Thursday, December 28, 2023

Dynamite's Tarzan


 The latest Tarzan comic series, "Lord of the Jungle" (same exact title as Dynamite's previous Tarzan series, also short-lived), was intended to be ongoing, but was cancelled after a mere six issue run. Some Burroughs fans seemed to applaud this, but for the most part, I just didn't see it. I bought every issue though, mostly for the art, which, BTW, was very promising. It was written by Dan Jurgens, who had been a Warlord artist back in the day, following Mike Grell's departure. That, too, seemed promising. 

   The series starts out in the 1950s, with an aging Tarzan pursuing some villains on a boat. Now, at first I didn't quite recall what was wrong with this, even though I don't ever recall seeing an old Tarzan before. I first thought of Phillip Jose' Farmer's Tarzan stories where he is immortal, but that is not canon. Then I remembered "Tarzan's Quest", and the Kuviro seeds, which obviously could not have happened according to this series. 

   The series than jumps back to Tarzan's youth, and essentially re-tells Tarzan's origin, which has been done many times before. It follows the story faithfully enough until the death of Kala, who is killed by white rhino poachers (what happened to Kulonga?). These turn out to be the same villains Tarzan is pursuing in his old age. These men are also treasure-seekers, and the story involves Tarzan finding and restoring a sacred artifact to its tribe. 

   The art by Benito Gallego, is intentionally reminiscent of Buscema and is quite good. The covers are by Gary Frank and other artists, also very good. Two of the later issues sport covers suggestive of ERB's short story "The Nightmare", in which a young Tarzan battles strange creatures that are the product of hallucenigenic mushrooms. There is one with a huge serpent, another with an eagle-like giant bird. But they don't adapt "The Nightmare," nor is there anything similar. 

   What I was expecting and hoping for was all-new Tarzan stories, like the ones currently being done by the Tarzan online comics strip, which were indeed all-new, just as advertised, and took Tarzan to an ancient Greek/Trojan colony, returned him to Pal-ul-don, and then sent him to the future H. G. Wells' Morlocks. 

   The Dynamite series did nothing of the sort, even though, curiously, it, too, was endorsed by the ERB Society  and featured Gallego as an artist. What they did was retell Tarzan's origin once again, but altered it so that it no longer fit the ERB canon. Part of it did end up being a new tale from Tarzan's (noncanonical) youth, which was just okay. 

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