Friday, September 11, 2015

Tarzan by Joe Jusko - an Appreciation


Doug: This appreciation doesn't require any words from me. Happy Friday!



 
 

23 comments:

Edo Bosnar said...

I don't know, Doug. There's no denying that Jusko is a hugely talented artist, and these are nicely done. But like with Boris Vallejo, his work has that slightly overdone, airbrushed quality to it.

Doug said...

Edo --

So is that to say you don't like it, or it's just a little "too much"? Because I agree with you. Adonis = OK. Adonis on steroids...? Too much.

The post on La that I ran a few years ago is linked at the bottom of today's fare. I could certainly put together posts dedicated to any of the artists in that one (Frazetta, Neal Adams, Roy Krenkel, etc.). But the other day I was looking to switch out the background on one of my monitors and came across the image at the top of today's post. I thought it was just beautiful. And especially if you focus on the animals in these images, I think the viewer has to be impressed.

Doug

Edo Bosnar said...

More a case of a little too much; again, as with Vallejo, I do like them, but just not as much as, say, similar stuff by Frazetta, et al.
I agree with you that the animals, and the backgrounds in general, on all of this images are really well done.

Humanbelly said...

Oh, I just figure the whole air-brushed quality (it is, after all, an artist's tool)is part & parcel of this particular style of illustration-- where it gives everything a sort of "reality-plus" quality. I loved this stuff when I was in college, and I certainly appreciate it-- but it sort of wears me out now. It's. . . working too hard to get my attention? Is that a way to put it?

I don't remember which novel this particular Priestess came from (JEWELS OF OPAR?), but I find the unspoken mandate to get some cheesecake in there in a couple of other images to be quite amusing. As far as I can tell, Burroughs kept overt sex and sexuality pretty much locked away in at least those first four novels. Buxom, unclothed damsels were never, ever referred to at all-- and yet here they are in the illustrations! Heh.

I like seeing the full-nelson move on the gorilla, as that was a memorable moment (albeit w/ a lion) in the first novel. Burroughs is said to have hated the film versions of his character, with the "Me Tarzan, you Jane" childlike schtick, 'cause he went to great, improbable lengths to create Tarzan as this animal-man, lord of the jungle who had managed to teach himself to read (in French), and developed a highly literate mind even though he couldn't actually speak any human language at all. It's also a slog in some of those novels to get past a hefty chunk of inherent racism and classicism (I remember being surprised that he wasn't a product of Victorian England, in fact). But, that's all tangential stuff, yeah?

HB

Anonymous said...

The steroid Tarzan doesn't really work for me either I'm afraid.... Following the link, I enjoyed the La post a lot more.

Hey Doug, weren't you saying something a while back about getting a Kubert Tarzan artists edition? I'd have preferred to see a page or two of that (hint, hint)

-sean

Humanbelly said...

Oh! Now I remember the FalalalalalaLa post---! Glad I revisited it. How is it that I don't seem to have as vivid a recollection of her as everyone else?? In the book, was she indeed written in a much more titillating (sorrysorrysorry-- but it's the right word--) fashion than usual, thus inspiring such startlingly similar interpretations across a wide range of artists AND span of time? Y'know, I wonder if Hal Foster's early Tarzan strip featured her or that Temple of Gold priestess?

There were also comments about preferences for Neal Adams' Tarzan (covers for the 70's paperbacks), and I'd echo them here. Adams' leaner, sinewy jungle lord rings much, much more "real" and credible in the bell of my eyeball. (uh- whatever that means. . . ) Jusko's guy here would have to just about eat a lion a week to maintain that impossible physique-- and he'd be too heavy swing through the trees with the greatest of ease. Ron Ely's build from the 60's TV series was really just about exactly right, IMO.

HB of the (sub)Urban Jungle

Doug said...

So I'm just curiously confused, and certainly not trying to pick a fight.

Many of our commenters today (and I can understand the reservations) have mentioned the over-the-top musculature on our Jungle Lord as a bit off-putting. Yet some of you also have drawn back from full-on approval of Alex Ross's work, which is much more subdued and "realistic" (whatever that means). So I get the sense, or at least I think it could be inferred, that some of you don't like your fictional heroes depicted in paintings. Please comment.

Sean -- as Garett had "warned" me, the Kubert book is very clean. Does that say something about Kubert getting it "right" the first time? I guess so. But among my growing collection of IDW Artist Editions, the Kubert Tarzan volume is my least favorite. Hear me -- from the standpoint that I like to see blue line, white out, paste ups, etc. If Kubert got it right the first time, it's really pretty incredible as compared to some of the other masters. But it's not the sort of thing I most enjoy seeing. That being said, I did order the second Tarzan volume (stole it for less than $50 on a pre-order) and should have it by the end of the month. I can at some point post some images, but I'll just say ahead of time that it will mostly just look like line art. If you're interested in the same things I am, any of the volumes for the work of Romita, Buscema, and Kane are solid examples.

Good growing conversation today, friends. And we'll have new content both days this weekend if you're able to converse. Thanks for being such a willing party to what we want to do here.

Doug

Anonymous said...

Well Doug, I would say Jusko and Ross (although for the record, of the two I prefer Ross) are both limited by their realism.

By way of contrast, I'd cite Frazetta or Sienkiewicz as artists better able to adapt realism to their own style (hope that makes sense, so their work has more vitality and movement. For my taste, those Jusko Tarzans in particular are a bit stiff.,,

-sean

Doug said...

A comment on ERB --

As recommended in these parts, I've begun "A Princess of Mars", and I have to tell you it's a bit of a slog. I think part of it is the alien nature of the story -- I was having a hard time keeping he sizes, shapes, and number of arms straight for all of the characters. Honestly, I went to my Jusko book that contains the art he did for a trading card series so that I could get a visual on these characters. It helped. But I have still found this John Carter story to be as formulaic as ERB's Tarzan stories.

While I adored the Tarzan paperbacks as an 8th-9th grader, the further into the series I got the more I became aware of ERB's "been there, done that" plotting -- not much was new, other than the settings.

And a contrasting thought on Robert E. Howard's Conan stories (and by the way, doesn't Tarzan seem more like Conan in the image of him standing over the fallen and distraught La?). REH did, HB, insert commentary on "full breasts" and the like. Much more titillating, as you say. And I don't generally find the Conan stories to be quite as predictable as the Tarzan books.

Seriously, if ERB had cut out one lost-and-found trope in each of his books, they'd have been better.

Doug

Humanbelly said...

"Barsoom"--- isn't that what Mars is called by the native race in the John Carter books?
My only experience to ERB's John Carter/Mars is the Marvel comic-- which I stuck with for quite awhile after I'd lost any interest in it. I wanted to like it-- and the art was generally quite good, but it was just. . . boring. It never managed to pull me into that world, and did indeed have a very formulaic Anglo-outsider-conquers-savages plot dependency. What it mostly did is make me not want to pick up the books at all, I'm afraid.

I agree, Conan had a much richer, more interesting literary life. And Howard's sparer, more-direct writing style went a long way toward keeping the pace up--- which is a big ol' factor in how much your reader's gonna enjoy your story. Burroughs--- he could indeed use a bushel of words when a peck would suffice. (I can't imagine what that's like. . . )

HB (A bushel and a peck AND a hug around the neck. . . )

Colin Bray said...

The physicality and fundamental artistiic chops in these images are fantastic. But the colors are just so...shiny. Is this what is meant by airbrushing?

The top painting together with the Tarzan/panther painting are lighter on the glossy colors and are as a result my favourites. I also agree with other contributors that the animals are superb.

Perhaps the reason I struggle with these human figure is very much the same reason I struggle with CGI-created humans - the closer a human representation is to the real thing the more I notice how it falls short of reality - if that makes sense.

Perhaps classic comic book art gets around that by not attempting to be 'real' and allowing the reader to suspend reality and use her/his imagination to fill in the gaps. I enjoy being given that power of interpretation.

Having said all that, I could imagine Jusko painting, say, a one-off Black Panther story if he dialled back on the shiny-ness just a little and/or painted every panel as a night-time scene. It would be beautiful and a showcase for the nobility and athleticism of the character.

Garett said...

I like Jusko and have his book with these Tarzan scenes. But Tarzan does seems too much like a bodybuilder posing, and it bothers me that he has no chest or arm hair. Not as bodybuilder-ish as Boris though. One reason I like Kubert's Tarzan is the roughness he brings with his art, and yes a leaner build to the physique.

I like Foster's Tarzan for his simple but real body language, and Hogarth for his springy dynamism. Tarzan's a great subject for a figure artist.

Also with Jusko, I'd like to see some bravado brushwork and unexpected colors like Frazetta. The textures of the jungle are here, but it gives a dry impression, rather than moist, lush jungle with rich possibilities. Still appreciate his art though!

Doug said...

Garett, I like Kubert's Tarzan more than Buscema's for the reason many today are stating, and that's the stature and grandeur that Big John imbues in his heroes. Kubert's lithe Tarzan would be akin to Christopher Lambert with a Buscema-inspired mask, if that makes any sense (and you know how we love our rubber masks around here!).

Doug

Garett said...

Hey Doug, yes I'd go for a Buscema Conan over a Kubert Conan, but a Kubert Tarzan first. Has anyone here heard of Tarzan artist Ray Dean? Just came across him here:
100 Years of Tarzan
About halfway down there are a couple paintings of his from 1933-34. Quite nice style! Would like to see more.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Jusko's Tarzan kinda reminds me of Vallejo's Ballantine covers. I remember Tarzan putting an ape in a half-nelson in Tarzan the Untamed...maybe that's Bertha Kircher, the "german spy" in the picture; I think she was described as being blonde. I'm not sure who the woman being menaced by the lion is supposed to be...maybe Magda from Tarzan and the Forbidden City?

I agree that La looks good in these...though I don't remember her crying in the books.

Mike Wilson

Edo Bosnar said...

Yep, Doug, you're right about ERB being a writer who seems to work best when you're pre-teen/teen (I was reading his books mainly in the 7th/8th grade). And yes, the Tarzan books became really, really formulaic - I stopped reading after I got through the 15th book, when it dawned on me that I'd basically read the same Tarzan story about 4 or 5 times. I actually liked the JC/Barsoom books much better, as they didn't seem quite as redundant. However, I never really had any desire to go back and re-read them either. And I agree that REH was a much better writer.

Garett, thanks for the link to that page! There's some great art there. Among the older, i.e., pre-WW2, Tarzan illustrators, I like J. Allen St. John the best.
And I have to disagree about Tarzan in the comics: with all due respect to Kubert, for me Big John Buscema's Tarzan is the definitive comic book version.

Kenn Dunn said...

@ Colin Bray: Jusko did at least one issue of the Black Panther in the 90s with Christopher Priest writing. That first Tarzan pic is gorgeous.

Anonymous said...

Holy Lord of the Jungle on steroids Batman!

When I saw these admittedly gorgeously painted scans, my first reaction was 'they should rename this Conan of the Apes' because these images reminded me more of our favourite Cimmerian rather than Tarzan. Yes, like HB and some other commentators here noted, Tarzan as painted by Jusko looks more like Conan especially with such a massively muscular body. I've always pictured Tarzan with the classic, lean, lithe physique. Yes, Lord Greystoke has muscles but he should never look like Arnold Schwarzenegger!

Jusko is definitely talented but in my opinion he overdid the look of Tarzan here. I prefer the leaner version as drawn by Kubert and Buscema. Some of the poses seem to be lifted straight out of a bodybuilding magazine, and I should know 'cause I got a stack of them right next to my pile of comicbooks! Maybe that's why some of these pics look so stiff rather than dynamic and energetic.


- Mike 'my barbells have cobwebs' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Joe Jusko said...

This should be renamed "Tarzan by Joe Jusko-an Evisceration. :-)

The large painting of Tarzan & Jad and the one of Tarzan and Jane facing off against the leopard were painted years after the others, which are 1 or 2 day 9"x12" trading card paintings from 1995 (of which I painted 124 over the course of 12 months). I'm the first to admit they are not of equal quality and my depiction of Tarzan has changed considerably since.

The full nelson piece is a scene from Tarzan and the Lion Man and Tarzan did rebuff La in Jewels of Opar-"Tarzan does not desire you." I've read every ERB novel numerous times since childhood and these are direct scenes from the books.

For the record I'm by no means offended by the comments here (you can't expect everyone to like your work), just setting some facts in place.

Thank you to those who appreciate the effort put forth in the work.

Edo Bosnar said...

Wow, Joe Jusko left a comment! Man, I hope I'm not considered one of the eviscerators - I never said I didn't like any of the images.
Actually, if you're still checking this post, I have to say I love your black & white and, especially, pencil work. For example, there's nothing by you on this page or this page that I don't love.

By the way, for those of you who stated a preference for Conan done in this style, recently the Marvel Comics of the 1980s blog (on the sidebar) featured a few Savage Sword covers by Joe Jusko. You're welcome.

Anonymous said...

Cool; I haven't read Tarzan and the Lion Man yet...I HAVE read Jewels of Opar, but I don't remember that scene; I guess I should read it again!

Mike Wilson

Anonymous said...

Oh wow Joe Jusko posted on this blog! I'm truly sorry if Mr. Jusko felt offended by any of my comments, or anyone else's here for that matter. Let me state for the record that like Edo I never said I hated these pics, they are beautifully painted, it's just that they didn't fit the mental image of a lean,lithe, dynamic Tarzan which I've been accustomed to all these years. Hope that clears it up!


- Mike from Trinidad & Tobago.

Humanbelly said...

Ten trading card paintings a month?
That's--- two paintings a week??
I'm correct that paintings take a HECK of a lot longer than pencil/ink drawings, yes??

How nice of Mr. Jusko to drop in on us, though, eh? A very pleasant reminder of how this-here interweb can make us all into real, approachable folks if we so desire-- thank you, Joe J!

And from both your tone & words, and the fact that you're a long-revered popular artist, I would be stunned if you were indeed truly offended by any of the preference-based critique forwarded here. Glancing over the thread, I don't think I caught a bit of the "Joe Jusko sux and his dog is ugly" level of moronic vitriol that seems to infest the blogosphere out there. Oh, a bit of good-natured ribbing, sure. . . but that's 'cause we're all a buncha ol' wise-guys, we are-!

HB

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