Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Medium: Comic books
Published by: Dell Comics
First Appeared: 1951
Creators: Gaylord DuBois (writer) and Jesse Marsh (artist)
These days, stories in which black and white adventurers treat each other as equals are such a familiar sight, they're scarcely even noticed. But a half-century ago, they were quite rare. The first such series in American comic books, however, was as little commented-on at the time as it would be today. That's probably because it ran unobtrusively in the rear of another hero's comic. But it was a very well circulated comic, and the feature ran there for a long time.
The Dell comic book based on Edgar Rice Burroughs's Tarzan began in 1948. Postal regulations made it necessary that at least a few pages be devoted to features other than the one on the cover, so the back pages of Tarzan ran series such as "Mabu", "Two Against the Jungle" and "Boy" (the movie name of Tarzan's son, Korak). In the 25th issue (October, 1951), they hit on a winner with "Brothers of the Spear", which ran more than a quarter of a century, all told, and featured the first professional work of cartoonist Russ Manning.
The series was created by writer Gaylord DuBois, one of the most prolific scripters in the history of comic books, and artist Jesse Marsh, whose highly stylized work was seen throughout the Dell line. They'd been the creative team on the Tarzan title almost since it began. The first episode occupied a mere six pages, but it launched a serialized story that eventually grew to epic proportions.
Dan-El and Natongo, who took an oath of brotherhood at the very beginning, were both kings by right, whose thrones had been usurped. Restoring Dan-El in the kingdom of Aba-Zulu and Natongo in Tungelu occupied the first couple of years of the series. By the time it was done, both were married, Dan-El to the beautiful Tavane and Natongo to the equally beautiful Zulena. But neither affairs of state nor family duties had any effect on their love of adventure, and they had many more, one running smoothly into the next, over a period of years.