Tarzan Versus The Barbarians by Burne Hogarth and Don Garden (graphic novel review)

Although the title says ‘Tarzan Versus The Barbarians’, there are in fact four stories of ‘Tarzan’ from the Sunday newspaper strips May 1940-October 1943 between the covers. Differentiating between them is a bit difficult before there is no end noted between them, just Tarzan moving on in his travels although the footer does point at the change. I expect his fans will attempt to do some tracking of just where he might have been. However, when you consider that in ‘Tarzan And The Peoples Of The Sea And The Fire’ he was near a live volcano and the start of ‘Tarzan Against Dagga Ramba’, he was given a lift across a desert, I doubt if his Africa is anything like ours. Mind you, in those days, Africa was seen as being a mystical jungle that few westerners had visited and you could chuck anything you like at it. Even the apes don’t look anything like the primates we’re familiar with and are certainly more aggressive.


I suspect the appeal of this book extends beyond ‘Tarzan’ but for people who want to see artist Burne Hogarth at work which is done in spades here. Sunday newsprint, especially the colour strips, were printed on a better quality than the dailies and this reflects well here as well.

With the first story, ‘Tarzan And The Peoples Of The Sea And The Fire’, the ape-man got frequently captured while trying to rescue a princess. What is odd now is seeing him being held but not tied up, although as the story progressed, occasionally his captors remembered to do that. I really must make a note to see some film serials from that time period and see if this sort of ‘honour’ system of not running when captured was prevalent back then.

The second story, ‘Tarzan Against Dagga Ramba’, had more of a hint of the war in it but more with Arabs than Germans. It also involved a desert terrain and to beat a sandstorm, Tarzan found a different use for his loincloth as a face mask to keep the sand out of lungs. He also rescues many a maiden from peril but does no more than that, mostly to avoid marriages than a few dates.

Unusually, the third and shortest story, ‘Tarzan And The Fatal Fountain’, is a bit of a misnomer as a title because the water doesn’t poison but gives rapid growth and the ape-man meets a giant tribe. Things are stirred up somewhat by a short villainous man getting the height he always wanted but abused it in a fight with Tarzan. The most significant thing, though, is Tarzan is at long last back in jungle terrain. After all his other recent battles, this one is probably the most fantastic and even has a giant gorilla to deal with. Not as big as a certain other film star but it’s obvious that they couldn’t resist it.

The final story from which the book title comes is ‘Tarzan Versus The Barbarians’ really goes to town with different tribes from Arab, Viking and Amazon descent and re-uses the cliché of the princess being spurned for wedding purposes, who immediately decides Tarzan should be killed instead. No wonder Tarzan always said no. Without wishing to give anything away there is a surprise Nazi here for both him and us readers.

Looking at the art, I do wonder on some close-ups whether Burne Hogarth used actor Cornel Wilde with curved eyebrows as his template. Hogarth does an interesting action display with the art and even springs a larger panel in. Although there aren’t any elaborate viewing angles, one has to bear in mind that this was the norm for that time period, especially when there were so many panels on the page to propel the story along.

There’s enough material here to appease both Hogarth’s fans and also those of a certain lord of the jungle. Don’t forget your loincloth.

GF Willmetts

April 2015

(pub: Titan Books. 191 page large hardback graphic novel. Price: £29.99 (UK), $39.95 (US), $46.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-78116-318-4)

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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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