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Volume 1749
From the ERBzine Comics Encyclopedia:
Dark Horse meets Gold Key:
The Tarzan Comics Library
By Steve Allsup
Back in 1999 Dark Horse began a reprint project to bring back the vintage Russ Manning Tarzan adaptations from the old Gold Key series of the sixties. This reprint edition was slightly smaller in size, not quite as small as a normal digest size. Volume one reprinted the one-issue adaptations of Tarzan of the Apes, Return of Tarzan, Beasts of Tarzan, and Son of Tarzan, a total of four issues of about 24 pages each. Volume two reprinted the lengthy adaptation of Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar, which ran for three issues. Volume three reprinted the adaptations of Tarzan the Untamed and Tarzan the Terrible, each equal to two issues. Volume four would have presumably contained the adaptations of Tarzan and the Golden Lion, and Tarzan and the Ant-Men, but it never appeared.

Overall the reprint quality of the art was excellent, and the books were done on acid free paper stock in full color. Unfortunately they did not include the lush paintings that were the trademark covers of the Gold Key comics, but used attractive new art by Mark Schultz on the three books. The Dark Horse books were edited by Craig and Hanson, and re-colored by Hvam and Wood. These Manning books were welcomed and well received by the Tarzan fans who recalled them from their youths, as well as many newer fans who had heard the legend of Manning's Tarzan years.

The re-coloring presents an interesting study. The stories do not seem to be based upon the original coloring of the Gold Key issues, but instead appear to be a completely fresh approach, possibly even without reference to the originals at all. This process created some unique results, which fall within three basic categories-- improvements, trivial changes, and errors.

One obvious improvement was the coloring of Tarzan's skin a dark tan, albeit the shade they chose was a bit dusky to look natural. In the originals, his skin was usually colored the same as Jane and other whites just entering the jungle. Korak and Meriem are correctly changed from brown-headed to black-haired, as they are in the books. In the Gold Key comics Korak was given fair, light brown hair in order to make him not look like an exact clone of Tarzan. Also, Dark Horse tended to give the backgrounds of the panels a more consistent and realistic coloring, with the sky usually blue, etc.

Gold Key

Dark Horse
Then, there were any number of trivial changes -- things that are pretty arbitrary since Burroughs may not have specified exactly what color it was. This category includes things like the changing color of Jane's dresses, the changes in hair color of some of the secondary characters, such as Lord Tennington, Moore, Morison, Werper and Achmet Zek, and the change in the paint job of Tarzan's African plantation. The uniforms and outfits of the jungle characters are often changed from khaki to blue or some other scheme. In UNTAMED, Tarzan's captured lion has a brown mane instead of black. There are any number of these relatively arbitrary changes that might go entirely unnoticed by a casual reading.

Gold Key

Dark Horse
However, oftimes their seemingly arbitrary changes were for the worse. In general, the Dark Horse pages are much darker and more drab than the Gold Key pages. There is a noticeable deliberation to remove virtually all bright colors like red and yellow. Manning's original issues fill the jungle with bright red and yellow flowers and plants, and these are usually changed to green like the rest of the foliage. Mugambi's red-painted canoe is changed to an earthen brown. Kulonga's loincloth, bow and quiver (and thus Tarzan's) are changed from the dark crimson warpaint to cow-patty brown. The hair of several major characters, like William Cecil Clayton, Bertha Kircher, and Harold Smith-Oldwick, is changed from yellow blond to dark drab colors such as bluish-gray, etc. Virtually every blond in the originals except Jane is suddenly brunette or gray-haired. Queen La is erroneously given reddish-brown hair instead of black hair, which she has in the Manning originals. For some unknown reason, the jewels in her ornaments are changed from rubies and emeralds to just all rubies. Tarzan's apes are changed from brown to dark blue-gray. In UNTAMED, there is a scene in which an officer remarks upon Tarzan's machine gun being "red-hot," and in the original comic this is clearly depicted- the gun barrel is actually red-hot. Not so in the Dark Horse version-- the barrel is just the normal dark gray.

Gold Key

Dark Horse

The most important coloring errors are in the adaptation of Tarzan the Terrible, in which Tarzan journeys to the lost land of Pal-ul-don. Burroughs created a whole set of creatures unique to this valley and Manning was particularly careful about reproducing Burroughs' intentions precisely in his comics. In this last story, Dark Horse abandoned all common sense in their coloring and went completely crazy. In ERB's novel, the valley is inhabited by two rival races of homonids-- the white Ho-dons, and the glossy, black-furred Waz-don, both races with prehensile tails like monkeys. In the Manning originals, the Ho-dons are as white as Tarzan, and the Waz-dons are colored blue-black, which makes makes them look sleek and furry in conjunction with the artistic indications of body hair. But in the Dark Horse version, the Ho-dons are colored a darker shade of tan, while the Waz-dons are colored a light brown, making them appear confusingly similar, almost identical. The light brown coloring of the Waz-dons makes them look like fuzzy negroids. The careful delicate effect of depicting the Waz-don's fur is lost. Pal-ul-don is also inhabited by dinosaurs similar to triceratops, called gryfs, and these Burroughs colors brightly with armor of yellow and red. The Gold Key comics took great care to get this coloring precise, but in the Dark Horse version, the gryfs are simply blue-gray, as if they are just any old ordinary dinosaurs. Burroughs' "jato," which is a hybrid cross between a lion and a tiger, and which has yellow and black stripes like a tiger but with the mane of a lion, is colored tan in the new reprint. Sometimes these kind of changes are utterly irrational, such as when Jane and another character are wearing yellow leopard skins with black spots, and these are changed to dark brown skins.

These kinds of errors are tragic, when you have this type of situation where the art is given a great reproduction on superior grade paper. Common sense and skill has to be employed  by the artists and colorists to pay sufficient attention to these kinds of details. It is possible that the colorists were used to coloring typical superhero comics where it was their own creativity and not adherence to a novel that marked their craft. One can only hope that if Dark Horse gives Manning's Tarzan the hardback treatment that they gave Kubert with the three Tarzan Archives volumes, that they will reference the original Manning color schemes. Whenever Dark Horse has done the ultimate deluxe hardback Archives books, as with Kubert and also with Manning's Magnus: Robot Fighter, they did take great care to base the color exactly upon the original issues. Dark Horse was taking a risk by being experimental in the coloring of these Tarzan reprints, and it is a shame that so much of the time their good intentions were actually significant mistakes.

In all other respects the three volumes in this set were well done, and very welcome by comics and Tarzan fans everywhere, and it can only be hoped that the series will be revived, with greater care in coloring in the future.

Click covers for larger images

Dark Horse Compilation
GK 155
Tarzan of the Apes
Gold Key 156
The Return of Tarzan
Gold Key 157
The Beasts of Tarzan
Gold Key Tarzan #158
The Son of Tarzan

Dark Horse Compilation
Gold Key 159
The Jewels of Opar I 
Gold Key 160
The Jewels of Opar II
Gold Key 161
The Jewels of Opar III 

Dark Horse Compilation
Gold Key 163
Tarzan the Untamed
Gold Key 164
Tarzan the Untamed
Gold Key Comic #166
Tarzan the Terrible
Gold Key Comic #167
Tarzan the Terrible

ERB Comics Encyclopedia
Bill Ross' ERB Collector Series: Dark Horse Comics

Part I: ERBzine 1156
Part II: ERBzine 1157
Part III: ERBzine 1460
Part IV: ERBzine 1476
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