Possibility And Potential: Comics Legend Dan Jurgens Talks `Lord Of The Jungle’
by Tom Smithyman
From the creation of Booster Gold to the death of Superman, Dan Jurgens has done it all. He has written or drawn – or both – for Captain America, Thor, Spider-Man and many, many others. Yet he’s never tackled Tarzan. Jurgens fills that gap in his illustrious resume with Lord of the Jungle, a new Tarzan comic from Dynamite, which will debut in November – just as he is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the death of Superman. In this interview, he talks about how he is keeping the 110-year-old character fresh for modern audiences and what would have happened if a certain Ape found a rocket from Krypton the same day she found the orphan Tarzan.
Tom Smithyman: Tarzan has been around for 110 years now, and he’s been in novels, comics, movies, cartoons and more. What stories of his are left to tell?
Dan Jurgens: I’d certainly like to think that we have several stories left to tell! Times and attitudes have changed since Tarzan first appeared, so I think part of making him feel fresh is to reflect those changes. Our attitudes toward Africa, its people and environment have certainly changed, so we simply have to make sure we have that awareness as part of our stories.
Smithyman: Have you been a long-time fan of Tarzan? Do you have a particular story of his that you love?
Jurgens: Probably Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar, which is likely the answer a lot of people will have. I’m always a sucker for the idea of lost civilizations that are hidden from the rest of the world.
Smithyman: You’ve worked on some of the most iconic comic book characters of all time – including Superman, Spider-Man, Thor and, of course, your own creation Booster Gold. How does Tarzan stack up against these heroes?
Jurgens: Well, Booster is the greatest of them all, of course. Or so he’d say.
In all honesty, working on characters who are absolute icons can be a lot of fun. When done properly, they convey a certain sense of importance on the page that is magical. Plus – and this may seem a bit weird – but I always find myself thinking about crossover possibilities. Like, what if Kal-El’s rocket landed in the jungle and was found by Kala on the same day that she found baby John Greystoke?
It’s all about the possibility and potential!
Smithyman: You are the latest in a long line of comic writers and artists to work on Tarzan. What does it mean to you to follow in the footsteps of greats like Hal Foster, Burne Hogarth, Russ Manning, Gray Morrow, Joe Kubert and John Buscema?
Jurgens: When I first agreed to do this, I talked to the good folks at Dynamite about the fact that Tarzan is one of those books that has always been drawn by artist’s artists— the very best. I mean, you just can’t look at the history of the character without being aware of some of the tremendous art that has graced Tarzan. It’s incredible— and something to live up to!
Smithyman: Benito Gallego is drawing the interiors and a host of great artists are working on the covers. Did you make the conscious decision to stick to writing instead of contributing a cover or two?
Jurgens: The decision was pretty much decided by my schedule. I still hope to get to a couple of covers as soon as everything opens up!
Smithyman: Lord of the Jungle debuts at the same time you’ll be celebrating the 30th anniversary of the “Death of Superman” saga. What impact did that story have on your career?
Jurgens: There is no question that the “Death of Superman” story made a tremendous impact on my career, as did working on Superman, in general. It really is remarkable to have worked on a story that people still talk about—fondly!— decades later. As a creator, it’s nice to know that you’ve impacted the lives of people who buy your material.
Smithyman: You’re not going to kill Tarzan too, are you???
Jurgens: Me? Absolutely NOT! However, there is this creature buried deep below the jungle floor named DOOM-APE who, well…one never knows.
Smithyman: OK, we’re going to hold you to that! Thank you for taking the time to talk about the lord of the apes!