Tarzan Archives: The Joe Kubert Years volume 2


By Joe Kubert with Hal Foster, Frank Thorne & various (Dark Horse Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-59307-416-6

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 thrillers, Science Fiction, Romance, War and Kids’ titles remained powerful attractions and the company’s eye for a strong licensed brand was as keen as ever.

A global multi-media phenomenon, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan had long been a comicbook mainstay of Dell/Gold Key/Whitman, and when DC acquired the title they rightly trumpeted it out, putting one of their top Artist/Editors, Joe Kubert, in charge of the immortal Ape-man’s monthly exploits.

After decades as Whitman staples, total licensing of ERB properties was transferred to DC – not just Tarzan and his extended family, but also the author’s pioneering science fantasy characters – with DC wisely continuing the original numbering.

Tarzan #207 was the first: an April 1972 cover-date, and the series stormed on until #258 in February 1977. Thereafter Marvel, Malibu, Dark Horse and Dynamite extended the Jungle Lord’s comicbook canon in sporadic sorties to recapture the sales and popularity of the 1950s…

The latter days of the Gold Key run had suffered ever since Russ Manning left the title to draw the syndicated newspaper strip, and even the likes of Doug Wildey were unable to revive the comic’s success in the face of constantly rising costs and a general downturn in sales across the market. DC’s continuation of the franchise premiered in a blaze of publicity at the height of a nostalgia boom and was generally well-received by fans.

DC pushed the title in many places and formats (such as bookstore digest collections and the gloriously oversized Tabloid Editions) and adapted other properties such as John Carter of Mars, Pellucidar and Carson of Venus in their own features and titles

This second superb hardcover archive collection (also available in digital formats) re-presents material from Tarzan #215-224 (December 1972 to October 1973) and opens with fond reminiscences and grateful thanks to fellow artist Frank Thorne in Kubert’s Introduction.

The pictorial wonderment kicks off with a classic visual treat as ‘The Mine!’ incorporates material originally seen in classic 1930s Sunday newspaper strips (by Hal Foster & George Carlin) embedded in an original tale by Kubert.

Joe’s intent was to adapt all 24 Tarzan novels – writing, illustrating and even lettering the stories, with the brilliant Tatjana Wood handling the colours – interspersing them with new and original tales. However the workload, coupled with his other editorial duties, was crippling.

As with Tarzan #211, here he was again compelled to combine original with vintage to detail how the Ape-Man is captured by slavers and pressed into toil deep in the bowels of the earth for a sadistic mine owner.

Naturally, Tarzan soon chafes at enforced servitude and quickly leads a savage workers’ revolt to overturn and end the corporate bondage…

Issue #216 took another route to beating deadlines with old pal Frank Thorne pencilling Kubert’s script for ‘The Renegades’, leaving hard-pressed Joe to ink and complete the story of a murderous raid which wipes out a Red Cross mission.

Investigating the atrocity, Tarzan discovers the “maddened savages” responsible are actually white men masquerading as natives; stealing supplies for a proposed expedition to plunder a lost treasure vault. When he catches the culprits, Tarzan’s vengeance is terrible indeed…

‘The Black Queen!’ is an all-Kubert affair wherein the Jungle Lord almost saves a man from crocodiles. Acceding to the ravaged victim’s last wish, Tarzan then travels to his distant homeland and overturns the brutal regime of tyrannical Queen Kyra who rules her multicultural kingdom with whimsy, ingrained prejudice and casual cruelty…

The equally selfish choices of American millionaire tycoon Darryl T. Hanson blights his family as his search for ‘The Trophy’ decimates the fauna of Tarzan’s home and leads to a clash of wills and ideologies which can only end in tragedy…

With Tarzan #219, Kubert began an epic 5-issue adaptation of ERB’s sequel novel The Return of Tarzan. It opens in Paris as the unacknowledged son of vanished Lord Greystoke tries to adapt to his new life as a civilised man of leisure.

One night his natural gallantry draws him to the side of a woman screaming for help and he is attacked by a gang of thugs. After easily thrashing the brigands he is astounded to find her accusing him of assault and simply bounds effortlessly away from the gendarmes called to the disturbance.

This entire trap has been engineered by a new enemy; Russian spy and émigré Nikolas Rokoff and his duplicitous toady Paulvitch

The rightful heir to the Greystoke lands and titles silently stood aside and let his apparently unaware cousin William Cecil Clayton claim both them and the American Jane Porter, after Tarzan rescued her from attacking apes in the jungle. Missing her terribly, Tarzan then chose to make his own way in the human world beside new friend and French Naval Officer Paul D’Arnot.

(You could catch up by reading our review of Tarzan Archives: The Joe Kubert Years Volume One, but I’m sure you’d far rather see the book itself or even the original novel…).

In the course of his urbane progression, Tarzan had exposed the Russian cheating at cards to blackmail French diplomat Count De Coude and had earned himself a relentless, implacable foe forever. When Rokoff subsequently tried to murder Tarzan, the vile miscreant agonisingly learned how powerful his jungle-bred enemy was…

With physical force clearly of no use, Rokoff’s latest plan is to put the Ape-Man through a ‘Trial by Treachery’; manufacturing “evidence” that Tarzan is having an affair with the Comte’s wife. Once more, however, the civilised monster underestimates his target’s forthright manner of dealing with problems and is savagely beaten until he admits to the plot and clears the innocent woman’s name…

With news of Jane’s impending marriage to William Clayton, Tarzan seeks to ease his tortured mind with action and the next chapter sees him travel to Algeria where, sponsored by the grateful, ashamed Count, he begins working for the Secret Service in Sidi Bel Abbes, ferreting out a traitor in the turbulently volatile French colony…

His hunt soon leads him to a likely traitor and brutal battle with Arab agent provocateurs, but things start to turn his way after he liberates a dancing slave who is the daughter of a local sheik.

When word of Jane comes from D’Arnot, Tarzan throws himself even more deeply into his tasks and falls into another ambush organised by Rokoff. This time his ‘Fury in the Desert’ seems insufficient to his needs until his newfound friend the Sheik rides to his rescue…

The intrigue continues to unfold in ‘Return of the Primitive’ as Tarzan finally uncovers a link between Rokoff and the espionage at Sidi Bel Abbes. Job done he is then posted to Capetown and aboard ship meets voyager Hazel Strong, a close friend of Jane’s who reveals the heiress had never forgotten her tryst with the Ape-Man.

Unable to watch Jane enter into a loveless marriage, Hazel took off on an ocean cruise…

The story rocks Tarzan’s mind, but not so completely that he fails to notice Rokoff is also aboard and murderously dogging his footsteps. This time however the Russian is properly prepared and that night the Ape-Man vanishes from the ship…

Rokoff’s act of assassination is a purely pyrrhic victory. Soon after reaching Capetown the villain insinuated himself into the Clayton wedding party but when their yacht’s boilers explode next morning, he, Hazel, William Clayton, Jane and her father are left adrift in a lifeboat…

Tarzan meanwhile, has survived being tumbled overboard and spent days swimming hundreds of miles. He now washes up on the same beach his parents were left upon decades ago. Staggering inland, he finds himself in the cabin his father built before being stolen and adopted by Kala the She-Ape.

John Clayton is forgotten, for fate has brought Tarzan home…

A man changed by his time amongst other men, the Jungle Lord instinctively saves a native warrior from certain death and is astonished to find himself declared chieftain of the noble Waziri tribe.

…And off the coast, a lifeboat filled with dying travellers spots land and wearily sculls towards a welcoming beach in the heart of primeval forests…

Revelling in his newfound status, popularity and freedom, Tarzan enquires about the fabulous jewelled ornaments of his new friends and learns of an incredible lost metropolis. Soon he is curiously journeying to ‘The City of Gold’ where he encounters debased, degenerate beast-men led by a gloriously beautiful Queen.

La is high priestess of forgotten Atlantean outpost Opar, but can barely control her subjects enough to allow the perfect specimen of manhood to escape to safety. Both she and Tarzan know they are destined to meet again…

Refusing to be cheated of their sacrifice, the bloodthirsty Oparian males search far into the jungle and soon encounter the Clayton yacht survivors. When the primitives attack the human strangers and carry off Jane, Rokoff shows his true colours, leaving William to die. This callous act also inadvertently clears the path for Tarzan to finally claim his inheritance and reunite with Jane…

All the Jungle Lord has to do is break back into Opar, save his one true love from ‘The Pit of Doom!’ and escape the wrath of jealous Queen La…

That mission accomplished, he and Jane return to the beach in time to witness William’s dying confession and accept the succession to the estates and title of Lord Greystoke…

This captivating compilation concludes with an original adventure seeing Tarzan rescue a beautiful maiden from attacking apes and discovering she is a messenger from La, who is in peril of her life…

In Opar another insurrection by the Beast Men has left the Queen imperilled by her subjects and threatened by a gigantic mutant whom she tearfully reveals is her sibling in ‘Death is My Brother!’ With no choice Tarzan regretfully battles the dim brute and proves to the insurgents that his wrath is greater than their malice…

Supplemented by Creator Biographies of Burroughs and Kubert, this tome is another masterpiece of comics creation and total adventure triumph which no lover of the medium or fantasy fan can afford to be without.
Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan ® The Joe Kubert Years Volume Two © 1972, 1973, 2006 Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. All rights reserved. Tarzan ® is owned by Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc., and used by permission.