Thursday, September 22, 2011

Lord of the Jungle

Should come as no surprise that Dynamite has announced that they are also adding Tarzan to their list of characters with multiple covers by the usual suspects Alex Ross, Ryan Sook and others. The surprise is that it took them this long after their start of chronicling the adventures of John Carter and family of Mars. Like the first Mars book, the first eight of the Tarzan novels are reportedly public domain. The estate owns the trademark rights to the Tarzan name thus the name of the comic not reflecting the jungle lord's name anywhere.

The release is a little confusing as it seems to indicate that like most of Dynamite's books, it's going to be an origin tale, heavily relying on the story written for a medium other than comics. At least in this case it's Edgar Rice Burroughs' original "Tarzan of the Apes" tale and not a Kevin Smith movie treatment. However, since it is a modern comic book adaptation of a longer prose work, we can expect quite a bit of decompression with large chunks also left out.

Yet, the writer/adapter Arvid Nelson says:"Tarzan's DNA is in everything from super heroes to space epic. But I was surprised at how little I knew about him, because the many adaptations wander very far from the original character. His true story is so much deeper and more interesting -- that's we're trying to bring to life in Lord of the Jungle."

I don't really recall much in the terms of "super hero" or "space epic" in that first story. And, if the covers are any indication, I don't really picture Tarzan as wearing golden arm bands, bracers and necklaces. As the ultimate nature boy jungle man, I see him wearing little that's so purely ornamental, that he'd sooner wear leather made from a beast he killed and skinned.  Maybe as a necklace a leather strap with the tooth of a fierce beast he found hard to kill. Still, I'd rather just see them to move beyond the books and the origin story. I've got those to read and the comic isn't going to top them.  The real challenge is to take the character into the realm of comics, competing against the superheroes and find ways to make him work and stand out. He needs foes and stories that are equally larger than life with art that gets across the dynamism of the character. Frankly speaking, as far as the original stories go, while Tarzan is a great character and has that name recognition, Ki-Gor actually operated more in the super hero mold facing the likes of a race of intelligent gorillas bent on conquest. Reminds me, I do have a used paperback of "Tarzan Triumphant" which I've not read yet. So much to read, so little time.

My view of Tarzan though will always be the Neal Adams paperback covers. No one else seemed to capture power, energy and savagery all at once. I love John Buscema and Russ Heath but there Tarzans always seemed a little too clean, Hogarth's looked a little too much like a flayed model.
Even so, it will hard to be resist the price of the first issue. They promise a full first issue for $1, that's roughly a third of the price of most comics. On that alone, I may have to give up a diet coke that day and buy myself a comic.

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