The Lord of the Jungle in All His Sunday Glory: A Review of ‘Tarzan – In the City of Gold’

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Tarzan - In the City of GoldTitle: Tarzan – In the City of Gold

Publisher: Titan Books

Writer: Don Garden

Artist: Burne Hogarth

Publication Date: May 2014

Pages: 168 pages

Format: Full color hardcover archival collection

Retail Price: $39.99

Genre: Classic newspaper strip adventures

Back in the day the highlight for many newspaper readers was the Sunday comics section and millions across the U.S. turned to the four color strips as a way to escape the ever increasing horrors found on the front pages of the 1930s and 1940s. One of the most popular fictional heroes of the day was Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan and it’s no surprise the Lord of the Jungle was a hit on the comic pages as well. Tarzan was originally a property of Metropolitan Newspaper Syndicate (later to merge with United Press Association to become United Features Syndicate) and strips began to appear in newspapers in 1929 with art provided by Hal Foster, of Prince Valiant fame, and Rex Maxon began a Sunday strip in March of 1931. Burne Hogarth began illustrating the Sunday strips in May of 1937, with Don Garden providing the writing.

Tarzan - In the City of Gold 1Titan Books has begun to release hardcover collections of Hogarth’s Sunday strips and the first volume, Tarzan – In the City of Gold, is a real treat. I won’t bemoan the current state of newspaper comics, as that’s a discussion for another time, but it’s great to have an opportunity to experience the incredible artwork newspaper readers of the past enjoyed on a weekly basis. In the City of Gold includes the first two years of Hogarth’s run on the strip.

Tarzan – In the City of Gold includes six complete storylines:

Tarzan in the City of Gold (which continued Hal Foster’s original story)

Tarzan and the Boers, Part One

Tarzan and the Chinese

Tarzan and the Pygmies

Tarzan and the Amazons

Tarzan and the Boers, Part Two

Hogarth provided art while Garden provided the scripting and, while he may not have been the most inventive author, Garden’s stories are still pretty solid. All the stories are told in the third person, as you won’t find any dialogue bubbles, and that may take a little getting used to for modern readers but it’s plain to see Hogarth’s talents were substantial even at this point in his career (Hogarth was 25 when he took over the reins of Tarzan) and the artwork is the true driver of the tales in the first place.

The volume opens with a quick introduction piece discussing the history of Tarzan in the comics and how Hogarth won the art assignment based on the samples he submitted.While the introduction is only four pages long it’s an interesting read none the less.

In the City of Gold picks up in the middle of the title story (Foster had already moved on to focus on Prince Valiant for William Randolph Heart’s rival King Features Syndicate) but there is a prologue to get everyone up to speed. It’s important to note Hogarth went on to produce much more energetic artwork when it comes to the Ape Man so this earlier work tends to be pretty static but there’s still plenty of cliffhangers and hairbreadth escapes to keep the reader entertained. Hogarth’s work is strongest when it comes to depicting animals and environments and even though future volumes will surely display much of the skills which led to his induction in the Eisner Hall of Fame, the artwork here puts what we currently see on the newspaper pages to shame.

Tarzan - In the City of Gold 2I will mention the cover artwork is certainly not what I would have gone with but it’s only the cover so that’s not a big deal. The link above, to the collection at Titan Books, leads to a page with a different cover (much cooler in my opinion) and also indicates the collection is Sunday and daily strips. The truth is, the collection only contains Sunday strips so I’m not sure why Titan hasn’t updated the page to correctly reflect the volume’s cover and content.

Titan has done an exceptional job in reproducing the strips and even though there are some inconsistencies in the coloring that’s probably due more to the original comics than any fault of Titan’s. I have to admit I was surprised to find the collection’s paper to be a matte finish as opposed to slicker paper but it really doesn’t diminish the finished product. While the Sunday strips are reduced in size to fit the 12.8″ x 9.8″ format, and true connoisseurs of classic newspaper strips will surely wish for a larger format, I can understand Titan’s decision to do their best to provide the most bang for your buck. In other words, getting two years of Tarzan strips collected in a hardback for forty bucks is a bargain.

For fans of Tarzan, In the City of Gold is a must have and anyone who has an appreciation for the excellent artwork which used to grace the pages of the Sunday funnies would be best served grabbing a copy as well. The same goes for anyone interested in the long and storied history of the comic strip and the medium of comics as well. Titan Books has produced a great collection and I eagerly anticipate the upcoming volumes in the series.

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