Before we get into that paradox, the bottom line is that Thomas Yeates’ recently published Tarzan The Beckoning is a gorgeous book. But there’s a little bit more to this column than that simple appraisal.
Back in the early 90s, a new publisher called Malibu Comics was creating innovative and fun comics. Malibu had just published Tarzan The Warrior by Mark Wheatley and Neil Vokes. As you probably know, Tarzan, perhaps more than any other character, has been rendered by some of the industry’s all time greatest artists – Hal Foster, Burne Hogarth, Russ Manning, Neal Adams, Joe Kubert, John Buscema, Joe Jusko…the list goes on and on.
So when Malibu was promoting this new Tarzan The Warrior comic mini-series in the 90s, they signaled that they were going to try something very different. It wouldn’t be a comic where the art tried to compete with the fantastic artists that came before. No, this comic invited the readers to take a little detour with the King of the Jungle to try something new and different.
It worked! It was fun and it was fresh. Tarzan The Warrior had a very loose artwork style, and it wasn’t all about jungles and animals. I told them as much in letter that I dashed off to the publisher.
Malibu’s assistant editor was a wonderful woman named Kara Lamb. She liked what I had to say and invited me to write more. And then she sent me a preview of the next Tarzan miniseries Malibu was publishing and asked me to write a letter about that as well.
This was a pretty common practice back then. Letter writing fans would be asked for their thoughts based on early previews so the editors could then populate the letters page of the first issue with a few real letters.
I certainly wasn’t one of the “big name” letter hacks, so I felt pretty special to be asked. The comic they gave me, on stapled black and white pages, was Tarzan: The Beckoning. It had spectacular art by one of my favorite artists – Thomas Yeates. Yeates and Henning Kure wrote the story.
The Tarzan: The Beckoning mini-series was a thriller with a fair amount of globe hopping. It presented Tarzan and his wife as mature adults. And it dealt with what was then, and what is still, a real issue – the poaching of elephants and the despicable ivory trade.
The art was jaw dropping gorgeous. Yeates’ brilliant page layouts and strong rendering created a fantastic yarn that could stand shoulder to shoulder with Tarzan classics by Hogarth or Manning.
Dark Horse has now collected the series in a new volume, also called Tarzan: The Beckoning. It’s fascinating to see the early color cover sketches, which are included. A handful of pencil sketches and brush and ink illustrations help remind readers of Yeates classic art skills.
The new collection of Tarzan: the Beckoning also includes a letter from Allan Thornton, the President of the Environmental Investigation Agency. The letter speaks about elephants and the scourge of poaching for ivory. It helps provides us all with a little perspective.
And if you’re interested in learning more, might I also suggest you check out www.99Elephants.org?
There’s also a nice synergy to this graphic novel. Thomas Yeates was one of the early graduates of the Kubert School. So it’s only fitting to see this gorgeous adventure re-released at about the same time Dark Horse released Tarzan: The Complete Joe Kubert Years volume. (Legendary artist Joe Kubert was also the founder of The Kubert School.) Far be it from me to say the student has surpassed the master… but it’s close.
Dark Horse’s Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan: The Beckoning and Tarzan: The Complete Joe Kubert Years are both on sale now. Yeates current work appears on Prince Valiant each week in many Sunday newspapers, and is available online at http://comicskingdom.com.