Edgar Rice Burroughs died
in 1950, and the world was a very different place from the one that had
first embraced Tarzan forty years earlier. The world was recovering from
a second global war, everyone was worried about "The Bomb," and fantasy
heroes like Tarzan seemed like relics from a simpler time. The pulp magazines
were virtually dead, realism was overtaking literature, and Burroughs'
brand of fiction was now out of fashion.
But as the world grows more
complicated people always return to these old-fashioned forms of entertainment
in order to balance out life's increasing difficulties. By the early 1960s
the Cold War was in full swing, major social and cultural changes were
in the air, and America was getting itself mired in Vietnam. The perfect
time for the return of a legendary hero!
In 1962 a Los Angeles librarian
tried to banish the Tarzan books from the shelves, claiming, because Tarzan
and Jane weren't married, that the books were immoral. As the blessed event
actually did occur (at the end of Return of Tarzan) the poor woman's knowledge
of Tarzan had only come from the old Johnny Weissmuller movies, which did
give the impression that he and Jane were not living in a state of wedded
bliss. Many die-hard fans rose to Tarzan's defense (citing chapter and
verse), newspaper editorials were written, and a few publishers began to
wonder if there was something still worthwhile about Tarzan.
A few Tarzan and other Burroughs
books were reissued in paperback in 1963 and they sold well. Very well.
More titles were added and a whole lot more books were sold. Quite soon
virtually all of Burroughs' books were back in print, accounting for ten
percent of all paperbacks sales. Tarzan was a phenomenon again!
Tarzan movies were now filmed
in color and were shot in various exotic locales around the world. Tarzan
made the leap to television in 1966 in the first of three Tarzan TV shows.
Tarzan had conquered magazines, newspapers, books, movies, comics, radio,
and finally television, making him perhaps the most successful and diverse
character of the twentieth century. You can't keep a good ape-man down!
Today, all of Edgar Rice
Burroughs' Tarzan novels are still in print and available through your
local bookstore. Dark Horse Comics has been licensed to produce new adventures
of the ape-man in comic book form, and is reissuing many classic Tarzan
comics from the 1950s. Del Rey Books has issued a new Tarzan novel by noted
science fiction author Philip Jose Farmer, one of the few writers authorized
to continue the literary adventures of Mr. Burroughs' classic hero. All
those old Tarzan movies can be seen on the cable channel American Movie
Classics. With the release of Disney's animated Tarzan in 1999, Burroughs'
legendary character leapt into the twenty-first century, as popular and
appealing now as when he first appeared in 1912.
Ninety years is a long time
for anyone to be swinging though the jungle. No doubt Edgar Rice Burroughs
would be both amazed and amused that his greatest creation is still finding
fans worldwide. He often said that he wrote only to entertain - as if entertaining
people was an unimportant achievement!
We hope you have enjoyed
this brief history of Tarzan, but there is certainly much more you can
learn about the mighty ape-man. All you need to do is pick up a copy of
Tarzan of the Apes and you will discover all over again the wonder of one
of the world's most enduring creations!