Saturday, October 16, 2021

The Golden Bookshelf:

Tarzan of the Apes

A classic gets the Golden Bookshelf treatment in this week’s review of the Tarzan of the Apes comic.


Tarzan is probably one of the most famous characters of 20th century literature, the star of a series of novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs, numerous movies and television shows, and a beautifully-drawn comic strip that ran in Sunday newspapers for nearly 50 years. Burne Hogarth stands out even among such notables as Hal Foster, Russ Manning and Joe Kubert as the classic Tarzan comic artist. His run on the strip during the 1940s was a visual cornucopia of perfectly-drawn figures in motion, densely-foliated jungles and architecturally-rich lost cities.

After his tenure on Tarzan, Hogarth authored a series of how-to books for artists and taught at the School of Visual Arts in New York. In 1972, he made a triumphant return to the character in a tour-de-force adaptation of Burroughs’ first Tarzan novel, Tarzan of the Apes. Running 122 glorious pages in full color (on coated paper) in an original hardcover edition, Tarzan of the Apes has to be considered a contender for the first graphic novel issued in the United States, predating Will Eisner’s A Contract With God and Other Tenement Stories by several years. The 160-page book also includes a long introduction by comics historian Maurice Horn with samples of Hogarth’s art from the newspapers and his art books.

The story recounts the origin of Tarzan – how his parents’ ship was wrecked on the coast of Africa and young Lord Graystoke, the only survivor, was raised by wild gorillas in the jungle. The remainder is a Tarzan-vs.-the-natives tale of the sort that hasn’t aged gracefully in these politically-correct times. But really, with page after page of Hogarth’s astonishing art, reproduced at a quality impossible on newsprint, who can complain?

Tarzan of the Apes was issued only in a hardcover edition, from renowned art publisher Watson Guptill. Four years later, it was followed by a black and white trade paperback of short stories called Jungle Tales of Tarzan. Hogarth’s original Tarzan newspaper strips were reprinted in Volumes 6-17 of NBM’s Tarzan in Color series, and in the enormous slipcased Golden Age of Tarzan 1939-1942 from Chelsea (1977).


Tarzan of the Apes


Publication Year: 1972

Writer: Dialogue adapted by Robert Hodes from the novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, introduction by Maurice Horn
Artist: Burne Hogarth

Rob Salkowitz is a Seattle-based writer and authority on all manner of aging newsprint. You can e-mail your comments and queries to Rob at Use "ComicBase" as the subject line.

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