Tarzan is a property nobody is thinking about these days. With Marvel and DC dueling at the theaters and superheroes more popular than ever, you’d think poor Tarzan might be able to catch a break. Consider he was basically the first superhero—the man could talk to animals for crying out loud—why not go back to our roots and enjoy the classics? With Titan releasing a collection of the classic comics, is it good?
Tarzan: In The City of Gold Vol. 1 (Titan Books)
This is a big book at 13 inches by 10 inches which is due to the original newspaper strips running the size of a full page. The comic is rather square, but the layouts differ depending on the story. This is slightly different from the Flash Gordon book I reviewed last year, which was wider, but also very consistent in its layouts. The quality is just as high and it’s an exceptionally designed book from cover to afterword. The rest of course, is an exact copy of the Tarzan comics we’re really digging in deep to read.
These strips were written by Don Garden, but to be honest the real reason anyone will be interested in this series is due to Burne Hogarth’s art. His style isn’t quite what Alex Raymond produced in Flash Gordon but the art is strong when it comes to drawing animals and jungle backgrounds. He has a knack for making every panel seem like a dangerous and scary place. Even the trees are spiked and foreboding, which makes the stakes for Tarzan all the more threatening. The man ended up opening a visual arts school, which you learn about in the opening pages, so you’re in good hands when it comes to the art.
The cookeyer pages are the best.
This collection isn’t necessarily of the very first Tarzan strips, but instead we go back to 1937 when Burne Hogarth took over from Hal Foster. The book offers a full history of how Burne left the book, came back, then left again only to draw graphic novels of Tarzan in the 70’s. It’s an interesting perspective to see the successful career he ended up having, and then to be able to dive into some of his earliest work and see the man develop his style.
I already mentioned the writing isn’t why you’d open this book up, because boy is it repetitive and simple. Clearly the writing was all about resolving the previous cliffhanger, dropping Tarzan into a threatening situation, then ending the page with a cliffhanger. It’s interesting to see the formula on the page, and certainly you can get through five pages or so and remain interested, but eventually you’ll grow tired of the formulaic nature. Considering most of the book is made up of these pages you’ll either need to be interested in drawing or a huge Tarzan fan to read them all. You simply can’t be entertained enough to keep turning the pages. There is an interesting altercation between Tarzan and some cowboys later on in the book, which was just zany enough to capture my interest, but for the most part these stories are skippable.
Incredible pages of art inside.
Is It Good?
This is a good selection of comics from Burne’s career and it’s rather extensive. The matter at hand though is, are you interested in reading them for the right reasons? If you’re a comic fan but not a Tarzan fan, or a comic fan that only cares about writing you might want to stay away. Otherwise this collection is for you.
Grab Tarzan: In the City of Gold Vol. 1 on Amazon or wherever books are sold.