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Volume 0850
Tarzan Dell Comic Project
by Duane Adams

Dell #1  --  Tarzan the Magnificent
 a comparative study
Duane Adams
 Box 77 ~ Griswold, IA. 51535
e-mail -

ERBzine 2401: Dell No. 1:  White Savages of Vari

Dell #1

Brother N’kima suggested that I should perhaps consider doing a project with the Dell Tarzan comics since I have been on a quest to collect them for a number of years.  With no pressing projects requested from others I decided this was a terrific idea.  Because I don’t seem to be able to limit myself, I figured that the project should include summaries, analysis, and  a Brady/McWhorter type of glossary including characters, places, and things, etc.

 The task seemed formidable but was started with a fair amount of enthusiasm.  Wanting some continuity, I started in the earliest part of my collection which contained no missing issues.  After completing two issues it became apparent that this project really needed to be started from comic number one.  Thanks to the help of George McWhorter I find that is now possible.

 Many fans were introduced to Tarzan through the Dell comics before discovering the novels or the movies.  They find the nostalgia of the Dell comics quite appealing.  Others find the comics and Jesse Marsh’s art work quite appalling.  That subject will be left for future comments.

 Matthew H. Gore said in his article Tarzan of the Comics published in “Comic Book Marketplace” (#42), “...the first issue of Tarzan was similar to Tarzan the Magnificent ...”  From that genesis I decided to see how similar the two were.  This article will concern itself with a comparison of Tarzan Dell  #1 and Tarzan the Magnificent.

The entire comic and novel are not summarized here.  Only areas of similarity between the two works are included.  A straight font is used for the Dell comic summary and an italic font for the summary of the novel.


The Dell comic puts Tarzan in the company of Paul d’Arnot and the Waziri chief, Muviro.
The novel has the lone figure of Tarzan finding a message from a Lord Mountford telling of a huge diamond, the Gonfal, and of the savage Kaji women warriors.

The comic begins the story with a dying man, Walter Paige.
Tarzan later comes upon a man named Stanley Wood, an American travel writer, who has been looking for the lost Mountford safari.  He found him dying and telling of a powerful magician of the Kaji known as Mafka.

Walter Paige and his brother were in the area purposely searching for the mysterious mines of Muata Yamvo.
Lord Mountford and company came accidentally to the area.

The Paiges were captured by white savage men warriors of Vari, who live in a secret valley.  Walter Paige had befriended Naranee, the queen, who has been imprisoned.  Walter escapes and tells his story to Tarzan and company before he dies.
Wood is captured by the Kaji women warriors who live on a high plateau.  He falls in love with the queen, Gonfala, who later helps him escape.  Wood lives.  (In the novel the warriors are women who have a black heritage and will mate only with white men for some unknown reason.  They have bred with white men so long that they appear to be white.)

The Varis are ruled by a king, once a high priest, named Tomara.  Tomara has imprisoned Naranee, the queen.  Tomara has no mysterious powers.  Tomara rules out of fear.  The dying Paige gives Tarzan a crocodile ring to identify himself to Naranee as a friend.  Muviro tells of the mines and of the Vari people with their crocodile god.
The Kaji are ruled by Mafka, a powerful magician who can bend people’s wills when he is touching the Gonfal, the great diamond of the Kaji.  The power is so great that he can exert the mind control for miles.  Mafka rules out of fear.  Mafka uses the Gonfala, the queen, as a figure head.

Tarzan sends Muviro for Waziri warriors as he and Paul go to find the secret entrance to the valley.  D’Arnot finds the entrance to the valley accidentally, and they enter.  Tarzan and d’Arnot are surrounded and captured by the white savages of Vari, led by Kroog.  They speak a language which is a mixture of Ushati and Ga.  Tarzan understands it
Tarzan has to carry Wood as he is pulled telepathically towards the Kaji.  Wood tells Tarzan of a second tribe known as the Zuli.  They are controlled by a magician named Woora, the twin brother of Mafka.  The fetish of power of the Zuli is a great emerald.  Wood escapes when Tarzan sleeps.  Tarzan follows him.  He kills a leopard who is stalking him.  As he sleeps once more, Tarzan is surrounded and captured by the Zuli led by Lord, an English prisoner of the Zuli.  They speak Galla intermixed with other languages.  Tarzan understands it.

Tarzan and Paul are escorted toward the city.  They are told that they will be given to Ma-amu.  They don’t know who or what Ma-amu is.  On the way to the city Kroog is attacked by a leopard.  Tarzan kills the leopard with his knife thus gaining Kroog’s friendship.  As they approach the city, d’Arnot comments on the medieval look of the city.  They see Ma-amu, the huge crocodile god of the Vari.
 Thinking Tarzan is Kaji, the Zuli have him disarmed and hands tied.  He is told that he will probably be fed to the lions.  The city appears to be ancient possibly built by crusaders.

Tarzan and d’Arnot are brought before King Tomara.  The withered old king is skin and bones.  He is dressed in a loincloth and has a headpiece of horns.  He sits on a throne which has skulls along the top of the backrest.  The room has shields and abstract  rectangles designs on the walls.
Tarzan is brought before Woora.  The withered old magician is ‘parchment over bones.’ He is naked except for a loincloth.  The throne room displays trophies  from many looted safaris.  There is a frieze of human heads around the room.

Tomara asks why they are in Vari.  Tarzan explains that they are looking for Randolph Paige.  The king asks why they think he is here.  Tarzan tells him the story of the dying Walter Paige.  Tomara flies into a rage when he finds out that Kroog lied about Walter Paige’s death.  Kroog, d’Arnot, and Tarzan have their weapons taken from them and are thrown into a prison.
Woora discovers that Tarzan is not Kaji.  The magician flies into a rage, has Lord’s weapons taken from him, and throws him in prison.  Woora asks Tarzan why he is here.  Tarzan tells him he is searching for a lost person.  The magician asks why he think he is here.  Tarzan says he doesn’t think he is here but in Kaji.  Woora suspects trickery from Mafka and has Tarzan thrown in prison with Lord.  Both men are set to die.

Tarzan apologizes to Kroog for his imprisonment.  Kroog says it was just a matter of time anyway.  King Varo had died and the high priest Tomara had made himself king.  He imprisoned Varo’s daughter, Naranee, the queen.  Many hate Tomara and are loyal to the queen making them susceptible to imprisonment.  Kroog is loyal to Naranee.
Tarzan apologizes to Lord for his imprisonment.  Lord says it was just a matter of time before it would have happened anyway.  Woora fears a plot by Lord and others to assassinate him and escape with the emerald.

Tarzan decides to escape through the barred window which has a black leopard in the compound below.  Tarzan rips out the entire framed bars and breaks up the frame. Paul and Kroog fear the noise will alert the guard as Tarzan distributes the wood bars to everyone for clubs.  No guards come.
The prison room has a window of wood bars with a black panther in the compound below.  Tarzan rips the entire barred frame from the window.  Lord questions that the noise will bring the guards -- it doesn’t.  Tarzan tears apart the bars to be used as clubs.

Tarzan intends to capture Tomara whose room is on the other side of the compound through an open window.  When sheeta is asleep Tarzan enters the compound.  Agu, the black panther, wakens and attacks.  Tarzan kills it with his club.  Tomara was watching through his window.
Tarzan intends to kill Woora.  The magician’s quarters are through an open window on the other side of the compound.  Tarzan knows the panther is asleep as he enters the compound.  The panther awakes and attacks.  Tarzan kills it with his club.  Woora was watching through his window.

Tarzan enters Tomara’s empty quarters.  He follows the scent to the next room where he is captured in a rawhide net.  Tomara enters and says Tarzan will die a slow death tomorrow.  He leaves with Tarzan still hanging in the net.  Tarzan uses the club to loosen the rawhide and then breaks it with his bare hands.
Tarzan catches the scent of Woora and sees a door closing.  He follows Woora’s scent to the next room.  Tarzan feels the cords on the floor, but it is too late.  He is caught in a net of rawhide.  Woora enters and says Tarzan will die many deaths.  Woora attempts to blind Tarzan with a red hot iron rod.  Tarzan fends off the attacks with his arms and hands.  Woora raps Tarzan in a rope to nullify his defenses.  Again he tries to blind Tarzan.  Lord secretly climbs through the window and kills Woora with the club.

With guards now placed outside the door and window Tarzan examines the fireplace.  He discovers a ledge up the chimney which leads to a secret passageway.  He follows the corridor to another fireplace entrance.
Tarzan leaves Zuli but on his way to Kaji, falls in a leopard pit.  He is captured by Kaji warriors, who speak a mixture of many languages.  Tarzan is able to understand them.  He is taken to the Kaji city.  A city which has been a long time in building.  Mafka imprisons Tarzan in a room with a fireplace.  Tarzan suspects the fireplace has never been used.  Upon inspection he finds a ledge which leads to a secret corridor.  He follows it to another fireplace entrance.

Smelling the scent of a woman Tarzan enters the room noiselessly and finds the dark haired Naranee in a bolted room.  He says, “Do not be afraid.  I am a friend.  I will not harm you.”
Tarzan listen and hears nothing but detects the scent of a woman.  He enters without a noise to discover the golden haired Gonfala in a bolted room.  He says, “Don’t be afraid.  I’m not here to harm you.”

Naranee wants to know how he entered the locked room.  Tarzan tells her via the fireplace, shows her the gimla ring (her father’s ring), and tells her his story.
Gonfala wants to know how he entered a locked room.  Tarzan tells her nothing.

(Side note: Everyone in Kaji is apparently ignorant of the secret passageways.)

Tarzan enlists Naranee’s aid in freeing his friends.  They leave via the fireplace with a torch and discover the prisoners.  They gain the help of Kroog and his fellow prisoners.  Tarzan saves Paul and Randolph from the crocodile.  They battle the Vari as the Waziri come to the rescue.  Tomara flees to his throne room.  Tarzan enters via the fireplace and captures Tomara, who is banished.  Naranee is restored to the throne and presents Tarzan with her father’s ring.
Tarzan enlists Gonfala’s aid in rescuing Wood.  The queen changes her attitude and calls the guards.  Tarzan returns to his cell.  He is brought before Mafka and then returned to his cell.  Wood and others are put in his cell.  Tarzan uses the secret passageway to gain ingress to Mafka’s sleeping quarters.  He confiscates the jewel, ties up Mafka, and turns him over to the Kaji.  The Kaji rip Mafka to shreds as Tarzan leaves to adventure through the second half of the novel.

  Yes, the first original comic book series of Tarzan borrows many elements from the first half of Tarzan the Magnificent.   But it is certainly not a slave to the novel.  The novel is nearly two different stories with a connecting middle.

The Novel:  The first part of the novel deals with the sister cities of Zuli and Kaji.  Each are ruled by one of the twin evil magicians with tremendous powers that stem from their fetish gem -- the Great Emerald of the Zuli and the diamond Gonfal of the Kaji.  The power of the gems is the crux of the story that drives characters to do what they do out of fear, greed, and/or lust for power.

One basic subplot is the burning desire of the warrior women to mate with white males.  They plunder safaris in the area, killing the blacks and taking the whites as prisoners.  The native population in the surrounding area is quite aware of this problem, and this is why they always desert safaris as they approach this region.  Stanley Wood’s party is there searching for the Mountford party missing twenty years earlier.

The second subplot involves Gonfala, the queen of the Kaji.  She obviously is the daughter of the Mountford’s.  Burroughs never does get around to revealing that information. The driving love that Stanley Wood has for the Gonfala and her love/rejection of him is typical of Burroughs.

 The connecting middle is a long chase.  Gonfala is the driving force of the middle portion of the novel.  After Tarzan manages to be the ultimate reason for the death of the twin magicians even though he does not personally kill them, everyone leaves for civilization with the gems.  During the night Troll and Spike, the two nefarious hunters with the Wood safari, make off with the gems.  After discovering that they can’t make the gems work as the magicians did, they decide that Gonfala must have something to do with the gem’s power.  They capture her, and the chase is on for many a chapter.

 In the last part of the novel the characters and gems become secondary to Tarzan in the cities of Cathne and Athne.  The characters and gems are the reason Tarzan is there, but the story really now revolves around what Tarzan does in the two cities.  In Cathne Tarzan is welcomed, thrown in prison, overthrows the ruler, and has a new, just ruler empowered.  In Athne, Tarzan slips into the city, is captured, and escapes.  While being pursued by the Athenians, the Cathnenians come to the rescue.  After the battle, the old government of Athne is restored.  The Waziri arrive after the battle is over.  Tarzan, Gonfala, and Wood head for home.

The Comic:  In the comic Tarzan and Paul d’Arnot go to Vari to rescue Randolph Paige.  They are captured.  Tarzan escapes, is recaptured and escapes again.  He starts a revolution and with the help of the Waziri it is quickly resolved as he restores Naranee, the queen, to the throne.

 The Dell comic doesn’t deal with many of the basic issues of the novel.  There is only one city ruled by a witch doctor with no mysterious powers and no magical gem stone.  They are hidden in a secret valley.  The only valley mentioned in the novel is about two-thirds the way through the novel when Troll and Spike are searching for an “elusive valley” where they think they can set themselves up as rulers/gods.

The warriors are men here.  There doesn’t seem to be any women around except the queen, Naranee.  She falls in love with no one and no one falls in love with her.

There are no great chase sequences.

And there is no references to the cities of Cathne or Athne.

So what do we have that is similar?  A number of minor incidents from the first half of the novel.

  • 1. same basic start in finding an escaped, dying man;
  • 2. Tarzan killing a leopard (a major incident in the comic as it makes Kroog Tarzan’s friend - a minor importance in the novel as it is mentioned in passing);
  • 3. The ruler King Tomara/Woora being upset with his henchman Kroog/Lord and having him thrown in prison with Tarzan;
  • 4. Tarzan ripping out the barred window, killing the black panther, slipping into King Tomara/Woora’s room, following his scent, and being captured in a rawhide net.  (The noticeable difference here is that in the novel Woora’s magical power keeps the panther from entering his open window.  In the comic there is nothing to prevent the panther from entering the window and feasting on King Tomara);
  • 5. The discovery of the secret passageway in the fireplace;
  • 6. The discovery of more secret passageways which lead to a multitude of other fireplaces; and
  • 7. Tarzan entering one of these secret passageways to capture King Tomara/Mafka. (And maybe
  • 8. The restoring of an overthrown ruler as in Naranee/Zygo, King of Athne.)
  • To say that the comic is based on the novel Tarzan the Magnificent is a great misnomer.  I believe that it comes from the fact that the writer lifted the sequence of the ruler becoming upset with his henchman through Tarzan’s capture in the rawhide net exactly from the novel.  The secret fireplace corridors are also taken directly from the book but used differently in the comics.  The essence of the respective stories are different.  I think that the writer (mostly likely Gaylord Du Bois), in this first Tarzan comic, of what would become a very long running series, wanted to have the same flavor of a Burroughs novel so he simply borrowed a couple of incidents to give the comic an authentic Burroughs feel.  Certainly one should not fault him for that decision.


    Duane Adams Intro and Bio
    Adams Candid Photo Gallery
    Tarzan Comics Summaries
    by Duane Adams
    1479 Dell Overview ~ All Titles
    0847 Duane Adams Biblio-Pro-Phile
    0789 Tarzan Murray Comics Australia
    0659 Fires of Tohr comic / OTR
    0850 Dell #1 Comparative Study
    1551 Dell Tarzan Kill Tally
    1529 Dell Tarzan 4-Colour 1947
    0851 Dell Comics 1-10 Summaries
    0852 Dell Comics 11-20 Summaries
    1478 Tarzan Dells: 21-30
    1552 Dell Tarzan Summaries 31-40
    1553 Dell Tarzan Summaries 41-50
    1569 Dell Tarzan Summaries 51-60
    1571 Dell Tarzan Summaries 61-70
    1572 Dell Tarzan Summaries 71-80
    1573 Dell Tarzan Summaries 81-90
    1574 Dell Tarzan Summaries 91-100
    1575 Dell Tarzan Summaries 101-110
    1576 Dell Tarzan Summaries 111-120
    1577 Tarzan Summaries 121-131
    1566 Dell Tarzan Annuals 1-3.
    1567 Dell Tarzan Annuals 4-7
    1596 Dell Tarzan Annuals  8-10
    1597 Dell Language Banks
    1595 Dell Places: A-F | G-L | M-R | S-Z
    1598 Dell Things: A-E |F-L | M-R | S-Z
    1690 Dell People/Animals A-Z
    Duane Adams Art Gallery
    Tarzan and the Fires of Tohr:
    Radio Drama / Dell Comic Comparison
    Tarzan and the Fires of Tohr
    Radio Serial Summary Eps.1-18
    Tarzan and the Fires of Tohr 
    Radio Serial Summary Eps.19-39
    Duane Adams Presents 
    Murray Tarzan Comics
    Moon Maid Glossary
    G.T. McWhorter | Duane Adams
    Burroughs Biblio-Pro-Phile 
    Honour Roll

    Volume 0850

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