I was pleased to see that Dark Horse recently issued a new Dark Horse Archives featuring Dell Tarzan comics from the late 1940’s. This volume, Tarzan, the Jesse Marsh Years, volume 1, features the Tarzan stories that appeared in Four Color Comics #134 (February 1947) and #161 (August 1947) and Tarzan #1 (January-February 1948), #2 (March-April 1948), #3 (May-June 1948) and #4 (May-June 1948). As far as I know, these stories have not been reprinted since originally appearing in the late 1940’s.
By the way, these stories do not represent Tarzan’s very first comic book appearances. Tarzan also appeared in comic books in Dell’s Large Feature Comic #5 (1939) where the first Tarzan dailies by Hal Foster (of Prince Valiant fame) were reprinted. He also appeared in Single Series #20, also by Foster. He also appeared in Famous Feature Stories in 1938 (strip reprints), Comics on Parade #s 1-29 (1938) and Crackajack Funnies (1938). The stories in Comics on Parade and Crackajack Funnies were either text pieces or strip reprints. The Tarzan stories starting with Four Color Comics #134 represented the first original comic book work on the character.
The entirety of the art in this volume is by Jesse Marsh and the writing by Gaylord Dubois and Robert P. Thompson. Marsh started as an artist at Disney Studios in 1939 and moved to Western Publishing as a freelance artist in 1945. He first worked on Gene Autrey Comics and other westerns, but the Tarzan books became his mainstay. While his anatomical depictions were not as intricate as those of other artists such as Foster, he churned out great stories that still had wonderful eye appeal. According to the bio on the dust jacket, Marsh left the series in 1965 due to health complications and died in 1966.
The writing by Dubois and Thompson are typical Tarzan fare, and are enjoyable to read. This is a great volume for the fans of the many similar genres published by Dell in the mid-to-late 1940’s, such as westerns, adventure, etc. Indeed, Dubois is credited with writing thousands of these stories that were published by Dell during this time frame and into the 1950’s.
Interestingly, these stories are not edited from the original. While censorship of reprints was undertaken by Disney and others, this volume is complete with stories that might not be considered politically correct today. In fact, on the Table of Contents page, Dark Horse warns the reader that, “These stories are a product of their time, and therefore certain elements may be out of step with present-day sensibilities. While such instances can be regrettable, the material presented here is unedited for historical accuracy.”
If you are a Tarzan fan or just interested in typical Dell late Golden Age adventure stories, this volume will not dissapoint. It has a cover price of $49.99 but can be purchased online for a discount. You can read more about this volume at Dark Horse’s web site. Dark Horse is planning to publish the second volume of this run in June of 2009.