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Bomba the Jungle Boy

michaelphoto1 History and book identification by Michael Tierney

Bomba Jungle Boy 1st Edition

In the early days of the Twentieth Century, a publishing phenomenon known as the Pulps sold millions of copies on newsstands. The weekly demand for hundreds of thousands of words of new material created a influx of work that has supplied book publishers ever since.

Tarzan of the Apes All-Story Tarzan of the Apes A.C. McClurge 1st Edition

Some authors, like Edgar Rice Burroughs, created whole new genres of fiction and saw his work reprinted into book form right away.

Polaris of the Snows All-Story Puglyguglo All-Story Beyond the Stars Argosy Moebius Poster

Burroughs also inspired a host of imitators, who in turn may have inspired others -- like the many similarities between Moebius' signature character and one particular tale by Ray Cummings.

Much of the material created by ERB imitators never made it into book form, while others, like J.H. Rosny, waited decades for their Pulp stories to be revived into novel form by the Paperback Book explosion of the 1960s.

Moebius Poster Moebius Poster

One imitator skipped the Pulp market altogether and went straight to book form.

Starting in 1926 and running through 1938, Bomba, the Jungle Boy, rode the crest of jungle adventure popularity created by ERBs' Tarzan. While the author's name of Roy Rockwood was a pseudonym used by the Stratemeyer Syndicate on a number of different series targeting younger readers, Bomba was the most enduring and would eventually inspire his own series of Hollywood movies starring a former child actor from the long-running Tarzan movies, Johnny Sheffield. The popularity of these B movies helped keep the series in print long beyond its initial run.
1. Bomba the Jungle Boy, 1926
2. Bomba, the Jungle Boy and the Moving Mountain, 1926
3. Bomba, the Jungle Boy at the Giant Cataract, 1927
4. Bomba, the Jungle Boy on Jaguar Island, 1927
5. Bomba, the Jungle Boy and the Abandoned City, 1927
6. Bomba, the Jungle Boy on Terror Trail, 1928
7. Bomba, the Jungle Boy in the Swamp of Death, 1929
8. Bomba, the Jungle Boy Among the Slaves, 1929
9. Bomba, the Jungle Boy on the Underground River, 1930
10. Bomba, the Jungle Boy and the Lost Explorers, 1930
11. Bomba, the Jungle Boy in a Strange Land, 1931
12. Bomba, the Jungle Boy Among the Pygmies, 1931
13. Bomba, the Jungle Boy and the Cannibals, 1931
14. Bomba, the Jungle Boy and the Painted Hunters, 1932
15. Bomba, the Jungle Boy and the River Demons, 1932
16. Bomba, the Jungle Boy and the Hostile Chieftain, 1934
17. Bomba, the Jungle Boy Trapped by the Cyclone, 1935
18. Bomba, the Jungle Boy in the Land of Burning Lava, 1936
19. Bomba, the Jungle Boy in the Perilous Kingdom, 1937
20. Bomba, the Jungle Boy in the Steaming Grotto, 1938
Bomba Bomba Bomba Bomba Bomba Bomba Bomba Bomba Bomba Bomba Bomba Bomba Bomba Bomba Bomba Bomba Bomba Bomba Bomba Bomba

Initially published by Cupples & Leon Company of New York, every Bomba in the twenty-book series featured the same cover. While books with these covers are all generally regarded as First Editions, they actually consist of several different print editions. The problem in identifying them comes from the lack of publication dates, using the same printing plate with the original copyright date through all subsequent printings.

The best way to identify the true First Editions is by the dust wrappers. This might sound confusing at first, since every C&L edition used the exact same cover, changing only the title text, but there are differences. In the early books of the series, the spines were in full color, continuing the illustration from the front. Subsequent editions dropped the jungle background and left only the monkey as a spot illustration on a white spine. There are also multiple editions of the white spines, as the thickness of the books shrank with the quality of the paper.

The easiest way to identify a later edition is the listing of the titles in the Bomba series on the inside of the front flap of the wrapper. The First Editions didn't have this, instead running a pledge to parents about the content being appropriate for younger readers. On the later editions, this list often included subsequent volumes beyond the one in hand. The interiors are also different. With blank endpapers on the First Printings, subsequent editions were decorated with an elaborate illustration surrounding a box for the owner's inscription. For the earlier printings, C&L typically used a grayish-tan linen board for the hardcover, later switching to yellow.


That said, I have also seen instances of every volume with a white spine wrapper that also ran the pledge in the front and had the grayish-tan linen cover boards, along with blank endpapers. If the full color spines actually ran throughout the entire run, I cannot say, having only seen them on the first half of the series. I have seen a lot of copies of the latter half of the series with the white spine and a pledge inside, but none with a colored spine. Deductive reasoning implies that by the time these were printed the spine change had already been made, and new printings of the earlier volumes were reprinted to match. Later printings switched to the decorated endpapers and yellow bindings. The total number of printings for each volume is unknown.


What are generally considered the Second Editions from Cupples & Leon feature a different cover with Bomba jumping over a hippo and onto a riverbank, and brighter yellow cover boards. Like the earlier sets, this same artwork was used for each book in the entire twenty volume set and once again only changed the title text. In the absence of the wrapper, and despite the exact same copyright date still being shown, these later hardcovers can still be identified with different endpapers that employed a repeating triangle pattern around the inscription box and all of the ad pages promoting other titles were removed from the back. Even later printings had blank endpapers.

From 1949 through 1955, Johnny Sheffield played Bomba in twelve movies. In 1953 Grosset & Dunlap reissued the first ten volumes of the series with new and different artwork on the dust wrappers for each volume and finally replaced the original copyright with a new date of publication. Other than replacing the frontispiece illustration with their own, every page of every volume had the exact same number of pages and the exact same words as the C&L books.

Bomba Bomba Bomba Bomba Bomba Bomba Bomba Bomba Bomba Bomba Bomba

A subsequent set of the first nine volumes was released by Clover Books, reprinting the G&D artwork on laminated hardcovers and, aside from the 1953 date and another publisher name change, had the same printing plates as the First Editions.

There were two printing of the Clover Books, which can be identified by the spines. The first printings featured all artwork spines, and the second printings used cheaper paper and were slightlyt thinner -- and had black boxes highlighting the titles at the top of the spines. The set shown features a mix of the two.

The runs for all the variant editions must have been relative small, possibly as low as several hundred, for the plates to have survived though so many different print runs without a deterioration in the crispness of the type.


Also taking advantage of the movies series, the intial volume in the set, Bomba the Jungle Boy, was released in Britain in 1951 courtesy of publisher Ward, Lock & Company Limited. This edition featured new typeset and a black-and-white frontispiece photo of Johnny Sheffield from the first movie.


In 1978, with Tarzan enjoying a revival in theaters, Grosset & Dunlap reissued the first two volumes with new typset and new cover artwork.

Bomba Bomba

The Cupples & Leon editions remain the only complete sets. The later volumes of which, being the least printed, are the most difficult to acquire and usually bring the highest prices at auction.

Bomba completed the entertainment trifecta of Books, Movies, and Comics with a seven-issue comic book series that ran from Septemeber/October 1967 through September/Octber 1968, courtesy of DC Comics.

Bomba DC Comics Bomba DC Comics Bomba DC Comics Bomba DC Comics Bomba DC Comics Bomba DC Comics Bomba DC Comics

But, as I said at the very start, Bomba was an imitator of Tarzan of the Apes. To learn more about the original Jungle Boy, visit one of the several pages dedicated to Tarzan on this website (all pages have shortcut links running down the lefthand column), or check out the upcoming Edgar Rice Burroughs' 100 Year Art Chronology.

ERB art chronology

Michael Tierney -- September 15, 2017