I was going to type out Tarzan’s distinctive yell here, but… I have no idea how you’d spell it. Regardless, your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Tarzan #1 awaits!
Writer: Robert P. Thompson
Penciler: Jesse Marsh
Inker: Jesse Marsh
Editor: Alice Cobb
Publisher: Dell Comics
Cover Price: 10 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $3,000.00
Previously in Tarzan: First appearing in 1912, in the pages of a magazine called ‘The All-Story’, Tarzan of the Apes was once John Clayton II, Viscount of Greystoke, marooned in the African jungles thanks to a mutiny on his father’s sailing ship. Raising by a tribe of apes, he navigates the jungle as adeptly as his adoptive folks, though he can be overwhelmed by the need for vengeance in some situations. By 1948, he was a star on the big screen, thanks to Johnny Weissmuller, and his declarations of ‘Me Tarzan, you Jane!’, while nothing like the Burroughs novels, were well known to the public, That’s why it was natural for Dell Comics, the home of movie adaptations, to bring his adventures to their four-color comics.
Of course, in true Dell fashion, this number one isn’t actually the first Tarzan comic they produced. As was their fashion, Tarzan appeared in the pages of their anthology title, Dell Four-Color Comics (specifically issues #134 and #161). While traveling through the jungle, Tarzan and his associates hear what sounds like a human voice, discovering a man suffering from a terrible injury. Before he dies, he explains that his brother has been captured by a local tribe of the Vari region. The first positive thing to report about this comic is that Marsh’s African characters are not horrific racial stereotypes. I’m not entirely sure you can say the same about the Vari tribe, though, who quickly find the Ape Man and his retinue invading their turf.
Following the trail of Naranee, Tarzan allows himself to be taken captive, but breaks free using his wits and his superior strength, even fighting off a panther to find the deposed queen Naranee. even finding a few Vari who still sided with their lost ruler. It’s a remarkably complex plot, original to Dell Comics, and one that keeps the reader’s attention very well. Marsh’s pencils are also remarkably well done, reminding me more of Sunday funnies by Hal Foster or Alex Raymond than the usual art one finds in some of the Dell movie comics of the era.
After fighting off a crocodile, then kicking off a full-scale rebellion among the people, Tarzan slips back into the temple to find the usurper of the throne in the hopes of saving his captured friends. Do you think it works?
Of course it works! it’s a Golden Age comic, you silly goose! Nonetheless, the return of naranee to the throne, Tarzan’s fellow travelers are freed and the man himself is allowed to continue his journey to… wherever they were going. it’s not 100% clear. The issue even features a couple of pages of glossary to help get readers into the mindset of the ape-man’s lexicon.
All in all, this is a pretty well-rounded package for a dime. Tarzan #1 started a long run of Lord Greystoke’s adventures, transitioning to Gold Key Comics when Dell and packager Western Publishing parted ways, with the book moving to DC in 1972, giving us an interesting story and some very impressive art for an above-average 3.5 out of 5 stars overall. jesse Marsh’s extensive Tarzan work, including this issue, has been collected by Dark Horse in the last few years, as well, so you can access this story without having to plunk down three grand for an original copy, in case you’re interested.
Dear Spoilerite,At Major Spoilers, we strive to create original content that you find interesting and entertaining. Producing, writing, recording, editing, and researching requires significant resources. We pay writers, podcast hosts, and other staff members who work tirelessly to provide you with insights into the comic book, gaming, and pop culture industries. Help us keep MajorSpoilers.com strong. Become a Patron (and our superhero) today.
Jesse Marsh is rightfully regarded as a legend, and this issue launched a TWENTY-FIVE YEAR run of the Lord of the Jungle in comics, so what's not to love?