Tantor Trumpets - by Ken Webber
ERB-APA #82 SUMMER 2004
KEN (TANTOR) WEBBER
THE TARZAN SUNDAY STRIPS - THE JOHN CELARDO YEARS – Part One
After assisting his friend, Bob Lubbers on the final few weeks of the lost Egyptian race story, John Celardo took over the Sunday Tarzan strip, signing his first page on February 28, 1958 with strip # 1199. Bob and John had worked in comics together beginning at Fiction House and later freelancing with fellow artist and golfing buddy, Stan Drake. John drew many fine covers for FH’s Jungle comic displaying a gift for drawing animals and dynamic composition. This ability caught the eye of United Features Syndicate when they were looking to replace Bob Lubbers and they signed John Celardo as their new artist. It was an assignment that would last for fourteen years. He would team with two writers, Dick Van Buren, who had been Lubbers’ writer and Bill Elliot, before taking over both the writing and art chores single-handedly to produce his best work on the Sunday Tarzan strip.
On a personal note, Celardo’s Sunday strip was my first exposure to Tarzan as a grade school boy. I had an elderly aunt, whose own children were raised. Wanting to have something to occupy me on my family’s semi-annual visits, she would clip and save the daily strips from the hometown paper and the Sunday comic sections for me to read. This stack of strips kept me occupied for hours on end reading and then redrawing my favorite scenes from Li’l Abner, Buz Sawyer, Abbie‘n Slats, Tarzan and Red Ryder (she knew Fred Harmon, Red Ryder’s creator, as a close friend and that was where her love of the strips originated…which it appears that she passed on to me.) When I obtained this present treasure drove of Tarzan Sunday strips, it was with great delight I revisited these stories that first kindled my interest in Tarzan years before I would find and read my first ERB book. Thank you, Aunt Naomi!!
As stated before, John Celardo assisted Bob Lubbers on the final few Sundays of Bob’s final story and then his first new story with his art began on March 21, 1954, and that date marked the beginning of the 24th year of the strip.
3/21/1954, #1202 – 7/4, #1217 ~
Tarzan is drawn to the sound of a Dum Dum to learn that an ape tribe has had their tribal leader, Goyat, captured by poachers. Tarzan goes to investigate and finds a cruel white man, Slug Striper and a partner forcing a local village to help them trap animals. Tarzan is warned off at gunpoint but quickly sneaks back into camp and releases the animals. The animals run amuck in the village until the ape and Tarzan draw them off. The natives capture Tarzan, but Goyat escapes and almost affects Tarzan’s rescue. Striper challenges Tarzan to a duel, gun vs. bow and arrow. Striper cheats and the quick actions of Goyat and his tribe rescue Tarzan and Tarzan kills Striper. The grateful natives and the other white man plead for mercy and Tarzan leaves with the wrongs righted and the jungle in peace.
Celardo shows his ability to draw animals and displays real comfort with all of the trappings of the strip. Van Buren continues with his tiring plot device of having Tarzan captured on a regular basis. In this story Tarzan needs rescuing numerous times which is further out of character. Art is a solid B+ and the story a C-.
7/11, #1218 - 10-3, #1230 ~
In a distant gentlemen’s social club a seasoned adventurer baits his nephew and a friend into a challenge of surviving for a month in Africa’s jungle. They enthusiastically take the bait and are parachuted in for their test of manhood. But the uncle has no intention of returning for the young men as agreed. For as soon as his nephew dies, the uncle will inherit the family fortune. Tarzan rescues the men from a panther and after hearing their story, quickly surmises the uncle’s plot. Days pass as Tarzan aids them to making the coast. Meanwhile the uncle has returned to verify their deaths and cons his way into a place of power with the local native tribe. The tribe finds and captures the jungle trio and Uncle Shaw tells them that they will be sacrificed to the local terror, a monstrous sea serpent. The nephew’s friend turns traitor to save his own hide by convincing the uncle that an unbiased witness would be a real plus in the uncle’s report to authorities. The next morning the nephew is tossed off a cliff for the monster, but Tarzan grabs a spear and leaps on the beast’s back and kills it. The tables are turned and the villains flee. The uncle disappears into the jungle and traitorous friend makes it to the plane. Before he can get airborne, Tarzan and the nephew manage to get into the fuselage. In the ensuing fight Tarzan hurls the villain from the plane. The grateful nephew takes control, lands to let Tarzan depart and then flies back to civilization.
As wild as the story is, I have to give it to Van Buren in that there is excitement every Sunday and the story moves rapidly from action to action. The problem is that the story itself is pretty implausible and some extra development would help. For instance, what was the uncle’s fate? Guess who was easily captured again. It is up to the artist to flesh out the melodramatic shortcomings, which Celardo manages to do in solid fashion. The story is a C- and the art a B+.
10-10, #1231 – 1-2-1955, #1243 ~
Tarzan is tracking an antelope when its tracks just suddenly disappear. Natives ambush him and take him captive to their village. A village elder remembers Tarzan and explains the village’s problem. Many of their young men have just vanished into thin air. Tarzan takes up the search to discover that natives are being lassoed from a helicopter. Two white men on foot capture Tarzan and take him to where natives are being used as slave labor to build a railroad line. The overseer has also confiscated the local copper mine owned by a Mr. Ogden (Hmmm!!??) and has threatened his daughter to keep him in line. Tarzan leads a revolt among the miners that night, vanquishes the enemy and then he rescues the girl and kills the overseer.
As cheap as native labor is, some men are just too greedy. Tarzan gets captured twice but he is learning how to escape just as easily. The plot is interesting but a fresh idea made with the same recipe seems bland. Story gets a C- and the art is a B+ again.
1-9-1955, #1244 – 2-20, #1250 ~
Tarzan investigates when he discovers wildlife fleeing a jungle area. He finds a pygmy village gripped in terror and on the point of starvation from the lack of game. A monstrously large mutated black panther has scared off the game and now seeks his food supply at the village. Tarzan tracks the mutant cat, devises a trap with a giant spear and with the help of the natives baits the cat and kills it.
This story resonated with me over the years. It had a touch of King Kong and then Celardo’s ability to draw a black panther really struck me then as it does now. The story is a good tale and, if anything is disappointing, it is that the danger is resolved too quickly with no extra development or plot twists. I will give both art and story a firm A-.
2-27, #1251 – 5-15-, #1262~
Tarzan investigates a war between a native village and a band of great apes. He soon discovers a white men’s camp and ape disguises that the men have been wearing to terrorize the village. The men enter the tent and with Tarzan held at gunpoint, they brag that they stole diamonds and but then inadvertently buried them in the apes ceremonial arena. So they have come up with a plot to have the natives drive off the apes. Tarzan tries to battle his way out of the tent but is shot and the thieves drag his body out and quickly dig a grave and dump him in it. A great ape investigates and drags Tarzan to safety. Tarzan shakes off the slight head wound and the two take to the trees in pursuit of the villains. They quickly overtake them as the men have joined a small hunting party. The ape pursues and kills them in the jungle. The diamonds are found and Tarzan entrusts the white hunter to return them to the mine owner.
Celardo does some nice work with the apes, vine swinging, and some very dramatic panel layouts. The story is smoothly written but then a rewrite usually can be better. It seems that Van Buren already used this story years ago in the daily strip when Lubbers was the artist. It is a shortcut that he will now repeat numerously. Was this spotted at the syndicate and were story reruns an acceptable writing practice? Did the reading public spot this ploy? Is this lazy or what?
Van Buren was a writer with little ambition beyond putting some action on every Sunday page. There is no character development, fidelity to ERB or use of the many wonderful canonical elements. He rarely showed much originality, let alone logic. The apeman is a wandering cardboard jungle man with an uncanny knack of being captured constantly. The natives are helpless victims incapable of answering the challenge of the environment that they live in. The repetition of the same tired plot devices (let alone whole stories!) is boring and showed little creativity on his behalf.
John Celardo drew a stern and sturdy, lithely muscled Tarzan. His anatomy, verdant jungle and animals especially are beautifully rendered. Whereas Lubbers used dramatic body twists and flowing lines in his design, Celardo’s style is straight and solid. His panel layouts are dramatically staged but he did not vary from a blocked horizontal and vertical plane often. For all his craftsmanship, it gave stiffness to his art, especially in his later Tarzan work. He would always give his attention and tighter detail to the daily strip and let the color add the artistic depth to the Sunday page. But he was always better than the stories that he was asked to illustrate. He manfully tried to put some energy into some lackluster scripts. Occasionally there would be good material to work with, but not on a regular basis.
I’ll cover the other half of the Van Buren and John Celardo strips in the next ERB-APA. We’ll meet some women heroines and villainesses, which were mainstays in the Lubber years but strangely absent thus far in the Celardo stories.
(There is an important historical fact that I had not mentioned in the first segment of this look at the Tarzan Sunday strips drawn by John Celardo. In 1948, Bob Lubbers, Stan Drake and John Celardo left Fiction House Comics and began doing freelance work. In 1947 Burne Hogarth and a partner, Silas Rhodes, had co-founded the School of Visual Arts and organizing the curriculum was taking much of Hogarth’s time. Celardo, on the strength of his Kaanga comic work, was hired to assist Hogarth on the Tarzan Sunday strip and was responsible for much of the pencils for the strip in 1948, which Hogarth then inked. So John had previous experience on the strip prior to his own tenure.)
5-15-1955 #1262~8-21-1955 #1276_
When a leopard attacks Tarzan on a mountain trail, the ledge gives way and they both fall into the valley below. Luckily, Tarzan lands in a deep pool of water, and upon recovering he begins to search for a path out of the canyon.
Suddenly he is confronted by a medieval red knight on horseback and is knocked out by the flat of his sword and left for dead. When Tarzan revives, he takes to the trees to pursue his new foe. Instead he rescues a young knight, Sir Roger from an attack by a black panther. Sir Roger had been on a mission to track down the Red Knight who was the leader of a conspiracy against Albert, the King of the lost valley. Tarzan decides to ally himself with Roger and becomes his squire and begins his training for knighthood, acquiring skills in armor with sword, ball and chain and jousting. From King Albert, the apeman learns they are descendents of crusaders who fled to this valley seeking peace.
A jousting tournament is announced but Sir Roger takes ill and when he can’t compete, Tarzan dons the knight’s armor and wins the event. His identity is revealed at the award banquet and the King knights Tarzan as his new champion. Suddenly the Red Knight’s brigands storm the castle. Tarzan convinces the King to call for a challenge of champions to settle the war by personal combat and soon Tarzan meets the Red Knight on the jousting field. After a fierce combat Tarzan kills the Red Knight, who is revealed to be none other than Sir Roger. Now that his service is over, Tarzan is shown to the hidden route out of the valley in appreciation.
The influence of Prince Valiant is readily apparent. The characters, costumes and set designs are all lifted from Hal Foster’s strip. The story is a thinly abridged version of the popular Prince Valiant movie that had been in theaters just a few months previously. Had not ERB himself written Tarzan into a lost medieval valley and his heroic nobility Tarzan is showcased well in that venue. I give them a solid B for both story and art.
Once back in the familiar jungle Tarzan goes to the help of a tall blond savage jungle girl that has been attacked by a gorilla. The girl’s spear thrust helps slay the monster. In the language of the apes the girl, Tawni, explains that as a child she fled her evil father, an Arab sheik and was adopted by Cheeka and his band of baboons. Having much in common, the new jungle companions spend an idyllic time of adventure swinging through the trees and riding Tantor. But their G-rated (?) dating fun cannot last, and the action ensues when Tarzan has to save Cheeka from a trapper’s cage. But local natives have spotted the girl during that rescue and realize that she must be the sheik’s lost daughter and in force they attack and take her for the reward that her return will bring. When the overcome Tarzan regains his senses, he gathers the baboons and Tantor as his aides and pursues. Back at the village, the white hunter buys the girl from the natives and flees into the jungle. The beasts of Tarzan attack the village but are too late to save the girl. Learning what has happened, Tarzan takes to the trees alone and quickly overtakes the duo. But while he is battling the hunter, a band of Arabs led by the sheik attack and capture the trio. In captivity at the Arab compound Tarzan learns that the hunter is really Sam, a legionnaire, who has been assigned by his commander to track down his missing daughter, Eleanor Blaine, who is the true identity of the wild jungle goddess. The men work into the night to free themselves and are in time to save the girl from a fate worse than death at the hands of a brutal guard. But the camp is aroused and Tarzan sacrifices himself to let the girl and hunter escape into the night. The furious Sheik orders Tarzan tied to a stake and kindling is quickly gathered and set afire. Tarzan’s cry for help is heard by Tantor, who wildly crashes into the compound, uproots Tarzan and the stake, and stomps over the Sheik as he flees with his prize into the jungle. Sam and Tawni find the elephant and his charge in a clearing and free the apeman. At morning light Sam begins the journey to take Tawni/Eleanor back to civilization.
The story lifts many elements directly from ERB’s own Son of Tarzan: the little girl mistreated by a cruel Arab, the adventures of an idyllic jungle couple, and Tantor rescuing the hero from a burning death at the stake. This story also borrows from popular culture as Tawni is based upon the TV heroine, Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. Celardo’s likeness of her is striking and for this adventure, he really outdid himself with the artwork, often using evocative shading and colors to elevate the mood of the story. This is the first heroine in the strip that John gets to draw and he seemed to enjoy it.
The story of a mysterious jungle girl works nicely. Perhaps a girl lost for years to be so popularly sought by so many all at once is a real reach. Van Buren borrows elements from an earlier story he wrote for Lubbers as well as from the Master. And again Tarzan is overcome and bounces back to fight again. Van Buren should have considered changing his name to Timex of the Jungle as the hero he writes for us can take a licking and keep on ticking. But his final capture by the Arabs is lifted from ERB and I can’t complain loudly about that incident. I give a rare A to both writer and artist.
Tarzan encounters a village of Midians, descendents of a tribe from the Holy Land. An evil white man, who holds the sovereign’s daughter, Jezebel, a prisoner on his yacht in the harbor, coerces the good King Abraham into making Tarzan a prisoner. Tarzan is put in a holding pit to await being sacrificed where he meets another prisoner, Lot, who explains that the white hunter’s real agenda is to steal the village’s religious icon, a white lifelike statue of a beautiful woman. Tarzan and Lot are tossed into a pit but land in water and soon free themselves and return to the village just as the white man’s crew have succeeded in stealing the statue. Tarzan dives in the water, as the yacht appears to be sinking. He battles the villain and rescues the girl as the boat sinks. She had secretly chopped a hole in the hull while a captive. When the statute cannot be found, Tarzan realizes that it was really had been a pillar of salt and had dissolved in the sea.
I get the feeling that Van Buren has been reading his way through the Tarzan books, but he is not absorbing a lot. This biblical tale broadcasts it trick ending early on with the names of the Midianites. Again Tarzan is captured so we can quickly get the facts of the story plot presented. I would think that a 5000-year-old pillar of salt would have eroded somewhat. Not to leave Celardo uncritiqued, it is becoming a noticeable trait of his bad guys that they all have bad teeth. Every artist develops shortcuts over time and this is a major one for him. A weaker entry in the strip, I give a C- to both creators this time.
An elephant who has been beaten in a battle with another pachyderm, has had a tusk broken and in the madness of his pain has turned into a murderous rogue. It also has bathed in a phosphorous pool and when he attacks villages at night it glows, amplifying the terror of the suspicious natives. Tarzan comes to the native’s rescue, having them dig a deep pit and then baiting himself to draw the rogue into the trap. Then Tarzan exposes the witch doctor for using the elephant’s rampage as a cover to entrench his own power.
Good to see Tarzan in the jungle proper again for this simple rescue story. Celardo begins giving Tarzan the double forelock curl that becomes his trademark design for Tarzan. Not a great story but the well-drawn elephant makes it a pleasure to read. It earns both a B for story grades.
Next Tarzan is captured by a lost race of Vikings who have been seeking a sacrificial victim for the mysterious terror, Fenris, a giant wolf. The real power of the court is not the King, but his advisor, Loki, who conjures up hypnotic visions to sway the Vikings to his own will. Tarzan is sent into a cave and defeats the giant wolf and then when he confronts Loki, the conjuror’s visions hold no power over the apeman, and thus when Tarzan exposes his trickery, the king imprisons the rascal in the dungeon. Thus Tarzan fights another giant terror and frees a lost tribe.
It is a different lost tribe, but same tired story from Van Buren. The artwork from Celardo is acceptable but he is falling into the same attitude as Lubbers before him. If the story has no freshness, then the energy of the artwork seems hard to whip up as well. This one gets a C all around from me.
Tarzan rescues two men from hyenas and joins them in a search for a missing niece who they believe has survived a mass murder by native terrorists. Trained cheetahs and the native terrorists soon surround them. The three fight and dive off of a cliff into a raging river in a bid for freedom. One native is pulled over with them and after Tarzan rescues him from the torrent, the dying native tells them of a white girl that is queen in a native tribe to the north. The companions survive a buffalo stampede but are captured by warriors mounted on zebras. When they are escorted to the village they meet the lovely, regal white queen. She rages against her uncle whom she remembers mistreating her as a child. But she then graciously offers food and rest to the travelers. The uncle finds the witch doctor and hatches a plot to murder the queen, in order to inherit he family fortune, and place the blame on Tarzan. The evening meal is drugged and the uncle takes the opportunity to use Tarzan’s knife to try and slay the resting queen. The attack is thwarted and the uncle is killed and the queen is convinced to return to civilization with the remaining seeker.
An episodic missing person tale filled with animal dangers and human cunning. The terrorist natives (read Mau Mau) disappear too soon as they had potential to make real foes to the apeman. Celardo had some fun with the animals and then for a real touch he casts Bette Page as the lost white queen. This was 1957 and Bette Page, America's pin-up queen had recently disappeared. No new elements for the basic story but the guest starring missing beauty was inspired. I grade it a C for story but a B+ to Celardo for using Bette. (Recall Bette was the cover girl on a recent ERB-APA!)
2-3-1957, #1352~ 6-16-#1371_
In Coastal City, Tarzan saves a young maiden from an assault. When the attacker turns on Tarzan with a machete, the apeman quickly breaks his neck. Despite the fact that it was self defense, Tarzan is jailed for murder. Then a wily businessman, Gomez, who has the police on his payroll, bargains with Tarzan that if he will go into the jungle and hunt down and return with a wanted fugitive that the murder charge will be dropped. The girl is held to insure Tarzan’s cooperation. When Tarzan finds his man, Doyle, it appears that his crime is concocted as well by Gomez who has been trying to steal his coffee plantation, using the law to collect back taxes. Tarzan returns to town with his charge and a plan. He strikes a deal with Gomez that he will fight a giant bull in the city arena. If he wins the charges and debts are forgiven. Gomez sabotages the fight but doesn’t count on Tarzan’s physical power to kill the bull. Tarzan forces a vengeful Gomez to honor the bet. Doyle and Tarzan have to slay a marauding lion and using that distraction as a cover, Gomez’s men torch the coffee plantation’s main house. Tarzan quenches the fire and battles the culprits off the place. Gomez challenges Tarzan to a duel, gun vs. bow and arrow. With superior ability and quickness Tarzan kills the wrongdoer, who had rigged the duel in his favor. Gomez’s men plead for mercy and the conflict is over.
Van Buren rehashes a Sunday storyline that he written for Lubbers just a few years earlier. His lack of creativity seems rather lazy. Celardo’s art on the bullfight sequence is beautiful work. Give him a B+ for art, but a C- to the writer for middling effort.
6/23, #1372-9/1 #1382_
Tarzan saves a native from a lion attack. The dying man had been seeking Tarzan’s aid to save his village from the terror of a white man who can change into a leopard. Tarzan backtracks the native’s spoor to the village where when he tries to help he is bound. He witnesses a man exit a hut where moments before a panther had been. The man then orders Tarzan bound in a mesh net and thrown in a raging river. He escapes the watery grave and finds gold on the riverbank which he deduces is the reason that the villain is keeping the natives in their village with fear. Tarzan stealthily investigates and discovers the man and a leashed panther emerge from a hidden tunnel in the jungle. The man goes back into the tunnel and Tarzan kills the cat and follows. The tunnel comes out at the hut and Tarzan then shows the villagers how the exchange ruse worked. The exposed man flees and is chased and speared by the natives as he plunges into the river.
A decent little detective story which merits a B. Celardo’s black panther was always powerfully well drawn and that ability adds an extra spark to this story. Give him another A- for the art chores.
The grateful natives provision a raft for Tarzan to go downriver to the coast. But his raft is caught in a violent storm and he is swept out to sea and his craft severely damaged. A ship of Arab sea pirates rescues him. They mistakenly believe Tarzan to be employed by a merchant plying the waters. They string Tarzan to a yardarm to whip information out of him. He escapes, fights his way to the high mast and dives into the sea. He eludes their guns and later swims ashore. He staggers ashore into the guns of a local shipper who is being pillaged by the pirates. Tarzan joins his battle and has them cut a large tree for an underwater battering ram and they destroy the next pirate ship that attempt to intercept them. And they follow the second ship to a secret cove where the pirate cannons ward them from further pursuit. Tarzan then divides their forces. The captain and his men float ashore in drums and overpower the guards, while Tarzan takes a small party underwater into the heart of the stronghold to attack the main camp of pirates. In the fierce battle that follows, the pirates are defeated and the stolen goods are recovered.
Again Van Buren pulls out a story that he wrote for the daily strip and reuses it. Celardo draws a decent pirate story. C- for no originality but a B for artistic effort.
1-12-1958, #1401~4/20, #1420_
When they reach a port, the captain treats Tarzan to a farewell meal in a local tavern. When a French lumberjack tries to force himself upon the waitress, Tarzan comes to her aid and knocks out the scoundrel. Later Tarzan witnesses a buyer come in and shout at a drunken patron over his inability to perform a lumber contract. Tarzan figures out the poor man is in competition with the man he earlier had tangled with and offers to help him with his contract performance problem.
The man sobers up and explains that they cut the timber and when a native rides the giant log downriver, the log disappears and the native is found mauled to death by crocodiles. Tarzan scratches a mark in the next to be ridden downriver for delivery. When that native does not return they investigate and find him dead on the riverbank, a victim of the demon crocs. The then continue on to the station and learn that he had not delivered the log. Then the Frenchman and a native arrive riding two giant logs for delivery. Tarzan looks for and discovers his hidden mark which tells him that the Frenchman killed their native and stole the tree. Tarzan then floats the next log downriver and is keenly alert for an ambush. At the Frenchman’s shot the apeman avoids being hit but falls in the water in order to bait the villain. A native henchman finds his body and before he can slash him up with a crocodile’s teeth from a skeleton, Tarzan subdues him. Then he goes after the Frenchman and in a battle on rolling logs in the river, Tarzan conquers him and brings him ashore to stand trial. The river is now safe for log deliveries again and Tarzan, with his mission accomplished, heads into the interior.
Again Van Buren retells a story he had written for the daily strip. This certainly messes with any chronology in the strips. Celardo’s art is dynamically solid with some strong use of perspective in his panels to raise the excitement of the story content. Give this one a C for the unoriginal story and a B for interesting visual storytelling.
4/20, #1415- 7-6, #1426~
Tarzan investigates a lavishly appointed safari which is appointed by a wealthy Indian Maharajah on a trophy hunt. After being fed by his host and hearing his story, Tarzan tells the Prince that he can guide him to a herd of gazelles for a chance at one prize kill. The white guide is upset to have Tarzan get involved. The three head out in a jeep at Tarzan’s direction and soon the herd is spotted and the maharajah makes a clean kill. When he runs to inspect his kill he is attacked by a lion in the high grass. When the guide kills the lion with a difficult shot, the grateful monarch tells his guide that if anything happens to him in the future that the guide will receive all of the safari equipment in gratitude. As the hunt resumes the next day for a leopard, the guide is now looking for an opportunity to cash in on his employer’s promise by having him accidentally killed. A leopard attacks the Maharajah and the guide withholds his shot but Tarzan’s bow and arrow rescue the prince. The following day on a rhino hunt the guide instructs his employer to shoot a rhino that Tarzan and the beaters have driven in their direction. After the shot the guide urges him to run inspect his trophy. When the guide locates the kill after a sudden scream, he finds the maharajah crumpled at the feet of the now dead rhino. He is jubilant at his greedy triumph as Tarzan and the beaters arrive at the scene. When the guide threatens Tarzan with his rifle to keep his secret, suddenly the Maharajah appears having faked his own death to test his guide’s motives. The guide is exposed and in a sudden shootout the Maharajah kills the guide who sought to betray him for the rich equipment. The Prince tells Tarzan that he had intended to give the man the equipment at the end of the hunt anyway.
A solid original story, with Tarzan in the role of an observer, rather than a primary actor in the drama. But is works nicely. One question-would Tarzan assist a trophy hunter? Celardo’s panoramic veldt and animal drawings enhance the story well. A good B grade for the team this time.
7/13, #1427- 9/7, #1435~
After guiding the safari back to the coast, Tarzan wanders up the coastline. He enters a seaside village where he is surprised and tied as a captive. The witch doctor announces that Tarzan will be sacrificed into the sea to appease the terror of Ta-hu, a monstrous killer whale that has disrupted the fishing and killed many of the villagers. Tarzan convinces them to let him try to kill the whale. One attempt with a giant baited hook fails. Next Tarzan has them prepare a giant tree into braced harpoon and position in underwater. When the whale investigates the activity in the water, Tarzan uses himself as bait and the attacking whale is tricked into impaling himself on the weapon. The grateful natives thankfully say farewell to the apeman.
Tarzan is captured by natives and fights a monster for them. A tired plot used too often by the writer. Give him a C-. Nothing is exciting in the artwork either. The best panels are the transitional tree-swinging ones leading to the story. So give Celardo a C+.
9/14, #1436- 11-16-1958, #1445~
Tarzan interrupts his carefree journey into the interior to investigate an abandoned village. He finds a dying native that tells him that evil spirits and monsters, especially something called the ‘Creature’, atop a nearby mesa are plaguing the country will evil and death. Tarzan’s curiosity is aroused and he heads toward the mountain to investigate. On the way there he is almost trampled by an oversized eland and then avoids the pounce of a gigantic leopard. He finds a stronghold and a is captured when he tries to gain entrance, He is brought before a wild-eyed white scientist who has been experimenting with growth hormones. The next day the scietist prepares Tarzan for growth experimentation but a native lab worker frees the apeman. During their escape a fire breaks out in the compound. In the courtyard the encounter a giant native, the Creature, who has the dead body of the mad scientist in his clutches. He attacks them but Tarzan trusts a burning piece of timber in its face and in pained rage it stumbles to its death off the mesa’s edge. The native sadly explains that the Creature had been his son whom the scientist had experimented upon.
For his farewell story, Van Buren rehashed a daily story he had written years earlier for Bob Lubbers. Considering that a story arc would run from ten to fifteen weeks, it seems strange that a writer could not have an active enough imagination to develop new, let alone interesting and exciting stories. I don’t know what other strips he wrote at the same time or what took his time away from answering the challenge of doing his best on the Tarzan strip. But even his repetitive second-hand formula writing made for a readable strip. That is due more to the character and his arena for adventure than this writer’s efforts. No elements of ERB appear in his Sunday strips, making for a two dimensional interpretation. I give this last story a C-, and his tenure a C as well.
Celardo’s art is again well designed and shows his solid storytelling. I give him a B for phase one. He will next team with a writer who made a miserable imprint on the strip. Next ERB-APA I will comment on those Bill Elliot rubbish years. Then we will continue on to the years that John Celardo finally got to both write and draw the strip.