Tarzan artists: Hogarth vs. Kubert

As a retailer, I generally avoid discussions of whose favorite artist is better. Favorites are always a matter of personal taste, and whatever works for a fan is perfectly fine with me.

But one “Who’s better” discussion concerning Tarzan artists seems to generate an extra amount of heat, when comparing Hogarth to Kubert.

Hogarth’s anatomy was often over-exagerated and unrealistic, but his backgrounds were all fantastic. For some, they were too detailed. Hogarth didn’t use a lot of solid blacks and solid whites.

Kubert, on the other hand, concentrated more on suggestion of detail, rather than intensive line work. His storytelling was excellent, but his rendition of Tarzan could easily have been dropped in the middle of a Sgt. Rock comic, with Rock being lost in the jungle and his hair grown long.

Obviously, both artists had strengths and weaknesses. But nowadays, the pro-Kubert fans seem particularly loathe to Hogarth’s work. All of which is probably an unfair comparision.

There’s one component that’s been overlooked in all the Hogarth vs. Kubert discussions that I’ve read or heard:

Hogarth did newspaper strips, and Kubert worked in comic book form.

As a matter of spacing and timing, of course Kubert is going to look like the better story teller. He didn’t have to start and stop one page at a time on Sundays, like Hogarth did. If Kubert’s work were transferred to the Sunday pages, he’d be panned as the worst strip artist ever… his work considered incomprehensible. So I give Hogarth some leeway when he’s repackaged in a different format.

Everything else is just a matter of personal taste and preference.

For my part, I like(d) them both. For different reasons.

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About Michael Tierney

Michael Tierney has been a comics retailer since 1982, with two store locations since 1989. He is also a CBG Trendwatcher reporter and Reviewer, and an Overstreet Price Guide Advisor. He is also an independent publisher under the name of Little Rocket Publications (being located in Little Rock, AR, you can guess where the name came from), writing and sometimes drawing and even printing his Wild Stars comics, since 1984. His first ever publication was a fan short story in Eerie Magazine #37, back in 1972. It's a no-brainer as to where the name of his website came from: http://www.thewildstars.com
in Opinion Xtra - Online Columnists.

7 Responses to Tarzan artists: Hogarth vs. Kubert

  1. Lee Houston, Junior says:

    While I don’t recall him ever doing any Tarzan illustrations, I have always heard that the artist who rendered the most anatomically correct depections of the human body was the late Gil Kane.
    No physically impossible poses from muscle bound men who looked like they’ve taken too many steroids or women with breasts that enter the room before the rest of the lady, just good pure art.
    I’m not saying that there are not other talented artists in the industry past and present, just that Kane was the most realistic when drawing humans.

    But then again, favorites are subjective between fans on any topic.

  2. Michael Tierney says:

    Exactly so.

    A favorite artist is a matter of personal preference. My favorite Tarzan artist was Russ Manning.

    Gil Kane did work on another Edgar Rice Burroughs’ creation: John Carter of Mars. I always liked Gil’s work best when inked by Klaus Jansen, who I considered to be the top inker in the mid-Seventies.

    After Gil and Marv Wolfman left John Carter, for me the series became unreadable. Bought the books just to keep my collection complete.

  3. Lee Houston, Junior says:

    “A favorite artist is a matter of personal preference.”

    Exactly so is right.
    I do have a couple of issues with Kane/Jansen art on John Carter. But while I honestly believe that (for better or worse) there is not one inker that distinguished himself over all the rest in the late 1970s, my vote for best inker of the overall Silver Age would be Murphy Anderson.
    While “a DC man”, it would have been interesting to see him ink some of the Marvel pencilers of the day, especially Steve Ditko on either Doctor Strange and/or the Amazing Spider-Man; and embellishing anything done by Jack Kirby!
    *sigh*
    Hey, a man can dream, can’t he?

  4. Michael Tierney says:

    A great Seventies example of the effect of different inkers on a single penciler is Captain America’s Bi-Centennial Battles. But if you check it out, be sure to try the original Treasury Edition and not the the recent reprint.

    The larger format really shows the difference in inking.

    Jack Kirby’s dynamic Captain America layouts embellished by Barry Windsor Smith’s inks are the highlights.

    It’s a sight to see.

  5. Chuck Fiala says:

    Michael,

    I’ve also learned to stay out of those, “who is the better artist?” arguments. There are so many variables beyond even personal taste. Inkers and time constraints are two major variables. Publishers also make their own demands on artist styles. But, I also find that my tastes change over time. Very few artists try to do a lousy job, most are always out to do the best they can. So, it sometimes seems rude to attack an artist’s work.

    As far as Hogarth and Kubert, I find both are very good, but Hogarth’s art has a bit of an old-time look now that I think dates it a little bit. That being said, I wouldn’t go to an art museum and then complain that the art looks old. I think it is best to have an open mind on different styles and eras.

  6. David Porta says:

    .

    The point is well made that Hogarth Sunday pages are a different animal than a story in a comic book. Comparison can still be made between Hogarth and Kubert without using the Sunday Pages.

    Hogarth’s 1972 “Tarzan of the Apes” large format full color hardcover book published by Watson Guptill was, for me, the first graphic novel, pre-dating the Lee-Kirby Silver Surfer GN by a good half a decade.

    Speaking of the Silver Surfer, I recall Maggie’s comment about the Tarantino-penned dispute over whose SS is best, Kirby or Moebius. That Taratino missed the boat on that one, because, obviously, the best SS was Buscema’s.

    I’m glad someone mentioned Russ Manning. His slick style was very Hogarth-influenced, to my eye. My own first encounter with the Hogarth style was 1969, my freshman year in high school, when a fellow student in the art studio, Peter Hoagland (R.I.P.), a senior, sold me two of his anatomy books. One of them was “Dynamic Anatomy” by Burne Hogarth. I poured through its pages often.

    Hogarth was, for me, an art teacher. So, when his GN Tarzan came out, I had to have it.

    Hogarth Tarzan GN:
    Exquisite.
    Beautiful.
    Lush.
    Florid.
    Dynamic.
    Romantic.

    Of monthly comic book Tarzan, Jesse Hamm has really done an excellent online job of pointing out the virtues of Jesse Marsh’s work. And it was Hamm who turned me on to Alex Toth’s appreciation of Marsh in a fan magazine. Toth really sang Marsh’s praises very effectively.

    Jesse Marsh:
    Layout.
    Design.
    African faces.
    African culture accoutrements.
    Flora.
    Fauna.
    Use of black, contrast, chiaroscuro.

    Of all Tarzan artists whose work I know, I, like Maggie with the Buscema SS, have to point to an artist not listed.

    The Frank Frazetta Tarzan illustrations from the Canaveral Press hardcover books of the 1960s made an impact on me that surpasses all other Tarzan images.

    Specifically, only two of those books have I ever seen, and own copies of.

    TARZAN AT THE EARTH’S CORE (1962) ERB (illus by Frank Frazetta) (Reprint 1974)
    TARZAN AND THE CASTAWAYS (1964) ERB (illus by Frank Frazetta) (Reprint 1975)

    the Ace Paperback cover painting, I missed out on.

    Frazetta Tarzan, esp. the attached images:
    Brutal.
    Powerful.
    Primitive.
    Beautiful.
    Stealth.
    Intelligent.
    Exquisite.

    Kubert was a breath of fresh air. The Dell / Gold Key Tarzan was out of touch with what Marvel had wrought in the comic book medium. Kubert brought Tarzan into the new sensibility of comic books which had emerged, while also continuing to adapt ERB’s original stories as gaylord Du Bois had done with Manning.

    But Kubert’s character is Sgt. Rock. He made Tarzan his, it is true. But Tarzan is Hogarth’s great work. Not so of Kubert. Kubert’s virtue was his beautiful art, but also his making Tarzan more mainstream comic, for that time: Kubert laid the ground for the Buscema Tarzan (which was best when inked by big John himself). But Buscema’s masterwork is Conan, not Tarzan.

    As for me, it’s:
    The Frazetta Tarzan
    Then Marsh / Du Bois
    Then Hogarth and Manning / Du Bois and Kubert
    Then Buscema.

    The only Hal Foster Tarzan I have seen is the execrable reprints in the Kubert-era DC comics. Remarkable despite the terrible reproduction.

    Didn’t Sam Glanzman do Tarzan, too?

    ~DaveBEST TARZAN


  7. Maggie Thompson says:

    Nice summary with samples there!

    A couple of aspects of Jesse Marsh’s work not mentioned here are his stylized, few “action lines,” handling of action scenes (Tarzan suspended in mid-stride, mid-air) and the fact that he was stuck with the view of the Lex Barker movies of the day. He could never satisfy fans of the “authentic” Tarzan but worked with du Bois to offer what amounted to a jungle character unlike any other in comic books, ever.

    Oh, and the fact that he researched African tribes to such an extent that the body language of warriors, for example, was clearly depicted, right down to the way they stood when at rest.

    His art was minimalist and did not improve as he aged. (I think he had an eye impairment in later years.) But there’s a reason he influenced some other major artists.

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