Jet Jungle is the name of a mid-sixties scifi adventure superhero, who appeared in a hit radio play: "The incredible adventures of the most amazing man of our time" broadcast on South Africa's Springbok Radio as well as a Sunday comic of the same name. The main character Jet Jungle (created and voiced by Brian O'Shaughnessy).
Jet Jungle appeared with his black panther Jupiter, red-head girlfriend Samantha Muller (Diane Appleby) and scientist and faithful friend Prof. Giuseppe "Spaghetti" Valetti (Victor Melleney). The team would routinely fly off from their island headquarters, Orion's Peak, in a Vertijet at the behest of their government liaison "the Minister", to battle criminal masterminds and the occasional extraterrestrial menace.
The show was broadcast every weekday at 4:30 p.m. in the afternoon on South Africa's English radio service, Springbok Radio from 1965 with re-runs continuing until the stations close in 1985. It was also broadcast on Radio Rhodesia in Rhodesia (the present day Zimbabwe). It is not known how many of the episodes were actually recorded, or how many of them were rebroadcast, since so little of the Springbok Radio archive exists. There appear to be screenplays and sound bytes available, and a number of archivists have attempted to preserve the work.
The enormously successful show, sponsored by Black Cat Peanut Butter and Jungle Oats was used to promote these South African products, hence the characters close association with Jungle Oats which gave him extra strength and stamina, and Peanut Butter. Like Popeye, Jet Jungle attributed his enormous powers of persuasion to the use of special ingredients, and his mastery of time, caused as a result of exposure to the Star Master, a mysterious entity. They appeared in several episodes similar in vein to the Project Farstar episodes.
The long-running show had a children's fan club with regular newsletters featuring a one page black and white comic strip serial, which was syndicated in various publications such as Personality. A short lived full colour Sunday newspaper comic strip followed. A Jet Jungle action figure was apparently produced by Mego Corporation in the 1970s and "rediscovered" by the Mego Museum in 2005.
For the Silver Jubilee in 1975, Springbok Radio produced a once-off one hour commedy show titled 'The Great Gong Robbery' which featured (inter alia) a parody of Jet Jungle, who ultimately solves the mystery and exposes Jupiter as the thief.
- Jet Jungle In advertising images, Jet Jungle was portrayed as a muscular man in his prime with a full head of neatly cropped white hair wearing a jet black superhero body suit with boots leaving only his hands and face exposed.
- Jupiter, Jet's black panther, who fearlessly fights evil. Jupiter was referred to as a 'black leopard' by the show's characters, rather than a panther.
- Samantha Muller Red haired always wore a green one-piece short sleeved legless jumpsuit and green boots.
- Prof. Giuseppe "Spaghetti" Valetti, the slim bespectacled middle-aged Professor had wavy black greying hair and mustache was always smartly attired in a white Italian suit and bow tie.
- Dr Kit, American space expert.
- The Star Master a time-lord of the fourth dimension
- Minister variously, a good guy and bad guy. Jet's contact in a cloak and dagger government department with links to international intelligence agencies.
- Zack, an 8-year-old boy
In 2009, Radio Researchers from Earth uncovered several episodes of this program. They are twenty episodes of a storyline entitled 'Project Farstar'.
The Jet Jungle theme tune is probably the most striking and distinguishing feature of the series, aside from the all-in-one black suit, vertijet and panther.
Words to the Theme tune are: When your world is in trouble / and you need a fighting friend / who will come on the double and keep fighting to the end /Get Jet! Get Jet! / Jet Jungle is the man to get! Jet Jungle. Jet Jungle Jet Jungle is the man to get! / Get Jet!
Since television broadcasts only came to South Africa in 1976, the country had followed the Apollo moon missions on radio. The series thus fed the popular imagination about outer-space and children's delight in hearing what would become a virtual retelling of the saga in the form of a fairy-tale. Africa's participation in the event, which sent Jet Jungle and Jupiter as far out as Andromeda, told of things to come. In Project Far Star, Prof Spaghetti voices his concern about defeating the forces of Einsteinian space-time, "going out young and coming back old".
Voices heard on the radio programme include Hal Orlandini, Brian O'Shaughnessy, Diane Appleby
- Project Farstar
There is only one digital image of the weekly b&w comic available online.Other examples may be viewed in any one of South Africa's legal deposit libraries.
Besides the action figure produced by Mego and now recreated by loyal fans, listeners and readers could purchase the "Jet Jungle Bicycle" from OK Bazaars, a South African home furnisher. A fan-club image posted online in a Mego forum shows a boy riding an orange chopper.
There is only one boxed example of the Jet Jungle figure known to exist in the World today. Since its discovery in 2005, this sole example was reputed to have exchanged hands privately at the staggering price of $20,000 us. A price record for a single Mego figure.
The Jet Jungle Mego figure, a complete boxed edition still with its original packaging, sold for $5,713.98 after 11 bids, on eBay in 2009.
A $15 "Limited Edition 8 inch figure of only 500 produced" was released by TJ Toys sometime after the winning bid. The figure was bagged not boxed.
In 1971, Martin Abrams began purchasing the license rights to popular movies, comic books and television shows for Mego Corp., a toy manufacturing company. Mego produced a variety of dolls in the 1970s and 1980s until the company went bankrupt in 1983, whereupon the rights to produce the Jet Jungle figurine would ostensibly have reverted to its creator.
The first Jet Jungle Mego figure to appear on the internet was in 2003 on Megocentral.com. Laurie Halbritter, the then owner of Megocentral.com, purchased one on an auction from Italy. Photos were sent to various collectors but the identity of the figure was not confirmed until the boxed one surfaced in 2005. http://www.megocentral.com/vault3.html
While the Hanna & Barbara character Race Bannon of Jonny Quest fame immediately springs to mind, there are other superhero scifi adventure characters which litter the universe in which Jet Jungle was created. The Green Hornet for instance is a radio hero from the 1930s who like Jet, had no superhero powers to speak of, but relied on a Gas gun and a sleek, super-powered car called "The Black Beauty", much faster than normal cars of the day.
- Jet Jungle action figure at the Mego Museum
- Diane Appleby Link to the voice of Sam
- Springbok Radio Sound files including the Jet Jungle Theme!
- Project Farstar 20 Episodes
- Old Time Radio Researchers Website
- Jet Jungle Myspace Page, appears to be run by the Mego Museum
- Jet Jungle Facebook Page, a fan site.
- A fan remembers Jet Jungle