Book Review: Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration
08:28 21 December 2012
FEW fictional characters succeed in achieving the status of cultural icon, let alone triumphantly traversing media to win acclaim in formats ranging from novels, newspaper strips and comic books to movies, musicals and TV series.
A straw poll of candidates will include the likes of Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, Superman, Batman, and yes, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ jungle lord, Tarzan.
Created 100 years ago this year, John Clayton, aka Lord Greystoke, alias Tarzan of the Apes is an extraordinary resilient fictional success story whose influence has remained buoyant across the decades.
The simple origin story of an orphaned baby raised by apes and gaining dominance over the jungles of Africa was just the beginning of Greystoke’s adventures. Burroughs’ subsequent stories saw Tarzan marry his sweetheart Jane Porter, join the French secret service, raise his son Korak, explore lost worlds, fight in the First World War, encounter prehistoric monsters and 18-inch tall Ant Men, and eventually gain immortality across 24 original novels.
Beyond the books, Tarzan enjoyed healthy runs of films and television series at various points over the 20th Century, and also appeared in assorted comic books, radio plays and sequels – not bad for a character Burroughs initially only considered for a one-off appearance.
This justifiably luxurious book offers a comprehensive look at every aspect of the Tarzan phenomenon, as well as Burroughs himself and his incredible legacy, illustrated by a beautiful collection of photographs, cover paintings, comic strips and rare merchandise, combining to produce perhaps the most indispensible Tarzan companion book ever published.
Added bonuses include an ape-English dictionary, a map of Tarzan’s Africa (including many of his lost worlds), and a complete bibliography of the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, plus a checklist of Tarzan’s appearances in films, on television, stage and radio, and in comics across a host of publishers including DC, Marvel, Gold Key and Dark Horse.
A remarkable piece of work which succeeds in being both a lavish treasury of Tarzan images and a comprehensive guide to the character on his 100th birthday. Worth standing on the top of a waterfall and doing a jungle cry about!
* Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration by Scott Tracy Griffin, with an introduction by Ron Ely. Titan Books, £29.99