My earliest memory of Tarzan (I think) is watching the movie Tarzan's Three Challenges on television. (This would have been circa 1969.) By the time I read my first Tarzan comic book, I was already familiar with the Ron Ely television show as well as the Johnny Weissmuller movies. By the time I was in junior high school, I was aware of the bad rap those movies had among ERB fans. (I understand their reasoning, but I don't agree with it.) My first Tarzan comic is a toss-up between 100-Page Super-Spectacular Vol. 1, No. DC-19 (Aug 1973) and Tarzan Vol. 26, No. 223 (Sep 1973), which undoubtedly acquired at the same time.
Of the two, I consider Tarzan #223 to be my actual "first." Although I enjoyed the 100-pager a great deal, it was the Joe Kubert one that really rocked my world (which is to say, my conception of what "Tarzan" could be). Whereas the "Super-Spectacular" was a reprint (of Russ Manning newspaper comics, which I would learn years later), #223 was the last chapter of Kubert's adaptation of ERB's second Tarzan novel, The Return of Tarzan. A year or so later, DC issued two (abridged) "treasury editions" of Kubert's adaptations of ERB's first wo Tarzan novels, Tarzan of the Apes and The Return of Tarzan.
ERB fans are disdainful of the Weissmuller movies, but I tend to cut them a considerable amount of slack. It was the Weissmuller movies (in particular) which led me to the comic book, and the comic book which led me to the novels. I'm certain those same movies led many a fan over the years directly to the books. Yes, the books are "truer," but the movies have a charm all their own. The shame is fans who never move past the movies to discover the books.
Tarzan #223 was the final chapter of Kubert's adaptation of The Return of Tarzan as I mentioned, and it was like no Tarzan I had encountered before (in my nine years). [I should also mention at this point that I had a terrific View Master reel of the original Tarzan of the Apes.] It had William clayton, Rokoff, La and the Beast Men of Opar. the end sees Tarzan and Jane married, Tarzan declared the rightful Lord Greystoke, and him vowing to return one day to Opar. I should note that 100-Page Super-Spectacular #19 also featured La and the Beast Men, they were very "sanitized" versions in comparison to Joe Kubert's (not disrespect to Russ Manning intended).
This is a topic I have been considering for years but have always put it off because it is so huge. At the very least it will stand as a placeholder for when I get to the various comic books and dailies and Sundays until I finally loop back to those Russ Manning comic strips. We'll see how it goes.
The Foster material sounds really good. I may have to track down one of the collections. It looks like they are pretty tough to come by.
"The Foster material sounds really good."
MARK EVANIER: "To me, Foster's Tarzan was infinitely more interesting [than Prince Valiant]. There were many exceptions to this, but me sense of the two features is that Tarzan was always moving and fighting and triumphing, whereas Valiant stood around a lot or led others into battle. I felt action on Foster's Tarzan pages and a sense of panel-to-panel continuity, whereas Prince Valiant always seemed like an aggregate of superb individual illustrations, with less of the story line told in the drawings and more of it in the captions."
He goes on to admit that this comparison is a mere quibble: "As an achievement in comic art, Prince Valiant had few equals, and Foster's skill as an illustrator continued continued to flourish throughout most of its run." Of course, Burne Hogarth didn't exactly do the Lord of the Jungle a disservice, either. (See below for a comparison of Hal Foster to Burne Hogarth.)
"It looks like they are pretty tough to come by."
Between the pages of v18 I found a Funky Winkerbean Sunday strip from 2012. In it, the comic shop owner is perusing the internet and calls Crazy over to look at an item of interest.
JOHN: I think I've found someone selling book eighteen of the collected Tarzan Sunday Strips!
CRAZY: Seriously!? How much do they want for it!?
[Tilts the screen toward Crazy; Crazy's eyes go wide with shock.]
CRAZY (on phone): Maddie... how serious are you about going to college?
THE SUNDAYS - PART 3: BURNE HOGARTH:
"Burne Hogarth, who set Harold Foster's genteel, restrained Tarzan page suddenly aflame with bizarre graphic dynamics never before seen in the work of the American newspaper comic section's elite little group of non-comic-strip artists, was incontestably the most original and inventive of a markedly distinguished set of cartoonists," says Bill Blackbeard in his introduction to the first full Hogarth volume of NBM's series. Milton Caniff is often referred to as the "Rembrandt of the comic strip," and if that's true, then Hogarth is certainly its Michelangelo.
He started out doing such an accurate imitation of Foster's style that many readers may not have even noticed the artistic switch (unless they noticed the signatures). He did really hit his stride until 1940 which, according to Blackbeard, "echoed the Foster lost-civilization fantasies of the early thirties but surpassed then in bravura and inventiveness."
I made a mistake yesterday when I attributed the popularity of Tarzan in Europe as the reason Foster left the strip. It was actually Hogarth who, in late 1945, "made the disconcerting discovery that the Tarzan feature he was illustrating was being published in France, in beautiful hardcover albums, by Hachette," according to Robert R. Barrett. "What was upsetting to him was the fact that United Features Syndicate had not told him of these books, almost as if they were desirous of keeping them a secret; nor were they monetarily compensating him for these reprints of his work. As a matter of fact, Hogarth Further discovered that his Tarzan work was being reprinted all over Europe--and he was receiving no money from it."
Now you'd think that Burroughs and the syndicate would have learned a lesson from Hal Foster's case, but they didn't. Hogarth left the strip and tried following Foster's route, but his own strip, Drago, failed to catch on. After the better part of two years, he renegotiated terms and returned to Tarzan and stayed through 1950.
THE SUNDAYS - PART 4: RUBIMOR:
When Burne Hogarth left Tarzan over a pay dispute, it put United Features Syndicate in the position of having to find a replacement in a hurry. They went to Fiction House, who had been publishing Jungle Comics for many years. Ruben Moreira (or "Rubimor") was a Puerto Rican cartoonist who had been illustrating Ka'anga, a blatant rip-off of Tarzan. According to Robert Barrett...
"Rubimor had a wonderful fine line brush style, having tremendous control of his brush and pen. Viewing his original is a treat for those who appreciate fine draughtmanship. In many cases his line is so fine that it failed to completely transfer to the printed page. His work is very clean, seldom marred by having to rework mistakes. with white-out or paste-over.
"Rubimor had a talent for form and texture and his costumes, props, architecture, and even his jungles, were always wonderfully detailed and delineated. He paid loving attention to minutiae, as well as what was central to the story. At the same time, he exhibited great gaps in logic when dealing with perspective and some of the fauna that he depicted. He would inexplicably show Jane placing her hand on a boulder which was clearly yards from where she stood. Or he would draw the gryf of Pal-ul-don as a cross between a triceratops and a Texas longhorn. His elephants, on studying their eyes, give the impression of having an almost human intelligence lurking behind them. And his Tarzan would amazingly fluctuate between having a thin and gangly physique to that thick waisted chunkiness. While there are action sequences in Rubimor's stories, he depended more often on static poses and stiff, uninspired gestures. However--having said this, his Sunday pages are still a delight to view and to read. There was an almost naive innocence to his work--harking back to the Sundays by Hal Foster, which also displayed a certain innocence, gradually lost after Hogarth took over the feature."
Comic strip collectors are strange ducks, even within the world of comics fandom, a little subset of their own. I understand them and often sympathize with them, but I don't always agree with them. The first strip I collected was Dick Tracy, and I became adept at following the continuity of the reprints as they shifted from one publisher to another. After Shel Dorf's Blackthorne Publishing gave up the ghost, SPEC Productions picked up where Blackthorne left off, completed Chester Gould's run, then continued on with Max Allan Collins'. This "tag-team" mentality is so prevalent among strip collectors (and even publishers), that when an upstart company called Checkerbooks began publishing Max Allen Collins Dick Tracy reprints, SPEC Productions stepped aside and actually suspended production of their Dick Tracy series. Checkerbooks lasted for only three volumes, then SPEC resumed. When IDW began publishing the complete series of Tracy strips from 1931-1977 in a consistent hardcover format, I rejoiced! But Gould's run had already been published in its entirety, albeit across a multitude of publishers.
Harold Gray's Little Orphan Annie had as convoluted a path toward completion as Dick Tracy, but when IDW began a series of hardcovers collecting Gray's entire run, other companies' output was only up to the mid-forties or so. I was, again, overjoyed, but comic strip collectors started up a letter-writing campaign to convince IDW to begin their series in the '40s where another publisher (Kitchen Sink, I think) left off, rather than at the beginning, 1924. I am thankful that editor Dean Mullany refused, however, IDW's series stalled in 2019 at 1953, and Gray's tenure lasted through 1968.
Which bring me up to Tarzan. The purpose of NBM's series was to spotlight the work of Hal Foster and Burne Hogarth specifically. When Hogarth left, NBM reprinted only as many of Rubimor's strip as necessary to complete the storyline (v15), then skipped ahead to the resumption of the Hogarth era (v16). Comic strip collectors were up in arms, and this time I happened to agree with them. Again, they launched a letter-writing campaign (in those pre-internet days) demanding that NBM release a volume a Rubimor's work on the series as well. NMB compromised by releasing v15B... in black and white, which I thought was a good solution. So actually, the entire series is 19 volumes, including v15B.
By the end of Hogarth's run, most U.S. newspaper were running Sunday comics in half-page rather than full-page format. the strip was designed to be configured either way, but the half-page format required an extra, throwaway, panel. These extra panels were maybe penciled by Hogarth, if that. More likely, these panels (which did not contribute to the story in any meaningful way) were drawn entirely by assistants. A debate raged among strip-clippers: Should NBM run the pages in full-page or half-page format? Purists wanted full-page, but completists wanted half-page. Another letter-writing campaign was launched, but the vote this time was split roughly 50/50. The decision was made to run the remaining Sundays in full-page format (to match all the other volumes), which I think was the right call.
I had originally intended my treatment of the Sunday strips to be a single post, but I decided to break it up by artist so it wasn't too long. Next time I will begin looking at Tarzan comic books.
THE COMIC BOOKS - PART 1: JESSE MARSH:
Jesse Marsh was the first artist to draw Tarzan in comic books. Dark Horse has published 11 volumes collecting his work, from Dell Four Color #134 (1947) through March of Comics #125 (1955), including Tarzan #1-56. The introductions of these volumes consist of praise for Marsh's work from various artists, including all three Hernandez brothers and Richard Corben, but I don't see it. I tried reading these stories, but I find Marshes work to be bland and, frankly, boring. I finally gave up after the first four volumes. I can tell because volumes 5-10 are still in their shrinkwrap. I took the shrinkwrap off of volume 11 to see if his work had improved in the intervening years. It hadn't. Marsh stayed on the title through #153, but there's a big gap in my collection between #56 and #154, so maybe he got better by then...?
Marsh was your typical Dell/Gold Key action comics artist - competent but not very exciting. I have some interest in reading the later Manning, Kubert and Buscema illustrated comics but have no desire to get into the Marsh material.
THE COMIC BOOKS - PART 2: RUSS MANNING:
The first 131 issues of Tarzan were under the Dell imprint, but the '60s era really begins when Russ Manning took over from Jesse Marsh with #154. Manning wrote and drew the strip for five years and his work is better remembered than the syndicated strip of the time. After Dark Horse got the license in the 1990s, they began reprinting the Manning material in digest-size volumes, all written by the prolific Gaylord DuBois with new covers by Mark Schultz.
Tarzan of the Apes reprinting #155-158 which adapted the first four ERB novels, Tarzan of the Apes, The Return of Tarzan, The Beasts of Tarzan and The Son of Tarzan.
Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar reprinting #159-161 which adapted the novel of the same name.
Tarzan the Untamed reprinting #163-164, 166-167 which adapted that novel plus Tarzan the Terrible.
[Dark Horse also released a comic book-size tpb reprinting the original stories "The Land That Time Forgot" and "The Pool of Time."]
Later (2012), Dark Horse released a hardcover archive edition, Tarzan: The Russ Manning Years Vol. One, reprinting all of the issues from the digests, but the series never progressed beyond that first volume. (Why they chose to release eleven volumes of Jesse Marsh's work and only one of Russ Manning's I will never understand.) For completeness' sake, I should mention that Dark Horse also released two archives of Korak, Son of Tarzan.
This doesn't have anything to do with Russ Manning but, while I'm talking about Dark Horse, they also published Joe Lansdale's adaptation of an unfinished ERB manuscript, Tarzan: The Lost Adventure, in four softcover volumes before they were collected in hardcover. these aren't comics, but the four volumes also contain John Carter of Mars comic strips by John Colman, with covers by Arthur Suydam and spot illustrations by Thomas Yeates, Charles Vess, Gary Gianni and Michael Wm. Kaluta.
THE COMIC BOOKS - PART 3: CHARLTON'S "UNAUTHORIZED" TARZAN:
IN 1964, believing Tarzan had fallen into the public domain, Charlton Comics produced four issues of a series called Jungle Tales of Tarzan. It had not, and they were quickly shut down by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. and all artwork and reproduction materials were confiscated (except for some comic strip samples ERB didn't know about). But sales figures revealed that the four issues of Jungle Tales of Tarzan that were published outsold the authorized version. That shook Western out of its complacency. Jesse Marsh (Tarzan artist since 1947) was out, Russ Manning was in.
The Charlton version had featured captioned illustrations, like the early Foster/Hogarth Sundays. They had hired Sam Glanzman, late of the recently cancelled Kona, Monarch of Monster Isle, to handle the art with the versatile Joe Gill handling the scripts. Glanzman has been going through a little renaissance of his own in recent years. His "Unauthorized Tarzan" (including the strips) was collected by Dark Horse in 2013, plus his Sailor's Story graphic novel of his WWII service and its sequels of life aboard the U.S.S Stevens have also been reprinted. Dark Horse has also reprinted Gill & Glanzman's Hercules, PS Artbooks has started reprinting the Kona series, and Glanzman had a serial in a recent "Joe Kubert" anthology series.
"Marsh was your typical Dell/Gold Key action comics artist - competent but not very exciting."
I agree. Glanzman's Tarzan is not as good as Manning's, but it is way better than Marsh's.
I was surprised to learn that Manning was writing as well as handling art chores during his Tarzan run. It is a shame that more of his work hasn't been reprinted.
"I was surprised to learn that Manning was writing as well as handling art chores during his Tarzan run."
Yes, he was.
"It is a shame that more of his work hasn't been reprinted."
Well, some more has been reprinted as we move on to...
THE SUNDAYS - PART 5: RUSS MANNING:
I say "The Sundays" but, in 1967, Manning transitioned from Tarzan comic books to Sunday and daily comic strips, which have all been collected in four volumes of IDW's The Complete Russ Manning Newspaper Strips: 1967-1979. He stopped doing the dailies in 1972, but he stayed with the Sundays into 1979. Consequently, the final volume in the series is composed of all Sundays.
THE COMIC BOOKS - PART 4: JOE KUBERT:
When Russ Manning left the comic book, all the life went out of it, despite brave tries by Doug Wildey and Mal Keefer among others. the move to DC was the best tonic possible. What strikes me as cool is that DC actually retained the numbering of the Dell/Gold Key run, something that would be unthinkable in today's marketplace. Yes, there's a blurb that says "1st DC ISSUE", but the actual issue number (on the right edge directly across and partially cut off in this scan) is #207.
I came in with #223, but when I got to college I was able to pick up Kubert's entire run for cheap. Dark Horse later collected all of the Kubert issues in three volumes of Tarzan: The Joe Kubert Years archive series (2005-2006).
I recall as a kid reading a Korak in, I'm thinking, 1972, and only realizing afterwards it wasn't Gold Key.
Jeff of Earth-J said:
THE COMIC BOOKS - PART 4: JOE KUBERT:
When Russ Manning left the comic book, all the life went out of it, despite brave tries by Doug Wildey and Mal Keefer among others. the move to DC was the best tonic possible. What strikes me as cool is that DC actually retained the numbering of the Dell/Gold Key run, something that would be unthinkable in today's