Tantor Trumpets - by Ken Webber
ERB-APA #79 FALL 2003
ERB-APA #80 WINTER 2004
ERB-APA #81 SPRING 2004
KENNETH WEBBER 3733 E.COSTILLA AVE. CENTENNIAL, CO.80122
BOB LUBBERS Ė PART ONE
During the mid-1990s, NBMís Belassies Library Editor Bill Blackbeard and Publisher Terry Nantier spent four years producing a nineteen volume matched set of the classic Tarzan Sunday newspaper strip that was drawn by the legendary Hal Foster and Burne Hogarth. It was a real thrill to finally see, read and collect at an affordable price this run of one of the great adventure strips. The reproduction was in full color and as fine as was possible to achieve. (They bowed to a fan write-in campaign and even gave us a volume of the Rubimore period that fell in the middle of Hogarthís tenure, although in black and white, to keep the continuity intact.) Finally the most legendary and sought after work on the strip was made readily available. Additional commentary by historians, fans and pros added to the booksí value. It was a masterful effort.
Now if only Mr. Blackbeard or some other enterprising editor would choose to continue the project. The Sunday Tarzan strip was drawn by the talents of Bob Lubbers, John Celardo, Russ Manning, Gil Kane, Mike Grell, and Gray Morrow, and finally Eric Battle for the following four score years. The glory days of the Sunday funnies were ending in the early 50s but there was still a lot of well-drawn jungle excitement in the UFS Tarzan strip. But few collectors and fans have seen the efforts of these later gentlemen and that should be corrected. To be honest, the strip was uneven and while there were many wonderful story and artistic moments, it often suffered with a very noticeable drop in story quality that even the best of artists could not infuse with energy and excitement. It was a period of real gems of stories and disappointing droughts. But that said, if not the totality of this strip being made available perhaps, at least, the periods of well drawn adventurers, solid fun and quality that appeared along the way will be reprinted.
In past ERB-APAs, I have written about and done descriptive summaries of the Sunday strip that was done by the team of Gil Kane and Archie Goodwin, Mike Grell, and Gray Morrow who teamed mainly with Don Kraar and then other assorted writers. In the last few months I have added to my collection a full run of the Lubbers and Celardo strips. Thanks to the generosity of a gracious fellow ERB fan and collector I now have filled a twenty-year gap in my Tarzan strip collection. They are black and white Xeroxes but that does not diminish their importance and value to me. I have spent many an evening with a warm smile and a cool drink reading, marveling and enjoying my new Tarzan treasure horde. I will now, for as many ERB,ETC. submissions as necessary, attempt to share that pleasure in part with a story capsule treatment and commentary for the Lubbers and Celardo Sunday Tarzan Sundays. Dennis Wilcutt will be tackling the daily strips in the ERB-APA in a joint effort to review them.
First, letís look at Bob Lubbers. Robert Bartow "Bob" Lubbers was born on January 10, 1922 in Brookland, New York. His parents and an early grade school teacher recognized and encouraged his artistic and musical talents. Then the wonderful newspaper strips and radio shows and movies of the 30s fired his visual imagination. As a teen he landed a spot as a sketch artist for his local paper by day and played the trombone with a local ten-piece band by night. After graduating high school, he commuted 45 minutes into NYC for classes at the Art Students League. That led to a job at Fiction House where he joined fellow fledging artists as John Celardo. Nick Cardy, and Frank Doyle to do covers and interior story art for titles like Wings, Firehair, Camiila and Senorita Rio. and the Texan. In February 1943, he gave up the band job and decided to settle down as a fulltime artist, and married his childhood sweetheart, Grace. That same week he got his draft notice and was soon off to the Pacific theater as a second radio/waist gunner on a B-17 bomber. He took his sketchbook with him and chronicled his service experience. In 1945, when Bob was discharged he returned to life with Grace and his art job at Fiction House.
In 1950, he was offered the job of drawing the Tarzan Sunday and daily strips and signed on for a three-year contract. Of that experience Bob remembered, "The dream of a lifetime come trueÖthe big time. But to me Tarzan was only Foster and Weissmuller. Iíd never read a Burroughs book, had no real insight into Tarzanís character. I was not fully prepared for this massive step, but did know I wanted to get the feel of Foster. Plenty of action, interplay with jungle animals, colorful backgrounds and as many exotic girls as the scripts would allow. So off went the roof of my detached garage and up went a little studio with a potbelly coal stove for heat. I dug in full bore, charged with inspiration. Seven-day weeks were not uncommon in the beginning, but only nine to five. What fun it was using the (George) Bridgeman tricksÖtwisting the figures and animals into dynamic action drawings. For the first time in my career it was serious illustration. Some of the vignette panels, sans copy, seem to tell more of the character of Tarzan I was after than the main frames." "Dick Van Buren got the scripts to me on time and we were rolling. When he wrote exotic females into the scripts, it was fun to reprise some of the fun of those Fiction House cover girls. modified slightly. The stories could never be truly topical, but played in an amorphous, Burroughsian time period." "Plenty of action, interplay with jungle animals, colorful backgrounds and as many exotic girls as Dickís scripts would allow."
In 1953 when his Tarzan contract was up for renewal Bob was approached by Al Capp to draw a new feature that Capp would write called Long Sam and it would pay Bob a larger salary than the Tarzan strip allotted. This strip featured the adventures of an innocent American hillbilly beauty and quickly became a showcase for Lubbers strengths as an artist with lots of beautifully drawn girls and light comedy action. The daily and Sunday Long Sam strip lasted for five years. In the years that followed Bob produced his own strip, Robin Malone and worked on others as The Saint, Rusty Riley, Líil Abner, Secret Agent X-9, and The Heart of Juliet Jones as the primary artist or as a ghost artist. It was a good art career that allowed him to draw beautiful girls galore, which was his forte. For the final twelve years of his art career Bob worked on Madison Avenue specializing in Animatics advertising. In 1989, Bob retired and with his Grace moved to neighboring Port Washington,NY. Sadly his Grace has passed away in recent months. Bob still lives there today and can usually be found enjoying himself on the golf greens of the local club, or creating crossword puzzles for the Creatorís Syndicate.
Now to look at Bob Lubbersí Sunday Tarzan strip
8-27-1950 #1016 _ 9-17-#1019Ö
Tarzan helps a white hunter capture a gorilla and rhino for a zoo. These four pages finished a Hogarth drawn story and are reprinted in the final volume of the NBM reprint series. The contrast with Hogarthís vivid energetic work shows Bob taking a more natural artistic approach, with subtler design layout and body language, harking back to Fosterís earlier work, with a warmer color palette. It is gorgeous work when seen in full size and color..
Tarzan overhears the evil plotting of a party of white hunters to capture and exploit a strange native tribe. Tarzan scares off their porters and then warns the white men to leave the jungle. After he has departed one of the trio, a scoundrel named Blake kills his fellow two white men and turns back into the jungle toward the targeted tribe. Weeks later Tarzan barely survives a battle with a crocodile and has floated downriver back into the area he had been in when he met the white hunters. He regains consciousness and comes ashore just in time to rescue a native girl from a leopard, to his astonishment they both have bright yellow skin! He barely learns that the girl is Lusha of the tribe of Ambera before he is swarmed over by Amberan tribesmen and taken before their leader, Blake. Blake has usurped ruler ship by his gun and taking advantage of the yellow nativeís awe at his different skin tone. Blake explains to Tarzan that the local artesian water supply has a chemical that turns native and beast alike the yellow color. He is having the natives build him a boat, which he will use to export his yellow subjects and the local animals to the coast to sell as freaks. The next morning Blake plans to throw Tarzan in the affected pool but Tarzan has conspired during the night with Lusha for her to release the caged animals, which disrupt the sacrificial ceremony and in their rampage kill Blake. Tarzan explains the waterís mysterious power to the tribe, bids them adieu, loads Blake on board his boat and after sailing it into new country, he sets it afloat on fire as a funeral barge for the scheming white man.
For a first outing, Lubbers has shown himself capable of some very masterful work on the strip. His Tarzan is lithe, handsome, noble and every inch a Jungle Lord. Whether fighting, talking or even bound he exuded a vibrant presence. Some pages had large panels of action that showed Bob could handle that challenge too. Bobís natural fluid style was a smooth match for the local and energy of the strip. The flora and fauna were vibrant in color and detail and the girl was a patented Lubbers eyeful. It is impressive work from the new artist.
Tarzan wanders into a strange valley and encounters a bull ape in combat with a horde of tiny ten inch tall warriors on miniature antelope. He kills the ape and rescues a small warrior and makes friends with Prince Dorak and his warriors of Minian. But Tarzanís arrival coincides with a major war campaign with the Tesmals, from another ant-men city. Tarzan joins them in battle and is overwhelmed by the vast force of numbers and taken prisoner. When he comes to he soon realizes that he has been reduced in size as he is led captive before the Tesmel king and the princess Zara. He is condemned to hard labor in the quarry with the other captured slaves. That evening he rescues a slave girl, Gazel, from the unwanted advances of a brawny slave. For fighting Tarzan is sentenced to a hundred lashes. He is befriended by other prisoners and learns that a scientist, Maro, is responsible for shrinking him. The next night after the beating and a day in the quarry Tarzan and Dorak overcome two guards, disguise themselves in their garb and rescue Gazel from Skar, the quarry master who has taken her for his own personal slave. After killing him in a sword duel Tarzan and his friends escape in an attic passage and exit in Princess Zaraís chamber. Before they can use her as a prisoner she triggers a trapdoor and the men fall into a pit with two civet cats that are full sized. Gazel and Zara then battle above and likewise fall into the pit. The two swordsmen kill the cats and find Maro in an adjoining cell, put there by the king who feared his downsizing experiments.
They break out and escape the city on fleet antelopes. Maro and Zara realize that they love each other and decide to return to the city and rule justly. Dorak departs to his own city. Tarzan learns from Maro that his diminutive size is only temporary and with that information heads into the jungle to battle his way back to his own African territory. In the ensuing weeks Tarzan battles or eludes many predators and after a sky battle with a hawk who has seized him, he regains consciousness on the ground aside the dead bird to discover that he has returned to his full normal size.
It is a very Burroughsian story. In fact, it is loosely based on some elements of the Tarzan and the Ant-men novel. Dick Van Buren, the writer, would lift scenes, people and tales from the ERB canon and with a substitution of names and a few facts write a new story. It is a good method to write ERB styled stories, but often Van Buren gave neither credit nor continuity to the original story. In this adventure, Tarzan makes no reference to having encountered ant-men before. Only the readers familiar with ERBís original stories experience a touch of déjà vu. Personally I would rather see a writer adding to the canonical record that copy-catting from it. But with that criticism, the story was a rousing good yarn of Tarzan battling his way through a new lost civilization. (I had one problem with the story itself. The one hundred lashes were too much to have had no ill effects on the apeman. But often in the Sunday pages, an injured hero is allowed to use the full week between episodes to mend.)
Bob Lubbers is now comfortably in command of the artwork and it is ones of his best-drawn stories. He gives the story an epic treatment full of costumes, romantic derring-do, beautiful girls, and great action sequences, all beautifully colored. His work here stands with the best ever done on this strip. An interesting item that Bob added to Tarzanís wardrobe was the locket with his motherís picture. It can often be seen swinging around his neck accenting the action of that panel. It was a nice authentic touch and only used by no other artist drawing the strip.
Tarzan as adapted for the 1950ís comic page did not fully utilize all of the ERBís Tarzan persona and world. Only the animals as Tantor, the Apes, and little Níkima were part of the supporting cast. There is no mention of the Greystoke identity, Jane, nor ERBís own lost cities. The strips made Tarzan a Ďsingleí roving African adventurer, encountering assorted perils as he roamed across the Africa. This was Tarzan as he was seen in the latter novels. This approach also avoided a conflict with the popular film perception of Tarzan and fit into a neutral ground. It worked for some solid story telling but gave a rather two-dimensional characterization of Tarzan.
For those who wish to read the Lubbers and Celardo strips, they have been recycled by the UFS Syndicate and can be followed online at www.unitedmedia.com. Also Comics Revue, a monthly magazine, is reprinting the daily Tarzan strips. There will be a couple of years before CR gets to the Lubbers dailies. As for the Sunday strips, they are not to be found easily and this omission needs to be addressed. It would be nice to see these strips published in nice volumes while Bob Lubbers and John Celardo are still with us to enjoy the reaction of ERB fans and strip collectors. In the meantime, I plan to give take a snapshot of these strips for fellow Tarzan fans. Watch for the next installment in my next ERB-ETC. And look for Dennis Wilcutt to comment on the dailies until we have covered the Tarzan work of Bob Lubbers and John Celardo.
The third Tarzan Sunday storyline written by Dick Van Buren and drawn by Bob Lubbers (4/29/1951 # 1051 - 7/8/1951, #1061 ) introduces a wild jungle girl, whom Tarzan chases in the treeways after he catches her spying upon him. In his timely pursuit, Tarzan saves the girl from a black panther, but she again flees. Tarzan then rescues an ape from a man made pit and learns that many of the local ape tribe have been thus snared and have disappeared. Tarzan files this new mystery away and tracks down the girl, who to his amazement speaks in the language of the mangani! She warns him to flee before "It" gets him and again disappears. Tarzan then locates and disrupts a native party digging new animal pits and then follows them through the trees to a strange building inside a walled corral. He waits until darkness and drops into the enclosure and is quickly captured and led into the building to meet a crazed scientist amid his experimental paraphernalia, and is told "It" will have him and then he is imprisoned. Later in the night the girl sneaks in and frees him, explaining to Tarzan that her madman father is an anthropologist who has been conducting experiments on the apes. She learned the ape speech, as the primates were her only companions growing up. The madman returns and calls his natives to recapture Tarzan, but in the struggle a fire breaks out in the lab and "It" escapes and grabs the girl. Tarzan battles the beast, which is a hormone altered ape changed into a Java Man, and saves the girl. With the lab destroyed, the old man and his daughter head back to civilization and a new life.
Lubberís art is again superbly laid out and executed with vibrant jungles, a gorgeous redheaded girl in her zebra-skin garment, and moody set pieces, but the story itself has many problems. Why didnít the natives overthrow the lone doctor in the years he ruled over them? Didnít the tribe have children for the isolated girl to play with? Wouldnít her skill in the ape language have been more valuable than any deranged animal experiments? Why didnít the writer even give the girl a name? That said, the weekly cliffhanger about the monster "It" was well handled and action packed. Was ERBís Monster Men the inspiration of the storyline?
One troubling pattern begins to immerge in Van Burenís writing, as in three consecutive stories he has Tarzan captured and made a hostage. It is device that keeps the action down while the mechanics of the new story are explained. In the ensuing years it becomes a gimmick he will overuse to the point of irritation. Story B- , Art A
Tarzan finds a wounded lion, befriends it and dresses its bullet wound. When the lion mends, the duo hunt together. When they chance upon the hunter who shot the lion, the cat doesnít let Tarzan interfere as he exacts his revenge. Upon examining the body Tarzan finds a weathered map mentioning precious stones. Later while continuing their hunt the two discover the tent of a girl who was abandoned by her guide. Nancy Brooks has been looking for her long lost uncle and the guide took the only clue which turns out to be the map Tarzan recovered. Tarzan decides to help the girl and the lion wanders off on its own. Soon the new companions chance upon a village in the trees and natives that are being terrorized by baboons. Tarzan kills a baboon and learns that the Tongani were agents of an Emperor lion who rules from a Palace of Gold. Tarzan leaves the girl in the village and seeks out the palace, a large barbarically ornamented building. He spies natives working in the fields sifting for gold under the supervision of baboons. His lion companion, Balu, rejoins him and as they begun to search further they see that the fearful natives have brought Nancy to the city as a captive. Tarzan steals into the building and although he overcomes the guard, he is tricked into falling into a dungeon where he meets the lost uncle. The next morning Tarzan escapes barely in time to rescue Nancy from being sacrificed to the Lion God of the city. Tarzan kills the lion and Balu arrives to help battle the baboons. Under the cover of a fire, Tarzan and Balu flee with the girl and her uncle to safety and by creating a rockslide stymie the baboons pursuit and Tarzan takes the two to a village where a safari to the coast is arranged.
Again we have Tarzan coming to the aid of a beautiful girl, falling into captivity, with the aid of a fire battling to freedom. ERB readers will recognize that many of the story elements have been lifted out of Tarzan and the Golden Lion. It brings a real Burroughs element to the Sunday page, but it is a writing crutch. Is Van Buren learning his craft at the feet of the master or is he just a lazy writer? I would rather have the original ERB story utilized as a flashback and advanced, rather than picked at and reworked.
Lubbers spares no quarter into infusing the story with rich imagery and dramatic storytelling artwork. The bulk of the stripís labor is falling on his shoulders but he can lift the suspect writing only so high. While the team shared the income equally, Lubbers has stated that he was frustrated in having no input to the stories content and felt he was investing the bulk of the effort into the strip. It seems a valid comment. With strip # 1064, Lubbers begins signing Van Burenís name to the strip. Story B- Art A
Tarzan drops into a ravaged camp to investigate and finds two white hunters already investigating. There are native porters clawed to death and signs that a woman has been abducted. Tarzan leaves the duo, Tusker and Sport, to investigate the local villages and he begins to follow the spoor via the treeways. He is caught in a furious tropical storm and ends up unconscious pinned beneath a heavy splintered tree limb. Mato, a native hunter finds and frees the apeman who has suffered a temporary memory loss. They eat and then continue on together when they find another native which Mato explains was clawed to death by Panther Men, a secret society of cannibals that murder for their secret religious rites. Tarzan picks up the trail and soon they are attacked by three panther men. They dispatches two of them and the third flees. Mato takes "Bush Spirit", his name for Tarzan, to his village and tells of their victory. By acclamation the villagers insist that Bush Spirit lead them into battle against he cannibals. The witch doctor objects and Tarzan quickly tosses him in a vile cauldron that the shaman had been brewing. Tarzan leads the natives into the jungle and soon takes to the trees to reconnoiter. He locates the cult-menís sacrificial temple and discovers the missing woman bound to a stake awaiting her cruel death.
Affected by his amnesia he ignores the girlís plight and returns to lead his natives in an ambush against the cultists returning to their temple upriver. During the battle Tarzan suffers a blow to the head, which jars his memory to return. He suddenly remembers the poor girl and races back to free her. They appropriate a beached canoe but in the inky blackness they run into canoes of panther men returning from the battle and are recaptured. Tarzan is bound in one canoe and taken back to the temple. Sobo, the leader of the other canoe double crosses his fellows and takes off in another direction intending to make the lovely white woman, Lynn Garner, his bride.
Tarzan tips his canoe and battles a crocodile to gain the shore. He returns to the temple site, destroys the canoes and hurries to the temple. But instead of the girl, he discovers the natives releasing a panther upon the now bound Tusker. Tarzan leaps down and dispatches the panther. The rescued hunter tells that he had been near a village when he had overheard the witch doctor making a deal with pygmies and planning to hand the girl over in exchange for gold. The two men head into the jungle to rescue the girl from the new peril. Tusker is overcome with fever and Tarzan leaves him and races on. Tusker bravely stumbles on and reaches the pygmy village as they are preparing Lynn for the cooking pot. An arrow fells him as he frantically charges waving his gun. But then arrows from the trees begin downing the pygmies. Tarzan yells to Tusker to grab the girl while the natives are pinned down and flee to the jungle. Sobo recognizes Tarzan and stirs the pygmy to pursue the trio. Tusker and Lynn soon stop from exhaustion and just as the three prepare to make their stand, Mato and his tribesmen arrive and save the day. When Sobo tries to sneak away Mato follows and quickly dispatches him. Then Mato has a surprise for Tusker as they have found Sport who also has been downed with jungle fever. But the bigger surprise is that Lynn recognizes Sport as her brother Ralph that she had come into the jungle to find. Then Lynn tells Tusker she loves him and the three adventurers make plans to return to civilization.
This story had action and twists galore and in my opinion is Van Burenís best effort thus far. Lubbers gets experimental with some of his layout and designs and seems inspired by the story as well. The story probably has roots to ERBís Tarzan and the Leopardmen for its inspiration. Aside from the story changing native villains in midstream as it were, I have no real criticisms of this superior effort. Story A- , Art A
(In our next installment Bob Lubbers casts Marilyn Monroe in the strip! See it in three months as I continue reviewing the 1950s Tarzan Sunday strip.)
The following picture of Tarzan Rescuing Jane from a raging jungle fire is not from the strip (Jane never appeared in Bobís tenure.). It is watercolor drawn for a fortunate fan a couple of years ago. Seemed like a good place to share it. Enjoy!!
In a candid moment to a fan in correspondence a few years ago Bob Lubbers had this to say in reflection on his work on the Tarzan newspaper strip, "I must admit to the truth of my Tarzan run, which most everyone already knows, which was really hampered by some of the material I had to illustrate, and the small stipend for seven-day-a-week work to meet the deadlines after the syndicate, ERB corp. split and the remainder which the writer and I shared 50/50. How does that strike you? Disillusionment, to say the leastÖbutÖ that was then, and I never had a chance to pick it up again, which I would have loved."
I appreciate the honesty of a talented man. And the strips under review in this article it is clear that he had some stories that had to be a struggle to work on. In fact, the quality of his art is a yardstick by which to judge the merit of the story. Good scripts, or even a weekís episode were given a worthy effort while the weaker efforts by the writer were illustrated with a noticeably lesser effort. Bobís talent would shine more abundantly in the strips and assignments that would follow the uneven Tarzan; Long Sam., written by Al Capp, the Saint, X-9. Robin Malone , which he wrote himself, and then ghosting Líil Abner for Al Capp.
Tarzan in a spirit of exploratory curiosity decides to visit the snowcapped Lunya mountains. Suddenly he is almost shot by an archer who appears to be a South American Indian. Tarzan tracks his foe onto the narrow mountain trails, where he is ambushed by Indians with a rockslide and taken prisoner. He is taken to a terraced stone village where the old king tells him that other white men before him have plundered and taken control of the tribeís sacred mountaintop. The king is torn between killing Tarzan because he also is white or keeping him hostage. Tossed into cell for the night Tarzan learns that the mountain is volcanically active and that the villagers are attacked by some monster in the night. The next day Tarzan convinces the king that instead of sacrificing him, it would be better to arm and equip him with proper gear to go up the mountain and investigate the mystery of the mountain monster. Tarzan then tracks and discovers an awesome wooly mammoth that had been frozen ages ago and recently thawed and reanimated by volcanic activity.
Tarzan is then captured at gunpoint by the interloping Spaniards and taken to their cave headquarters. Tarzan learns that the natives were aboard an errant ship from Pizarroís fleet carrying treasure and Inca slaves 400 years ago and after a shipwreck that resettled on the mountain. The men have followed a legend of lost Incan treasure to the mountaintop. Tarzan is tied to a tree as a sacrificial meal to the mammoth but a volcanic event traps and kills the behemoth and Tarzan escapes the lava river and has a perilous chase after the Spaniard leader to the mountaintop that ends with Tarzan winning a final conflict. He returns to tell the villagers that their life can return to normal.
The story repeats plot devices that Van Buren uses too often. Tarzan is captured not once but twice, a mysterious threat is terrorizing the locals, and plot holes abound. Notice that the Incas could trap Tarzan easily but were helpless in even trying to combat the mammoth. The mammoth is said to be a carnivore, rather than a vegetarian. Why would it return to the barren mountain rather than descend to richer feeding grounds? Tarzan defeats the Spaniard leader and the other white men magically disappear from the story.
Beyond the storyís weaknesses, it did not take full advantage of the new local, new lost tribe, nor mighty mammoth. The tired repetitious elements that mark Van Burenís efforts bog down the story. The artwork mirrors the lack of creative energy, with Lubbers lapsing to a sketchier effort. Bobís lack of enthusiasm is clearly showing. The pages with the mammoth and the eruption are exceptions and well executed pages. It is a weak entry. Story C-, Art C+.
Tarzan returns to the veldt and soon encounters a village being victimized by a "ghost lion" that outsmarts any attempt to combat it. Tarzan volunteers to hunt the lion. The next he spots the white lion and begins following its clear spoor. Suddenly he is ambushed from the rear by the cat and barely escapes into the safety of the trees. After dressing his wounds he takes up the trail of his quarry again and discovers one set of tracks atop a second set. There are two sly lions, not one, which explains the beasts being able to ambush him then and also the villagers earlier. Tarzan enlists the villagers aid and sets a trap with himself as bait and kills one lion. Then he stakes a goat on an island in the nearby river and when the second lion takes that bait, the villagers pour oil on the river and set it afire, thus trapping and killing the last "ghost lion".
This story is fresh, focused and entertaining. The writer was obviously inspired by the story of the killer lions of Tvaso. Bwana Devil, a 3-D film about that incident was new in the theaters that year. A recent film, The Ghost and the Darkness recounts the same story. Van Buren shows he was capable of good intelligent writing and Lubbers likewise gave some renewed vigor to the art chores as well. For once I give both story and art an A.
Next Tarzan is traveling through the treeways when he spots a movie crew but decides to ignore them and enjoy communing with his jungle habitat. But he just misses seeing the star of "Leopard Man", a fearful Johnny Ringo, who could pass for a physical double of the apeman. The problems of the film party are compounded when the Arabs that they have hired as extras kidnap Irene Webb, the leading lady. They have dealt with the local natives to attack and distract the crew while they head north to sell the blond beauty on the slave market. While the rest of the crew valiantly battle the attacking natives, Johnny runs panic stricken into the jungle only to be captured by the natives returning from their battle. They take him to the village and in their bloodlust tie him up and prepare to burn him at the stake in their celebration. Tarzan hears of it on the jungle drums and races to the village and by a clever ruse rescues the look-a-like actor. The actor soon collapses with fever and Tarzan leaves him in the care of a friendly village and takes off to rescue the kidnapped girl that Johnny has told him about. Suddenly he comes upon an ape carrying a nearly dead Arab, battles the beast over its prize, and from the dying man learns that a swarm of English speaking apes attacked his party and stole the girl. The trail takes Tarzan deeper into unknown jungle where he finds a strange city ruled by a mad scientist whose experiments have given the apes some human qualities. Tarzan is captured and thrown into the same cell as the girl he was searching for. She mistakenly recognizes him as her costar, Johnny Ringo and Tarzan assumes that guise for convenience sake. The madman has the girl laid on the Dum Dum altar, but Tarzan escapes from the cell and rescues the girl and flees into the jungle. They stop to let her bathe, eat and sleep and then resume the hunt for others of her party. The girl is developing a crush for her fellow actor by this time. Tarzan and the girl find the others in time to rescue them from a lion. He then dashes off to get the actor but upon arriving at the village he learns that he died from his fever. Tarzan leaves and lets the villagers tell the film crew of Johnnyís tragic demise and lets them remember him not as a coward, but as a transformed hero that saved their lives.
The plot of a double for Tarzan and crossed identities is borrowed loosely from ERBís Tarzan and the Lion Man, including the English-speaking apes. It has some nice turns and a couple of stray loose plot threads, but the real charm of the story can be credited to Bob Lubbers. He casts Hollywood newcomer Marilyn Monroe as the leading lady of this jungle epic and draws her stunningly to advantage at every possible opportunity. The story works well enough and Lubbers gives the story a real cinema treatment with panoramic shots, vitalized action sequences and moments of beautifully drawn and colored art full of drama and romance. He stretched the story to its possible limits. Give it a good B for writing and an A+ for the art.
By chance encounter, Tarzan saves the Raymond Bard safari from their treacherous guide and them takes his place as the party is seeking the lost city of Zobia, where Raymondís son has been missing for two years. The guide had wanted the map, which also mentioned the "Father of Diamondsí in the city. The disposed guide is allowed to travel with the party rather than be loosed on his own in the jungle. He conspires with the native head bearer, and they drug the partyís nightly coffee and then steal the map, kidnap Mary, Bardís daughter, and take the porters and gear and head off to find the "Father of Diamonds". Tarzan, with the party in tow, tracks the scoundrels into the mountains, to a large valley inside an extinct volcano. Tarzan kills a giant lizard attacking a lone warrior (in an action page Lubbers added to the story himself to punch up the storyís action.), who turns out to be Thoran, the son of the king of the city of Orando, They are at war with the Zorians and when he hears of their quest he allies with them and they head toward his city. But they are captured by a Zorian war party and chained to the oars of a slave ship. Tarzan leads a revolt and commandeers the ship and head to Orando. But the king does not welcome them, but imprisons them and Tarzan is made to battle two lions in the arena with only his knife. After amazing the crowd with a quick victory, the king assigns him a new challenge of retrieving the "Father of Diamonds " from an underwater Zobian temple. The apeman battles a giant squid and then overcome by Zobian warriors in diving suits. Tarzan is tossed in a cell and finds himself reunited with Mary, the turncoat guide and Maryís long lost brother. Tarzan overcomes a guard and finds underwater suits for the four escapees. But one member warns the guards and uses the diversion to locate the "Father of Diamonds" in the throne room and try to steal it. The four are all recaptured and Tarzan breaks them out of a water-filled cage. They grab the chest with the treasured rock and after a battle with a shark escape. Mary is revealed as the one who betrayed them to the guards. They return the cask to the Zobian king and when he opens it, the "Father of Diamonds" is discovered to be a lump of coal.
This story is basically a loose adaptation of ERBís Tarzan and the Forbidden City. (Surprisingly this story has been one of ERBís most broadly adapted Tarzan adventures!) It is the longest story done by this creative team. Four captures and escapes and four battles with beasts seem a bit repetitive, but the arena and underwater challenges, the two warring cities and some plot twists make this effort a fresh story for newspaper readers. Bob Lubbers rose to his highest level as the stripís artist with this story. Some of the most dramatic and memorable images he drew for Tarzan appear in this story. He said he wanted to try and bring a Hal Foster touch to the strip again, and some elements in this story gave him the chance to do just that.
In a recent exchange of correspondence with Bob, he referred to his years as a black and white cartoonist/artist as a time when did lower case "a" art. He now is engrossed in doing colored pastel portraiture which he feels is his upper case "A; work. For this story I give him an "A", and Van Buren a "B" for his adaptation of a C- ERB story.