by Scott Tracy Griffin
Review from the Ain't It Cool Site
10 Screen Tarzans Who Suffered for Their Craft
By Scott Tracy Griffin
TARZAN THE CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION
Career-ending typecasting is one peril suffered by the men cast as Tarzan. Others put their health on the line as they sought to bring authentic thrills to the screen for the enjoyment of audiences world-wide. Twenty men have portrayed Tarzan onscreen since the first film, Tarzan of the Apes (1918), starring Elmo Lincoln.
Gene Pollar, The Revenge of Tarzan (1920) – A New York City firefighter and champion athlete, Pollar’s role as Tarzan brought him a lucrative contract offer from Universal Studios. However, the Weiss Brothers, the producers behind The Revenge of Tarzan, held him to their ironclad contract, and after one film he gave up the Hollywood dream to return to firefighting.
P. Dempsey Tabler, The Son of Tarzan (1920) – One of the more unconventional castings, Tabler, a 40-year-old opera singer, broke several ribs and had to wear bindings for much of the rest of the movie, taking them off for photography. The marks from the bandages are clearly visible in some of the film stills. Tabler performed real-life heroics on the set when he spotted an escaped lion stalking a small boy, and charged it, scaring it away with a fierce yell.
Kamuela Searle, The Son of Tarzan (1920) – Legend has it that the mesomorphic Hawaiian Searle died from injuries received on set, but he survived being dropped by an elephant, while tied to a heavy post. A combat veteran of World War I, Searle survived a mustard gas attack during the conflict, only to succumb to cancer at the untimely age of 34.
Gene Pohler || P. Dempsey Tabler || Kamuela Searle
Jim Pierce, Tarzan and the Golden Lion (1927) – A former All-American for the Indiana University gridiron squad, Pierce took off running on his first day on set—only to cut his bare feet to ribbons. He later put flesh-colored shoes to good use as he raced ahead of a hungry lion chasing a trail of blood that had been laid along the ground. As a reward for his tenacity, Pierce married Tarzan author Edgar Rice Burroughs’ daughter Joan, with whom he would co-star on the 1932 Tarzan of the Apes radio program.
Johnny Weissmuller, Tarzan the Ape Man (1932) – Though beloved as the most iconic cinema ape-man, the genial Weissmuller found his good nature exploited repeatedly, and lost most of the money earned during a long career playing Tarzan and Jungle Jim to swindlers and bad investments. Never one to let adversity get him down, the elderly Weissmuller continued to bellow his mighty ape cry from his hospital bed, startling the other residents of the Motion Picture AND Television Retirement Home.
Johnny Weissmuller || Herman Brix
Herman Brix, The New Adventures of Tarzan (1935) – Hand-picked by author Edgar Rice Burroughs, Brix worked on location in the jungles of Guatemala in 1935. Despite bathing his body in germicide every evening, a cut on Brix’s knee became infected, swelling the joint to the size of a cantaloupe. Fortunately, he was evacuated downriver, where a doctor lanced and treated the infection. A few days later, Brix was back at work, but he carried the scar for life. Brix died in 2007, aged 100, the longest-lived film Tarzan (to date).
Lex Barker, Tarzan’s Magic Fountain (1949) – Though he escaped injury on the sound stages and back lots where his five films shot, the Hollywood lifestyle took a toll on Barker’s personal relationships, resulting in five marriages, notably to actresses Arlene Dahl and Lana Turner. Perhaps he was channeling his onscreen persona: Barker’s Tarzan had a different Jane in all five of his film outings.
.Jock Mahoney, Tarzan’s Three Challenges (1963) – A former stuntman and standout athlete at University of Iowa, Mahoney performed his own stunts. A high dive into a polluted Thai river, resulted in case of dysentery and dengue fever. Co-star Woody Strode attributed the delirious Mahoney’s survival of the skyrocketing fever to an ice bath and ingesting antibiotics like candy. Mahoney lost 40 pounds during the shoot, and finished filming in a gaunt, haggard condition.
Lex Barker || Jock Mahoney
Mike Henry, Tarzan and the Great River (1967) – A former University of Southern California star and linebacker for the Los Angeles Rams, Henry filmed three movies back-to-back-to-back in Brazil. A fierce bite from his co-star, the chimp Dinky, sidelined Henry for several days with monkey fever. When his third film wrapped, the weary Henry declined the offer to star in the Tarzan television series.
Ron Ely, Tarzan (Television) (1966-68) – Unwilling to break reality by using a stunt double, Ely kept paramedics in Brazil and Mexico busy. The tall Texan suffered multiple animal bites, torn muscles, and other injuries, most notably a separated shoulder and broken ribs after a high fall from an uncooperative vine. Ely retired from the jungle to write mystery novels.
Mike Henry || Ron Ely
James Bond. Batman. They’re both pretty awesome. But what about some love for king jungle-rumbler Tarzan? The guy is now officially 100 years old and he was RAISED BY APES! How awesome is that?! I love these inspirational tales of orphans done good.
Book Review: Tarzan the Centennial Celebration!
FruitlessPursuits.com ~ November 29, 2012
To celebrate, our friends at Titan Books have released a fittingly MAMMOTH book, Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration, that covers all of Tarzan’s book, comic, film, TV and merchandise appearances over the last 100 years. I personally love it because it is filled with beautifully epic paintings of Tarzan absolutely belting the crap out of all kind of animals. And dinosaurs! Beat your chest in celebration!
I’m not kidding when I say this book is big. It arrived in a massive blue sack, so big that for a brief moment I assumed that someone had posted me a pony. But no, it turned out to be a large, lavishly produced hardcover tribute to Edgar Rice Burrough’s famous jungle king who made his first appearance in a magazine in 1912.
If you're anything like me then Tarzan probably hasn’t featured too prominently on your radar in recent years, but it’s truly fascinating to discover just how many incarnations there have actually been throughout the hundred year span. He’s always been present in some form or another and this giant book appears to cover absolutely everything. (Except for that notorious Disney action figure with the extremely suspicious “vine-swinging” action feature). For example, I had no idea that so many actors had portrayed Tarzan on film, especially in ye olden days of black and white. To prove this fact, there's an awesome array of photographs of shirtless men holding hands with chimpanzees which should serve to raise a smile.
But mostly I’m in this for the incredible classic art. Full pages have been devoted to vivid, visceral paintings of Tarzan impaling lions and punching prehistoria!
You're dead meat you dumb pterodactyl!
I'll teach you not to strangle that ape before I do!
I adore pulp art so that alone is enough of a recommend. Plus there's quite a few examples of classic Tarzan comic strips so there's plenty to dig into. You could spend a huge amount of time browsing through the various sections, enjoying the insane imagery and absorbing amazing facts. Titan have done a stunning job with this one. It grabs my attention just as an admirer of old school art and literature, so if you're a full-blown Tarzan fan then this would be absolutely unmissable. You'd be backflipping out of trees and right-hooking animals!
"At the century mark, one of the world's most enduring literary franchises is honored with a gallery of art in Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration." – Huffington Post
Amazon US and Canada Reviews
"Topped off with a look at collectibles, conventions, authorised sequels and more (not to mention a brilliant foreword from big screen Tarzan Ron Ely), there's no doubting the fact that this is a must-have for any fan of Tarzan." – Comic Book Movie
"An enormous, glossy volume filled with rare art, movie stills, and insights on every corner of the Tarzan universe." – Flavorwire
"Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration is a must buy if you ever loved Tarzan. The book is a perfect way to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the jungle man’s first appearance." – Wired.com
"An awe-inspiring collection that any Tarzan fan would cherish." – Strange Kids Club
"The quality of this book as a collector’s item is unmatched. It’s a brilliant hard cover." – Comic Hype
"this magnificent Tarzan tribute volume makes a compelling case that the Ape Man has as strong a grip on our collective imaginations as he always did." – Open Letters Monthly
"lovingly detailed artwork and insight." – MTV Geek
"Regular AICN readers know that Titan usually knocks books of this ilk out of the park. Even taking into account Titan’s lofty pedigree, TARZAN: THE CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION emerges as magnificently presented, stunningly laid out, and beautifully guided by author Griffin & Co. This may be the company’s best work yet" – aintitcool
Amazon UK Reviews
A hundred years is a ripe old age, but this epic life of Tarzan doesn't miss a thing. --Empire
It s well researched, fascinating and a testament to Tarzan s longevity and legacy as an artist-inspiring character. --Imagine FX
"Astonishingly, virtually all of those various adaptation-categories get equal and respectful attention in this wonderful book. Griffin tirelessly slogs through every novel...provides a lively overview of every knock-off production, and proves an endlessly intelligent enthusiast for every manifestation of Tarzaniana in existence." --Open Letters Monthly
"The Centennial Celebration is an all-inclusive and must-own appreciation of what is in today's superhero-obsessed mainstream an underrated landmark hero." --Deep Focus Review
"A must buy if you ever loved Tarzan. The book is a perfect way to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the jungle man s first appearance." --Wired.com
"The quality of this book as a collector s item is unmatched. It s a brilliant hard cover." --Comic Hype
"An enormous, glossy volume filled with rare art, movie stills, and insights on every corner of the Tarzan universe." --Flavorwire
"The wealth of treasure buried within is immense." --Crome Yellow
"This is an amazing collection of all things Tarzan and a vital addition to any Tarzan-lover s library. --The Geek Path review
"Does an amazing job of demonstrating the breadth and scope of that influence while also being a pure delight. If you care about Tarzan at all, this is definitely one to add to your holiday wish list." --Pretty Clever Films
"Regular AICN readers know that Titan usually knocks books of this ilk out of the park. Even taking into account Titan s lofty pedigree, TARZAN: THE CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION emerges as magnificently presented, stunningly laid out, and beautifully guided by author Griffin & Co. This may be the company s best work yet." --Ain't It Cool News
"If you're a fan of pulp art, this book is a must-have." --Uproxx feature
"Titan have done a stunning job with this one. It grabs my attention just as an admirer of old school art and literature, so if you're a full-blown Tarzan fan then this would be absolutely unmissable." --Fruitless Pursuits
"Edgar Rice Burroughs was a master storyteller and this book does an excellent job of telling the story of the author and his creation. If you are a fan of old pulps, pop culture, or muscle bound men of honor, do yourself a favor and add this book to your collection." --Cool and Collected
"5 out of 5 stars for this masterpiece. Come celebrate the 100th year of the Ape-Man, I guarantee you will be glad you did!" --SciFi FX
Titan Publishing have released a simply wonderful book which contains multitudes of photos, articles and stories from the legacy that Edgar Rice Burroughs created when he invented Tarzan. --Hey U Guys
"Scott Griffin s very heavy and fabulously illustrated omnibus of Tarzan materials dazzles the eye." --Criticize This
"This is a beautiful hardcover book with thick glossy pages and wonderfully high quality paintings and photos that I wouldn t hesitate to recommending to anyone, Tarzan fan and newbie alike." --City of Films
Author Scott Tracey Griffin skips ably back and forth between the filmms, the books and the comics. --Evening Standard
"I really can t say enough good things about Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration. With so much information, so many great photos and pieces of artwork, backed up by Griffin s obvious authority and appreciation for the character, this is the definitive book on the legend of the ape man." --Top Hat Sasquatch review
About the Author
Scott Tracy Griffin is considered one of the foremost Edgar Rice Burroughs experts in the world, with 30 years of articles appearing in magazines, journals, academia and fanzines, Griffin lives within swinging distance of Tarzana.
Celebrating one hundred years of Tarzan, Titan Books presents the only official commemorative illustrated history of this worldwide phenomenon. To celebrate the Lord of the Jungle’s 100th birthday, internationally-acclaimed Edgar Rice Burroughs expert Scott Tracy Griffin presents the ultimate review of a century of Tarzan. Lavishly illustrated and with fascinating insight into every element of Burroughs’ extraordinary legacy – from his first writings to the latest stage musical – this is a visual treasure trove of classic comic strip, cover art, movie stills, and rare ephemera.
Celebrate 100 years of Tarzan
Titan Books ~ November 22, 2012
From the first publication of the smash hit Tarzan of the Apes, Burroughs’ ape man captured the hearts and the imaginations of adults and children across the globe, whether by written word, moving image, comic strip or radio. Each of the 24 original novels and the many varied appearances on stage, screen and in print receive a detailed commentary, illustrated with some of the most evocative and beautiful artworks, illustrations and photographs, many rarely seen in print before.
With features on Korak, Jane, Tantor and Cheetah, plus their innumerable friends, foes and exotic adventures, this is an amazing collection of all things Tarzan and a vital addition to any Tarzan-lover’s library.
Tarzan The Centennial Celebration is out now and to celebrate the release, we present a gallery of rare Tarzan artwork from the book:
Interview: Scott Tracy Griffin
Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration
List.co.uk ~ October 19, 2012
To celebrate 100 years of Tarzan we ask why the character has remained so popular for so long?
Tarzan is one of the most enduring action adventure characters of all time: created by Edgar Rice Burroughs 100 years ago he still lives on in popular culture after all these years. We chat to Scott Tracy Griffin, author of Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration (Titan Books), about the longevity of the Lord of the Jungle.
For anyone who hasn't heard of Tarzan could you explain the concept?
For generations, Tarzan has been the prototypical feral man: a British peer orphaned in the jungle and raised by the great apes to become a physical, mental, and moral superman in the absence of civilization’s influence. He didn’t wear tights or possess superhuman powers but was, in many respects, the first superhero with a global audience.
What were Edgar Rice Burroughs' inspirations for the character?
Burroughs had a strong academic background in the classics and attributed the story’s genesis to the legend of Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome who were adopted by a wolf after being abandoned in the wilderness. Burroughs cited Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book, too, though he downplayed Kipling’s influence on inspiring Tarzan.
What is it about the character that appeals to yourself?
I’ve always been an animal lover; as a child I was captivated by the notion of interacting with apes, elephants, and other exotic species. When I discovered the original novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs, I found his prose and concept of the character to be engrossing. Burroughs’ ability to portray exotic worlds and breath-taking action is unparalleled in the adventure genre.
Why do you think he has been so popular for so long?
Burroughs taps into our innermost, primal urges, the desire to renounce civilization, return to nature and master it. Tarzan’s appeal is universal, and cuts across cultural, political, and ideological lines.
What is your favourite version of Tarzan and why?
Edgar Rice Burroughs’ original concept, as reflected in the early Tarzan novels, is unsurpassed. Burroughs offered a far more nuanced character than most of the succeeding films, comics, radio and television programs.
Who do you think best personified the Tarzan character on film or TV?
I don’t have a favourite screen Tarzan, because every actor brought something unique to the role. Johnny Weissmuller’s performance was perhaps the most charismatic and memorable, but I’ve always liked interpretations starring actors who played Tarzan as the intelligent, articulate man Burroughs created, such as Herman Brix and Ron Ely.
Over the years Tarzan has cropped up in many strange and wonderful places in official and unofficial versions of the character - what's the strangest you've seen?
Tarzan has endorsed a wide range of products worldwide: bread and gasoline (with ‘The Power of Tarzan’) in the US, ‘Tarzan Grip’ glue in Australia and tinned nuts from Malaysia are several examples. Onscreen, the unauthorized Bollywood Tarzans offer a distinct cultural departure from Burroughs’ concept of a British peer stranded in the jungle as an infant. And I’m amused by parodies of the character, including George of the Jungle, Mad magazine’s satirical comics, and Dudley Moore’s classic ‘One-legged Tarzan’ skit.
Weissmuller Tarzan Yell
BBC Interview with Ron Ely and Scott Tracy Griffin
Centennial celebrates Tarzan's 100th birthday
"Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration" is one-stop shopping for Ape-Man lore.
Indiana Gazette ~ December 23, 2012
Happy birthday, Tarzan!
The legendary Ape-Man first saw print 100 years ago in the pulp magazine "The All-Story," and Titan Books is celebrating with a gorgeous hardback, "Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration" ($39.95). Written by Scott Tracy Griffin, one of the foremost Edgar Rice Burroughs experts extant, "Centennial" covers aspects of the fabled adventure hero from print to movies and everything in between.
To tell you the truth, I never considered myself much of a Tarzan fan. For one thing, when I became old enough to become aware of the world, the idea of white guy being better at everything in Africa than the black people who lived there began to feel a little uncomfortable. And for another, let's face it: The idea of jungle adventure wasn't terribly exciting after space exploration made jungle tales a trifle stale, after automatic weaponry made death by lion far-fetched, and after satellite surveillance made lost civilizations implausible.
But as I read this book I realized that there's a reason why Burroughs is referred to as "the grandfather of science fiction." While he was preceded by Mary Shelley, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells and many others, it was Burroughs whose wildly popular Tarzan of the Apes, John Carter of Mars and Neil Innes of Pellucidar made science fiction and/or fantasy part of the tapestry of pop culture. Tarzan isn't just an adventure character; he informs every character that came after him, from Buck Rogers to Superman, and created the atmosphere in which other characters came to exist. He is the air other characters breathe.
Which is why, I realized to my own surprise, I'd absorbed so much Tarzan over the decades. As a child I'd slavishly watch whatever Tarzan movie (usually starring Johnny Weissmuller or Lex Barker) the local CBS affiliate would schedule after the cartoons every Saturday. In middle school I inhaled all 24 Tarzan novels, which were being re-released as paperbacks.
And there were the comics! I wasn't born yet for the Dell "Tarzan" comic books (1940s and '50s) and missed out on the Gold Key run (1960s), but I'm snatching up hardcover collections of those books as fast as Dark Horse prints them. And I managed to collect all the later comics based on Burroughs characters, from DC (1970s), Marvel (1980s) and Dark Horse (1990s to present).
But even so, there's tons of Tarzan I didn't know about, an itch this book thankfully scratches. Griffin gives a chapter to each to the novels, along with sidebars on various aspects of Burroughs and his Ape-Man, from how Burroughs pronounced his hero's name (TAR-zn), to "How to Speak Ape," to the history of the legends of dinosaurs in Africa that informed the lost land of Pal-ul-don in "Tarzan the Terrible." Roughly the second half of the book is individual chapters on Tarzan in comic strips, comic books, radio, TV, movies, collectibles, conventions and the many other facets of the Ape-Man and his creator.
All of this info is lavishly illustrated with book covers, frontispieces, movies stills and other art, both familiar and scarce, that is simply arresting. The illustrations alone are worth the price of admission, from familiar names like Neal Adams, John Buscema, Frank Frazetta, Joe Jusko, Joe Kubert, Roy Krenkel, Russ Manning, Jesse Marsh, J. Allen St. John, Boris Vallejo and George Wilson, to new favorites like Phil Normand and Robert Abbett. And where else are you going to see so many pictures of Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan in loincloths?
This book will remind those of us, like me, just how much we have always loved Tarzan. Here's to another 100 years, Lord Greystoke!
Book Review: Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration
TheComet.net ~ Dec 21, 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
Book Review from TopHatsasquatch.com
Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration
I first met Spider-Man in the cheesy live-action segments of The Electric Company. My first run-in with Superman was during his time as a member of the Super Friends, along with his super friends Batman, Robin, and Wonder Woman (I think we can all agree that the less said about Aquaman, the better). I yelled, “Hi-Yo, Silver! Away!” thanks to the Lone Ranger and Zorro serials that were broadcast on PBS after the Saturday morning cartoons were over. I can remember where I met all of these superheros, but I have no clue where or when I was first introduced to Tarzan.
I have a feeling there are a lot of us who just seem to instinctively know who Tarzan is. Since Edgar Rice Burroughs’ story of the ape man was first published 100 years ago, the character has become something of a ubiquitous icon, akin to someone like Uncle Sam. We may not know how or when we were formally introduced to Tarzan, but we know that anyone in a leopard skin cloth swinging from a vine could only be one person.
Although it might be difficult to pin down our own personal history with the character, Scott Tracy Griffin’s new book, Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration, provides great insight into how this Lord of the Jungle has become such an iconic figure in popular culture.
As the book’s title implies, Tarzan of the Apes was first published 100 years ago, in October 1912 by All-Story Magazine, a popular pulp magazine of the day. The editor of the magazine was so enamored with the story – and thought his readers would be, too – that the story was not serialized like most pulp fiction, but ran in it’s entirety in a single issue. It was later serialized into newspapers all across the country, before it was finally published as a novel in 1914. The book was a huge success and Burroughs was encouraged to write more – which he did, to the tune of 24 official sequels in the Tarzan canon.
But the Tarzan machine didn’t stop with prose on the page. The ape man was also the star of dozens of films spanning the silent era, the early talkies, the golden age of the studio system, and even into the modern age, including the Disney animation treatment in 1999. His jungle adventures have been featured in comic books, video games, on television, and Saturday morning serials, as well as merchandise like skateboards, lunchboxes, board games, and he even endorsed gasoline.
For his retrospective, Griffin features a brief synopsis and some behind-the-scenes history for each book, with the more popular novels garnering additional pages of cover art, comic book pages, photos from the films, and more. What could be a rather laborious half of the book in lesser hands, is wisely broken up by small sections that provide additional insight into the characters, the themes, and the world of Tarzan. For example, in between the entries for Tarzan and the Ant Men and Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, we get a page discussing Tarzan’s use of language throughout the series, starting with his simple grunts and gestures, and later his mastery of English, French, Arabic, German, and Dutch, plus a variety of native tongues. These little mini-chapters cover topics and facets that wouldn’t have really belonged anywhere else, or, if they were included elsewhere, would have gotten lost. Having them highlighted like this is a brilliant way to add insight and information without getting bogged down in overly long, rambling pages that would be difficult to tie together into something coherent.
Later in the book, Griffin shifts focus away from the novels and delves into other media, such as radio, films, and comic books, that have incorporated Tarzan, if not directly adapted one of the novels. And even between these sections, the mini-chapters continue to show the depth of the series with more drawings and photos, as well as biographical information about Burroughs. The book is simply filled with all the Tarzan information you could possibly need.
You might have noticed that I’ve mentioned photos and artwork quite a few times so far, and that’s because this book is absolutely filled with visuals. Between comic book pages, 100 years of book covers, promotional material from the films, merchandise, and even just works of art from especially talented fans, the book has an image on nearly every one of its 319 pages. And if there’s not a picture on one page, chances are the facing page is a giant, full-bleed painting from Frank Frazetta, or a comic book cover by Joe Kubert. It’s clear that Griffin understands a big part of Tarzan’s appeal is the visual – the exotic locations, the epic man-vs-beast battles, the different interpretations of the character – and the book does not disappoint.
I really can’t say enough good things about Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration. With so much information, so many great photos and pieces of artwork, backed up by Griffin’s obvious authority and appreciation for the character, this is the definitive book on the legend of the ape man.
Christmas 2012 was very good. And one of the reasons it was so good was that among the presents that Santa (in this case my son, J. Michael) left under the tree was a hard-cover, coffee table-sized book entitled Tarzan the Centennial Celebration: The Stories, the Movies, the Art. Published by Titan Books, it is an eye-dazzling, mind-blowing collection of cover art and descriptive essays all about the world’s most famous fictional character. Author Scott Tracy Griffin, a Tarzan expert who is said to live within vine-swinging distance of Tarzana, Calif., has done a magnificent job of putting all this together.
Tarzan, Celebrating the Centennial: A Review
Amazing Stories ~ January 21, 2013 ~ by John M Whalen
Once you get past the high resolution full page reproductions of works by Neal Adams, J. Allen St. John, Boris Vallejo, and George Wilson, and settle down to read this massive book, you immediately are impressed with Griffin’s knowledge of his subject and the substantial amount of research that went into writing it.
The book begins with a thoughtful essay by former TV-Tarzan, Ron Ely, who says right out what so many reviewers and critics seem to find difficult to put into words. “Edgar Rice Burroughs was a creative genius, a statement I don’t make lightly . . .” He notes that some critics suggest his books did not reflect the polish of other novelists of the time; “however, there is no arguing with the brilliance of his ability to tell a tale.”
Ely also makes a good point that most of the films and even his own television series misplaced Tarzan in contemporary settings. Tarzan, he believes, belongs to the world of 1912 when communication and travel were protracted and challenging, and Africa was a Forbidden Continent where only a few dared risk the dangers. Burroughs created “a place so full of wonder that it exposed by comparison the flaws of the real world.” Through Tarzan Burroughs “emphasized integrity and nobility in the face of a world turning away from such values.”
Following the introduction ,there is a short biographical section that gives the vital facts of Burroughs early years, including some photos I’ve never seen before. It covers his early years as a failure at nearly everything to his rise as a novelist and his self-incorporation and creation of his estate called Tarzana. Next is an essay on Burroughs early works that includes a full page reproduction of the cover of Minidoka, a tale that precedes A Princess of Mars, but was never published until 1999. A section on The Pulps includes the cover of Argosy All Story Weekly’s serialization of Tarzan and the Ant Men.
The book then chronologically covers every Tarzan novel that Burroughs wrote, with a presentation of a variety of covers for each title, including the original St. John covers and later paperback covers by Neal Adams and Boris Vallejo. In addition each section includes covers of the comic book versions of each of the books. Frankly, it almost becomes exhausting trying to absorb everything that is in these pages.
One thing that immediately strikes you about the art work is how much detail the artists put into these paintings. Especially the Gold Key Comics cover art by Wilson. When blown up to 10 x 12, and with the high resolution possible now on the printed page, the art work is amazing. Wilson’s covers on the original comic books never impressed me that much, but as presented here, they are terrific. But as good as they are, they pale in comparison to the later work done by Adams and Vallejo. Adams’ cover for Tarzan at the Earth’s Core is a masterwork. As are the covers for Tarzan and the Leopared Men, and Tarzan the Invincible. Similarly Vallejo’s covers for Tarzan the Magnificent and Tarzan and the Castaways never looked so good.
There are chapters on Tarzan on the radio, and of course Tarzan in films. Here again, while the text is fascinating, it is the still photos that Griffin was able to obtain, that alone make the book worth having. Shots of all the actors who played Tarzan from Elmo Lincoln to Jock Mahoney and Gordon Scott and even Caper Van Dien are included.
One of my favorite parts of the book is “Tarzan of the Funny Pages,” which tells us that Tarzan’s first appearance in a newspaper strip came in 1929, with Hal Foster’s five panels with text underneath. It was preceded by cryptic ads in the newspapers that ran them, that said, “The Apes Are Coming.” Included in this section are sample of not only Foster’s work, but also the art work of Rex Maxon, Burne Hogarth, Bob Lubbers, and Russ Manning. I was particularly pleased that the book also includes a Sunday page (alas, this one in black and white) drawn by John Celardo. Celardo is often overlooked in discussion of Tarzan art, but he was an excellent artist who worked on strips published by United Features Syndicate in the 1950s. I remember those quite well as a kid, delivering my local paper house to house, after first checking the day’s Tarzan installment. A good memory.
There is so much more in the book, but the final pages detailing the end of Burroughs life are noteworthy. In his sixties during World War II he served as a War correspondent in the Pacific. From the deck of the U.S.S. Cahaba, a fleet oiler, he witnessed a kamikaze attack on a nearby ship. He covered 11,000 miles by sea and 5.000 by air and his dispatches were printed by the Honolulu Advertiser. But all this took its toll on his health. He suffered angina pectoris and other heart ailments thereafter.
He returned to the U.S., bought a small two-bedroom house in Encino, Calif., not far from the huge estate he once owned in Tarzana, and died in bed on a Sunday morning in 1950 reading the day’s Tarzan comic strip. He was cremated and his ashes were placed under a Walnut tree in front of his Ventura Boulevard office, where Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc., is still located. Shortly before his death he wrote, “If there is a hereafter, I want to travel through space to visit the other planets.” That sounds suspiciously like the lead-in to a possible Volume Two: The Science Fiction Stories and Art of Edgar Rice Burroughs.
If you are a Tarzan fan, or a fan of Burroughs’ writing this is a must have book. Tarzan, Celebrating the Centennial is a book that Tarzan and Edgar Rice Burroughs fans will treasure for years to come.
Tarzan the Centennial Celebration, the Stories, the Movies, the Art, Titan Books, 320 pages, $39.95.
Available from Amazon.com: HERE
See all the ERBzine.com coverage of
Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration
Scott Tracy Griffin
Tarzan Sunday Pages by Scott Tracy Griffin and Gray Morrow
Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration I
Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration II
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