Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Pulp Month Presents Tarzan Tuesday: Super-Crossovers!

When Dark Horse picked up the Tarzan license in the mid-nineties, they immediately set out to make him a franchise player with the company. They met with limited success. But one thing they did manage to do was create some great crossovers.

Tarzan’s first Dark Horse comic apparance actually came in a crossover: Tarzan versus Predator At the Earth’s Core. Written by Walter Simonson and drawn by Lee Weeks, the story serves as a sequel to the thirteenth novel, Tarzan at the Earth’s Core. This means the plot can be somewhat dense with characters not know to the casual observer, but I still found it a great deal of fun when I read it as a teenager (having never read a Tarzan novel). It holds up quite well even today, though I would say it’s one weakness actually falls in to the crossover territory. The Predators play a minimal role in the overall story, although this probably works for the best to let the true villains of the tale shine. Mildly Recommended.

Batman / Tarzan: Claws of the Catwoman is one of my personal favorite comics. Ron Marz and Igor Kordey teamed up to produce a great book with some amazing twists. Basically we get an Elseworlds version of Batman sometime in the early twentieth century as he meets the traditional Tarzan. They come together after an expedition sponsored by Bruce Wayne is exposed as a looting. The person who exposes it is a cat-garbed thief, but this Catwoman is nothing like Selina Kyle. The adventure quickly leads Batman, Tarzan, and Catwoman in to the jungles where they face the looter Finnegan Dent as he tries to return for the rest of his fortune. The Elseworlds twists play out perfectly over the course of the series, and Kordey may be the ideal Tarzan artist. All in all Batman / Tarzan: Claws of the Catwoman is great comics. Strongly Recommended.

The last of these stories releaed in real time is Superman/Tarzan: Sons of the Jungle by Chuck Dixon and the late Carlos Meglia. Unlike Batman/Tarzan, they produce an Elseworlds for both characters. John Greystoke never gets lost in the jungle. Instead a baby Kal-El is raised by apes. The tale focuses far more on Kal-El as he goes through the experiences shown in early Tarzan stories while John finds himself out of place in polite society. By the time the three issues end, both men are in Africa and fighting to save Jane Porter and Lois Lane from a certain evil empress. It’s failure is in not being as good as previous Superman as Tarzan tales. Sadly, Not Recommended.

The final collection we will cover today was actually nominated for a Harvey Award the year it arrived in stores. Originally printed as six issues of the ongoing Tarzan series from Dark Horse, Tarzan: Le Monstre would use Tarzan in a way quite similar to the later League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Through three two-part stories, Tarzan faces off with the Phantom of the Opera, Frankenstein’s Monster, and Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. Writer Lovern Kindzierski clearly knows how to tie these stories together and makes this level of meta-fiction look easy. The art team of Stan Manoukian and Vince Roucher bring the intricate style they used previously on Dark Horse’s Shadow comics to the architecture of Paris. This comic is a joy to behold and an even better read. Strongly Recommended.

Sadly, while Dark Horse still holds the Tarzan license, they have done little with the character in the past few years outside classic comics reprints. Hopefully, this will change in the near future, as comic fans may be more responsive to the classic character than in past years. We will just have to wait and see.

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