First and Only Weekly Online Fanzine Devoted to the Life & Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs
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Volume 4015a

Sunday Strips before they were coloured
201:  3383-3395 (16 June 1996-8 Sept. 1996) (13 weeks)
Gray Morrow (Art) ~ Scott Tracy Griffin (Continuity)

Courtesy of Scott Tracy Griffin
Featured in his latest Titan Books release:
TARZAN: The Centennial Celebration

To coincide with the 2012 Tarzan Centennial celebrations,
Scott Tracy Griffin
compiled an amazing collection of all things Tarzan
and a vital addition to any Tarzan-lover's library.  |

By Scott Tracy Griffin
Way back in 1993, Danton Burroughs read a piece I had written about his grandfather, author Edgar Rice Burroughs, and invited me to the Tarzana, California offices of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. for a meeting and tour. We struck up a friendship that day, and Danton became a staunch advocate of my work, to the point that he referred me to appear on-camera in documentaries, news programs, and other media. Danton was instrumental in launching my career, which includes two non-fiction books on Tarzan that shared Burroughs’ legacy with a global audience, and more public appearances than I can count. I have always treasured the trust Danton placed in me, a young writer, to honor his family legacy, and I wish that he could see what his vision accomplished.

In 1995, Danton contacted me with the news that longtime writer Don Kraar was leaving the Tarzan Sunday comic strip, and he intended to refer me for the job. I couldn’t have been more delighted. The Tarzan newspaper strip, launched in 1929, was one of the most successful and long-running strips in history, overseen by talents like Hal Foster, Burne Hogarth, Russ Manning, Gil Kane, Mike Grell, and Gray Morrow, who illustrated Don’s scripts. Gray would remain the artist on the strip, collaborating with the new writer.

The syndicate, however, had a different plan; the editor decided to audition several people to find the permanent hire. Each writer would submit two storylines consisting of 12-13 weekly installments.

During his 22-year tenure on the strip, Don presented a sophisticated, globe-trotting contemporary Tarzan, tying the strip into Burroughs’ other fantastic lands like Caspak, Pellucidar, Barsoom, and Yoka Island. Given Don’s success, I felt that I should forge my own path, rather than imitate his approach. 

Influenced by my favorite strip writer/artist, Russ Manning, I determined to return the setting to Africa for a series of timeless fantasy adventures. My first storyline offered a visit to Opar by Tarzan and a supporting cast including his adult son, Korak the Killer; Jad-bal-ja the Golden Lion; and the mangani (great apes). I introduced a female lead, Dr. Lisa Gordon, a cultural anthropologist, whose work would provide entrée for readers to discover the lost lands as she did; the choice of profession was based on my own academic background, with classes like human ecology and anthropology among my favorites on the path to a Bachelor of Science in sociology.

The offer to submit a Tarzan Sunday comic strip appealed to me for several reasons. First, I love the medium of comic strips, even more than comic books. Second, I realized that not many writers get the opportunity to write newspaper strips, much less adventure strips, because there are so few in existence. Third, just like screenplays and especially teleplays, serialized adventure strips must adhere to a formula to succeed, offering an additional challenge in crafting the storyline. My general rule was to conclude the prior week’s action (including a brief text recap if necessary), advance the story with dialogue and action, and end on a cliffhanger to keep readers invested in returning the following week. The challenge is that this must be accomplished in six panels—or less, if the panels are combined to better showcase the art.

Sunday newspaper comic strips must be composed to appear in two formats, without compromising the storyline. The first format includes three tiers of eight panels, with a large title logo, while the second format includes only two tiers of six panels, omitting the top tier and the logo.

These two-tier color Tarzan strips appeared in “The Asbury Park Press” in New Jersey, one of the few U.S. papers to carry Tarzan at that time. The black-and-white proofs include the missing top tier material, illustrating the difference between the two formats.

Comedy strips usually include a short two- or three-panel gag in the first tier, either a lead-in joke, or a standalone joke. For adventure strips, the challenge is to offer additional context that remains expendable. I usually included non-dynamic exposition, either a brief comment from the principles, or an “establishing shot”. Two things to avoid in the top tier are recaps of the previous week’s plot, or any action or dialogue that moves the story forward—such material must be confined to the two lower tiers.

At the time, I was satisfied that I achieved my goal, given my inexperience in the medium. To my more seasoned eyes, I see a green writer who was buoyed up by a veteran artist. Gray Morrow was a pleasure to work with, and I am grateful that he was such a generous collaborator. 

Unfortunately for me, the syndicate seemed to have a surfeit of talented professionals vying for the job, and the editor received so many scripts that my second script was tabled. My intention was to follow the Opar story with an adventure in the Valley of the Palace of Diamonds, which, according to Burroughs’ writ, was inhabited by a primitive civilization of gorillas.

Though I did not get a permanent position, and the newspaper strip folded a few years later, I feel honored to have worked in the medium. Perhaps someday the Tarzan strip will return to newspapers following its hiatus, just as Flash Gordon and other vintage strips have. When it does, I would love to write it.

~ Scott Tracy Griffin

(click for larger images)

EPISODE 1: 3383
ERBzine Release: August 3, 2012

See the corresponding finished colour version: CLICK  HERE

ERBzine Release: August 10, 2012

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ERBzine Release: August 17, 2012

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ERBine Release: August 24, 2012

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ERBzine Release: August 31, 2012

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ERBzine Release: September 7, 2012

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ERBzine Release: September 14, 2012

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ERBzine Release: September 21, 2012

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ERBzine Release: September 28, 2012

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ERBzine Release: October 5, 2012

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ERBzine Release: October 12, 2012

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ERBzine Release: October 19, 2012

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EPISODE 13 (Conclusion)
ERBzine Release: October 26, 2012

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This concludes Scott Tracy Griffin's "La's Plight"
See much more of his work in his latest book:
TARZAN: The Centennial Celebration


Dedicated members of ERB-Fandom will notice that 
the unscrupulous anthropologist Dr. Barnett 
has been drawn in the image of longtime ERB scholar and collector:

Bob Hyde
(June 25, 1925 - April 7, 2006) 
See the Bob Hyde African Safari in ERBzine. 
A illustrated journal compiled by Mr. Hyde 
during his 1992 visit to the Dark Continent.
Scott Tracy Griffin is considered one of the foremost Edgar Rice Burroughs experts in the world, with 30 years of articles appearing in magazines, journals, academia and fanzines. 
To learn more about Mr. Griffin and his Titan Books release: TARZAN: The Centennial Celebration
ERBzine 4016
Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration I
Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration II  |


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