Tuesday, October 26, 2010

BAB Two- In -One: Fighting Fiends and Yer Mama's a Great Ape!



Karen: Recently my contribution to one of our Two In Ones was Tomb of Dracula #18, which was the first part of a Dracula vs. Werewolf By Night story. At that time I didn't have the concluding issue, Werewolf By Night # 15 -but now I do! Courtesy of my recent acquisition of the Tomb of Dracula volume 2 TPB, which includes the WBN issue (whoever thought of that, thank you!).

Karen: Werewolf By Night # 15 was also written by TOD scribe Marv Wolfman, and drawn by WBN artist supreme Mike Ploog. The story picks up
right from the end of TOD, with Drac and the Werewolf in a pitched battle. However, while Dracula appeared to be gaining the upper hand in his title, here the Werewolf ultimately does, and tosses the Count from the castle tower. However, Dracula changes into a bat and flies off. While Topaz and the Werewolf leave the castle, our vampire hunters, Rachel Van Helsing and Frank Drake, are arriving in a helicopter. Dracula attacks the copter but they manage to land safely.

Karen: The next day, the Werewolf has reverted to Jack Russell and he and Topaz manage to unlock his father's diary. He reads it and discovers that one of his ancestors had actually staked Dracula! But the man was then bitten by a werewolf at the Castle, so Jack's lycanthropic curse is in some sense due to Dracula. This seemed pretty interesting, tying the characters together this way. Unfortunately I don't have many issues of WBN so I'm not sure if anything else was ever done with it.

Karen: Later, Dracula returns to the castle in mist form and attacks Rachel and Frank -and then leaves! Oddly, rather than finishing them off, he heads off to the copt
er, to disable it, saying that he senses all four of his enemies will converge there. This just seemed a bit weird, maybe a case where the artist and writer weren't on the same page? In any case, Drac begins disabling the helicopter controls when the Werewolf shows up. Topaz has used her powers to enable Jack to be in control of his beastly form. Dracula realizes this as they fight. Before much of a brouhaha can ensue, the vampire sees Topaz holding the diary and declares he must have the book. Just as he takes it from Topaz, Frank and Rachel show up and get it away from him, taking off in the chopper, which apparently wasn't so disabled as we thought! Dracula declares that the book could be used to destroy him forever and he frantically pursues the chopper in bat form, leaving Topaz and the Werewolf looking on.

Karen: While I thought the quality of the story was a bit uneven, it was generally entertaining. I much prefer Ploog's sinewy Werewolf to Colan's interpretation, but Colan's Dracula is the definitive one. Now I really want to get my hands on some more Werewolf By Night comics!

Doug: Back before htmlcomics.com got really well-acquainted with the FBI, it had been my slithering intent to do some Tarzan reviews from the very excellent Joe Kubert years over at DC. I, however, made myself an honest man during a visit this summer to Geppi's Entertainment Museum while on vacation in Baltimore. In the museum store I spied the three volumes of the Tarzan Archives (now published by Dark Horse Comics). They were on the scratch-and-dent table for -- get this -- $10 apiece!! Yep, $150 worth of books at 80% off! Dumb luck -- that's me! By the way, I would most strongly recommend that if at all possible a visit to the Geppi Museum (and all of the other attractions near it) would be time incredibly well-spent!

So today's fare is the premier issue of DC Comics' adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan of the Apes. Tarzan #207 (April 1972), "Origin of the Ape-Man" continued the numbering from the Gold Key series. As the title moved to DC, veteran illustrator Joe Kubert took the creative reins as editor, writer, penciller, and inker. And it was a tour de force!

Kubert's jungles are lush, his beasts menacing, and his ape-man lithe, yet powerful. The first issue in DC's reboot is a basic retelling of the Burroughs' novel, originally published in pulp form in 1912.
Kubert, sensing that many a superhero movie takes 2/3 of the picture just to get the guy in the suit, opens with Jane and a guide (plus some porters -- you just have to have African porters!) on a voyage through the jungle in search of Jane's missing father. Suddenly, a black leopard bursts through the foliage, only to be intercepted by a white blur of fury. Tarzan descends from above, saving the life of the guide while at the same time engaging the big cat. As quickly as it began it is over, and Tarzan vanishes. Jane tries to catch her breath, and the guide tells her what he thinks the man was.

Kubert then takes us on a descent into what would be hell for any modern man. While sailing for Africa, John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, and his wife Lady Alice find themselves in the company of hooligans as poorly-behaved as the seas have ever seen.
Later in the voyage, as the crew mutinies, the Claytons are protected by Black Michael; however, stating that he could never protect them forever, Black Michael forces the Claytons to disembark amidst the African jungles. Leaving only a rifle and ammunition, and an axe, the crew leaves.

Lord Greystoke builds first a platform, then later a cabin to protect his wife from the denizens of the jungle. Lions, monkeys, and the great apes all at one time or another pay a visit -- sometimes a menacing visit. I've always been enthralled by Burroughs' apes -- neither gorilla, chimpanzee, nor orangutan -- they are almost an amalgam of all three. Kubert succeeds in making us believe they are real. On one fateful day one of the bull apes surprises Greystoke and it is only his lady's quick action with the rifle that saves them both. However, before the ape died it lurched at Lady Alice, knocking her to the ground. Her unborn child unharmed, the heir to the Greystoke name was soon born.
However, the trauma left Alice homebound, and a year later she died.

As John Clayton grieved, elsewhere nearby the leader of the local ape tribe, Kerchak, menaced his fellows. Gnashing his teeth and striking out, he eventually began to chase Kala, she a new mother herself. In the melee, the young ape was dropped to his death. As Kerchak's rage suddenly left him, he rallied his troops and set off for the cabin by the sea. Kala went to her now-dead baby, and clutching him fell in line with the rest of her "people". Attaining access to the cabin, the apes poured in and overwhelmed Lord Greystoke. Kala, seeing the newborn human, grabbed him and left her own in his place. She would defend the strange-looking infant as he grew.

The remainder of the tale follows Tarzan's younger years, culminating in his discovery of the cabin and seeing books for the first time.
It is only then, when he was about 13 years old, that he discovered that there were others who looked like him. And it was also on that first voyage to the "nest" that he found and appropriated his father's hunting knife. Sensing the moonlight and the need to return to the tribe, Tarzan left -- only to be confronted by Bolgani the gorilla. With self-defense as his sole option, Tarzan engaged the huge gorilla and plunged his new blade into the beast's hide again and again and again. And as the two of them collapsed -- Bolgani in death and Tarzan in exhaustion, it was this singular event that would start the Ape-Man on the path to leader of his people, and toward becoming a legend.

Kubert spreads Burroughs' first story over multiple issues, and it's my goal to begin a series here, much like Karen had done with the Deathlok stories she'd reviewed from Marvel's Astonishing Tales.
These are fantastic stories, and Kubert's writing and art seems a perfect fit for them. While John Buscema would add his own interpretation to the jungle lord later, Kubert's interpretation is perhaps more fitting -- the length, the grace, yet again the power kept are fine attributes of this Tarzan, and make these stories Bronze Age classics!


2 comments:

J.A. Morris said...

Sorry to go off topic,but I just read that Bronze Age era inker Mike Esposito died this week. Since he's been discussed here in the past,I thought I'd mention it,more info here:
http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2010/10/24/rip-mike-esposito/

Andrew Wahl said...

Doug:

Glad you enjoyed Kubert's Tarzan. These jungle tales were totally off my radar as a kid, so I came to this first arc fresh earlier this year. I really liked them, with all four issues receiving either an A or A- grade. Lush jungles, well-choreographed action and great use of spot blacks made Kubert's Tarzan work a real treat.

Cheers,
Andrew
ComicsBronzeAge.com

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