Archive for the ‘Dynamite Comics’ Category

Thun’da   1 comment

I’ve been a Tarzan fan since I was 10 years old and first heard Johnny Weismuller’s unearthly jungle yodels.  If you’re a Tarzan fan, you sort of become a fan of all the other imitation Tarzans, and one of the best imitations was Frank Frazetta’s Thun’da, King of the Congo.

Dynamite Comics retells the story of Thun’da, King of the Lost Land.

Gardner Fox and Frank Frazetta created Thun’da in 1952.  American aviator Roger Drum crashes in the heart of Africa only to find himself in a place like Burroughs’ Pal-ul-don, a land full of mammoths, saber-toothed tigers, ape-men, and even some left-over dinosaurs. Although fit when he started, the rigorous life of survival in this savage world turned Drum into a paragon of physical perfection.  Of course he soon met a beautiful jungle queen, and found himself elevated to the status of jungle god.  He got his name from the sound his pistol made when he was slaying a gigantic serpent–the sound of thunder.

In August of 2012 Dynamite Comics, re-packagers of every pulp hero they can get their hands on, relaunched the Thund’da comics. Written by Robert Place Napton with art by Cliff Richards and covers by Jae Lee, they tell the story as if it was happening now instead of the World War II setting originally envisioned by Gardner Fox.  Today’s comics are more gorgeous than those of yesteryear, and move a lot slower. Napton uses 22 pages to start building the character of Thun’da and gets about as far as Fox did in his first 2 pages of story.  But, it’s the same story.

Dynamite has done something that I really want to praise them for.  They reprinted the first 10 page Thun’da story in the back of the book.  Although I knew Thun’da existed, I had never actually read any of his stories.  The Frazetta artwork of the original is clean and beautiful, and doesn’t waste any time on psychological character development.  Roger Drum just naturally adjusts to being a lord of the jungle in the original, slaying ape-men and savage beasts with ease.

These covers are all symbolic. Nothing like this happens in the actual comic.

The 22 pages of retelling in the second issue gets us through pages 3 and 4 of the original 10-page tale.  We can see the ratio now.  The modern retelling of Thun’da is ten times as long as the original.  This is a nice formula.  Take some classic pulp story and retell it in the present, but make it ten times as long and detailed as the original.  No need to worry about plot–the original tale does the plotting for you.  All you as a writer need to do is fill in lots of details that help get from point A to point B in the story.  Napton does this extremely well and the comics are just beautiful.  Still, it seems a bit wrong to me that I’m paying 30 times as much today as I would have in 1952 for 1/10 of the actual story content.  This makes the ratio of money to story an incredible 300 to 1 compared to what a kid could have gotten in 1952.  The second issue of the new Thun’da reprints a 7 page story from the 50s.

Well, I’m hooked.  Cliff Richards’ art is excellent.  His monsters and jungle beasts are especially fine.  These comics are everything comics should be–well drawn, colorful, and exciting.  And the reprints are making me think about finding the Thun’da archive publication that came out in 2010 and buying it.  The original Frazetta art is mighty fine in its own right, and nobody was better at pulp adventure storytelling than Gardner Fox.

In my not so humble opinion, Dynamite has become the best comic book publisher in the country over the last few years, and they have done it by going back to the classics and retelling stories of high adventure that today’s readers were too young to read when they first came out.  I love it.

If you like Frank Frazetta, Gardner Fox, Cliff Richards or Robert Napton, feel free to leave a comment.


Lord of the Jungle   4 comments

I’ve been a Tarzan fan since I saw my first Johnny Weismuller movie as a kid, and that was more than 55 years ago.  I’m not the greatest Tarzan fan.  I’m not a member of the Burroughs Bibliophiles or anything like that, but I have seen every movie I could, read all the books, collected the comics to some extent.  So I was pleased when Dynamite Entertainment–a comic book publishing company decided to redo the original Tarzan stories in comic book form.  They could do this because those books are in the public domain–Burroughs has been dead since 1950, and his copyright goes back to 1912.

And now the tale is being told once more, superbly illustrated by Roberto Castro, and scripted by Arvid Nelson.  Nelson must be quite a Burroughs fan, or else he has decided to hitch his star to the Burroughs legacy, because for a little more than a year now he has also been doing an adaptation of Burroughs John Carter of Mars series.

Dynamite does an interesting and good thing, in my humble opinion.  They bring out the first issue of new titles at a very affordable $1 price, and they do multiple covers, with the rarer ones commanding collectible prices like 7.99 and 9.99.  I kind of think the collectible covers are a bit of a rip, and I won’t pay $9.99 to have a negative version of a cover, but I guess some people will.

The four covers for Lord of the Jungle #1 in January 2012.

Here’s a bit of an oddity.  The comic could not be called Tarzan, so they used Lord of the Jungle instead.  Burroughs used that title for one of his novels, but I don’t think ERB Inc. trademarked that phrase the way they trademarked Tarzan of the Apes.  We might have a Tarzan comic in which the word Tarzan never appears.  I’ll be interested to see how that works out.

The four covers are by Alex Ross, Ryan Sook, Paul Renaud, and Lucio Parrillo.  Ross is the only one I’ve ever heard of before, but all four artists are masters of their art.  Arvid Nelson has done an excellent adaptation of Tarzan of the Apes, and I will be buying this book as long as it comes out.  I can only hope that it wanders off and breaks new ground with original stories the same way his Barsoomian books have.  They deserve a blog, too.

Dynamite Comics has somehow stumbled into a slightly different way of doing comics.  Instead of maintaining one consistent superhero universe in the style of D.C. and Marvel, they are simply doing popular characters of the past–legendary characters including the Lone Ranger, Zorro, the Green Hornet, Flash Gordon, Vampirella, Red Sonja, Sherlock Holmes and many, many more.  Their art is always clean and realistic–their women are indescribably beautiful–their male heroes are classically heroic.  Dynamite pushes the envelope of sexiness and great storytelling with almost every issue.  I didn’t realize how many titles they publish until I started to do a little research for this blog.  As a comics fan I’ve always loved the stuff from D.C. and Marvel and Dark Horse, but the company producing, imho, the very best adventures in comics today is Dynamite.  If you’re a comics reader, they have something for you also.

Comics fans and Tarzan fans are invited to make comments here.  Do you like the Dynamite books?  If so, which ones are your favorites?  And why?