Friday, February 15, 2013

Dang, Those Are Cool-Looking Animals! Tarzan 212

Tarzan #212 (DC issue #6, September 1972)
"The Captive"
Joe Kubert:  Words, Pencils, and Inks

Doug:  A long time ago, back in the days of the BAB Two-In-Ones, I reviewed the first four issues of Joe Kubert's Tarzan run at DC Comics.  For those not in the know, DC acquired the Tarzan license from Gold Key, and rather than renumber the series from a #1 (wow, those marketing guys at National Periodical Publications couldn't find work today!) they chose to just continue the Gold Key sequence.  As you see above, this is actually the sixth DC issue; for whatever reason the fifth issue didn't look very good to me.  And I don't mean the story -- I'll be using Dark Horse's Tarzan: The Joe Kubert Years Archives as my source material, and at least in that book the art was muddy.  But this one today is a beauty!  Let's see --

Doug:  Joe Kubert's inaugural storyline of the Lord of the Jungle adapted Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan of the Apes.  Today's fare is based on a later Burroughs novel, Jungle Tales of Tarzan.  As we begin, many denizens of the jungle have taken note of activity by a local tribe of the gomangani (Black Africans).  The natives are seen digging a huge hole in the earth; but what is curious to the ape-man is that they then covered it with sticks and grasses and leaves!  Upon closer inspection, Tarzan noted that there were sharpened sticks lining the bottom of the hole.  Still unclear of their motivations, our hero decides to go and consult Tantor the elephant.

Doug:  Tantor and Tarzan, we are told, have a compatibility unlike that of any other jungle creatures.  While Tarzan is not sure that Tantor understands the language of the great apes, he enjoys the giant's company.  Later, Tarzan takes leave of his friend to rejoin his tribe, still unsure of the purpose of the pit.  As the day goes on, Tarzan suddenly hears the drums of the gomangani, and the panicked trumpet of Tantor!  Suddenly it becomes frightfully clear what the great hole is for.  Taking to the trees, the ape man traverses the miles quickly through the upper terrace.  Sensing the urgency of Tantor's dilemma, Tarzan lights on the ground and plans to finish his trek through the fringe savanna.  However, his appearance has caused fright for the birds of Buto, the rhinoceros.  It is Buto who now charges across the veldt.  With no time for delay, the ape man avoids the conflict in an effort to save his friend.  As Tarzan emerges again from the trees and grasses, he finds that he is just in time to divert Tantor from certain doom.  But as the gray giant turns to crash back into the jungle, Tarzan loses his balance and himself falls into the hole.  Knocked unconscious, the gomangani see him and determine that where there should have been an elephant and now lay a man, the only explanation is that this must be the evil one of the forest.

Doug:  The chief, M'Bonga, orders his fellows to bind the white devil.  Spirited back to the village, Tarzan is bound in the center of the boma -- one hand each roped to a post inserted into the earth.  As the sun sets, it's clear what is going to happen.  Huge pots of water are set to boiling, and dried kindling is placed about the ape man's feet.  After discerning the situation and it gravity, Tarzan throws back his head and cuts loose with the cry of the bull ape (and yes, I completely saw Johnny Weissmuller in my mind as I read that).  The crowd instantly grew silent.  Tarzan, hearing not a sound from the aid he'd just requested, went with Plan B.  In a superhuman effort, he wrenched his right arm free from its binding, uprooting the post in the process.  The tribe immediately descended upon him.  Fighting as an animal backed into a corner, Tarzan dealt much damage before succumbing to the superior weight of the numbers against him.  But as M'Bonga moved to strike the death blow, Tarzan's aid did arrive -- Tantor crashed through the walls of the boma, scattering the Africans.  Using his mighty trunk, the elephant hoisted his near-unconscious friend atop his bony head and left the enclosure.  As he neared the jungle, M'Bonga stepped into the giant's path.  Tarzan groggily urged Tantor to spare the chief, for his bravery.  The pachyderm seemed to understand, and continued on his path after circumventing the warrior.  Tarzan was saved, and M'Bonga was left to wonder why the large beast had not killed him.

Doug:  I've not been disappointed in any of the Kubert Tarzan stories I've read -- even the fifth installment that I'd mentioned at the top was a decent-enough story.  For some reason it seemed that Kubert had received an art assist (uncredited) in places, as there were seemingly multiple styles on display.  Anyway, this is a nice adaptation of a Burroughs vignette.  Kubert's care in depicting the animals is on par with anything John Buscema has done -- high praise indeed from me.  Kubert's script is somewhat minimalist, often letting the art do the talking.  The pace is good, the action exciting, and overall I can guarantee you that reading today's story was time well spent!


dbutler16 said...

I never got into Tarzan comics, but that art is awesome!!

Edo Bosnar said...

Yes, that is some lovely art, and I agree that those depictions of animals are outstanding (I like the panel with the hippos in particular). However, I have to say that for me the gold standard of Tarzan art in comics is still Big John and Sal Buscema when Marvel had the license.

david_b said...

Never a Kubert fan, having seen him do different genre's of art over the years.

Sympathetically, this seems best suited for talents, as those animal depictions are indeed gorgeous. As for humans, his eyes always seem too clam-shelly for me, the body's always using the same torso curving lines. Aside from that, there is a warm distinctive style, so this jungle story seems well served.

Anonymous said...

"those marketing guys at National periodical Publications couldn't find work today!" Oddly, when DC acquired Tarzan, they started with an origin retelling, almost as if they expected their readers to be unfamiliar with the character. Gold Key fans may have lost interest, since they had already read adaptations of the earlier stories (including Jungle Tales). And yet, DC continued the numbering sequence from the old publisher. I have heard that, in the old days, publishers were reluctant to number a comic at #1. Supposedly, first issues did not sell well, as they were an unknown quantity. Whereas if a customer saw Tarzan #207 (Flash #105, Hulk #102, Thor #126) on sale, he would assume it must be a good comic, to have lasted that long. Maybe in 1972, comics were still marketed mainly toward casual readers (mostly kids) instead of collectors and speculators.

david_b said...

I do like his panel style, a panel on top of other animal panels..

I always look for interesting panel flow, whether it's got floating heads, Perez on NTT (or Avengers), a Neal Adams Xmen page, Steranko more 'Pop-Art'esque, etc..

Like whoever does the lettering, it always adds an unsung, distinctive feel we may take for granted.

At least when it's done REALLY BAD, it hits you in the head.

Anonymous said...

That's what I'm talkin' about!

This is Kubert in his prime. He was born to draw Tarzan. I don't think I would've given a Tarzan comic a second look when I was a kid if it weren't for Kubert's singular artistry. And I probably would not have read any of the novels either, if not for him.

The thing I like about Kubert's art is that it works on all of the levels that comic art should work at (pacing, panel layouts, all of the general storytelling areas), and yet, it's completely distinctive in it's rendering. Kubert was as much of an individual as Ditko, Wood, Kane, or Kirby.

James Chatterton

Garett said...

Love this!! One of my favorite covers--I had this comic sitting out for a long time, so I could glance at this cover on my way by.

The montage of animals on the first page...Tarzan swinging in the double page splash...that taaalll panel of the elephant and Tarzan...all fantastic. I've thought about getting these Dark Horse reprints, and the color looks clear and bright. I have the big oversize reprints and a few of the original comic issues like this one--do you think the Dark Horse books are worth it Doug?

Buscema had an amazing ability with figure drawing, but for Tarzan I think Kubert wins out. I can absorb the atmosphere of the jungle here--the trees, the animals, warm and powerful, despite not really having fine detail. Things are natural and firm, down-to-earth real yet evocative. I think it was Joe Rubenstein who said Joe Kubert was a "force of nature", and his Tarzan art feels that way.

Some great artists have done Tarzan--it would interesting to compare/rate their versions. Frazetta, Buscema, St. John, Jusko, Boris, Adams....

Doug said...

Garett --

In regard to the Tarzan Archives, I must confess to how I acquired my copies. Normal human beings would need to have $150 of disposable income. Not so for... this guy. About three years ago we were vacationing in Baltimore and were visiting Geppi's Comic Art Museum. They have a gift shop there, and I spied all three volumes on the scratch-and-dent table. Get this: $10 each. Because I didn't want to carry them on our tour of Camden Yards, I let them sit. However, two days later I had to catch the train down to Washington for work at the Holocaust Museum. Since the depot is adjacent to Geppi's and the ballpark, I figured I'd go back in and see if they were still there. Bang! So I got my three volumes at a discount of 80%.

The hardcovers themselves were in mint condition. The dust jackets were pretty shopworn, but a little tape here and there spruced them up. You mentioned the coloring, which is great. Many of you have commented on some of our Conan scans -- as you can see today, this is pretty standard four-color. And I love these books, really glad that I was able to get them and at such a deal.

Funny story though -- on my way home, one of the TSA agents at Reagan International made me step out of line and open my carry-on suitcase, where I had these books as well as a couple I'd picked up at the USHMM. So there I am opening up in front of God and everyone so this dude can inspect my Tarzan books. Comic geek...


Anonymous said...

Hmm, Doug, I would be proud to display my comicbooks at the airport!

Well, I can't add too much here with regard to Kubert's Tarzan. Although he's not one of my personal favourites, I have to admit his artwork here looks stunning, especially the African animals. You can tell he really was into drawing these creatures with the utmost love and care.

Yes, Inkstained Wrench, this story today would probably be too politically incorrect for modern audiences. Personally, I'd like to see Tarzan out of his native element - how about Tarzan in outer space going up against some nasty aliens!dgeteoo 1815

- Mike 'Kubert rocks' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Doug said...

Mike --

Even if your comic books are in a pocket just above your dirty socks?


I hope the TSA agent got more than he bargained for.


PS: By the way, TSA agents are an important feature in Sunday's post. Be sure to check it out, and bring your most geeky imagination!

Graham said...

This was my favorite of the Kubert Tarzan series, and I read just about all of them at the time.

I'm doing this from memory, but I think the previous issue you mentioned mixed art from Kubert and one of the comic strip artists (maybe Burne Hogarth), but I can't remember which one. There were a couple of issues like that where the art was mixed together, maybe taken from a story that originally appeared in the comic strip years before.

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