Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Tarzan Runs Into an Awful Lot of Dinosaurs, Doesn't He?

There are lots of dinosaurs in Africa. I've been to Africa a number of times on mission trips and I'll admit I have yet to personally see a dinosaur. But they're out there. They must be. Tarzan, for instance, has run into them a number of times. And if you can't trust Tarzan, then who can you trust?

Tarzan #228 (February 1974) tells us about one of Tarzan's dino-encounters. Written and drawn by Joe Kubert, it gives us an absolutely wonderful cover, then dives right into an equally wonderful story.

[By the way, when DC got the rights to Tarzan in 1972, the first issue was #207. The last Gold Key issue was #206, so DC simply continued with that sequence. They actually depended on interest in the character and cool covers to sell their book rather than create an artificial collector's item with a "first issue." Hurray for depending on quality to sell a comic book!]

Tarzan is exploring the jungle when he runs into a saber-tooth tiger. He dispatches this, but then gets captured by pygmies.

The tiger, it seems, isn't the only prehistoric beastie wandering about the area. A dinosaur--unknown species of carnivorous sauropod--is a constant danger for the pygmies. The chief of the tribe has hit on the idea of giving the dinosaur regular sacrifices to keep it appeased. Today's menu will be one Ape Man and two Maidens. 

One of the poor girls gets eaten, but this ticks off Tarzan. And you do not want to ever tick off Tarzan. He manages to snap his bonds, grab the surviving girl and leap over the palisade that surrounds the pygmy village. The monster simply crashes through the palisade in pursuit of its dinner.

The pygmy chief is himself ticked off by this, but a rampaging dinosaur in his village limits his available options for dealing with the situation. Though his go-to option--RUN AWAY--is still possible. He goes with that one. That leaves Tarzan on his own.
The monster's skin is tough enough to turn aside most spear thrusts, but Tarzan manages to hog-tie it long enough to plunge a spear into its soft belly. He then gives the chief a good talking-to, pointing out that the tribe could have killed the beast long ago, but the chief's cowardice prevented this.  

The story is straightforward and very well-constructed, with excellent art (there is a rawness to Kubert's style that makes him particularly effective in stories like this one) and a very well-choreographed fight against the dinosaur. 

So there we have it. There are dinosaurs in Africa. I'm hoping to be able to visit an orphanage in Congo sometimes soon, so I'll keep my eyes open. Maybe I'll see the Mokele-mbembe. If I go to Africa often enough, I've got to see a dinosaur sooner or later. I've just got to!

Next week, there's more Joe Kubert as we return to World War II and discover that being obese is actually a good thing.


  1. This story is collected in the paperback edition of "TARZAN...the Complete Joe Kubert Years" published by Dark Horse.

    I like your description of the "rawness" of Kubert's style. There is a slightly primitive quality to it, which makes him ideal for Tarzan stories. He often uses a lot of broad strokes which makes it look easy, until you try to duplicate it. Then becomes more evident what a master of the pen stroke he was.

    There are more great Tarzan encounters with prehistoric beasts in the Russ Manning newspaper comic strips, recently collected in four volumes by IDW. Tarzan vs. behemoths is generally an enthralling or at least satisfying encounter.

    There's a lot of great Tarzan stuff being republished lately.

    Thanks for sharing this. Now I can't wait to read the whole story in my (recently purchased) book.

  2. One of my favorite Russ Manning Tarzan stories is "Tarzan and the Land That Time Forgot," in which he sends the ape man to Caspak. Dinosaurs aplenty in that one!

    I agree that this is a Golden Age of Tarzan reprints. Foster, Kubert, Manning and Jesse Marsh have all had there stuff appear in high-quality books over the last few years.


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