Jungle Drums & O’Hara of Africa (1959)

Texts and drawings by Hugo Pratt

(with the occasional assistance of Gisela Dester)

This series is made up of 4 episodes that appeared
in the Argentine “SuperTotem” issue 1 of August 1959, editorial Fascinacion (episode 1) and on the magazine “Frontera Extra”, editorial Frontera (episodes 3 and 4). The conception and creation of this series coincided 
with the period Pratt spent in England (1959-1960)
 and it was while he was here that he produced episode 2 which was published on the English weekly magazine
 of Fleetway publications, “Radio Fun” (23 July, 1960) with the title “O’ Hara of Africa”.

The two young protagonists of this beautiful series are, Anna Livingstone and Daniele Doria, in this order respectively. The action is set in the period immediately preceding the First World War in the village of Gombi which, more than a village, is actually a group of old and dusty military barracks that are the headquarters of a British garrison in East Africa, the “King’s African Rifles”. Pratt’s drawings of Anna are based on the features of Anne Frognier, his small and cheeky neighbor in Acassuso, the town near Buenos Aires where he went to live after arriving in Argentina. This long 4-part adventure clearly contains a nostalgic tribute to the artist Lyman Young, author of Tim Tylers’s Luck. The young colonials caught the author’s imagination as a teenager with the taste and colours of an imaginary Africa that Pratt  unsuccessfully sought when he arrived in Ethiopia with his family. This was Pratt’s first real test as sole author and with “Anna nella Jungla” (as the series was entitled in Italian) Pratt was able to create a host of characters around the two young protagonists, from Commissioner Randall, the commander of the garrison to Lieutenant Tenton, Captain Mac Gregor and the black sergeant Amasa (whose generous use of the gerund is most entertaining), Sibille Muller and above all the sailor Luca Zane that with his boat “Vanità dorata” (T.N. “Gilded vanity”) was a prototype for Corto Maltese that would come later. Note: In the first original draft the sailor Luca Zane was not Venetian, but an Irishman by the name of Tipperary O’Hara. When Pratt offered the series to “Il Corriere dei Piccoli” he was obliged to change the character’s nationality to Italian, and so he became Luca Zane.