Tarzan Digest #1

By Russ Manning (DC Comics)

The early 1970s were the last real glory days of National (now DC) Comics. As they slowly lost market-share to Marvel they responded by producing controversial and landmark superhero material, but their greatest strength lay, as it always has, in the variety and quality of its genre divisions. Mystery and supernatural, Romance, War and Kids’ titles remained strong and the company’s eye for a strong licensed brand was as keen as ever.

Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan had long been a mainstay of Dell and Gold Key, as well as a global multi-media phenomenon, and when DC acquired the title they rightly trumpeted it out, putting one of their top Artist/Editors, Joe Kubert, in charge of the legendary Ape-man’s monthly exploits, and putting a whole niche of ERB titles onto the stands in a variety of formats.

The latter days of the Gold Key run had suffered since the brilliant Russ Manning took over the syndicated newspaper strip, and even the likes of Doug Wildey hadn’t been able to revive the comicbook series in the face of increasing prices and a general downturn in sales across the market. The DC incarnation premiered in a blaze of publicity at the height of a nostalgia boom and was generally well received by fans and the company pushed the title in many places and manners.

One of my very favourites is this handy-dandy digest, reprinting a number of Manning’s most fantastic forays with ERB’s fabulous creations, taken, I believe from the Manning Sunday strips, and filled out with Jesse Marsh’s ‘Tarzan’s illustrated Ape-English Dictionary’ and a couple of ‘Tarzan’s Jungle Lore’ features.

Russ Manning was an absolute master of his art, most popularly remembered now for the Star Wars newspaper strip, Magnus, Robot Fighter as well as the comic-book and newspaper strip (dailies from 1969-1972 and the Sundays from 1969-1979) incarnations of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s immortal Lord of the Jungle.

Manning’s Tarzan never strayed far from the canonical texts and here he puts the indomitable Greystoke through his paces in ‘Tarzan and the Rite of the Great Apes’ a delightful short fantasy of the Great White God’s relaxing times among his hairy subjects, ‘Tarzan and the Ant-Men’, which sees him return to the diminutive Velopismakusian warrior race stranded behind their impenetrable Thorn barrier, and the epic sequel ‘Tarzan and the Attack of the Beast Men’, which pits and him and son Korak against an invasion of Hyena and Crocodile men from a lost outpost of ancient Egypt.

Spectacular, tantalising, captivating and gloriously beautiful (I cannot think of any artist who drew lovelier women – or men, for that matter) this pocket-sized gem is an unending source of delights.

Eho vando! Tarmangani gree-ah! Kagoda? Now if you had this book you’d probably agree, no?
© 1972 Edgar Rice Burroughs Incorporated. All Rights Reserved.