Tarzan in Marshland
John "Bridge" Martin
Originally published ERB-APA, Spring 2009
In ERBapa 101, just distributed a couple of weeks ago, I reviewed the first in the series of Jesse Marsh Tarzan Archives published by Dark Horse. Here's what I said.
My youthful introduction to Tarzan came from Lex Barker movies and the comic books. The first actual Tarzan book I ever saw was several years later when I came across Whitman's Tarzan and the Lost Safari in the children's book section of the local five and dime.
I bought Tarzan comics right along with my other favorites. I was kind of a Dell purist but as I grew up I began to gain an appreciation for DC's Superman and related titles.
My early comic books went the way of most comic books, read to pieces and disappearing over the years for one reason or another.
When I finally discovered the real Tarzan with the 60s paperbook boom, I became hooked. I still bought the comics, especially when Gold Key started to do versions of the actual stories, but I never had the yen to try to rebuild a collection of old Dells, though occasionally I would find one and add it to my collection. But they were not my main interest and, although Iíve amassed a few Dells, they have remained low on my priority list.
Now, however, I'm becoming reacquainted with them and finding a reborn appreciation for them.
This came about because of Dark Horse's latest publishing venture, putting the old Jesse Marsh-drawn Tarzans between hardbound covers and glorious dust jackets.
When I first heard about these, I decided I would not be buying them, mainly because of the $49 price (plus shipping). However, I learned that amazon.com was offering a deal where you could buy the book new for only $32.97 and, not only that, but their low cost was high enough to qualify for free shipping. At that price, I figured it was worth a gamble. I ordered it, got it, and, as soon as I saw it, I knew I had made the right decision. I have placed an advance order for the second volume, due out June 10.
The third and fourth volumes will feature Lex Barker covers and are due out Oct. 15 and Dec. 15, respectively, of this year.
Somebody out there must be buying these in order for Dark Horse to be planning further volumes. That's good!
The first volume reprints the two Dell four-color editions which preceded Tarzan No. 1.
The leadoff comic in this first volume is No. 134 in the Dell four-color series, a 52-page comic with the story, "Tarzan and the Devil Ogre".
In these early stories, Tarzan appears quite youthful while D'Arnot looks middle-aged. The first half of the whole book features stories with D'Arnot, while Jane and Boy show up in later issues.
I liked the inclusion of D'Arnot as kind of a sidekick for Tarzan. One can imagine them having such adventures as these.
In the first story, Tarzan is asked to lead an expedition for Doris Ramsay to search for her missing father. This annoys Captain Hardy, who was supposed to lead the group before Tarzan came along. In fact, it annoys Hardy so much that he gives a knife to a native named Mulo and tells him to stab Tarzan to death while he's sleeping. Mulo mistakenly goes for D'Arnot instead but the skinny Frenchman is more than a match for his would-be assassin. Later, Hardy is killed, off-stage, by a group of bad natives led by Zanaka. I thought the Hardy story line was kind of pointless: He's so mad at being demoted that he turns killer, and we never find out why he was so upset, other than simple jealousy. Dying off-stage is sort of anti-climactic as well.
In any case, the expedition pushes on and eventually comes to the lost city where Doris's father is found and where Tarzan also has to battle the Devil Ogre, an ape twice the size of a normal ape.
In the end, they all escape, thanks to an assist from Tantor and his fellow elephants, just like in the movies.
The next comic, four-color No. 161 (and, by the way, this vivid color collection includes the original covers), is "Tarzan and the Fires of Tohr". This cover is the same scene depicted on the jacket of the 256-slick page hardbound collection.
After helping out brunette Doris in the previous book, Tarzan teams up with blonde Ruth Barton and her Uncle, Major James Barton.
In the city of Tohr, they come across temperamental ruler Queen Ahtea who might either incinerate you on the fires of Tohr or marry you, depending on her mood at the moment.
Tarzan jumps into an arena in which Ukah, one who wasnít about to salute the queen, was to be killed by Toldo the lion. Instead, Tarzan kills Toldo and Ukah joins the club of Tarzan fans.
Eventually, Ahtea gets her just desserts and Ukah takes over as ruler of Tohr.
This comic contains two stories, the second one being "Tarzan and the Black Panther". The Black Panther is Sidi Ben Yemlik, an Arab slave trader, just like the ones we meet in the books. This time, instead of getting involved at the request of a white brunette or white blonde, Tarzan goes after the slave trader to help a black brunette. A white blonde, one Helen Robertson, shows up later, however.
In the first comic, the story starts on the inside front cover page and ends on the inside back cover page, with no ads at all. The back cover is a full-page poster of Tarzan in action, as are the back covers of all the comics in this volume.
"Fires of Tohr" has an inside front cover of Tarzanís Friends and inside back cover of Jungle Animals.
After that, issues 1-4 feature front and back inside covers of the ape-English dictionary, starting with "A" for "light." (Image left is from #2.)
One thing that I used to find a bit distracting in these old comics was the translation, where you'd see a line of ape language and underneath it the translation. Also, native talk was sometimes similarly translated. I still find it a bit cumbersome to have to sort through these things in dialogue balloons.
Tarzan No. 1 is the third whole comic, featuring the story "Tarzan and the White Savages of Vari".
This story has Tarzan, D'Arnot and Muviro; Tarzan eventually encounters a dark-haired white woman named Naranee, whom Tarzan restores to her throne in Vari.
In Tarzan No. 2, "Tarzan and the Captives of Thunder Valley", Tarzan leaves off helping grown women and instead helps a teen-age girl. Oh wait! That's not a girl! He just looked a little feminine the way he was drawn. He meets up with Tarzan and identifies himself as Tommy Newsome. I guess if he was a girl he would have spelled it "Tommie." In the end, Tommy gets reunited with his father.
In Tarzan No. 3, the ape-man's marital status is at last unveiled. The cover features Boy, looking somewhat fearfully down at pursuing natives, while riding on a smiling Tarzan's back as he swings on a vine. The story is "Tarzan and the Dwarfs of Didona" and on the first page of the story we meet Jane, although Ė if one wasn't already aware of her existencewe wouldn't know what her name is until page 12.
She is first identified, by Boy, as his mother, and then she identifies Tarzan as "your father." Tarzan shows up and greets "Jane" but doesn't call her anything until she goes into the jungle, looking for Boy, and Tarzan swings down from a tree and says, "Hello, Jane! What brings you so far from home?"
Boy is further identified as "the future Lord Greystoke." This story pretty much has to do with Tarzan taking Boy out and training him in the ways of the jungle. It also has some comic relief, with a great panel of a dwarf being splatted in the face with a well-aimed banana hurled by Tarzan.
Tarzan eventually rescues Boy, whom the Dwarfs plan to sacrifice, by getting hold of the Dwarf King's son and holding him hostage. When Tarzan and Boy escape on a rope bridge, the bridge is cut and Tarzan and his son make a daring leap into the water of the chasm below. Before long, there is a happy reunion back at the treehouse.
The final comic in this collection is "Tarzan and the Lone Hunter". The lone hunter is Om-at from the land of Pal-ul-don and he seeks his love, Pan-at-lee. Om-at refers to Tarzan as Tarzan Jad-Guru. In a flashback scene, we see a Pal-ul-don gryf.
Om-at and Pan-at-lee do not have tails as the Pal-ul-donians of ERB's book, Tarzan the Terrible, have, but instead Mr. Marsh has given them a distinctive look by giving them pointy ears, called cats' ears. Move over Mr. Spock!
Overall, these comic stories are very good and well worth a read. For those who yearn for additional adventures of Tarzan, they're there in the comics, with real ERB scenes and characters, in some instances, but a lot of differences, too, which seems somehow inevitable whenever Tarzan is presented in a different medium, whether it be film, illustration, or something else.