An oversized first volume of Burne Hogarth’s epic run, Tarzan – In The City Of Gold is an excellent look at his first three years of colour Sundays on the strip.
This is the first of four exclusive volumes that will collect all of Hogarth’s newspaper strips. Beginning with the adventures “Tarzan in the City of Gold” and continuing with “Tarzan and the Boers,” Hogarth and writer Don Garden hit the ground running, and produced some of the most acclaimed stories ever to appear in the pages of newspapers worldwide.
I believe most readers will pick this up for the same reason I did: Burne Hogarth. A legendary illustrator with an impressive resumé, this was the launching point of his career. Hogarth worked the art in his predecessor Hal Foster’s style to keep the readership unawares. The introduction by Scott Tracy Griffin gives this quotable information.
Foster sought to leave Tarzan on such an artistic high note that he would be impossible to replace. He hadn’t reckoned on 25-year-old Burne Hogarth.
The art is clean, detailed and is close to Foster’s style. You can see Hogarth’s style peaking through, but it’s only a little here and there in this first volume. You can see it in the hair, musculature and faces. It seems Hogarth couldn’t draw an attractive woman: they all seem a bit off, but I can’t put my finger on why.
Layout is very rigid: three by four panels per page, with one double panel thrown in somewhere, maybe two. There are very few panels without a background or a framing element; there is a significant amount of detail in every strip.
The weak link is the writing: to be blunt it’s terrible. Tarzan is incredibly one dimensional, as are all the characters. There is no development: Tarzan fights and overcomes, the ultimate alpha male. The only variation we get is Tarzan fighting animals or odd groups he encounters in Africa. We don’t learn how a giant city of Chinese sprung up, or why there is a group of Amazon women or a tribe of aggressive neanderthal pygmies. It really doesn’t matter, as there’s a cliffhanger at the end of every strip which leads into the next and the next.
While we’re used to seeing every woman fall in love with the hero, Tarzan shows little to no interest in anyone unless they’re in peril. He justs wants to be left alone to explore. Hmm. He has no qualms about killing: Tarzan leaves a trail of bodies, man or animal, wherever he goes. Of course we’re all reading this for the art but decent writing would really help.
Production is well done: excellent binding and a thick paper stock. The size works for the material: sure I’d like it closer to the original newspaper size but price comes into play and Titan has made a solid choice of 10×13″ for $40. Peter Maresca is back from Titan’s Flash Gordon to perform “remastering of the original strip”, this time with Bryce Hall. The material appears to be compiled from newspaper and not printing proofs, as the fading and colour production vary. The lettering most likely has been touched up since it’s consistent throughout.
This is the first of four planned volumes reprinting Hogarth’s Tarzan that may include Sundays and dailys; we’ll have to wait and see. Tarzan – In The City Of Gold is an excellent choice for fans of Tarzan, classic comic strips and pulp adventure fans.
Originally published at Comic Book Daily.