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Thursday, February 21, 2019

Appreciating Joe Kubert's Tarzan of the Apes

When you think of Tarzan in the comics, do you think of the Western days and the work of Russ Manley or Jesse Marsh? Or do you go even earlier and recall in your mind's eye the newspaper strips by Burne Hogarth? If you're a Bronze Age Baby like me, perhaps it's the Tarzan seen in Marvel's series and illustrated by the brothers Buscema. Honestly, you couldn't go wrong anywhere across that spectrum, and I've certainly partaken of "all of the above" (and shoot - let's add the paintings of Boris Vallejo and Neal Adams that adorned the Bantam paperback covers to this love-in).

But today let's bask in the glory that was Joe Kubert's Tarzan, running from April 1972 to February 1977 and written/illustrated by Kubert. Kubert's Tarzan was lithe and athletic. The jungle-scapes were lush, the animals a sight to behold - truly off the realism scale. Knowing all this, I couldn't wait to purchase the first volume of the Joe Kubert's Tarzan of the Apes Artist Edition. At the time, I'd come into some cash from the sale of my collection. Those high-end books had become affordable. You should know that the things I treasure most about seeing original art are the evidences of the thought-process during creation - white-out, blue line pencil, eraser marks... those sort of things. But darned if Joe Kubert didn't nail it the first time. There were zero corrections that my eyes could find. None. Throughout the entire book! Sounds dumb to complain about clean original art, but I eventually sold it to make room for other Artist Editions I wanted. It's my hangup - I'll own it.

Leave a me thought on Kubert's Tarzan, and thanks in advance!


  1. Yeah, Kubert did a great Tarzan and I liked that he stuck pretty closely to the original novels.

    1. Like Edo, I am very much hoping that Dynamite Entertainment publishes the John and Sal Buscema Tarzan Omnibus that has been solicited for over a year. Kubert's great, but I think I only took notice of Tarzan when Marvel had the license. Now, I have three Kubert Tarzan Archives, and am thankful for them. The work is simply outstanding.

    2. Well, funny you should mention Dynamite's elusive Tarzan omnibus by the brothers Buscema. I've had it on preorder for over a year and a half, and just yesterday I received a message from Amazon that the release date has yet again been pushed back. To wit: "The item(s) you ordered is not yet released. We will notify you of a specific delivery date when one is available." When you visit the listing at Amazon, July 2019 is listed as the new release date. This has already happened several times since I've had it on preorder, so I really doubt this book will ever get published.
      I actually wrote an e-mail to Dynamite's customer service department about 2 weeks ago and asked them if they really intend to publish the book, and, if yes, to set a specific release date, or, if no, to remove the solicit pages at sites like Amazon. No response, obviously.

  2. Despite the somewhat dubious portrayal of Africans, I have to agree with pretty much everything you wrote about Kubert's artwork on Tarzan, Doug.
    I understand that John Buscema was an admirer, and when Marvel got the licence based his approach to the character on Kubert's, which has to be as good a compliment as a comic book artist can get.

    For all that though, Burne Hogarth was definitive; more for his two 70s books than the newspaper strips (although they're pretty great too, of course).
    I got his Tarzan of the Apes for a birthday present in the mid-70s which had the unfortunate side effect of making most comics I read for a while afterwards disappointing - how come none of them were drawn anything like as well?


    1. Hi, Sean -

      Sensibilities change, don't they? A recent re-read of one of ERB's last Tarzan novels, set during WWII, was cringe-worthy. I agree that many of the characterizations prevalent in the Tarzan strips give pause today. I keep trying to tell myself that they are time capsules of days past.

      Regarding Hogarth, I have one of the oversized hardcovers of his newspaper strips. While the panels are obviously small (and the lettering, too!), the art is wonderful. At some point I should like to seek out other books in the series.


    2. Guess I'll have to disagree with the consensus here. I've never been much of a fan of Hogarth's Tarzan art. For me, as far as Tarzan comics go, the Buscema brothers are tops, followed by Kubert, and then everyone else.

    3. Doug, changing sensibilities are a particular problem with Tarzan because the old comics will always have an appeal as the character was so well served by artists - Hal Foster, Burne Hogarth, Joe Kubert, Neal Adams, John Buscema...
      It doesn't make much sense to pretend that their work never existed in the form it does, so I suppose each reader has to decide for themselves how to approach it, and where they'll draw the line (no pun intended). Which is pretty much what you did, so - yes, agreement.

      You should check out the two 70s Hogarth books if you can - not being confined by the newspaper format, he had a lot more room for the artwork.
      Btw, you might be interested to see Hogarth draw Tarzan, along with John Buscema (and Phillipe Druillet) on French tv from 1972 at
      Also from the same show, Tac Au Tac, Kubert and Adams jammin' with Moebius -
      Don't know if you're French is any good, but you're not missing much if you can't understand the commentary (theres more English in the second clip though)


  3. Yet another fine rueful of artwork, Doug! Never been a Tarzan reader, but those Kubert pages are breathtaking. I did have, years ago, a few of Buscema's Marvel Tarzans. Nice, but (sorry to disagree with Edo) not this nice...


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