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Tarzan Strip 1 Tarzan Strip 2 Tarzan Strip 3 Tarzan Strip 4 Tarzan Strip 5
Dell Tarzan #1 through #38 shown above.
Tarzan is a TM Trademark of Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc.
All text Copyright 2010 Michael Tierney

Characature by Jeff Huddleston 2015

Tarzan of the Comics -- A Collector's Guide

by Michael Tierney
Tarzan of the Apes 1st Edition cover
Tarzan All Story cover Tarzan of the Apes art logo
Tarzan has been a cross-media sensation from the very beginning. The third novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes was originally published in the 1912 pulp, All Story magazine (shown to the right). Garnering a cover illustration, this would begin a long history of top notch artists enhancing the Apeman's adventures.

By 1914, A.C. McClurg published the first Tarzan story in hardcover (shown above), and in 1918 Tarzan of the Apes became one of the first blockbuster movies when people literally lined around the block to see the silent black and white movie shown on highly flammable acetate film.

Why was Tarzan of the Apes an overnight sensation?

Tarzan of the Apes Movie ad Tarzan is the epitomy of the noble savage. His was a tale of an elemental man, armed with nothing but his wits and courage as he survived in one of the most dangerous places on Earth -- the primeval jungle of deepest and darkest Africa, a continent that at the time still had large unexplored areas.

But more than the Man vs. Nature concept, Tarzan was a very moral character, as were all of Edgar Rice Burroughs' creations.

At the end of Burroughs' first novel of Tarzan, the Apeman was given a choice. He could sabotage his cousin's marriage to Jane Porter, the woman Tarzan loved, by simply admitting his heritage to the Greystoke estate. He would not only become a rich British Lord, but strip his competitor of both title, wealth and stature.

But Tarzan wouldn't do this to the woman he loved. Instead, he relinquished all claims with the simple statement of; "My mother was an Ape. I never knew who my father was," and walked away.

Needless to say, readers wanted more.

Tarzan was back with the aptly titled The Return of Tarzan, where Tarzan not only fought Russian spies and discovered the lost wealth of ancient Opar, he reclaimed his heritage and married Jane Porter. How Tarzan's conflict with his cousin was resolved, you'll have to read the book to find out.

Tarzan was no dysfunctional hero. He just took a lot of trips into the woods.

Tarzan 1st Edition Collection
Ace Tarzan paperback collection Ballantine Tarzan by Powers Burroughs would write a total of 25 Tarzan novels (the Tarzan Twins are shown in both states in the above First Edition collection), most of them originally serialized in Pulp form. He later incorporated himself as Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc., with new Tarzan novels being the core of his business. Unfortunately, those old Tarzan acetate films stored in his warehouse would one day tragically catch fire and burn much of the company's inventory.

Other difficulties for the company followed after Edgar Rice Burroughs passed in 1950, and when the lawyer for the company did not diligently maintain copyright filings for ERB's creations with the Library of Congress. As the Fifties closed, the paperback explosion was just starting, and filled the gap left by the disappearance of Pulp magazines.

As a result of the confusion over the status of the rights, both Ace Paperbacks and Ballantine Books started publishing Burroughs' properties. The conflict was settled with Ballantine winning the rights for Tarzan, John Carter of Mars, and a few single titles like The Lad and The Lion and The Mucker. Ace got everything else. But before this resolution, Ace did release a series of Tarzan novels with covers by Frank Frazetta, with assistance from Roy G. Krenkel (set shown far right). Ballantine Tarzan paperback collection

Ballantine Tarzan by Abbett While covers for the hardcover editions tended to follow a title throughout its publishing history, there would be many different cover artists on the Ballantine Tarzan series (all of the early printings of which included a cover announcement that these were the "Authorized and Unabridged Editions"). The First Printings had covers by Richard Powers (shown upper left), whose abstract art made him a popular cover artist on Sixties Science Fiction covers. Powers was replaced for the First Printings of the last two volumes in the Ballantine run, Tarzan the Madman and Tarzan and the Castaways, by Ballantine's Mars artist, Robert Abbett (shown near right). Powers would next be replced on a new printing of the first two Tarzan novels with photo covers featuring Ron Ely (shown left) from the Tarzan TV series that was running at the time. Robert Abbett would eventually do new cover art for the majority of the 24-volume set (Tarzan and the Tarzan Twins was omitted) and a brief 25th volume with Fritz Lieber's movie adaptation of the movie Tarzan and the Valley of Gold, the cover of which was also used for new printings of Tarzan and the Golden Lion. Abbett was replaced in the Seventies by the best Ballantine set of them all (shown below), with covers by fantasy painter Boris Vallejo and comics legend, Neal Adams.
Ballantine Tarzan paperback collection
Tarzan Ilustrated Book 1

Tarzan of the Apes was first adapted into comics as a daily newspaper serial by Hal Foster, beginning in 1929. In 1931 color Sunday pages started, first by Rex Maxon, and later by Hal Foster and then Burne Hogarth. Many other artists would contribute to the strips over the years, but Foster and Hogarth were the best remembered.

Tarzan Large Feature #5 The first comic publication of Tarzan outside of the newspaper pages happened immediately in 1929, when Grosset & Dunlap collected Hal Foster's initial dailies into the 80-page Tarzan Illustrated Book 1 (shown left). A second printing with 76 pages would follow in 1934.

The first Hal Foster dailies released in an actual comic book format were reprints in the scarce 1939 Large Feature #5 comic (shown right) and in the 1940 Single Series #20 comic (shown below right). Each of these are rare collectables. All of these early Tarzan covers still showed the apeman wearing the same over the shoulder loincloth from Elmo Lincoln's appearance in his 1918 movie, wearing both a belt and suspender.

The newpaper reprints would continue for years in titles like Sparkler and Tip Top (Tip Top #52 shown left).

Tip Top 52 It wasn't until 1947 that Dell Comics published the first original Tarzan comics in Four Color #134 and #161. Each featured artwork by Jesse Marsh, who continued the artistic chores when Dell debuted Tarzan #1 (shown below left).

While Marsh's artwork is easily recognized, the writers were unknown for many years because Dell listed no credits. It has since been learned that a large number of the Tarzan comics were written by Gaylord Dubois (pronounced Do-Bwaa).

Tarzan Single Series #20 Under the direction of Dubois and Marsh, the Dell Tarzan comics became a hybrid of both the Tarzan novels and movies of the time, weaving the different elements into their own unique blend of the Jungle Lord.

While Tarzan and Jane were drawn to resemble Johnny Wiessmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan, living in the movie treehouse, the rest of Tarzan's world borrowed heavily from Burroughs' original novels. Of course, even then liberties were taken.

Tarzan #1 The Horribs, lizardmen from the Earth's Core, were moved to Africa and turned into normal natives riding atop crocodiles and wearing their skins. And the primitive men of Opar went through several changes. But High Priestess La of Opar came through fairly intact.

Many of the lost civilizations from the novel were introduced into the comics. What made this entertaining was the way they continued to evolve, as peoples moved from place to place.

But best of all was the lost world of Pal-ul-don, where prehistoric dinosaurs still roamed and hunted ancient men.

The earliest Tarzans had covers by Marsh, but later painter Morris Gollub provided some stunning work. These were followed by photo covers during the film reign of Lex Barker and then Gordon Scott as theater Tarzans. After them, the art covers returned.

The Dubois scripts also introduced some interesting new elements, like Tarzan's discovery of a growth serum that he used, like some mad jungle scientist, to grow many super-sized animals, like giant water buffalo, eagles, a lion and others. It became a familiar sight to see Tarzan flying over the landscape atop a giant golden eagle. That was never in the books.

Korak #1 Over the years, the children of the rulers of the lost cities would grow up to take over the reigns of power from their parents. In fact, the only persons who never aged were Tarzan, Jane, and their son, Boy. While his childhood friends grew into maturity, Boy remained a boy until 1963, when he literally grew up overnight. After Gold Key took over the publication of Tarzan, they spun Boy off into his own title with Korak, Son of Tarzan #1 (shown right). Now back to Burroughs' original concept from his novel The Son of Tarzan, Korak's own title would run for 45 issues until 1972.

Tarzan #63 Early issues of Korak were drawn by the artist who would soon take over the artistic chores of Tarzan; the legendary Russ Manning.

Manning had actually worked on the Tarzan comics since he'd taken over for Marsh on the backup feature of The Brothers of the Spear in issue #39. Manning's crisp and clean storytelling style earned him some early work on Tarzan in issue #63 (shown left). But it wasn't until issue #154 that he became the feature artist.

Starting with issue #155 (shown below right) Manning and Gaylord Dubois would team up to do some spectacular adaptations of Edgar Rice Burroughs' novels. The issues that followed stand as some of the best adventure comics ever done.

Ron Ely's television Tarzan was running at the same time, so Gold Key alternated Manning adaptations with TV related stories drawn by Italian artist Alberto Gioletti and with photo covers of Ely. Gioletti was also known for his work on a variety of other comics, ranging from Gunsmoke to Star Trek, and another adventurer in primitive lands: Turok, Son of Stone.

Tarzan #154 Eventually, Russ Manning left the Tarzan comic book to work on the daily newspaper strip. While he was followed by many excellent artists like Doug Wildey and others, none created the fan excitement that Manning did.

Tarzan's own Gold Key run would end at the same time as Korak, in 1972 with issue #206.

Jungle Tales of Tarzan
In the mid-Sixties another publisher, Charlton Comics, thought Tarzan had fallen into the Public Domain and printed 4 issues of the Jungle Tales of Tarzan (shown above), with art on the first three by Sam Glanzman. ERB Inc. quickly shut them down and much of the print runs were destroyed..

In 1972, DC Comics licensed the Apeman and continued the original numbering on both Tarzan and Korak.

Tarzan #207 Industry great Joe Kubert went back to the formula that had made Manning's work so popular by doing adaptations of the original Tarzan novels, but this time in lengthy multipart epics, starting with Tarzan #207 (shown left).

After Kubert left the series, the quality declined, and the long running series finally ceased publication with issue #238 in 1977.

Tarzan Marvel #1 But the Apeman was far from through, as that same year Marvel Comics debuted Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle #1 (shown right), with yet another round of adaptations. This time Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar was chosen for a lengthy treatment. A close look at John Buscema's cover will reveal that it's a remake of the very first Pulp cover for All Story. Marvel's run would last over 2 years and 29 issues.

Other than Marvel's adaptation of the movie Greystoke, the Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes in the early Eighties, the property then lay dormant in comics until 1992, when first Malibu Comics and then Dark Horse Comics began to publish different mini-series, the last of which came in 2001 with the unusual alternate-reality pairing of Superman/Tarzan, Sons of the Jungle. But over the decade since, Tarzan has been conspicuously absent from the comics world.

With a publishing history of nearly a century now, it's only a matter of time until the ageless Tarzan, Lord of the Comics, swings once more into the New Millennium.

Michael Tierney -- August 20, 2010
Tarzan at the Earth's Core 1st Edition cover
You can read my reviews of every Tarzan comic from #1, Dell Comics, January 1948, through the Gold Key, DC, and Marvel runs that concluded in 1979, in The Comics Buyer's Guide magazine issues #1596 through #1615. Approximately 300 reviews in all. They are also available for purchase on CD, directly from The Comics Buyer's Guide at:
Or you can read my extended reviews of every feature in each Dell, Gold Key and DC Comic, along with digital copies of the comics themselves, here on the ERBzine website.
A collection of summaries for all the Mabu stories that ran for 23 years as a backup feature can be found here.
Tarzan sharkfighter

Up next in the tour of Comics History:

Tarzan's birthright isn't the only thing British about him. Tarzan comics have a very long publishing history in the foreign language known as the King's English. Explore here:

A Princess of Mars 1st edition HC Funnies #36
If you enjoy the high adventure of Tarzan, and stories that include travel to exotic locations, then you'll probably enjoy the Wild Stars!
Click here to learn more about the Wild Stars History.

Take a visit to another character of Edgar Rice Burroughs who is also known for carrying a blade, only instead of a knife, this guy carries a sword: John Carter of Mars!

Just announced on April 18, 2017: