Clarissa James (or a look-alike) made a cameo appearance in the 1991 adaptation of King Kong, specifically in the fifth issue (Monster Comics/Fantagraphics Books, November 1991) of the six-issue series. In that unfairly forgotten graphic novel, I wrote and drew the story as it originally appeared in the novelization of the screenplay, which included scenes routinely cut out by both movie theaters and TV stations. Among these is the short scene of Kong's rampage through the native village in which the giant ape stomps and chews on stock extras, and a native girl is stampeded by a dinosaur.
|The original art of Kong's native village rampage, from a file photocopy.|
My Clarissa look-alike (showing my limited range of ethnic types) was drafted to play the role of the native girl. What is interesting is that, whereas I initially depicted her partially nude, as per the setting and milieu of the story, the Fantagraphics editors, nervous of the licensee, insisted that I give her a more modest top. I ultimately complied; although I drew the line at showing the triceratops ramming her through her abdomen with his horn (which may or may not have been in the original story).
|Dot screens are never enough: the bare torso of the original figure.|
(I may have considered this last narrative wrinkle on my own, although I clearly could not bring myself to doing such violence to such a beautiful figure).
|The nervous editors made me put a strip of clothe over her chest, but I drew the line at actually depicting her gruesome death by being impaled on a triceratops horn.|
The changes in the published comic book, compared to file photocopies I recently unearthed, seem utterly trivial in retrospect, particularly for a black and white comic book the publisher failed to promote, and by the fifth issue, few readers were following (the strategy of serializing King Kong over a year or more, when everyone already knew how the story ended, was an abysmally poor marketing choice).
|Here is the original art next to the censored, published version.|
Even more meddlesome were the changes deemed necessary to Ann Darrow's panties in three panels of the same issue, after she loses the last shreds of her dress on Monster Isle (in issue #4, she was stripped of her garments by Kong, and subsequently survived a high-dive into water from a steep cliff; how she was even breathing at this point stretched credulity).
Ann, a dead ringer for my character Stella Starlight (the limitations of my stock characters showing once again) was known for "turning herself naked with but a thought" as the See-Thru Girl (she was not yet known as the more chaste and upright Earth Mother).
In comparison to file photocopies, it would seem I added less than an inch of fabric to Ann's backside, obscuring her crack somewhat, but otherwise accomplishing little either aesthetically or in improving the narrative.
|Adding an inch of fabric and smoothing out the soaking-wet wrinkles made Ann Darrow's derriere suitable for 1990s comic book audiences.|
Kong is nothing if not a profoundly erotic work of escapism, and these trivial changes show Fantagraphics to be a bunch of nervous ninnies as bad or worse as the big, corporate comics publishers when it comes to well-known trademarks. (Ironically, the same company that was publishing King Kong under its Monster Comics imprint were publishing my graphically explicit Anton Drek comics - which it proudly marketed as "the filthiest, most controversial sex comics of the twentieth century" - under their Eros Comix imprint.
|A giant ape charges the crew of the intrepid steamer. It's in situations like this a girl wants to be modestly attired.|
The difference between Puritanism and prurience in comics is razor-thin (in my case, depending only on which name I sign to a piece of figurative cartooning), but the discretions and indiscretions of early 1990s comics seemed just as bizarrely anachronistic at the time as the certainly do now. Why a native girl in the south seas, or a white goddess stripped of her garments by a giant ape, would be anything other than completely nude in such a primeval adventure of the id seems implausible.
|Ann says goodbye to Monster Isle; back in New York, she'll have to wear an evening gown again!|
King Kong may be the most meddled-with story in the annals of American pop imagery, no doubt because of its deep-seated (and regressive) views of sexuality, gender roles, and race. Like the work of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Philip Jose Farmer, Kong will always occupy an iconic space somewhere between escapist daydream and erotic yearning, causing artists, filmmakers, and others attempting to interpret this story no end of silly revisions, redactions, rewrites, and bowdlerizations.
The 1991 graphic adaptation of King Kong was based solely upon the original 1932 book by Edgar Wallace, Merian C. Cooper, and Delos W. Lovelace and is in no way related to or derived from any motion-picture version of the same. The artwork is © 1991 Don Simpson and Richard Merian Cooper, all rights reserved. Used with permission.
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