Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

Hero of a long series of novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs, starting with Tarzan of the Apes (1912 All-Story; 1914), and continued – often illicitly – in Sequels by Other Hands, as in Fritz Leiber's (authorized) novelization Tarzan and the Valley of Gold * (1966) and the Revisionist Fantasy The Death of Tarzana Clayton (1985 chap) by Neville Farki. Orphaned as a baby in a Land-of-Fable Africa, Tarzan is reared by Apes and becomes King of the Jungle. It could be argued that the Tarzan stories are not fantasy at all (except in occasional detail), yet the Africa in which they are set is to all intents and purposes a Secondary World, and Tarzan himself is able to converse with animals in their own languages; if the Tarzan stories are not fantasies, what are they?

Tarzan is an Underlier for many protagonists (not all male; see Sheena [1984]) of jungle stories and Jungle Movies – and has been, of course, himself the central figure of the many Tarzan Movies. He can also be claimed as underlier of many characters in Sword and Sorcery. [JG]

see also: Atlantis; A A Attanasio; Australia; Bomba Movies; James Cawthorn; City; Fantastic Adventures; Philip José Farmer; Feral Children; Frank Frazetta; H Rider Haggard; Tom Henighan; Imaginary Lands; Michael William Kaluta; Roy G Krenkel; Lost Races; Novelizations; One Million Bc; Shadows; William Stout; Trees; Joan D Vinge.


The first adaptation of Tarzan into Comic-strip form came about through the efforts of Joseph H Neebe, a staff member of the Detroit advertising agency Campbell-Ewald. An admirer of Burroughs, he met the author in Los Angeles in 1928 and suggested an adaptation of Tarzan of the Apes. Neebe formed a subsidiary company, Famous Books and Plays Inc., to market the feature for publication in newspapers. He condensed the novel to 30,000 words and approached John Allen St John (1872-1957), the leading illustrator of ERB's work, to produce the drawings. St John declined, so Neebe turned to Harold R Foster, a staff artist at the Palenske-Young advertising studio (whose office was on the same floor of the Chicago Motor Club Building as Campbell-Ewald's). But Neebe, inexperienced in the field of comics syndication, was unable to sell the strip anywhere in the USA, so it first appeared in the UK weekly magazine Tit Bits (20 October 1928) – billed as "A serial story in pictures: 'Tarzan of the Apes' – your home picture-play!". Finally Neebe sold the feature – in the form of 60 daily episodes of five frames per day, to 15 newspapers – through the Metropolitan Newspaper Service; the first US publication was on 7 January 1929. The complete story was published in book form by Grosset & Dunlap later the same year as The Illustrated Tarzan Book (graph 1929). The daily newspaper series continued with The Return of Tarzan (from 17 June 1929), drawn by Rex Maxon (1892-1973), who went on to adapt further novels in the series. In 1930 United Features Syndicate bought Metropolitan Newspaper Service and Famous Books and Plays Inc., and it has retained syndication rights ever since.

By 1931 the popularity of the feature was deemed sufficient to justify a weekly Sunday page of previously unpublished narrative in colour. Maxon undertook both writing and drawing of this, in addition to the daily strip, but his work was plodding and uninspired. Foster took over the 12-frame Sunday page from 27 September 1931, while Maxon continued to draw the dailies (until August 1947).

Foster's version of Tarzan was initially clearly based on the actor Elmo Lincoln, the first movie Tarzan (see Tarzan Movies). Foster was not consistent: Tarzan's leopardskin knickers changed suddenly and inexplicably to the Weismuller-style loincloth in the middle of a conversation with a group of Chinese in 1938, and the leopard spots reappeared – equally mystifyingly – as Tarzan led a group of black warriors after a killer Tyrannosaur in 1945, but he proved a consummate draughtsman and storyteller, able to capture the spirit and flavour of Burroughs's writing. His work became enormously popular, and he was eventually offered the chance to create a feature of his own by the Hearst Corporation's King Features Syndicate. He thus abandoned Tarzan to create Prince Valiant.

Foster was succeeded on 9 May 1937 by Burne Hogarth, who had studied under St John. Hogarth's work was equally influential in the development of the US comic strip. His drawings of the jungle lord showed his admiration for Michelangelo's sculpture, and his jungle scenery, with its gnarled and twisted trees and rich foliage, showed the influence of Chinese painting. The storylines were provided by Donald Garden and displayed great literacy and imaginative breadth. Hogarth himself took over the scripting in 1943, and continued drawing Tarzan until 25 November 1947, when he abandoned it to create Drago, a short-lived adventure strip set in South America. He was replaced during this period by Rubimor (real name Reuben Moriera; 1922-1984). Hogarth returned with renewed enthusiasm in May 1948 and began to experiment with less formal page layouts and vigorous, dynamic frame compositions. His work now had a tremendous vitality that has rarely been matched.

Hogarth's last Sunday page was dated 20 August 1950; a conflict over the use of his work outside the USA (for which he was given neither credit nor payment) led to his refusing to renew his contract with United Features. He was succeeded 1950-1954 by Bob Lubbers (1922-2017), then 1954-1968 by John Celardo (1918-2012) and 1968-1981 by Russ Manning (1929-1981). Manning was succeeded by Gil Kane (1926-2000), Mike Grell (1947-    ), Gray Morrow (real name Dwight Graydon Morrow; 1934-2001) and Joe Kubert (1926-2012). The dailies were drawn by Maxon until 1947, then by Dan Barry (1923-1997), whose work during the first few months was signed "Hogarth", although Burne Hogarth was not involved in their production. Other artists on the daily feature included Paul Reinman, Nick Cardy (real name Nicolas Viscardy; 1920-2013), Lubbers, Celardo and Manning. In 1973 the daily feature ceased, and all subsequent publication was of reprinted earlier material.

Early comic books featuring Tarzan were collected reprints of the newspaper strips. These included Tip Top Comics (various issues 1936-1961), Comics on Parade (1938) and Sparkler Comics (various issues 1941-1955). The first comic books containing original material were Tarzan and the Devil Ogre and Tarzan and the Tohr (Four-Color #134 and #161, both 1947), and the success of these led the following year to a monthly comic book entitled simply Tarzan, with art by Jesse Marsh (1907-1966), Russ Manning (1929-1981), Doug Wildey (1922-1994), Alberto Giolitti and others. This title continued regular publication by Dell/Gold Key until 1972, and enjoyed some impressive cover artwork by Moe Gollub, among others. DC Comics then took over publication, publishing it until 1977 (with Kubert art), when it was taken up by Marvel Comics, who continued it until 1979, with art by John Buscema (1927-2002) and subsequently Sal Buscema (1936-    ). A four-issue book was published by Charlton Comics (who were under the misapprehension that copyright on the character had lapsed): Jungle Tales of Tarzan (1964-1965), with art by Sam Glanzman (1924-    ). Malibu Comics picked up the character in 1992 with Tarzan the Warrior. In this offering Tarzan and Jane – now permanently young – have a number of hectic adventures with a group of aliens. Malibu followed this with the charming Tarzan: Love, Lies and the Lost City (3 issues 1992) and Tarzan – The Beckoning (7 issues 1993).

In the UK a number of reprint comic books have been published, the longest-running being Tarzan Adventures (1951-1959) – reprinting the newspaper strips – which Michael Moorcock edited and provided material for during 1957-1958. Others included Tarzan of the Apes (Top Sellers 1971-1975), which reprinted the Dell material along with new stories, and Tarzan Weekly (Byblos 1977-1978), which contained material unpublished in the USA supplied by a variety of international artists, including Manning, Mike Ploog, Danny Bulandi (1946-    ), Alex Niño and José Ortiz. New strips were also published in children's weeklies during the period when the various tv series were being broadcast.

Two original Graphic-Novel adaptations by Hogarth were published: Tarzan of the Apes (graph 1972) and Jungle Tales of Tarzan (graph 1976). A hardcover collection of Foster's and Hogarth's work on the Sunday pages, projected to run to 18 volumes under the series title Tarzan in Color, is currently (1995) being published at the rate of one volume every three months.

A shamelessly plagiaristic pornographic digest-size comic, Tarsan, had a short run in Italy during 1981. Korak, son of Tarzan, has also starred in comics, but the characterization and storylines have been largely indistinguishable from Tarzan adventures proper.

Tarzan's comics success spawned many imitations, including Kaanga, Jungle Lord (1940-1954), Zago, Jungle Prince (1948), Jungle Jo (1950), Jo-Jo the Congo King (1947), Ka Zar, Lord of the Hidden Jungle (1939-current) and Thun-da, King of the Congo (1952), which in turn led to an equally long list of scantily clad jungle ladies, including Nyoka the Jungle Girl (1942-1957), Sheena, Queen of the Jungle (1939) (see Will Eisner), Rulah the Jungle Goddess (1948), Zegra the Jungle Empress (1949), Shanna the She Devil (1972 onwards) and Jungle Lil (1950). [RT]

further reading: The Edgar Rice Burroughs Library of Illustration (graph 1975) ed Russ Cochran.


Aside from Tarzan and the Trappers (1958 tvm), cobbled together from pilot episodes for an unmade tv series, and Tarzan in Manhattan (1989 tvm), pilot for a stillborn tv series (see Tarzan Movies), Tarzan has had two primary tv appearances: Tarzan (57 episodes 1966-1968), starring Ron Ely as the apeman (there was no Jane) – two episodes from which were stitched together as the theatrically released Tarzan's Deadly Silence (1970 tvm) and a further two as the theatrically released Tarzan's Jungle Rebellion (1970 tvm) – and Tarzan (50 episodes 1991-1993), starring Wolf Larson as Tarzan and Lydie Denier as Jane; in both series the famous cry was produced using recordings from the Weissmuller movies. Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle (16 episodes 1976-1977) was a children's animated series, with Tarzan voiced by Robert Ridgely; episodes were recycled in The Tarzan/Lone Ranger/Zorro Adventure Hour (1981-1982) and, with new material, in Tarzan and the Super Seven (1978-1980). [JG]


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.