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Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Titan Books: Tarzan volume 3 -Tarzan Versus The Nazis

Tarzan - Versus The Nazis (Vol. 3)
The Complete Burne Hogarth Sundays and Dailies Library
Burne Hogarth

Dimensions: 324 x 246mm
full colour
Publication date: 17 April 2016 ISBN: 9781781163191
 RRP £29.99 BUY NOW


Following on from Tarzan in the City of Gold and Tarzan Versus The Barbarians, Tarzan Versus The Nazis is the third of four exclusive volumes authorized by the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate, collecting the entire run of the legendary Tarzan comic strip by one of the most influential artists of the 20th Century, Burne Hogarth (with Don Garden).

Burne Hogarth and writer Don Garden produced some of the most acclaimed stories ever to appear in the pages of newspapers worldwide with the iconic character TARZAN!

You can see my reviews of the previous Titan volumes here:

Vol. 1 Tarzan In The City Of Gold

Vol. 2 Tarzan versus the Barbarians

A guide to collecting UK Tarzan comics that I posted is here:

I think that the 1982 interview with Burne Hogarth included in this volume is very interesting.  Remember that Hogarth made his name and career off the whole Tarzan story. I write "the Tarzan story" for a very good reason.

Here is the basic plot guideline to Tarzan comic stories:

#1 -Tarzan fights an animal and kills it.
#2 -Tarzan kills and animal.  No reason -things were just going that way.
#3 -Tarzan is feared by superstitious natives because he is The Great White Ape. And that's code for          "Tarzan is a White man therefore superior to the uppity blacks."
#4 -some princess or white woman goes all gooey-eyed over the great hunk.
#5 -Tarzan kills an animal....he hasn't done that in a few panels so....
#6 -Tarzan finds a lost city or empire.....jeez, they ever heard of maps or basic "how not to get lost"?
#7 -Tarzan gets captured and leads a revolt.
#8 -Tarzan gets to kill an animal.  Donna Barr said it "Tarzan movies are just animal snuff films" and            that says it all.

Take away the constant animal killing and you have three plots.

I mean, he comes across a fella about to fight a very badly drawn T-Rex type critter and thinks: "Dinosaur...supposed to be extinct a hundred million years ago!" then "KREEGAH! TARZAN BUNDOLO!" and he gets all stabbie and snuffs the dino.   Also, Tarzan seems to go from being quite intelligent to  not that bright.  I mean, he was born and raised in the jungle, right? So at what point did he get to read about dinosaurs and their extinction?

Oddly, #1-8 above sums up the whole Hal Foster and Burne Hogarth newspaper strips. I decided to re-read the collected books and at one point (it was 0300 hrs) fell asleep and the pages of the book flipped and when I woke I continued reading until I realised the woman who had gone all googly-eyed over Tarzan looked different!!  I also started realising even more just how casually Tarzan killed animals -oh and "His" apes were different from ordinary gorillas....?
Burne Hogarth.jpg
Above: Burne Hogarth at the 1982 San Diego Comic Con
Unsavoury.  Even the UK reprints -in Tarzan Super Adventure Quarterly- followed this theme.  A white hunter-guide "only" wanted to lead his party of businessmen to shoot a rhino but, you guessed it, the natives were getting uppity again! So Tarzan goes along to ensure the white guys get to kill their rhino...I like the whole lost cities and fantasy type of stories and whereas comics should have been educating kids that animals were not just there to kill for fun, they were saying "They are wild animals -it's our right to kill them".

Now bearing this in mind and getting back to that 1982 Hogarth interview: you see, Hogarth said he would never want to draw super heroes such as Batman, Superman and Spiderman.  He told George T. McWhorter, the interviewer and former Curator of the Edgar Rice Burroughs  Memorial Collection at the University of Louisville: "They follow a rather sterile formula which seems to rule out any character development" to which a rather fawning McWhorter responded "Exactly".

I actually read that several times. Hogarth points out that he'd never gone to Africa nor studied the flora or fauna but made up jungle settings as he went along and so inspired a couple of generations into believing so much fantasy was real.  Africa, even at the time of these strips, had been filmed and photographed but I guess to keep the story going and add the right elements, Hogarth did what Burroughs did -made it up.  But most comic creators do that. But, with the greasing of ego by McWhorter, we get to see that Hogarth was actually quite into himself -it may explain why some veteran comic artists, such as John Buscema, did not like Hogarth.

"They follow a rather sterile formula which seems to rule out any character development"-that had to be ego because by 1982 Marvel Comics was recognised for the fact that it was heavy on characterisation and story-telling.  It seems Hogarth thought comic books beneath him because his statement -there's more in the book- shows he had not read any. Tarzan cannot be called heavily characterised.

But these strips are lovingly cleaned up and presented in nice sturdy books with equally sturdy pages; you are not going to accidentally tear a page while turning it. For students of comic strip/book history -and remember that Hogarth's worth was still being reprinted in Tarzan comics in the 1980s (and probably still is somewhere) as well as art and, of course, the Tarzan fans of which there are many, these books are "must haves".

It is interesting to see Hogarth's work and then look at the other artists linked to Tarzan.  Hogarth drew the 'Tarzan' Sunday page  from 1937 to 1945 and then from 1947 to 1950.  

Before him, and often forgotten, was Hal Foster though he is mainly known for Prince Valliant.  Titan has not released a volume covering Foster's Tarzan which is a pity, though 1970s UK Tarzan comics did reprint the work. 

Above: Hal Foster.  Below -an unmistakable Foster Tarzan page.
Jesse Marsh drew Tarezan for Dell/Western up until 1964 when he handed over the reigns. Marsh is a name hardly mentioned in comics today -orknown- yet he drew a huge number of Tarzan comics.
 Above: Jesse Marsh.  Below: A Marsh Tarzan page.
Marsh handed over the art chores to Russ Manning.  Manning later produced Tarzan strips solely for Europe -these were not published in the United States.  I'm not sure whether they have been collected though I do know Dark Horse in the US has produced a Jesse Marsh collection as well as a Hal Foster collection.
 Above: The legend that is Russ Manning.  Below a Manning Tarzan page.

Then we come to the modern masters of Tarzan comics. Joe Kubert needs no introduction to comic fans.
 Above: Joe Kubert and, below, a Kubert Tarzan page.

"Big" John Buscema was no Hogarth fan but his Tarzan comics are still legendary, even if no one seems to be chasing back issues -even Kubert's work tends to be ignored these days.
 Above: John Buscema c. 1975 and, below, a page of his Tarzan work -one of the few titles he actually pencilled and ink himself.

So there is a very long Tarzan history in comics and if you can get the Marsh book(s) you have a lot of the1950s-1964 covered.  The Hal Foster collection will take you right up to Hogarth.  And Hogarth is the artist most associated with the character and these three volumes from Titan Books are well worth getting.

Maybe one day they'll do a Foster collection?  Never know.

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