Thursday, September 28, 2017

TARZAN - The Greystoke Legacy Under Seige

The Greystoke Legacy Under Siege
By Ralph N. Laughlin & Ann E. Johnson
ERB Inc.
301 pages

Most fans of my generation will have first been introduced to Tarzan of the Apes via the movies beginning with arguably the most successful of them all, “Tarzan the Ape Man” starring Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O’Sullivan. It of course wasn’t the first cinematic portrayal of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ fantastic hero but again, clearly the most recognizable and economically successful up to that point in the character’s history. From that one movie would come many sequels to keep an ever growing audience entertained and such actors as Lex Barker, Gordon Scott, Jock Mahoney and Mike Henry would pick up the vine swinging action. This stretch extended from the mid 1940s through to the 1960s and culminated with a highly successful weekly TV series starring Ron Ely.

Having been born a post-war baby in 1946, this was most of the exposure we were given and actually enjoyed until the age thirteen when we discovered the original Burroughs’ novels in paperback. You can well imagine our surprise on discovering the “original” character was far removed from the monosyllabic wild man portrayed by Weissmuller. Rather we were introduced to a remarkable human being who not only survived being raised by apes in the mysterious jungles of an untamed Africa, but also a brilliant intellect who, along with physical prowess, was able to teach himself to read and ultimately master half a dozen languages. We learned he was heir to a vast British fortune; his real name was John Clayton and eventually, as the saga played out, would ultimately claim his title and the vast amount of wealth that accompanied.

We’ll also hazard that most of you reading this review will have read many of those classics plus other pastiches, some good, some not so good, offered up by various authors over the years. Which brings us to this current series being produced by ERB, Inc. under the umbrella title of “The Wild Adventures of Edgar Rices Burroughs” with this title kicking off Series # 4.

The story takes place in the 1980s and deftly mixes fiction with reality. Authors Laughlin and Johnson immediately establish the Clayton Clan as existing among four generations. There is Tarzan and Jane, their son Korak and his wife Meriem, their son Jackie and his wife Irene and their son Jonathan (Jon) Clayton. Jon is one of the primary plot drivers in the adventure, as it is his desire to follow in his great-grandather’s footsteps that leads us through his ordeals throughout the book. At the same time one of Tarzan’s oldest enemies reaches out from beyond the grave to attack his family both in Africa and in London where the estate’s billion dollar Trust is managed by Jackie. A physical assault is directed at the Claytons’ beautiful African plantation at the exact same time that spurious charges of treason and illegal financial dealings are leveled at the Trust.

And as if this double assault wasn’t vicious enough, Korak’s dear friend, gorilla specialist and advocate, Diane Fossey, is brutally murdered in her jungle home and the blame is directed at Korak.

This book is a brilliantly conceived extension of all that Burroughs created during his career, expanding on these marvelous characters in such a fresh and original way while maintining their authentic personalities throughout. Thus Jon Clayton, as the new generation, becomes the central lynchpin upon which the adventure barrel forwards and to its credit never once is muddled as its various subplots alternate taking center stage.
Each of the Claytons comes to life within these pages as never before and the central theme of family and loyalty to such is a powerful one skillfully employed.

“Tarzan – The Grestoke Legacy Under Siege,” is a terrific book and one every Tarzan fan, young and old, should pick up and add to their library.  As for this reviewer, all we can say is that we are eagerly awaiting the next chapter in this exciting new series.

Monday, September 18, 2017


A Graphic Novel
By Adam Glass - Writer
Patrick Olliffe - Artist
A Graphic Novel
Gabe Eltaeb - Colorist
Sal Cipriano - Letterer
Mike Harris – Editor
Collects the first 7 issue of regular series.

It has been a while since my subject was a graphic novel and as most of you readers know, that doesn’t happen often. We reserve only the best of the best such comics for this column. Meaning quite simply, this is one of the finest graphic novels we’ve ever enjoyed in a life time of reading comics.

For nearly ten years now we’ve argued that the finest comics work being produced in America today is coming from the independents. Both DC and Marvel long ago gave up the ghost in regards to doing comics for comics’ sake, becoming the tails of their corporate owners who keep them around (demanding no major changes ever) simply to maintain the copyrights on their characters for the purposes of movies, toys and whatever other merchandising potentials they can mine. Ergo, the comics reader surviving on the big two alone, is basically digesting the same old pablum over and over and over again. It’s baby-food, people. Nothing more.

Whereas when you have a writer like Adam Glass with a genuine love of history and allow him to make that the basis from which to create a fantastical adventure, then anything is possible. And that’s exactly the sense of wonder that permeates this series. What if Teddy Roosevelt was a bonafide action hero and was charged by the financial moguls of the time to go to Cuba and investigate the sinking of the U.S. Maine? And what if that sinking wasn’t perpetrated by Spanish terrorist looking to strike back at the U.S., but a third party with deeper, world shattering goals? Realizing this mission is beyond the scope of one man, Roosevelt proceeds to assemble his own special team consisting of four amazing individuals.

In this unit is the incredible new stage magician, Harry Houdini, the electrical Wizard of Menlo Park, Thomas Edison, soon-to-be champion prize fighter Jack Johnson and finally, adding a dash of feminine dazzle and energy, the one and only little Miss Sure Shot, Annie Oakley. Together, Roosevelt’s “Rough Riders” travel to Cuba with the military expeditionary forces and under the guise of being part of that military operation, seek out the real villainy at work on that tropical island.

Glass is a master of pacing and knows how to keep his tale moving forward while ingeniously injecting personal moments that reveal each hero’s torturous past and what has led them to this particular point in time…and history. It’s a terrific story from start to finish and deserved only the best in artwork.  Veteran craftsman Patrick Olliffe delivers that and then some. He elevates Glass tale to a higher level by delivering visuals so beautiful and dramatic, each page is a jewel of artwork that propels the reader at the same time entertaining them. His layouts and and compositions are old school, and we say that in the most reverential way. This is classic comics delivered with sequential grace and blends so effortlessly with the script it would be inconceivable to imagine this book without either element. And there’s the magic of comics.

And let’s not forget the deft colors of Gabe Elteab and expert lettering of Sal Capriano. The older we become, the more we’ve learned that great lettering is in fact what takes two vastly different sensibilities and brings them together flawlessly into something singular, i.e. the letterer makes it a comic book. Period.

In the end it’s been a long, long time since we’ve truly relished a comic adventure this much.  “Rough Riders” is brilliant, genius, fun…and every other positive adjective one can whip up. Please, if you truly love comics, pick it up a copy now. You can thank us later.