A website devoted to the rediscovery of the works of early 20th century illustrator Henry E. Vallely (1881-1950). Perhaps best known for his chiaroscuro technique employed in Big Little Books, he also produced a large volume of work including fashion illustrations for women's magazines, spot illustrations for food periodicals, magazine covers and children's books. His art is distinctive and timeless and deserves the recognition that has until this time eluded it. Comments and contributions towards the preservation of the H. E. Vallely legacy are most welcome. All images are believed to be in the public domain unless otherwise noted.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tarzan is Batman (Secret Origins of Batman Part 5)

The first thing that needs to be pointed out is that the above black & white illustration is not by Henry Vallely.
For years I've looked at the iconic pose of Batman in his first published origin in Detective Comics # 33
(November, 1939) and known it was not purely from the imagination of Bob Kane. Not only had I previously found several other illustrations that Kane (or whoever was ghosting for him) had swiped from the pages of Big Little Books illustrated by Vallely, but frankly that pose was just too good to be Kane. So I've long had the belief that that particular pose of the Dark Knight crouched on a roof top was simply another Vallely illustration that I had yet to discover. A few years ago I became aware of Large Feature Comics No. 5, published by Dell in 1938, the bulk of which consisted of reprints of 60 Tarzan story strips from 1929 and is considered to be the first full comic book devoted to Tarzan in the comic book format. According to one source, in addition to the Hal Foster strips, it featured additional art and splash pages by Juanita Bennett. Another source attributed these supplementary drawings to Henry E. Vallely. Given the rarity of the book it wasn't until a few months ago that I was able to acquire a copy for myself and determine the truth: in order to enhance the continuity of the stories, Henry E. Vallely added one additional panel per page, along with ten full page chapter drawings. However, the pose appropriated for Batman's origin (found on page 42, panel 4) can not be credited to Vallely, but rather to Harold "Hal" Foster.

Tarzan® is © Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.
Batman is © DC Comics

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Blogger Rick Cortes said...

Nice find!

12:16 AM

Anonymous Manic Man said...

So the character of Batman was ripped from The Shadow, and the art was ripped from other comics.. is there ANYTHING oringal in Batman?

2:33 AM

Anonymous Michael Powers said...

That was indeed a hell of a find, and thanks to Mark Evanier's site for pointing me to yours, by the way. The dark story of Bob Kane, which Evanier delves into most interestingly on his www.povonline.com website, remains profoundly depressing to anyone with any artistic aspirations; the lesson seems to be to hire the best lawyer you can, I suppose. (I always found it sad that Bill Finger was denied his piece of the Batman pie but as time goes on it becomes increasingly clear that the entire strip is a pastiche of various types of steals from earlier creators anyway, which is probably anything but unusual when you stop to think about it.) The panel that you reproduced accidentally hit upon something else that's always bothered me, though. The first issue referred to Batman as "the" Batman, which I always found darker and more resonant somehow than simply calling him "Batman." Makes the whole thing seem a bit more alien, at remove, and eerie than just using "Batman" as a straight name like "Fido" or "Snoopy." The first Tim Burton movie referred to Batman as "the Batman" at least once or twice and I think it's an approach that needs to be revived in the future. This is the kind of thing that you either understand or you don't, though. I once told Tim Robbins that the title of the Welles-directed play "The Cradle Will Rock" was one of the best I'd ever heard but that Robbins' decision to chop off the "The" and call his superb movie "Cradle Will Rock" resulted in a clunky, counterintuitive, terrible title. Robbins plainly had no idea what I was talking about.

6:41 AM

Blogger Robert said...

Great detective work! I like the way he didnt' even bother to repose the feet from Tarzan's inclined branches to Batman's level rooftop.

But how is it that "Tarzan" is copyright 2007? What basis is there for that?

8:54 AM

Anonymous John Griffin said...

You will find this swipe of Foster, as well as some other so-called "homages" in Brian Kane's wonderful "Hal Foster: Prince of Illustrators, Father of the Adventure Strip" published by Vanguard in 2001.

9:17 AM

Blogger DSK said...

john griffin - I don't have a copy of Brian Kane's book but I think I need to get one. Does it show the same panel with a comparision to Kane's Batman panel?

robert - the 2007 was a typo which has been corrected - thanks!

12:00 PM

Blogger HemlockMan said...

Well, Hell. If you want to get right down to it, Superman was a blatant copy of GLADIATOR by Philip Wylie.

All of those guys in the pulp/comic world were copping stuff from one another.

Also, it's hard to find any comic artist who hasn't swiped from Foster.

4:43 PM

Blogger lincoln said...

Hasn't it been posed that when the first Testament was finally committed to paper, about 500 b.c., by the Jews in exile, they added a lot of the local Sumerian culture to their writings (inadvertantly or otherwise) and that later, much of the legend of Jesus seemed very similar to ancient Sumerian myths. My point being that What's old is new again--nothing is ever lost--everything is reinvented, given new life, spirit breathed anew into it anew...That for all of Picasso's originality, if he did his work today he would be accused of appropriating the culture of the African for his own use--for appropriating cubism from Joseph Brach and trying to make it or remake it as his own. Was this the point that Andy Warhol was making with his art? No, most emphatically not, he stated on a number of occasions, but what does he know. He's only the artist. As as we have seen, their work is there just to be used to make meaning for others.
If you see what I mean.

8:56 PM

Blogger Marcelo Vignali said...

That's some good detective work!

2:32 PM

Blogger The Cap'n said...

"If you see what I mean."
I do see.
For instance, as long as I have been aware of the Batman image I always thought the odd foot placement was because it was the moment before the leap.
A bit pensive and thoughtful before jumping headlong into the unknown.
You don't see that in the original Tarzan art.
Coincidence? Deliberate?
For better or worse, it IS a valid and debatable point.
And so it goes.

1:03 PM


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