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Volume 5850

YU-TARZAN
A BEAUTIFUL SWAN SONG
by Karl-Heinz Janssen
The last Tarzan comic books in West Europe  for a long time
came from behind the Iron Curtain
Once there was a time, when there was always a new Tarzan comic book at the newsstands in West Germany - and I believe, in most other countries in western Europe too. For us kids back then it was as sure as the sun in the skies: Every two or for weeks there had to be a new Tarzan comic book.

In the mid-eighties came the end, the last Tarzan comic in Germany after 30 years. But what a beautiful swan song that was: The final Tarzan comics for a very long time were especially well crafted. Their creators were obviously great fans -- but by no means imitators -- of the one and only Russ Manning. 

These new artists with strange slavic names lived and worked behind the Iron Curtain in the Serbian part of former Yugoslavia. Petar Meseldzija, today a worldwide known fantasy artist, remembered: "In 1983, Swedish publisher Atlantic, who at that time was the copyright holder for the production of the Tarzan comics worldwide, being dissatisfied with the poor quality of the Spanish version of Tarzan . . . handed the job over to the Yugoslav (Serbian) publisher  Marketprint" (2012, Muddy Colors Website). 

And Marketprint in Novi Sad found an unusual solution for this task -- unusual at least for European habits: Not only one or two men should do the job, but a team of comic artists and scenarists was formed. Under the leadership of the already known artist Branislav (Bane) Kerac they produced between the years 1983 and 1989 about 100 Episodes with 1600 pages and 500 drawings for the covers and ads. 

With visible enthusiasm the Serbian artists found their very own way of presenting a Tarzan true to ERB and to their own hero Russ Manning too.  The clear lines, the settings and landscapes, the lost cities like Opar are reminiscent of Manning. But Tarzan, as defined by Bane Kerac for his own drawing pen as for the other artists, looks different, more like a modern man. And the villains and beautiful women, who came into Tarzan's Africa, stem from modern comic books rather than from the old masters like Foster, Hogarth or even Kubert.

Bane Kerac was the man who set the agenda for the team in Novi Sad. Even his other works from that time  like "Cat Claw" or "Cobra" sometimes looked like they could have been Tarzan adventures. And in one case, as Kerac himself states on his homepage, a Tarzan adventure (“The Kalonga Star”) was in reality a thinly disguised "Cobra" adventure.

But each of the other artists gave the "YU-Tarzan" at least a slightly individual look too. These other artists/scenarists were especially Branko Plavsic, who died in 2011,  Sibin Slavkovic, Slavko Dragincic, Petar Mesedzija, Pavel Coza, Goran Dujkic, Marinko Lebovic, Milan Ivanovic, Milan Miletic, Dragan Stokic and a few authors more.

In hindsight the only six or seven years of YU-Tarzan were an unexpectetd, but beautiful adventure. For us in Germany it was especially short: Only a handful of  the stories from Novi Sad found the way to our newsstands. If we wanted more of YU-Tarzan, we had to look in the shops at our neighbours in the Netherlands. For in Holland as in Scandinavia and, of course, Yugoslavia the majority of these “eastern” Tarzan adventures were published.

Sadly, the rest of the (ERB) world has never seen any of the YU-Tarzan -- until now on ERBzine. The text will be still in Serbian. But as William Stout said a few years ago to Petar Mesedzija, when a Dutch edition  of Mesedzija's Tarzan stories  was published:  "The language didn't matter, for 'the drawings are in English'" (2012, Muddy Colors Website).

 ~ Karl-Heinz Janssen


Click for larger images

Publicity shots by Marketprint from the 1980s. They show the four most important men of the YU Tarzan team in Yugoslavia.

.

The are same guys are caught in a brawl, with Bane Kerac receiving a punch. This drawing is from the story "Krijumcari slonovace" – as is the case with the following harbor scene. 

There are some interesting people to be seen here. The third man from left with the captain's hat and the long coat seems to be Corto Maltese, the famous character by the great Italian comic artist Hugo Pratt. The sailor with the beard, fifth from left, must be Barney Jordan from the Belgian comic "Bernard Prince" by Hermann Huppen.

The yacht to the right is probably Bernard Prince's "Cormorant," even if the name on the stern is different. And the man and the woman leaning on the railing are without doubt "Cobra" and his partner Cindy Williams from Bane Kerac's own comic "Cobra" (originally spelled "Kobra”).

Interesting too, is the black steamer to the far right. Just recognisable, the ship's name is "Cat Claw," which is the title of another of Bane Kerac's comic characters. And strange enough, the home port of the ship lies far in the interior of today's Serbia - Novi Sad is the city, where in the 1980s the people at Marketprint publishers made the YU Tarzan.

The authors/artists (Slavko Dragincic, Bane Kerac, Branko Plavsic) of this certain story signed their names at the shop to the left, under the company's name "Kelly Brando, Tara & Co."  "Kelly Brando" was a western series by Kerac, "Tara" a 1970s comic by the same artist about the partisan war against the German Wehrmacht in Yugoslavia.

These pictures are from the story "Bitka za Opar."
This time Tarzan is at his beloved Opar and has an unpleasent re-encounter
with an old foe, the long-presumed dead Dagga Ramba.
.

. .

Invented in the 1940s by Burne Hogarth (top two panels) and in the 1960s revived by Russ Manning (the following three panels), this would be when the dictator was still alive in the eighties. But Opar proved to be an uncomfortable playground for Dagga Ramba: Again, for the third time in more than 40 years, he had to give in to Tarzan.
Opar was always of great importance for Tarzan. Especially Russ Manning's design shows the beauty of the age old city – which obviously had a bewitching effect on Bane Kerac and his colleagues.

In more than one of their stories they returned to Opar - an Opar that had a striking resemblance to Manning's presentation. Not that they tried to conceal that similarity. On the contrary: As Tarzan looks onto the vista of Opar in the story "Rusevine Atlantide“ (in the last illustration), one can see in the right bottom corner above Kerac's name the famous RM monogram of Russ Manning.

There are many more traces in YU Tarzan, that indicate to Russ Manning. The strange flying men of Pal-ul-Don, an invention by Manning, are among the most memorable of those motifs. Of course they remind of ERB's Wieroos of Caspak, but with their bird like habits they have a stark original character. The YU Tarzan team thought so too, and in the story "Pecina strave" they let these guys fly again. As ever they are on the hunt for women. And again they end up getting punished by the jungle lord – this time looking decidedly more human with their funny faces than their alien predecessors in the Manning stories (the last two illustrations).
~ From the Karl-Heinz Janssen Collection



MEET KARL-HEINZ JANSSEN
I was born 1951 in a little village near Oldenburg in Northwest Germany. I studied Art History at the Free University in Berlin and worked until  my retirement a year ago as a daily newspaper Journalist. I have two daughters. Now I live with my wife and our Husky dog in a village in East Friesland. 

I'm fond of ERB and Karl May (kind of a german ERB). I'm interested in old cars, medieval and aerospace history. And, of course, since my early childhood, I love comics. It was through comics, that I learned nearly 60 years ago of Tarzan. 

I'm deeply  concerned about the future of ERB and Karl May as well. We, who love  these authors, grow older -- and the youth has completely different interests. But so it goes.

Note:
Ron de Laat’s Website: Holland meets ERB!
is the best source concerning YU Tarzan on the net. 
He even has a complete list of all YU Tarzan stories 
with the titles in Serbian, Dutch and English and 
with the names of the authors and artists of each story.
www.hollandmeetserb.nl


Read the first of our YU-TARZAN reprints in ERBzine

"Kraljica Opara" from the Yugoslavian Tarzan No. 43 ~ 1985
www.erbzine.com/mag58/5851.html

Our Previous YugoSlav Tarzan Series Starts at;
www.ERBzine.com/mag27/2750.html
 
 



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