Monday, January 13, 2014

The Civilized Savage!

This lush and exquisite rendering of the Edgar Rice Burrough's iconic Ape Man shows John Buscema's skills at their maximum. We are presented here with the idealistic romanticism of Tarzan, the refined image of the civilized man stripped literally of his modern amenities and reduced to the essence of nobility and raw power. Buscema, better than any comic artist was able to show the human form in a quiet repose, a repose from which a split second later might emerge a terrific and terrible violence. Russ Manning's Tarzan is the apogee of style and grace and modernity, Joe Kubet's Tarzan is the most dark and prehistorically ferocious, but it is Buscema's Tarzan which is able combine these characteristics into a complete whole, a civilized savage. It's shame he didn't get to do more.

Here's the image in full color, which in my estimation doesn't necessarily help it. Here is a most groovy link to where I found it along with the complete first story of the Ape Man by Roy Thomas and "Big" John.

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  1. The Marvel "Tarzan" series is a baffling misfire. It had everything going for it: one of the greatest characters in literature, a fantastic world to play in, and the white-hot team of Roy Thomas and John Buscema. It should have been as big a hit as "Conan the Barbarian"... so why didn't it catch fire?

    I've been gradually collecting the series over the years, so I've had a chance to look things over. Part of the problem is that the series kept changing direction: Thomas started off with an adaptation of "Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar," then switched to a single-issue recap of "Tarzan of the Apes," then going back to "Jewels of Opar" alternating with stories from "Jungle Tales of Tarzan." I was left with the impression that Thomas really didn't know what to do with the character, that he didn't inspire him the same way as Conan of Cimmeria.

    Once Thomas left, the book rallied a little, telling an extended story of Tarzan's return to Opar, but the book never had a chance to gain momentum. Marvel just couldn't get a handle on Lord Greystoke, and the series just quietly expired. It's a shame.

    1. It's been many moons since I read those issues. I gleefully collected them as they came out, and some years later filled in any gaps I had toward the end. I agree that this one should've been a monster hit. The Thomas-Buscema magic had turned Conan into a sales powerhouse, but I suspect the gang at the Burroughs estate were a little too hands on for Roy's taste.

      I've kept them all these years, at least until someone reprints them at long last.

      Rip Off

  2. Turns out I'm mistaken... there was an extended story of Tarzan's return to Pellucidar, not Opar. My bad!


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