80 Years of Tarzan Comics

March 20, 2009

Edgar Rice Burroughs' world famous Tarzan of the Apes first appeared in the October 1912 issue of The All-Story Magazine and the character has gone on to appear in every mass medium imaginable, conquering each one. But did you know that this year Tarzan celebrates his eightieth anniversary in comics?

His first book was published in 1914, his first movie was released in 1918, and his first comic strip (daily), which was the legendary Hal Foster's first job in comics, was published in 1929. Tarzan has since gone on to become perhaps the most successful and longest-lived hero character of all time. It seems that there’s always a Tarzan project in the offing and Tarzan comics have never been long out of the public eye.

Further, in a now-humorous mistake in that first 1912 All-Story tale, Burroughs placed tigers in the African jungle? Well, he did, but he changed them to lionesses in the first book's release. And this is why the male lions are known as Numa and females are known as Sabor (originally Tarzan's name for the tigers) - the only animals in the jungle to have different names based on gender.

After Foster went on to his own creation, Prince Valiant, the great artists who worked on the Tarzan strip included Burne Hogarth, Russ Manning and Mike Grell. TARZAN APPEARANCES
Western Publishing
Western Publishing published Tarzan in Dell Comics's Four Color Comics #134 & 161 in 1947, before giving him his own series, Tarzan #1-131 (Jan-Feb 1948 to July-August 1962), through Dell Comics (as well as in some Dell Giants and March of Comics giveaways), then continued the series with #132-206 (November, 1962 to February, 1972) through their own Gold Key Comics. This series featured artwork by Jesse Marsh, Russ Manning, and Doug Wildey. It included adaptions of most of Edgar Rice Burroughs's original Tarzan books (skipping only Tarzan and the Leopard Men, Tarzan the Magnificent, Tarzan and the Madman, and Tarzan and the Castaways), as well as original stories and other features. Almost all of the Dell and Gold Key Tarzan stories were written by Gaylord DuBois.

DC Comics
DC took over the series in 1972, publishing Tarzan #207-258 from April 1972 to February 1977. This version initially showcased artist Joe Kubert's depiction of the character. It also featured some adaptations of the Burroughs books in addition to original stories, adapting Tarzan of the Apes, The Return of Tarzan, Jungle Tales of Tarzan, Tarzan the Untamed, Tarzan and the Lion Man and Tarzan and the Castaways. Initially the series also featured adaptions of other Burroughs creations, and had companion books Korak (also taken over from Gold Key) and Weird Worlds. The Korak comic was later renamed Tarzan Family, into which all the non-Tarzan Burroughs adaptations were consolidated.

Marvel Comics
In 1977 the series moved to Marvel Comics, retitled as Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle; Marvel also restarted the numbering rather than assuming that used by the previous publishers. Marvel issued Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle #1-29 (as well as three Annuals), from June 1977 to October 1979, featuring artwork by John Buscema. Burroughs books adapted by Marvel include Tarzan of the Apes, Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar and Jungle Tales of Tarzan. Marvel did not continue the Tarzan Family title, electing to issue a series on Burroughs' primary non-Tarzan character, John Carter, Warlord of Mars, instead.

Dark Horse Comics
Dark Horse Comics has published various Tarzan series from 1996 to the present, including reprints of works from previous publishers like Gold Key and DC. Dark Horse and DC published two crossover titles teaming Tarzan with Batman and Superman. Batman/Tarzan: Claws of the Cat-Woman is a "straight" team-up between Tarzan and the 1930s Batman, while Superman/Tarzan: Sons of the Jungle is a revisionist version in which Lord Greystoke grows up in England, while Kal-El is raised by the apes as "Argozan". Tarzan also fought Predator (alien) in four comics called Tarzan vs Predator at the Earth's core.

Other publishers
During the timespan of the original comic book series from Western, DC and Marvel, a number of other comic book projects from other publishers also appeared.

Charlton Comics briefly published a Tarzan comic in the 1960s titled Jungle Tales of Tarzan, adapting stories from that Burroughs book, on the mistaken belief that the character was in the public domain.

Watson-Guptill Publications published hardcover comic book versions of the first half of Tarzan of The Apes in 1972 and four stories from Jungle Tales of Tarzan in 1976. These were illustrated by Burne Hogarth many years after he stopped doing the newspaper strip, and had a level of penmanship rarely seen in comics or even illustrations. It had captions of text from the novel instead of speech balloons.

Between the periods when Marvel and Dark Horse held the licence to the character, Tarzan had no regular comic book publisher for a number of years. During this time Blackthorne Comics published Tarzan in 1986, and Malibu Comics published Tarzan comics in 1992.

There have in addition been a number of minor appearance of Tarzan in comic books over the years. Though not mentioned by name, Tarzan is referenced in Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Places and people from the original Tarzan novels are referred to, suggesting that Tarzan does or did exist in that universe.

In a fictional 1999 comic book story featuring The Phantom, the hero meets Edgar Rice Burroughs, and inspires him to create Tarzan. Warren Ellis in the comic book Planetary has a parody of Tarzan called Lord Blackstock.

Tarzan comics were the first publications put on the index by the German Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Schriften after its foundation in 1954.

The European version of the Tarzan comic was published from 1983 to 1989 by Marketprint in the Serbian part of what was then Yugoslavia, and later translated and published in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Germany, Netherlands and Denmark. There were over 100 published episodes, each of which had 16 pages. In most of them Branislav Kerac was involved, either as the writer, penciller, inker, or complete author. He was also responsible for "The Kalonga Star," a five episode crossover between Tarzan and Kobra. Other notable episodes were "Tarzan and Barbarians," "The Tiger," "The Boy from the Stars," and "Big race." Tarzan is considered to have been the longest running comic published in Serbia. [1]

The Japanese manga series "Jungle no Ouja Ta-chan" (King of the Jungle Ta-chan) by Tokuhiro Masaya was based loosely on Tarzan. It was later made into an anime series. It featured the characters of Tarzan and his wife Jane, who had become obese after settling down with Tarzan. The series begins as a comical parody of Tarzan, but later expands to other settings, such as a martial arts tournament in China, professional wrestling in America, and even a fight with vampires.

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