Dan Jurgens knows a thing or two about writing strong heroes in big situations. He’s killed a god (Death of Superman); brought a dark knight into the future (Batman Beyond); and made a narcissist a hero (Booster Gold). For his next trick, Jurgens, alongside artist Benito Gallego, is set to tackle the lord of the jungle himself, Tarzan.
The book — simply titled Lord of the Jungle — comes as part of a 110th anniversary celebration for the famed Edgar Rice Burroughs character. According to press for the project, the creative team will “reestablish Tarzan in the eyes of longtime fans and show how badass and entertaining he is to new readers alike.’ And to do just that, they’ll tell a story that traces the entirety of Tarzan’s life, working to “[reflect] contemporary concerns that continue to this day” while asking the ever vital question, “What will become of this man in his savage world?”
Jurgens was kind enough to address some of those big issues when he answered a few questions via email. That includes Tarzan’s continued relevance, adding to the anniversary celebration, and working with Gallego, among other topics and tidbits.
Lord of the Jungle #1 is set to hit shelves November 9 via Dynamite Comics.
AIPT: You’ve written some big-name heroes over the years. Where does Tarzan rank in terms of those comics powerhouse?
Dan Jurgens: Tarzan is right up there with Superman and Captain America because almost no matter where you go, be it here or any number of countries, you can stop most anyone on the street, show them a picture and they’ll know who it is.
Few characters enjoy that level of recognition and status.
AIPT: Does it add to or complicate your experience given that we’re celebrating the character’s staggering 110th anniversary?
DJ: It’s probably a little bit of both. It’s cool to work on a character with that kind of longevity, but it also means there’s a lot of versions of Tarzan to be aware of. The trick is to find the elements that work for me so I can work up the best possible story that is both entertaining and true to the character.
AIPT: How much of the lore of Tarzan do you need to know before jumping in? Or did you really try to make this as accessible as possible?
DJ: I’m absolutely committed to the idea of making this accessible, which is generally how I approach all my projects. In this case, since Tarzan hasn’t been out there in a while, it’s vital. We’ll touch on Tarzan’s origin and move on from there.
AIPT: Why does this character remain so essential despite the fact his tale has been told so many times across so many mediums?
DJ: I find the idea that he is truly a solo operator captivating. When you set that in an exotic environment like west Africa, it takes on a certain kind of magic. Sometimes we just need to see something that looks different than the world right outside our windows. The world of Tarzan certainly exemplifies that.
AIPT: What does your Tarzan story look like (feel free to spoil as much as you want)?
DJ: We’re starting with a dual track story that functions in two different eras. That’s helpful in telling his origin story while also showing us a side of Tarzan that should seem new to readers. Overall, it should add to the rich tapestry of Tarzan’s world and give readers something a bit different.
AIPT: What was it like working with Benito Gallego — what did his art add to the overall experience and the story in general?
DJ: Benito has been doing wonderful work on the book! I’ve always said that Tarzan is one of those “artist’s artist” types of properties. Tarzan has been graced with truly exceptional artists over the decades and we were quite aware of that as we went looking for someone to draw the book. We were delighted to find that Benito was available and once we got him locked in, we were off and running! He’s given the book the visual flair and character we hoped for— and more!
AIPT: There’s been quite a few famed comics writers who tackled Tarzan, including Hal Foster and Joe Kubert. How much, if at all, did you pull from those books or their approach to the lord of the jungle?
DJ: I’m certainly aware of any number of writers who’ve portrayed Tarzan in the comics and have great admiration for what they did.
It’s an honor to join them and see if I can measure up!
AIPT: Is this story — man who lives in the jungle with animals and has kooky adventures — still relevant today? Are there bigger life lessons still to pull from Tarzan?
As we tend to get worn down by the demands of technology and daily life around us… it might just be that the adventures of a guy who lives in the jungle, free from all of that, has more relevance today than it did when it first appeared.
The counterpoint of a child raised by apes as compared to a child of today, raised in a world of technology, social media, a pandemic and other pressures might make for a fascinating study.
AIPT: The book relies on a kind of secondary tale about an older Tarzan looking back. Why was that an important component to include into this series?
DJ: I felt it was important to show how the world has changed over Tarzan’s lifetime, as it will have a bearing on an episode from his past. As with many of us, what might have seemed right in our youth could be seen quite differently a couple of decades later.
AIPT: Do you try and do anything radically “new” with the character and his story? Is that harder to do given his legacy and all?
DJ: Perhaps not “new” so much as a somewhat different interpretation. Sometimes a fresh coat of paint is far more appropriate than a complete overhaul. The trick is to find Tarzan’s strengths and embrace them.
AIPT: Why should anyone jump into issue #1?
DJ: I think we’re going to tell a rather unique Tarzan story over our first arc… one that shows the best of the character and will still resonate within our world of today. Plus… it’s Tarzan! Who wouldn’t dig that?!
The following variant covers are by Gary Frank, Roberto de la Torre, and Josh Burns.
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