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Volume 5660

A 58,000-Word Review of
The Original Tarzan Comics Series
By Michael Tierney
with cover art and every page of the Dell/Gold Key series
added by Bill Hillman from the ERBzine archive
 Tarzan of the Apes has starred in movies and television, on radio and in books and comics of every sort, in nearly every language... for over a century. Creator Edgar Rice Burroughs picked Tarzan’s heritage perfectly; a lost child of British colonialism is raised in primeval isolation. Teaching himself how to read and write, Tarzan becomes the ultimate self-made man. Armed with only his father’s hunting knife, he triumphs over both jungle beasts and men. When Tarzan saves a marooned Jane Porter, it’s love at first sight. Burroughs’ novels aren’t just dramatic action adventures set in exotic locales ... they are also love stories.

 The Jungle World of Dell/Gold Key's Tarzan comics are a unique blend of 3 parts Edgar Rice Burroughs' novels, 1 part Johnny Weissmuller movies, and 1 part unique ... shaken liberally. Tarzan's family and treehouse home are the same as in the Johnny Weissmuller movies. The Oparian beastmen from the books become drawfs. And the Pal-ul-don Waz-don (hairy pithecanthropus) and Ho-don (hairless pithecanthropus) have all lost their monkey tails ... and grown cat ears.

 While the novel Tarzan would only make one trip to prehistoric Pal-ul-don ... the comics Tarzan makes many. Classic elements like the omnivorous 'gryf' triceratops and carnivorous 'garth' tyrannosaurus rex live here in abundance.

 Tarzan's comic world is constantly evolving, as most of the lost jungle cities he discovers are relocated into Pal-ul-don, and war follows. Pal-ul-don becomes a strange and wonderful place, where six-foot arrows are shot by the Bolgani, intelligent gorillas, and crocodile-armored Terribs, riding on their gorobar mounts, are always looking for a human meal. Gigantic, mutated beasts roam this prehistoric land, all grown by Tarzan and his secret formula. These are contributions of comics writer Gaylord DuBois (pronounced Du-Bwaa).

 There are three things that the comic book Tarzan hates: animal trappers, trophy hunters, and slavers. Cursing for Tarzan is calling someone a ‘Rascal.” He deals particularly harshly with human slavers. His punishments have included tossing them to man-eating sharks. That's one element that was unique about the Tarzan comics. In an age when the Comic Code Authority implied stringent content and conduct restrictions, Tarzan killed not only animals and beasts of every variety, but men as well. His exotic jungle world was filled with action as fierce as any battlefield. In later issues, Tarzan would become an animal protector. In the early days, however, you never wanted to pick a fight with him. And if Jane needed rescuing, anyone or thing that got in his way was as good as dead. Keep count on the Battle Scorecard of the first 20 issues, and you’ll see what I mean.

 In the early Sixties, Tarzan's circulation numbers were on the decline. But, thanks to exposure from the Ron Eli television series, and after beginning a run of Russ Manning adaptations of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ original novels, sales climbed back to a peak of nearly three-quarters of a million copies in 1967.

 Sales dropped after Russ Manning’s departure, and they would continue dropping throughout the remainder of the Gold Key run.

 Despite an infusion by DC Comics of modern storytelling techniques, and a renewed dedication to adapting the original Tarzan novels, series circulation once again began to decline again in the late 1970s, down to the last reported circulation average of 450,000 copies, nearly the previous low of 1963. By New Millennium sales numbers, sales like that would be considered absolutely spectacular. Tarzan would have two weekly titles, plus monthly team-ups with Spider-man and Batman!

Dell Comics first featured Tarzan in two special Four Color issues in 1947. 
This debut was so popular that in a few months Dell started a series of TARZAN issues 
which would run for decades and for a remarkable 258 issues.
Dell Four Color #134
February 1947
COVER: Jesse Marsh ~ STORY: Robert P. Thompson ~ ART: Jesse Marsh
"Tarzan and the Devil Ogre" ~ 50 pp
4 Colour: Devil Ogre Jesse Marsh begins what will be one of the longer runs by a comic book artist on a single title. 
 Hunting with his friend, French Lieutenant Paul D’Arnot, Tarzan hears a plane in trouble and watches the pilot bail out ... in lion country. He isn’t the only one who notices, as help also rushes from a nearby rest house, but it’s Tarzan’s knife that proves as effective as a gun in rescuing pilot Doris Ramsay.

 Doris has come to organize a safari to rescue her father, lost in the Ras Dashani Mountains. That’s when she learns about the Tower of Hotoombo, a tall peak guarded by a Devil Ogre and white gorillas who speak with the natives. 
 When Doris is kidnapped by a white ape, Tarzan is overwhelmed during his rescue attempt. He in turn is saved by another white ape named Gufta, whom he defeated and spared earlier.
 Tarzan and the safari are subsequently captured by the massive army of Chief Zanaka and locked in a cave where Doris is reunited with her father. Gufta the white ape is imprisoned with them for his crime of helping Tarzan.
 While Gufta helps the group escape, Tarzan defeats the colossal-sized white ape known as the Devil Ogre and escapes himself, enraging Zanaka. Tantor and his elephant herd are called to save the group from savage native hordes that are reminiscent of scenes from an early Johnny Weissmuller movie.

 No ads and no distractions -- this one is all action; a 50 page spectacular, with the story beginning on the inside of the front cover and finishing on the inside back. There will never be another Tarzan comic with a story under one cover as long as this first one. Includes an original Jesse Marsh Tarzan poster on the outside back cover.

Dell Four Color #161
August 1947
COVER: Jesse Marsh ~ STORY: Robert P. Thompson ~ ART: Jesse Marsh
"Tarzan and the Fires of Tohr" ~ 30 pp
4 Colour: Fires of Tohr James Barton and his niece Ruth are in trouble, with all their equipment gone and abandoned by bearers who refused to enter the taboo territory of the lost city called Tohr.
 Fortunately, the explorers are found by Tarzan and French Lieutenant Paul D’Arnot, who decide to help their search. After encounters with dangerous natives and a wild river ride through underground caverns, they encounter the Claw Men, who have yellow skin and clawed feet, and speak English!

 Taken to the throne room of the white Queen Ahtea in the very city they seek, the group is forced to watch a rebel die as a sacrifice to the Fires of Tohr.
 Being the last of her line and without an heir, Queen Ahtea immediately decides that Tarzan will remain in Tohr as her king and husband. The theme of powerful women falling in love with Tarzan was a mainstay of the books and will be oft repeated throughout the comics. Queen Ahtea has a temper similar to that of the queen from Burroughs’ Tarzan and the City of Gold, and willfully tosses Ruth into an arena to perish alongside the rebel leader at the claws of her favorite hunting lion.
 Tarzan jumps into the arena and with his bare hands makes short work of the lion. The penalty for his actions is ... death, unless he changes his mind about marrying the evil queen. 
 After a dramatic escape from the dungeons, the fate of all will be decided in a struggle to the death above the volcanic Fires of Tohr!

"Tarzan and the Black Panther" ~ 18 pp
 Tarzan and Chief Muviro of the Waziri discover the Molunga River Trading Post has been burned to the ground by the Arab slave trader known as the Black Panther.
 When Tarzan goes alone and unarmed into the sheik’s camp, demanding that the prisoners be freed, a fight breaks out. Tantor and his elephant herd once again intervene.

 Another ad free spectacular, which is a special bonus since these Four Colors come from a time when comics were as thick as magazines.
 There is a Tarzan's Friends feature by Marsh on the inside front cover, and Jungle Animals on the inside back, with another original Marsh Tarzan poster on the outside back cover.

Click for full-size cover collage
ERBzine Editor's Note:
The Tarzan Comics that Michael has reviewed in this series
may be read in their entirety in ERBzine
where we have reprinted all the Dell and Gold Key Tarzan comics:
Tarzan ~ Tarzan Annuals ~ John Carter ~ 
Brothers of the Spear ~ Ape Dictionaries
Part I: Tarzan Dell Nos. 1-100
Part II: Tarzan Dell Nos. 101-131
Part III: Tarzan Gold Key Nos. 132-206
ERB Comics Encyclopedia

All the work Michael Tierney has ever done is connected to books and print. 

As an author, artist, and independent publisher since the 1970s, he is best known for his trademarked Wild Stars comics and novels. 

Skipping college to become a journeyman printer and then division manager at the age of 22, he has been a comics retailer with multiple locations since the '80s, and an Overstreet Price Guide Advisor since the '90s, contributing hundreds of reviews and industry articles for multiple magazines. 

Even in grade school, he was mailing his paper route earnings to Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. in Tarzana, and has collected Burroughs' pulps, books and comics ever since.

Read more about Michael in the Intro for the
Intro | 01 | 02 | 03 | 04 | 05 | 06 | 07
ERBzine 3719
ERBzine 3720
I: 1939 ~ Issues 30-33
ERBzine 3721
II: 1939 ~ Issues 34-37
ERBzine 3722
III: '39/'40 ~ Issues 38-41
ERBzine 3723
IV: 1940 ~ Issues 42-45
ERBzine 3724
V: 1940 ~ Issues 46-49
ERBzine 3725
VI: '40/'41 ~ Issues 50-53
ERBzine 3726
VII: 1941 ~ Issues 54-56
Also See the related checklist by Michael Tierney

TARZAN OF THE COMICS (DELL and DC) By Michael Tierney
with cover art and every page of the Dell/Gold Key series added by Bill Hillman from the ERBzine archive

ERBzine 5660
ERBzine 5661: Pt. 1
DELL Nos. 1-18 
ERBzine 5662: Pt. 2
DELL Nos. 19-39
ERBzine 5663: Pt. 3
DELL Nos. 40-63
ERBzine 5664: Pt. 4
DELL Nos. 64 - 87
ERBzine 5665: Pt. 5
DELL Nos. 88 - 99
ERBzine 5666: Pt. 6
DELLS 100 - 115 + 2 Ann
ERBzine 5667: Pt. 7
DELLS  116 - 126 + 37 & 51
ERBzine 5668: Pt. 8
DELL Nos. 128 - 139 
ERBzine 5669: Pt. 9
DELL Nos. 140 - 155 
ERBzine 5670: Pt. 10
DELL Nos. 156 - 173
ERBzine 5671: Pt. 11
DELL Nos. 174 - 189
ERBzine 5672: Pt. 12
DELL Nos. 190 - 206 
1970/1971 (Feb 72 Final Dell)
ERBzine 5673: Pt. 13
DC Nos. 207 - 226 
ERBzine 5674: Pt. 14
DC Nos. 227 - 244
ERBzine 5675: Pt. 15
DC Nos. 245 - 258


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