to himself, "If there's one thing I can't stand, it's a crying she! I'd leave her to fend for herself, except that she'd be prey for the first jato that saw her!" Finding the eaglet nearly grown, Korak binds a hood around its eyes to keep it under better control. But Lo-Za isn't under control; when Korak returns to her nest, he finds her gone! He trails her through the jungle by scent, hoping to ctch up to her before she is taken by "a gryf or a jato or a torodon" (various ferocious Pal-ul-Donian fauna). Howver, a rainstorm washes out Lo-Za's scent, and with his bowstring wet and useless, Korak has to take to the trees himself to escape a pair of prowling jatos.
Returning to his less troublesome charge, Korak feeds the eaglet, names him "Sky Chief (didn't that used to be a brand of gasoline?) and has "a crazy idea to try when you've finished eating!" Korak's crazy idea (and yeah, it is pretty crazy) is that when Sky Chief takes to the sky for the first time, Korak will ride on his back, using reins that open and close the eye-holes in his mask to guide ihim! Despite all probability, boy and bird make a successful trial flight.
Meanwhile, a "starved and weary" Lo-Za makes her way back to her home village of cave-dwellers. She is spotted by a young boy as she climbs toward her family's cave. When she arrives there, her welcome from her mother and father is less than warm. "No! No! You're a ghost! My Lo-Za went to the Sun!" Grabbing a morsel of food, Lo-Za declares, "A ghost doesn't get hungry, and eat hot bread!" Mom still has trouble believing she came back from the Sun, but Lo-Za says, "The child of the Sun didnt want me, so I came home! Where else could I go!" At this point Dad appears but is even less welcoming; "Anywhere but here, to disgrace us, your parents!" If the priests of the Sund find Lo-Za alive, they will kill her and blame her parents. "Nothing is hidden from the priests of the Sun! Better a death in the jungle than on their temple pyre!" As Lo-Za sobs and agrees to go away again, her parents relent a bit and offer hre food for her journey and a knife to try to protect herself with. But it is too late! The boy who spotted Lo-Za returning has led the priests to her cave entrance. "What the Sun has rejected must be destroyed-- or we all shall suffer his anger!"
Meanwhile, "Sky Chief has found his wings, and Korak has mastered both wind and sky!" Korak spots a Ho-Don village from the sky, and urges Sky Chief downward for a closer look, wondering if it is Lo-Za's home town. It is, but not for long, if the Sun priests have their way! They are about to burn Lo-Za at a stake; "Spare your anger, mighty Sun! The gift you found unworthy, we destroy-- by fire!" Korak and Sky Chief swoop past, extinguishing the fire with the eagle's might wingbeats! But the high priest still misinterprets the holy message. Brandishing a knife, he shouts, "The Sun is still angry! He wants blood-- not fire!" But as the priest tries to stab Lo-Za, Korak leaps from Sky Chief's back and pulls him away from the girl. "Kreegah (beware)! Don't touch Lo-Za!" "Yeow! Child of the Sun! Prince of the sky! He calls the Star-Girl by name!" Korak unbinds Lo-Za and pulls her onto Sky Chief's back with him, and they soar into the sky, as the fallen high priest repents; ""The Sun sent his messenger and his prince to take back the gift he had refused! He is angry no more!" If Korak had really wanted to institute a religious reformation, he might have tried to explain that the Sun didn't want any more teenage girls, or any other humans either, as "gifts"! But at least Lo-Za is safe. She asks hopefully, "Now you will really take me to live forever in the Sun, Korak?" No, says Korak, but "I am taking you to Ja-lur (a city seen in the original "Tarzan the Terrible" novel, I think) a Ho-Don city where King Ja-Don, my friend, will give you honor and protection!" I suspect Lo-Za may still have been disappointed, but if so, we don't know, since the story ends here.
The issue closes with "Jungle Jitters," a text story about a tiger attack in India, and "The Secret Tomb," an installment of the "Mabu, Jungle Boy" series. Mabu, a quite young boy, is unusual among protagonists of comic book jungle series in actually being black African. In this installment, Mabu encounters a witch named Gaguma (who as drawn looks like a white male, but is referred to as "her"). Gaguma leads Mabu to witness a treasure in a cave (wihch looks rather like the Phantom's Treasure in his Skull Cave in many episodes of that series) but warns that a curse lies on the treasure and anyone who claims it.