TARZAN #254. DC Comics, October 1976. Story: Gerry Conway & David Anthony Kraft, based on the novel Tarzan the Untamed, by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Cover and interior pencils: José Luis Garcia-Lopez. Inks: Frank Springer.

   When I was much younger than I am now, it was Dell Comics that published the Tarzan comic books, and I devoured them from cover to cover. (And if memory serves me correctly, it was Lex Barker whose photo was on most of them.) I don’t remember reading them by the time Gold Key took over from Dell, but I do remember buying the first issue that DC did, which was in April 1972. DC kept the numbering sequence going, beginning with #207.

   This issue, #254, was part of a seven-issue sequence in which Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novel Tarzan the Untamed (McClurg, 1920) was adapted to comic book form. The novel, one I don’t remember ever reading, was somewhat controversial in that Germans were the evil (dastardly) villains in the story, and ERB’s popularity dropped drastically in that country.

   That Tarzan believes Jane is dead, having been killed by German mercenaries, is the principal if not overriding factor in the tale. Obviously issue jumps right into the story, with Tarzan tied at the stake, alongside British aviator Lt. Harold Percy Smith-Oldwick, about to be burned and eaten by a tribe of cannibals. To their rescue, however, comes Fraulein Bertha Kritcher and a band of Great Apes, into whose custody Tarzan had recently placed her.

   This in spite of the fact that Tarzan hated all Germans, whom as mentioned above, Tarzan blamed for the death of his wife. Now if you have read Tarzan the Untamed, you will know this follows the novel very closely, perhaps only exaggerating a little by portraying Bertha as a blonde goddess wearing only the bare minimum of torn and ragged clothing.

   After finishing this particular installment of the story (if I have rest of the sequence, I do not know), I felt it was well done, and I wanted to read more, but the way it was told was disappointing. After the dramatic rescue in the first few pages, the rest of the issue was told in three separate flashbacks: how Tarzan ended up tied at the stake, how the British flyer’s plane went down and he was captured, and how Bertha became friends enough with the Great Apes to have them come to Tarzan’s rescue with her.

   I’d have to read the whole sequence in order to quibble any more about this than this. Adapting a long complicated novel and fitting it into seven 17-pages installments can’t be the easiest thing in the world to do, and if the writers felt that flashbacks were the only way to facilitate it, then no more grumpiness from me.