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Copyright Questions and the Charlton Insurgency
The open question of the copyright status of the Burroughs property resulted in more than one American publisher looking to stick a toe in the water – most famously, the Charlton Comics Group. As Jungle Tales of Tarzan, a Burroughs short story collection, was thought to be in the public domain, Charlton chose that very name for its new publication.
On the cover of the first issue, dated December 1964, Pat Masulli depicted an overly-muscle-bound Tarzan, right hand clutching a vine, staring into the distance, while surrounded by a bevy of jungle animals including a lion, a tiger, various moneys and great apes. The cover blurb stated: “Beginning a great NEW SERIES of the world’s mightiest jungle hero.”
On the inside front cover, Masulli pledged to faithfully adapt the Burroughs stories as he took a swipe at the comics that came before:
“Comic strips about Tarzan have graced our newspapers for years. The first artist to draw Tarzan was Hal Foster. He eventually gave it up to draw his famous 'Prince Valiant.'” Burne Hogarth took up where Mr. Foster left off. His powerful renditions of the Ape-Man are some of our comic classics. But what about the Tarzan of comic books?
Masulli continued: “The TRUE flavor of Tarzan as created by Mr. Burroughs has rarely been tasted in comic books. We intend to change that. We intend to be as true to the original as possible. We pledge ourselves to a series of comics that will thrill and inspire, delight and entrance as did the original masterpieces.”
And having set the tone, the first issue, with Sam Glanzman art clearly inspired by Foster and Hogarth, set about fulfilling the promise. Joseph Gill was handling the scripts. The pages were illustrations with machine-lettered captions, adapting two stories from the Burroughs collection, The Capture of Tarzan and The Fight for the Balu*.
*Mangani for “baby”
Tarzan battles a great ape on the cover of #2, an issue that features another letter to the reader from Executive Editor Masulli and two more adaptions by Gill and Glanzman: Tarzan and the Battle for Teeka and Tarzan Rescues the Moon. Issue #3 sported a cover a Dick Giordano and Rocco Mastroserio and two more stories: The Nightmare and The God of Tarzan.
There were some changes in the credits for the fourth and final issue, dated July 1965. The cover – possibly the most eye-catching of the run – was by Masulli and Mastroserio and was a dynamic shot of Tarzan, knife drawn, riding on Numa, the lion. The Lion was the first story adapted in this issue, but, according to a caption on the splash page, the regular artist was unavailable: “Dear friends… Sam Glanzman is away on a much deserved vacation! Bill Montes and Ernie Bache are filling in for him this issue.” The pair also handled the art for the second adaption of the issue, A Jungle Joke.
And that was it for Charlton. After four nicely done issues and eight adaptions, legal pressure ended the run. And though Glanzman was no Russ Manning the issues – all four of them – were nicely done and adhered to the pledge made by the editor at the beginning.
The DC Years
In 1972, when Burroughs was negotiating the rights to its entire catalog to DC Comics, that company had two popular artists from the Golden and Silver Ages that would have been perfect for the job. The one who eventually got the job, Joe Kubert, was a seasoned veteran of DC’s war comics, perhaps best known for his work on Sgt. Rock of Easy Company in Our Army At War. He had done Viking Prince in The Brave and the Bold, and was beloved by superhero fans for his Silver Age revival of Hawkman.
The other artist who might have been considered was Murphy Anderson, DC’s top inker and a fabulous pencil artist as well, whose work enhanced any comic he touched. His inking energized the pencils of many artists from Carmine Infantino on Adam Strange in Mystery In Space, to Gil Kane on Green Lantern, to Curt Swan on Superman. He had taken over the Hawkman feature from Kubert, and did four spectacular solo issues of The Spectre when that Golden Age character was revived in Showcase and in his own title. Though Anderson never drew Tarzan, fans got a bit of a taste of what they were missing in some of DC’s Burroughs companion titles.
Anderson’s amazing splash panel of John Carter of Mars from DC’s Weird Worlds #2, November 1972, is reprinted in black and white in The Life and Art of Murphy Anderson by R.C. Harvey (TwoMorrows Publishing, 2003). The book also reprints a page allegedly from Korak #51, April 1973 (although Anderson is not usually credited with having drawn that issue), showing the son of Tarzan in a classic pose that just as well might’ve been his father. As the author says in the caption, this is as close as Anderson ever came to drawing Tarzan. Anderson’s sleek lines were also about as close as any artist could have come to Russ Manning. There WOULD have been comparisons; but it was not to be.
Joe Kubert was now the man – named editor, writer and artist, he could make of Tarzan what he pleased. And Kubert, like Manning before him, wanted to give the fans an authentic Burroughsian Tarzan. The critics could not have been more pleased. Here’s how Cazedessus put it in “Lords of the Jungle”: “…he was the best choice one could have hoped for. His first issues, starting in April of 1972, showed a strong Foster influence dating as far back as some 1929 sequences. But quickly, Kubert’s own strongly vigorous style asserted itself.”
The late Les Daniels, in his book DC Comics – Sixty Years of the World’s Favorite Comic Book Heroes (Bulfinch Press, 1995), was equally impressed with Kubert’s work: “…when DC got the rights in 1972, Kubert was ready with a lean, rangy, intense version; his scripts and artwork ranked among the most authentic and effective ever seen.”
The brief Kubert era began in the midst of DC’s experiment with 52-page, 25-cent editions sans a DC “bullet” logo of any type – just a circle about the size of a half-dollar proclaiming:
1st DC ISSUE
The numbering was carried over from Gold Key – so this was officially Tarzan of the Apes #207, April1972. Kubert must have supposed that old fans would want the numbering sequence intact, and newer fans, attracted by the change in cover styles, would be more comfortable with an established title – not exactly the credo of modern comics where #1’s proliferate like rabbits.
The first DC story began in medias res without a logo, title, or credits – but explodes into action on pages two and three with a double-truck, quite dramatic splash across the bottom two-thirds of the page. Here, the familiar Tarzan logo was emblazoned in red with the story title, “Origin of the Ape-Man Book 1” – and then, “From the Novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs.” The splash utilized a favorite design of Kubert’s – a shot of Tarzan, knife in his right hand, being attacked by a panther (in this case), and with his left arm and elbow just under the animal’s chin, fending it off. He used the exact same pose on the cover, except the animal was an ape. [The pose appears again on the cover of the second Tarzan Limited Collector’s Edition, this time with a lion.]
The story begins Kubert’s expert adaption of Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes that would run for four issues.
Remember, the first three DC issues were 52 pagers, and so something was needed to fill out the back of the books. In #207, there were three extra features, beginning with “The Dum Dum,” the celebration of the Great Apes. This would morph into a letters column, but for this issue, Marv Wolfman presented a bio of ERB. The second feature was interesting: a text feature entitled “Tarzan’s First Christmas” taken from the Sunday page of December 27, 1932 – complete with the Hal Foster art panels.
As a final treat, readers of this first DC issue got a taste of John Carter of Mars, a chapter from ERB’s A Princess of Mars with gorgeous art by Anderson. At the end of the book, we learned that Gray Morrow would illustrate the next chapter. Imagine. Kubert, Anderson and even a single page by Morrow; how would the second DC issue stack up to that?
Pretty well, as it turned out. The Kubert cover to #208 contained less action, but more drama as Tarzan mourns his just-killed “mother” – Kala, the ape who raised him. There follows another Foster story from January 24, 1932, and the Gray Morrow chapter of the John Carter story.
The Dum Dum carried letters, all addressed to Joe, from people who had been provided stats of the first issue in advance of publication. They included Burroughs’ son Hulbert (I personally like your artwork); super-fan Richard Lupoff (I’m quite delighted); Vern Coriell of the Burroughs Bibliophiles (Tarzan fans rejoice…Tarzan is alive and well…safe in the talented hands of someone who cares); and science fiction writer Philip Jose Farmer who nit-picked just a bit (Tarzan’s father was clean-shaven…Tarzan was ten years old, not thirteen when he first entered the cabin). Yessir; Tarzan fans know their hero’s history and you can’t put anything over on them!
The last of the 52-pagers continued the origin story as Tarzan proclaims himself to be not an ape but an M-A-N and battles Terkoz over Jane Porter. The Foster story this time – the final one that DC would use -- was from January 10, 1932. The John Carter story was drawn by Anderson, again making us wonder what might have been.
The Dum Dum continued with reaction from two more people associated with ERB in some way. Camille Cazedessus, Jr., from whom we’ve quoted frequently, wrote the lead-off letter to assistant editor Marv Wolfman: “You have done a remarkable job of capturing the flavor of the original Hal Foster strip, with a better balanced action-paced continuity.”
And pro artist Jim Steranko who published two important volumes of The Steranko History of Comics, was effusive in his praise: “Kubert’s style (as it has evolved over the past four years especially) is perfect for the TARZAN strip. It is a style of enormous vitality, of rich textures, of rugged but controlled imagery that tracks up faultlessly with Burroughs’ own energetic style.” High praise indeed from one of the medium’s superstars of the period. The issue finished with a photo gallery of movie Tarzans.
The “4th DC Issue,” and the last to carry that circled blurb was #210 – now back to regular size and priced at 20 cents. Kubert finished out the origin story and The Dum Dum settled into being a regular letters column – but the wonderful Burroughs back-up features were no longer carried in the Tarzan comic.
For his part, Kubert was off and running; the covers were total works of art; and he set about adapting additional stories by Burroughs and a retelling of some of the classic strips. Issues #219-#223 serialized the second novel, The Return of Tarzan. The book continued in this vein through #229, an issue whose Dum Dum carried a letter by one Arlen Schumer of Fair Lawn, New Jersey, who wrote, “To put it mildly, Tarzan is a masterpiece of art and story.” The book’s format, however, was about to change again.
These halcyon days were a roller-coaster ride if you were a fan on a budget. DC’s Tarzan, which had started out at 52 pages for 25 cents, then standard size for 20 cents, was now a whopping 100 pages for 60 cents. This “Super Spectacular” series would last just six issues, #230-235. The drop-dead gorgeous Kubert covers were gone, replaced by smaller Kubert illustrations accompanied by several large (and ugly) panels promoting the contents of the extra pages.
Fans of the book must have been startled. In #230, Kubert did a beautiful contents page, and a 6-page short. That was followed by a Bob Kanigher-scripted story penciled by Kubert but inked by Russ Heath. The fillers included a Russ Manning reprint; Simba the Jungle Boy by George Kashdan with art by Jack Sparling; an early Congo Bill reprint; and finally, “Meet Detective Chimp” written by John Broome with pencils by Carmine Infantino and inks by Frank Giacoia. Every backup story sported a jungle boy/man or a monkey, but it wasn’t Tarzan. In a “special Dum Dum News Flash,” Editorial Assistant Allen Asherman explained:
“Now that TARZAN has been expanded into its 100-page Super-Spectacular size, each issue will feature many surprises, along with stories of your favorite adventure characters. KORAK will be appearing in this magazine. And there’ll be many interesting features about Edgar Rice Burroughs and his creations. So spread the good word, and keep watch for the bigger and better TARZAN.”
Bigger? Well, yes. Better? Not exactly. In the earlier books, the covers alone were worth the price of the comic, but now the covers were not as enticing and many fans probably didn’t care for the older material. Manning reprints and various Congo Bill and Detective Chimp stories continued until #236, when the full-frame Kubert covers resumed. However, fans who might have thought the book was back to its original DC glory must’ve been shocked to look inside and discover that Joe Kubert was not there.
The Dum Dum in #236 was devoted to explaining what was happening to DC’s Tarzan. First, there was a letter from reader Vinc Ellis of Pueblo, Colorado, asking that the format be stabilized with Tarzan as the main feature and “no junk reprints.” Ellis wanted “an honest product, not just a gimmicked marketing package.” That editorial assistant Asherman chose to highlight the letter stems from his own revelation that there were other, similar complaints in the DC mailbag. Agreeing that the book had been through a number of changes, he went on to explain that comics publishing is “…not fully a labor of love,” and “Comics are part of the publishing business, and, as such, various ‘unorthodox attitudes’ are experimented from time to time.” As such, the current issue was back to normal size with a 25-cent price.
In the “Say it ain’t so, Joe” department, Asherman explains the change of artists on the interior story, illustrated (from a Kubert script) by Philippine artist Franc Reyes: “Because of pressing editorial duties, it is no longer possible for Joe Kubert to draw the TARZAN books. However, Joe will still retain the editorial reins, in addition to designing the graphics for the TARZAN books.”
The issue carried a full-page house ad for Kubert’s TOR with a “coming soon” announcement. And to ease the fans’ pain just a tad, he continued to turn in fabulous cover art through issue #249, and one more for good measure on issue #253.
There were more Burroughs adaptions, and Manning reprints; issue #237 was mostly Manning but with what appears to be a new Kubert splash. #238 was a 50-cent giant featuring Manning’s “Return to Pellucidar.” #240 proclaimed “First time adaption of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ last novel: The Castaways.” Kubert was still providing the layouts, but the art was by Reyes. With #243, the art was variously by Rudy Florese or the Redondo Studio.
Issue #250 began an adaption of Tarzan the Untamed. Now scripted by Gerry Conway, the book featured art by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and the Redondo Studio and a cover by Lopez and Ricardo Villagran. From this point on, covers were by Garcia-Lopez or Ernie Chua (Chan) except for the Kubert cover on
#253. There were Kubert stories in #252, 253, 257 and 258 (the final issue). The last published DC story was “The Renegades” by Kubert.
During this time, DC held the rights to the other Burroughs properties. While Kubert was concentrating on Tarzan, Joe Orlando was named editor of Korak, Son of Tarzan. Len Wein, and later Robert Kanigher handled the writing. The artwork was by Frank Thorne. Pellucidar and Carson of Venus (for the first time in comics) appeared in the first DC issue with Wein scripts and art by Alan Weiss and Mike Kaluta, respectively. Murphy Anderson drew the Korak stories in #52-56. There were fourteen issues with the numbering continued from the Gold Key series. The book was renamed Tarzan Family with issue #60.
DC also published an anthology title called Weird Worlds that lasted for ten issues. It included John Carter of Mars, brought over from Tarzan #209 and Pellucidar from Korak #46. Both features also ran in Tarzan Family. And one of Burroughs’ later (and most intriguing) novels, Beyond the Farthest Star, was serialized in Tarzan #212-218 and Tarzan Family #16.
In what was a special treat for Kubert fans, DC dedicated two of its Limited Collectors’ Edition treasury-sized books to Tarzan.
The first, #C-22, Fall 1973, represented Joe’s adaption of Tarzan of the Apes from #207-210, but with some differences. In the original printing, Kubert used a “framing sequence” of a safari, hired by a woman searching for her father. A fierce panther attacks them and Tarzan shows up to save the day. The safari leader says to the woman, “I’ve – heard tell of an ape man…but I never believed he actually existed!” He then proceeds to tell the origin story, sounding very much like the narrator in the opening paragraphs of the Burroughs novel. As the man’s story ends, Tarzan swoops down from the trees delivering the woman’s father to her. Perhaps for reasons of space, all that was eliminated from the reprint and a different, full-page splash was substituted. The issue also carried a neat feature on how to draw Tarzan, a Kubert biography, and a table-top diorama on the back cover – making one cringe to think they even suggested cutting this edition up.
The second LCE was #C-29, dated 1974, representing The Return of Tarzan from #219-223 – in the same form of the original publication. It was a spectacular 5-part story that showcased Burroughs’ tale of Opar, the near-sacrifice of Jane Porter, and the High Priestess La – and Kubert’s art in a form more easily appreciated. There wasn’t a lot of room for special features, but Kubert drew a gorgeous contents page, presented in glorious back and white, and there was a short article about SF writer Phillip Jose Farmer’s contention that Tarzan was a real person and was still alive. The back cover was yet another table-top diorama for those fans who had their scissors handy.
Each of the two LCEs was a nice package for a buck – and certainly more exciting and entertaining than some of the reprints we’d seen in the regular run of the title.
DC had put Tarzan fans through a plethora of format changes, price changes, and different creative teams. But from that “1st DC Issue” up until the 100-page Super Spectaculars, it had been a glorious time for Tarzan in comic books. The one disappointment in those early issues was, of course, the production values. With the Dark Horse release of Tarzan: The Joe Kubert Years, fans can now see the artwork in a high-quality presentation.
DC had taken Tarzan well into 1977. But it was time for a change of license, a new artist experienced at drawing barbarians, and a certain Rascally One who also had a great appreciation for the original stories.
The Marvel Age of Tarzan – or – Make Mine Mangani
Of all the Tarzan imitators, perhaps the best and certainly one of the earliest was David Rand also known as Ka-Zar. A thinly disguised version of the Burroughs concept, Rand was not raised by the Great Apes, but by lions. Credited to Bob Byrd, Ka-Zar’s original adventures were all contained in three issues of his own pulp magazine, starting in October 1936. The magazine was published by Martin Goodman, who would go on to be the publisher of Marvel Comics.
In fact Ka-Zar was also an early jungle hero in comics, appearing in Marvel Comics #1, October 1939, and Marvel Mystery Comics #2-5, December 1939 through March 1940. And then for years, the adventures of Ka-Zar went untold until Stan Lee, never one to forget a character with potential, revived him in 1965 in an X-Men story. In the now-legendary Savage Tales #1, May 1971, Roy Thomas explained the revival:
“In the heart of the steaming Antarctic, the mutant X-Men… discover a jungle that time forgot – a snarling sabretooth – and the tiger’s steel-muscled master. Ka-Zar, in his newest, his greatest incarnation. Story by one Stan Lee. Ka-Zar kicks around for a few years -- plays second fiddle to Spider-Man, Daredevil, even the X-Men again. He’s drawn by the best in comicdom: Neal Adams, John Romita, Jack Kirby, Gene Colan. Eventually, he gets his own half-a-book series. And now finally: the longest feature in the Premier issue of SAVAGE TALES. ”
Lee’s story, “The Night of the Looter,” was a barnburner. Outside the influence of the Comics Code, Lee was able to feature a beautiful female villain who used her own body as a weapon to defeat the blonde jungle lord. There are even some breast shots in silhouette or with strategically placed strands of hair.
But Ka-Zar, who referred to himself in third person much like Bob Dole, was having none of it. He rebuffed her sexual advances, explaining that he (like Tarzan) was jungle bred but had seen civilization and found it lacking. Wearing its liberal heart on its sleeve, the story explains that Ka-Zar could not condone the hatred of mankind, the polluting of the air and land, or hunting for sport. “I’ve known your civilization, and I spit upon it!” he growled. The femme fatale, Carla, ends up dead, nude, and floating face down in the swamp. “The looters are gone! But the jungle endures forever,” says Ka-Zar to Zabu as the story fades to black.
Stan Lee told an exciting story, and to illustrate it, he chose John Buscema, who would go on to draw more than 200 stories of Conan the Barbarian, and who would become a virtual replacement for Jack Kirby after his departure for DC. Buscema’s art, done in a wash, was dynamic and moved the story along with great action shots of dinosaurs, jungle savages, and tanks. With a little tweak here and there, it could have been a Tarzan story.
Fast forward to June 1997, and suddenly Buscema WAS doing Tarzan – the real thing this time! Marvel had done Ka-Zar complete with its Pellucidar-like lost world theme, and it had done Warrior of Mars – from the Gullivar Jones stories of Edwin Lester Arnold in its anthology title Creatures On the Loose #16-21 (possibly as a reaction to having lost the Burroughs license to DC).
But now, the license belonged to Marvel and Roy Thomas got his chance to script. Thomas decided to return to adaptions, and chose Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar to be the first story in the title, now renamed Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle.
In a text page in the first issue, he explained why he chose that tale, and told the readers that there are certain characters every writer wants a chance to script: “…I was more than pleased – I was ecstatic – when I learned that Marion Burroughs (daughter-in-law of the late, great ERB) and his grandson Danton Burroughs, who manage the master’s works, had requested that Big John Buscema and I be the team to handle Tarzan’s new illustrated adventures. This was based, we both presumed, on our six-year association with a dissimilar, yet vaguely related creation know as Conan the Barbarian.”
Thomas went on to explain the difficulties of handling the tales of two loin-clothed adventurers – and so, to keep Tarzan authentic – he returned to the novels and stories of ERB. However, except for a retelling of the origin in #2, Thomas intended to avoid retelling the same stories that other comics had recently done. He felt that The Jewels of Opar was the perfect story because it contains all the elements that have come to be associated with Tarzan.
As for his and Buscema’s approach to the character of Tarzan: “For the most part, we naturally prefer to let the writing and the art speak for itself. John and I like to think we see Tarzan, at least in large part, the way ERB himself saw him. He is a man of two worlds, equally at home in each – yet totally at home in neither. One moment, he is a cultured Englishman, heir to a peerage – the next, he is not merely an uncivilized savage, but a raging jungle beast, as fearsome as Kala, the she-ape who reared him.”
Fans may have wondered what kind of Tarzan Buscema would give them.
Thomas mentioned in that first issue that it was “fairly obvious” that Buscema was influenced by Hal Foster, the first great Tarzan artist. Indeed, but Buscema seemed to want to stay in the Kubert mold – with a muscular yet sleek ape-man and a lush jungle. In fact, Mark Evanier was quoted in Comics Interview as saying Buscema wanted to stay close to the Kubert version. Those fans that missed Kubert’s version could take comfort that Big John ‘s version was closer to Kubert’s than to Manning’s. It might not have been the case in Europe, where Manning was still king, but it was likely the right approach for fans in the United States.
The first issue gave us a dynamic Buscema cover of Tarzan battling a lion – and a more sedate pinup of Tarzan posed in the jungle.
Issue #2 was the “special origin issue and continued on “The Road to Opar.” The great Archie Goodwin was listed in the credits as “consulting editor.” The letters page entitled “Tarzan’s Jungle Drums” debuted with anticipated questions that might come from the fans such as: “How can you show, in 1977, with a clear conscience, a ‘hero’ who battles and slays lions, leopards, apes, etc.? Don’t you know these are all endangered species?” There’s nothing like being pro-active and nipping those still-to-be asked question in the bud!
Issue #3 introduced the High Priestess La with a cover blurb, and the credits informed us that Tony de Zuniga was now inking over Buscema’s pencils. There was also a bonus page of artwork showing Buscema’s early rendition of the ape-man, done as a demonstration of his approach to the character – presumably to show the folks at ERB, Inc.
The letter column in #4 carried the first reactions from fans to the premier issue – and, we learned several things from Roy Thomas. There had been “a torrent of letters and postcards” – and Roy and John had been “especially interested in readers’ first reaction to their premier outing on the ape-man because they had purposely done something a bit different from the usual ‘Marvel-type’ book and from what had been done before with Tarzan.” Roy explained that he and John had taken a more leisurely pacing to develop the feel of the strip rather than trying to squeeze in as many fights, recues and baddies as possible. He also revealed that Buscema had inked the first 2 and a half issues himself, relying on “good” drawing rather than “a lot of” drawing.
The letters were varied, with Stan Timmons of Lafayette, Indiana writing, “I really expected Conan up a tree. Well, I got Tarzan #1 and I had to scrap every nasty comment I had in mind.”
With the rigors of creating monthly comics, it’s hard to keep creative teams consistent, and by issue #7, Rudy Messina had joined Buscema for the artwork on the short story Tarzan Rescues the Moon. Issue #8 featured a pin-up entitled “Tarzan Battles Chulk” with the caption:
Proof positive, if any be needed, that Tarzan is Lord of the
Jungle – and Big John Buscema is one of the greatest
comic-book illustrators ever!
You’ll get no argument there. Refer back to that Ka-Zar story in Savage Tales #1 and just imagine Tarzan, handled in a black and white wash by Buscema!
Up next was “The God of Tarzan,” from Jungle Tales in Issue #9, now with Alfredo Alcala inking. #10 continued the Opar storyline, and concluded it in #11 with “The New York Tribe” assisting on the artwork. Issue #12 featured the inking of Rudy Messina with a pin-up by Buscema and Alcala. Issue #13 had an interesting pin-up. It was an alternate and unused version of the cover of #8 inked by Marvel newcomer Bill Black. The inking revolving door continued with #14 as Klaus Janson came on board.
With issue #15, former rock and roll journalist David (Anthony) Kraft took the helm of the scripting, while Buscema and Janson continued with the art. On the letters page, it was revealed that Roy had moved on to do Thor, and that “Dave the Dude” was brought into handle dialoguing and that he would soon take Tarzan to Pellucidar. The “Dude,” interestingly enough, went on to become the literary agent for the literary estate of pulp author Otis Adelbert Kline – a contemporary of Burroughs’ who also wrote stories about Mars, Venus and jungle adventures. (And with whom Burroughs MAY have had an ongoing rivalry!)
The original creative team was gone with issue #19, but there was still a Buscema on pencils – John’s younger brother, Sal. Janson continued to ink, but the team changed even more drastically with #20. Now, Kraft was plotting, Bill Mantlo was scripting and Sal Buscema was inked by Bob Hall.
Fans may have noticed a distinct change in style for the cover of Tarzan Lord of the Jungle #20. Up until this point, every Marvel issue had been penciled by John Buscema, with several being self-inked. A variety of other embellishers had been brought in up though #19: Dave Cockrum (#3); Pablo Marcos (#5); Alfredo Alcala (#9); Tony de Zuniga (#10, 13); Neal Adams (#11,12); Ernie Chan (#14); Josef Rubinstein (#15); Bob McLeod (#16, 18); Klaus Janson (#17); and Joe Sinnott (#19). Cockrum did the pencils on #20, with McLeod on inks.
Finishing out the cover credits, John Buscema was back for a few more covers with inker Bob McLeod (#21, 23, 24, 28); Big John penciled #22 and either he or Bob Hall did the inks; Rich Buckler and Bob McLeod (#25, 26, 27); and the final issue is in dispute. John or Sal, or possibly Bob Layton drew it – or maybe more than one of them did – with Bob McLeod inks.
Issue #21 had Rudy Nebres inking Sal Buscema, and #21 brought in Jim Mooney. Mantlo was, by now, getting full writing credit. Issue #23 had Pablo Marcos on inks; #24, 25, and 26 had Bob Hall; #27 and 28 had Ricardo Villamonte; and #29, the final Marvel issue, had P. Craig Russell on inks.
Unlike DC, Marvel had not put Tarzan fans through a multitude of format changes – but, like DC, it had not been able to keep the creative team stable through the run. Marvel had also done less with the other Burroughs properties, though it did publish twenty-eight issues of John Carter, Warlord of Mars.
Marvel also published three annuals. The first, dated 1977 featured an impressive cover by Big John, and two adaptions from Jungle Tales of Tarzan by Thomas, Buscema and inker Steve Gan. The 1978 edition had a mysterious cover by John Buscema and Bob Hall and a 33-page story by Mantlo, Sal Buscema and Fran Matera. The 1979 edition had a cover by Buckler and McLeod with another long Mantlo story inside. Sal Buscema and Ricardo Villamonte penciled and Joe Sinnott inked.
Like DC, Marvel’s Tarzan was hampered by the cheap paper and printing that all the companies used to keep the cover price down. Marvel had started the run at 30 cents and had seen it escalate a dime over the course of twenty-nine issues. But Marvel did publish one Tarzan edition with excellent production values. It was a Tarzan of the Apes one-shot published in a magazine format in 1983 as Marvel Super Special #29.
The script, by Sharman DiVono and Mark Evanier, was yet another adaption of the first Burroughs novel – this time with art by Dan Spiegle, who had previous experience on ERB properties at Western/Gold Key. This must have been a labor of love for Spiegle as his artwork is detailed with creative panel arrangements, full-page illustrations, and lush jungles. His characters carry emotion – see Kala the she-ape weeping over her dead balu – and his Tarzan is impressive, all the way from infant to jungle king. The final sequence of Tarzan in a battle to the death with the ape Kerchak ends with Spiegle’s full-page panel of the ape-man beating his chest in victory. The colors really popped in this edition, giving Spiegle an advantage that the Buscema brothers never had.
Front and back covers were done by the painter Charles Ren, who also did covers for the 2-issue limited series that reprinted the book in a regular comic book format in July and August 1984. By the way, Sharman DiVono is a science fiction novelist and short story writer who has published several stories of the Silver Surfer. She has also written Duck Tales for television.
So how did Marvel’s Tarzan stack up when compared to comic book versions that came before? Very well in the early going, but as the fans learned with Kubert and DC, it’s difficult to hang onto those writers and artists that we become accustomed to. When the writers, pencilers, and inkers shift from issue to issue, the quality will fluctuate.
In April 1983, in a piece in Comics Interview, Mark Evanier discussed the difficulties of pleasing everyone – including the foreign markets:
“... the whole Marvel deal was doomed from the start. ... The foreign publishers did not want adaptations. Roy Thomas felt they should do adaptations. They wanted the Russ Manning versions, but John Buscema wanted to make it as much like the Joe Kubert version as possible. Also, the foreign publishers needed stories in fifteen-page increments, because most of the books feature thirty pages of material and two pages of ads. Everything that made the books commercial in America, made them uncommercial overseas.”
Tarzan had clearly been a labor of love for Roy Thomas and John Buscema – and undoubtedly others at the House of Ideas as well. But as they have always done, the ERB properties moved on. The Marvel Age of Tarzan was over.
Tarzan in the 21st Century
Tarzan did not have a regular publisher after the Marvel run ended until Dark Horse took the license in July 1996. But Tarzan still showed up here and there, most notably in some excellent mini series from Malibu Comics. Dark Horse has published a regular series, and many mini series teaming Tarzan with other Burroughs characters, Batman, Superman, Catwoman – you name it – and two issues of Disney’s Tarzan. Alan Moore referenced him in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Most recently, Dynamite Entertainment has published Lord of the Jungle, with yet another adaption of the first Burroughs novel. And the Dark Horse Tarzan Archive series brings his adventures to a new generation.
We’re well into a new century with wonders once predicted by science fiction and comic book writers now a part of everyday life! And yet, there’s something about a boy, orphaned in the jungle, who becomes King of the Great Apes that still excites, still resonates. Even today, Tarzan is an icon, famous the world over. He is still the Lord of the Jungle, the King of All Media, and his stories will be told forever.
About the author:Lynn Woolley is a Texas-based author, morning host on KJCE Talk 1370 in Austin, and songwriter. He has been a columnist for the Dallas Morning News, currently writes for The Epoch Times, and has been published in Amazing Stories, Alter Ego, Amazing Heroes, Comic Book Marketplace, and Amazing World of DC Comics. Lynn is a lifelong Tarzan fan and has an extensive collection of Tarzan comics and associated collectibles. He has 5 books in print including his collection, “The Clock Tower and Other Stories.” A collection of mysteries, “Darker Secrets,” is scheduled to be published late this year. Follow his podcast at https://www.PlanetLogic.us. Email Lynn at email@example.com. Lynn Woolley
Written: August 17, 2013 – September 1, 2013
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