Tarzan, Jungle King of Popular Culture
by David Lemmo
The fictional character of Tarzan heralded the beginning of the superhero archetype in literature. A man who is more than a man; stronger, faster, smarter, and capable of super-human deeds of courage and glory.
This book details the Tarzan phenomena from beginning to end; how the author first began writing the Tarzan series of books, and how the popularity of the character spilled over into movies, comics, and television. Although sometimes referred to as potboilers, the Tarzan books are widely accepted as serious literature for the impact that they have had (and continue to have) on pop culture.
We get to learn a great deal about the author of Tarzan, Edgar Rice Burroughs, including his childhood visiting a Western ranch, his failure at military school, and his obsession with wild stories. He was married twice and had several children to whom he was devoted. He started his own little town named after Tarzan. ERB seemed to have a limitless imagination, churning out story after story about Tarzan and other characters. He has been called one of the fathers of science fiction.
I found it very interesting to read about Burroughs and how Tarzan became so popular all over the world. The writing style can be sort of dry, but I enjoyed seeing all the cool photos of movie posters and rare book editions. I also liked hearing about the different actors who portrayed Tarzan and Jane in movies, radio shows, and TV programs. There were sometimes terrible accidents with stunts or wild animals on the set, but the actors kept the show going despite these dangers.
There are also so many different versions of Tarzan in the media that it’s difficult to pinpoint which one is the “real” Tarzan. Some movie or comic versions portray Tarzan as more comedic, some are more serious. Some Tarzan versions are more erudite, and others more savage. But whatever the details, Tarzan is always more than a man; he’s a superhero of epic proportions.
It is fascinating to see how the concept of a character like Tarzan has filtered into other characterizations in other stories from Star Trek to Batman. It has a wide-reaching influence on the popular consciousness to the point where we don’t even realize how modern stories are derived from what came before.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a free and honest review. All the opinions stated here are my own true thoughts, and are not influenced by anyone.