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I think I must have been about 8 years old. Together with my big brother we tinkered with old bicycles. We then lived in a large nature reserve, on the edge of which was a large rubbish dump. This was the place where we found old bikes and took them home for spares. We also regularly found comic strips on the rubbish dump.
One day I found some Tarzan comics from the Metropolis series and a large Tarzan album. I took them home and started reading them, they were beautiful.
To my great surprise, my father was also very enthusiastic about the comics. He started telling about how he read the Tarzan comics daily in the newspaper "Het Laatste Nieuws" as a small child.
He could talk about it for hours, his favorite story being "Tarzan and the Fires of Thor". These appeared in the newspapers from 1938 to mid-1940 in Belgium. He said he had a friend who owned a comic book store. I think we went to take a look the same week. We came back home with a big box of Tarzan Classics comics.
From then on I started collecting Tarzan. Together with my father who was a collector of war documents we scoured the flea markets. We were on the road every weekend. At that time it was very easy to find both comics and books, even movie posters featuring Tarzan. As a collector, you become resourceful and find other ways to find things. So we started visiting movie theaters and asking if they happened to have old Tarzan posters for sale. We regularly received posters to take home. My collection grew and grew.
At that time, I think around the age of 10, I came into contact with Rob Donkers, a collector from the Netherlands. Actually, I was still too young to write a proper letter, but we corresponded regularly and even exchanged things between ourselves.
By corresponding I learned a lot about the different editions and series. Often my letters were provided with homemade Tarzan drawings. When I turned about 14 years old I "became more interested in Jane" as my father put it. I stopped collecting and sold everything in 1985.
My interest in Tarzan never completely disappeared, 13 years ago, at the age of 38, I started collecting again. I started visiting flea markets again. But the world had changed, there was still very little to find. The new search area was the Internet.
I started collecting the comics again, the books and especially the Belgian and Dutch Tarzan movie posters. What I was especially looking for were the Belgian Tarzan newspaper comics that my father once read. Unfortunately I never found them before my father died, he would have read them again for sure. Only a few years later I was able to buy them in the Netherlands from a good friend. A year later I happened to find some complete stories . Through the same good friend from the Netherlands I also came across John Velthuis, a great collector, who was now of age and had collected everything by Johnny Weissmuler since his childhood.
I bought his huge collection, I don't know exactly but I think I now have a collection of about 800 Johnny Weissmuller film stills, and about 200 with other actors. The collection also included the original tie that Weissmuller wore at his last wedding and a notebook that he used when he visited the Netherlands on 27 June 1970. Johnny gave the starting shot for a swimming marathon in “De Maarseveense Plassen“ (name of a lake).
I am most interested in the Belgian and Dutch movie posters. Belgium has experienced a world war and the accompanying paper shortage, which makes pre-war posters in particular very rare.
Still, I was lucky enough to find most of them, including the two versions of "Tarzan the Ape Man" with Johnny Weissmuller. Although I have now at about 80 movie posters I'm still searching for the posters with Elmo Lincoln and Frank Merrill, if they still exist?
Last year I came into contact with the relatives of a great Tarzan collector in America. In the 1980s he visited Johnny Weissmuller's widow. He bought or received a huge package of personal items. Private photos, clothes, diaries and much more. I was able to buy a small part of the collection, several hundred photos from Johnny's personal photo collection, travel passes, letters, fan mail, autographs and much more. An opportunity that comes only once in a lifetime. I will not mention his name, but I am eternally grateful to the man who brought me in contact.
To me, Edgar Rice Burroughs was a master storyteller and writer. For example, the way he described the "DumDum" in his books, was simply beautiful. If his stories were accurately filmed these days, like "Tarzan the Terrible", they would be blockbusters. My favorite movie so far is "Greystoke", sure it didn't follow the storyline, but it was still a good movie. I visited the film location in England and Scotland, a nice recommendation for all fans. A few years ago I met Christopher Lambert in Germany.
For me Herman Brix was the best Tarzan actor, although I also like Johnny Weissmuller very much in his 5 first movies. The most physically perfect Tarzan actor to me was Miles O'Keeffe.
I am happy to be in contact with Tarzan fans from all over the world through Facebook and hope to be collecting for many years to come .~ Ludo van den Steen
De Belgische Tarzan Verzamelaar
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