by William Armstrong
||My introduction to Edgar Rice Burroughs TARZAN OF THE APES was at
my Grandmother's home in Vermont back in 1956 when I found a stack of Dell
comic books with Lex Barker photos on the cover. My parents had mentioned
the Tarzan character a few times and how much they had enjoyed seeing Johnny
Weissmuller as the Ape Man in the movies. My Uncle Tony had left
these comics (along with some Dell Westerns and DC super-hero titles) for
us children to read, and I remember how exciting it was to read these periodicals.
Years later I would learn that Gaylord DuBois had written the stories and
Jesse Marsh had drawn them. Jesse had a rather simple drawing style
I enjoyed at the time, not as realistic or as exciting as Russ Manning,
who would later take over the writing and art chores years later, but when
you are a young boy of 12, it didn't matter.
The following year, I was introduced to my first motion picture experience with the Ape Man when I went to see Gordon Scott in TARZAN AND THE LOST SAFARI, the first Tarzan film to be released in color. At this time, I had not seen any of the other Tarzan motion pictures, my only exposure being those photos of Lex Barker on the comic book covers and various pictures in movie magazines. I thought Lex Barker had looked great as the jungle lord, but after seeing Gordon Scott, I was hooked on the jungle hero and Scott's portrayal in particular. It didn't matter to me which actor anyone else thought was the best in the role, just that Tarzan had become one of my favorite fictional characters, along with Superman, Batman and The Lone Ranger.
When I went to Vermont during the summer of 1957 with my parents, the wooded area across the street from my Grandmother's house became my "African jungle." Dressed in bathing trunks and a home-made loin cloth, complete with toy knife, I would go into the "jungle" and play-act my own Tarzan stories. It was fun climbing trees barefoot (never mind stepping on rocks, my feet hurting when I jumped to the ground, or a few small snakes in the area!), fighting make-believe animals and saving the damsel in distress (the girl who lived next door). Like all the kids who have come before me and would do similar play-acting afterwards as their favorite Tarzan, I was now a real bona fida Tarzan fan.
After seeing Gordon Scott, I now was determined to see all the other Tarzans. I remember the day my father bought an 8mm movie projector; when we went to a variety store to rent some 200 foot silent 8mm movies to watch, I spotted one about Tarzan and talked my father into renting it. I remember being excited that I was finally going to see what I thought was Johnny Weissmuller in one of his films. But when the projector was turned on and the film began to unfold on the screen, was I in for a shock! It sure wasn't Johnny Weissmuller; I didn't know what to make of this Ape Man! Turned out it was a chapter from THE ADVENTURES OF TARZAN wth Elmo Lincoln. I now have a better appreciation of Elmo's contributuion to the legend of Tarzan. Back then I thought it was the worst thing I had ever seen! That didn't stop me from my goal to see all the Tarzans though.
||I made sure I would be in the audience of whichever theater was
showing the next film that come along. I sat through many enjoyable
(and some not so enjoyable) Tarzan feature films, from Gordon Scott, Denny
Miller and Jock Mahoney, to Mike Henry and Casper Van Dien. I was
finally able to see all the Johnny Weissmuller, Lex Barker and most of
the silent Tarzan features, plus have faithfully sat and watched all the
television episodes with Ron Ely, Wolf Larson and Joe Lara.
In the 1960's I started to collect Tarzan memorabilia. I have all of the Dell comic books with photos of Gordon Scott on the cover, and have most of the ones with Lex Barker too (not to mention a lot of the other Tarzan comics). I purchased the one sheets to TARZAN AND THE LOST SAFARI and TARZAN THE MAGNIFICENT, the lobby card set to TARZAN'S FIGHT FOR LIFE, and several other items. Over the years I have added other posters, pressbooks, lobby cards and movie stills, not just to Gordon Scott's films, but of other favorite Tarzans. Ebay has been a good source to locate some of these items lately, but you have to know when to buy at the right price and not get caught up in a bidding war that drives the price up too high.
When I look back at my memories of Tarzan, I find the stories Gaylord DuBois wrote in the comics to be more like the Tarzan I imagined as a kid rather than the motion pictures. The movies, while fun and entertaining, were basically the same old thing. A safari would invade Tarzan's jungle and the Ape Man would have to stop them from capturing or killing the animals, look for the Elephant's graveyard or encounter Hollywood's version of a lost empire, one much different from what Burroughs had written. Since that first Elmo Lincoln silent movie in 1918, the Tarzan legend has survived all these years, and I am sure it will last long into the future.
GORDON SCOTT TARZAN PHOTO ALBUM
DOWN MEMORY LANE WITH TARZAN
Other Tarzan Actors & ERB info are also featured in these sites:
ME TARZAN...YOU JANE
Lex Barker TARZAN Comic Book Covers
Lex Barker TARZAN Photo Gallery
JUNGLE GIRLS The FEMALE TARZANS
TARZAN Movie and TV Lists
HERMAN BRIX as TARZAN
The TARZAN NOVELS
RON ELY as TARZAN
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ERBzine 0073: Dell Comics Cover Art: A Mosaic
ERBzine 0086: Dell Comics Checklist
ERBzine Motes & Quotes 00.07.14
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