Tag Archives: Tarzan

Tarzan and the Timeless Valley of Nostalgia

There was a time when Tarzan was one of the ruling heroes of my boyhood fantasies of power and self-fulfillment. And, while Tarzan was a cartoon show on Saturday morning, comics by Burne Hogarth, movies in the theater in color with Mike Henry, or a weekly series on TV with Ron Ely, he was always Johnny Weissmuller to me. Weissmuller who played both Tarzan and Jungle Jim in the Saturday afternoon black-and-white movies.

I have to admit, I didn’t identify with the character of Tarzan as much as I thought of myself like the character “Boy”, played by Johnny Sheffield in movies like “Tarzan Finds a Son”. It was a significant part of my boyhood to imagine myself being like Boy, free from practically all restraints, able to gad about the dangerous jungle nearly naked with monkey pals and no fear. If I got into trouble by believing my skills were greater than they really were, I would save myself with ingenuity, and, barring that, Tarzan would rescue me. And, believe it or not, sometimes there were fixes that Tarzan got into that he needed me and Cheetah to be creative and get him out of. I knew in my heart that one day real life would be like that, especially once I grew into Tarzan and stopped being just Boy. That idea was in my head so loudly that several times I went to Bingham Park Woods, stripped down, and played Boy in the Jungle.

As in the previous essay about Heroes of Yesteryear, I learned important things from Johnny Weissmuller on Saturday TV. He taught me that all you really needed, even in the darkest jungles of Africa, was confidence and courage. You could stand up to any deadly danger without the protection of any armor, practically naked, in fact, if only you had that heroic goodness of heart. The little boy I was then still believes that whole-heartedly even in the aging body of an old man.

So, Tarzan continues to live in my memory, a part of me, an essential part of my education. He is me and I am he. But only in my mind. Me in a loincloth, swinging on a vine now… and probably going splat like an overripe melon on the jungle floor… well, that is too ridiculous to even imagine being real anymore. Yet he lives on in me. And he battles the metaphorical leopard-people of modern life through me. Unarmored. Confident. And unafraid.

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Filed under autobiography, comic book heroes, foolishness, heroes, humor, movie review, old books, review of television, strange and wonderful ideas about life, TV as literature

Gray Morrow

Comic book artwork grabs me constantly and makes me wonder about the lives behind the pen and ink.  Artists basically draw themselves.  Whether you are drawing Tarzan, Buck Rogers, or Flash Gordon… when you draw them, you are drawing yourself.  My first encounter with Gray Morrow was when he drew Orion in Heavy Metal Magazine (the English version of the French Metal Hurlant).

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He was capable of drawing both the grotesque and the beautiful.  Violent action juxtaposed with soft and romantic moments filled with subtle colors and complex emotion.  I began thinking that Gray Morrow must be a complex and interesting human being.  I was soon to discover his other selves.  He was the artist behind the Buck Rogers strip starting in 1979.  He and Marvel writer Roy Thomas co-created the muck monster Man-Thing.

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He also worked on Tarzan, Flash Gordon, and The Illustrated Roger Zelazny.  Unfortunately he died in 2001 at age 67.  Luckily an artist puts himself into his work, and for that reason we still have Gray Morrow with us.  It is a kind of immortality.

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This cover from Monsters Unleashed gives you an idea of how well Gray Morrow could draw.

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Filed under artwork, comic strips, commentary