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Carl E. Akeley, Action Hero

At the dinner reception at the Clarendon Historical Society before the unveiling of the Akeley monument stone in New York, a display was presented featuring various memorabilia from the life of Carl E. Akeley. Mostly provided by taxidermy historian John Janelli of New Jersey, this display featured letters, photographs, documents, banquet programs, and literature inspired by the amazing experiences in Akeley’s life. As such, he was a favorite subject for the men’s adventure magazines and comics of the early twentieth century. One of the items was an action-themed comic book showcasing the African adventures of the honoree. Since the statute of limitations on the copyright had expired, I photographed the pages of the comic book to read at a later date. I am presenting the entire strip here for the enjoyment of our readers.

“Two-Fisted Tales” EC Comic Book from the early 1950s

One of the first and most successful men’s pulp magazines was Argosy, published from 1882 to 1978. Men of Daring was a series of biographies of characters drawn by Benjamin David Stookie Allen. This feature on Carl Akeley probably appeared in the 1930s.

Artistic Treatments of Akeley’s Leopard Encounter

There have been many versions of artwork depicting Akeley’s encounter with the leopard through the years. This famous photo, taken in the aftermath of the leopard attack, is the basis for most of these depictions.

While researching this article, I came across this alternate photo, taken a few seconds before of after the more famous photo, showing a slightly different angle and expression on Carl Akeley’s face.

Comic artist Wally Wood’s version of the leopard fight was features in the March 1955 issue of “Two-Fisted Tales”, which was the last issue ever published. The creators of Two-Fisted Tales, Harvey Kurtzman and William Gaines, later went on to publish Mad Magazine.

This unknown artist’s depiction of the battle was used in a promotional video for the Project Hyena Diorama donation campaign for the Field Museum in Chicago.

This illustration is from The story of Carl Akeley in a 1946 comic drawn by a Mr. Simon. It was a six-page feature in the “Land of the Lost Comics”. I wonder if it is the same Mr. Simon who has the huge bear in the popular taxidermy email scam.

This men’s pulp-magazine cover from the mid twentieth-century featured a romanticized version of both the leopard and Mr. Akeley. Artist unknown.

This depiction of the leopard fight by an unknown artist was from the cover of a June 1946 comic book called “Real Heroes”.

This black-and-white treatment of the encounter was from another talented unsung illustrator of the time.

This version of the struggle was published in Breakthrough Issue 15 in the summer of 1987. I have firsthand knowledge of the origin of this work of art. The illustration, previously unattributed to any artist, was actually drawn by a young Tom Sexton, who was a contributor at the time. A young Ken Edwards, the managing editor at the time, was asked to stand in for a Polaroid instant photo as a pose reference to be used by Tom to create the illustration.

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