Monday, April 2, 2012

Comic Retro View: Tarzan the Untamed

With this year also marking the 100th anniversary of Edgar Rice Burroughs' other creation I thought I would devote some time and space to a look back at the Lord of the Jungle through reviews of the original novels and various spin offs. In this case we take a look at celebrated artist Russ Manning's take on two classic tales.

Published in trade paperback format by Dark Horse Comics in 1999 (and there's still a few copies left on Amazon for decent prices-most of the rest of their books are out of print and expensive) this book collected four issues that adapted two of Burroughs' best Tarzan adventures-Tarzan the Untamed and Tarzan the Terrible that originally were released by Gold Key Comics in the 1960s.

In the first part of the book Tarzan finds himself caught up in the first World War and helping the British against the Germans on the African front. Going through his adventure he meets a female German spy named Bertha Kilcher and a British pilot, Harold Smith-Oldwick who Tarzan must rescue, first from natives looking for some sacrifices and a lost tribe of the Xujans, who worship lions. The second part finds Tarzan on the hunt for his beloved Jane, who has been taken prisoner by a German officer named Obergatz and his search leads him to the another lost land-Pal-ul-Don, which is inhabited by dinosaurs and two races of creatures that seem to be the missing link between man and ape. Once there Tarzan has to stop a cruel priest and the crazed Obergatz from killing-and doing other things-to Jane.

I have to admit that my introduction to Russ Manning came through Dark Horse's reprints of his Star Wars comics in the mid-1990s. It wasn't until a few years later that I got to see Manning's take on Tarzan when a friend showed me some of his original comics. While I'm sure many have their own personal favorite artist's take on the character, Manning gets my vote with this book. He brings a nice but simple visual design to Tarzan and the jungle worlds he discovers. His Tarzan is simply designed-no muscle bound Schwarzenegger but the Tarzan that Burroughs himself described. He also brings a nice design to the two races of Pal-Ul-Don and the creatures that inhabit it. I would also give him thumbs up for Jane except she has pig tails and looks like she should be in a Betty and Veronica comic book. Oh well, I've always been a Dejah man myself so I guess it's not that bad. She's still attractive.

I also have to give credit to writer Gaylord Dubois for his writing and remaining faithful to Burroughs' original novels, at least for the most part. Probably the most notable omission is that in the Untamed section it skips over the central part of Burroughs' novel: the "death" of Jane Clayton and Tarzan's discovery that she still lives. With that gone it leaves a big gap and for those unfamiliar with the novels a confusing intro for the second part.

That said the book is still a must have for Tarzan and Russ Manning fans. I hope at some point Dark Horse or another company reprints this as well as Manning's other Tarzan comics. Rating: **** out of 4. (Side note I used the original Gold Key comic book cover art instead of Dark Horse's. Just FYI.)

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