Zoro the Mystery Man vs Mumbo Jumbo (1941 comic book) review…

Zoro the Mystery Man vs Mumbo Jumbo (1941 comic book) review after the break…

Zoro the Mystery Man vs Mumbo Jumbo (1941 comic book) review…

When a seemingly crazed African wise man named Mumbo Jumbo attempts to persuade fellow Africans to stop working on a rubber plantation, it is up to “Zoro the Mystery Man” and his pet Cheeta (I’m not sure if that’s the name or a misspelling of “Cheetah”) to put an end to the shenanigans and to the bottom of the mystery as to who Mumbo Jumbo is.

To be fair, the name of the comic book in question is not “Zoro the Mystery Man vs Mumbo Jumbo” but merely “Zoro the Mystery Man.” The individual comic needed a name and so I provided it with one. The comic is from 1941 and is 7 pages long.

Racial stereotypes and what constituted as “fair use” are far different today then they were in 1941 and so it wouldn’t be entirely fair to call the entire comic racist or the like. Nevertheless, the reader should be warned that the comic was created in 1941, is situated in Africa and uses what would be commonly referred to today as racial stereotypes. In my opinion, the comic does not seem malicious in it’s intent; There is no overt or covert attempts in the comic to unduly influence young minds that native Africans are somehow inferior to other races. Regardless, a similar comic written today would be derided as racist and justifiably so.

“Zoro the Mystery Man” may be described as looking like something between a magician and a circus ring master. There is no explanation of his “superpowers” if he has any although it appears that he is capable of being a magician and has the usual physical prowess of a physically fit man with considerable fighting skills.

At only seven pages long, the comic suffers from condensing the story too much. Like a lot of these very short comic book stories that I have read recently, this one has a similar twist in that the main villain (Mumbo Jumbo) is not who he seems to be which is telegraphed quite early in the story and doesn’t have the desired pay-off when the true identity is revealed. Indeed, just the very name of the villain (Mumbo Jumbo) dilutes the seriousness of the story. While I do not know if the phrase “mumbo jumbo” has the same meaning today that it did in 1941, naming a persuasive character “mumbo jumbo” does not lend the character any serious credibility and, thus, diminishes the chances that the villain will be a capable foe of our hero.

The comic plays out fairly predictably, with our hero having to survive the villain’s initial assault, then having to foil the villain’s second attempt at success before a third act confrontation in which the hero is ultimately successful. At 7 pages in length, there is not much space to maneuver with the storyline. Mumbo Jumbo does not seem to have any superpowers either except to have some weird horns stuck to his head and the usual physical prowess one would expect from an above-average fighter.

One positive aspect that I took way from the comic was that, at least, Zoro uses some sort of his special abilities to defeat his enemy. In this case, Zoro uses a magic trick by making it seem that his pet Cheeta is set ablaze to give the illusion of a magical presence in order to persuade the local workers not to attack the plantation owner, thus forcing Mumbo Jumbo to act personally to kill the plantation owner.

Otherwise, there is little in this comic of merit. The fact that the villain is actually a Caucasian man pretending to be African is more then a bit uncomfortable in today’s culture. Similarly, the fact that the plantation owner is Caucasian and uses African workers who appear to be very stereotypical is also rather uncomfortable. What may have been more interesting is if the twist didn’t exist and Mumbo Jumbo was actually African but used similar stunts of illusion like Zoro used to persuade the workers to abandon the plantation. Then, the conflict would have been the duel of magicians and not the usual “someone is trying to scare people away to have the resources all to themselves” ploy.

It would be interesting to read a “Zoro the Mystery Man” comic that was not in setting like this one. As it stands, though, there is little reason to read this particular comic unless one wants to witness how significantly social views have changed in the many decades since this was first written.

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