Book Review: Tarzan: In The City of Gold: The Complete Burne Hogarth Comic Strip Library

The first in a four-volume set presenting Hogarth's tenure as artist of the Tarzan newspaper comic strip.
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Tarzan of the Apes, author Edgar Rice Burroughs' legendary creation, first appeared in the October 1912 issue of The All-Story. The character was such a sensation Burroughs wrote sequels and Tarzan was adapted into film, theater, radio, and newspaper strips, making the King of the Jungle one of the twentieth century's first Kings of All Media. Titan Books' Tarzan: In The City of Gold is the first in a four-volume planned set presenting Burne Hogarth's tenure as artist of the Tarzan newspaper comic strip.

Hogarth replaced Tarzan's first artist Hal Foster, who left for the more lucrative opportunity to start the creator-owned, historial adventure strip, Prince Valiant. Tarzan: In The City of Gold collects Sunday strips published from May 9, 1937 to April 28, 1940 by Hogarts and writer Don Garden. Over that timespan, they concluded the storyline “Tarzan in the City of Gold,” begun 51 weeks earlier by Foster, and created five more.

Hogarth makes great use of color for both objects and backgrounds. Some strips seem brighter than others, but that's likely an issue with how the source material was preserved and reprinted. The linework creates great detail in the character designs and the background objects. It, along with the text, is frequently presented with sharp edges but on occasion they appear slightly blurred.

Scott Tracy Griffin has written an informative introduction about Hogarth and his tenure on the strip, but it's not clear how much involvement, if any, he had on the stories by uncredited Don Garden. Throughout these adventures, Tarzan is the Lord of the Jungle version of the character, made popular in the movies, as opposed to Lord Greystoke from the Burroughs novels, which Russ Manning would return to during his run.

Tarzan repeatedly fights apes and lions to be prove himself, and makes many ladies swoon, even the Amazons, which I had expected would be able resist his animal magnetism. Another aspect I found amusing was how frequently Tarzan gets shot and sustains blows to the head but comes through with no problem. It's as if he has superhealing powers and the writer knows nothing about concussions.

Some of the stories are more like Westerns, particularly the two involving the Boers. Dutch men and women take the place of American settlers as they try to make a new home for themselves amongst African tribes, filling in for Native Americans. Although what the Chinese and their walled city are doing in middle Africa, I am not sure.

For fans of the character or historical comic strips, Tarzan: In The City of Gold offers good adventure stories and showcases Burne Hogarth's considerable talents.

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