Sunday, January 8, 2012

Edgar Rice Burroughs: THE TARZAN COVERS

I don’t know of any kid that grew up in the Nineteen Sixties that didn’t attempt at least once to imitate the “Tarzan Yell.” We were thrilled by the series of movies starring Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O’Sullivan and the yell was a distinctive and fundamental element of Tarzan’s mystique and allure. Not only were kids amazed by it but everyone (including the adults) loved to hear Carol Burnett’s rendition of Tarzan’s victory cry from the Weissmuller films. She was fond of doing it on her variety show when asked by any audience member. There were many screen versions of Tarzan; he has been portrayed by many actors but Weissmuller’s is the definitive his version will always be “The” Tarzan for film lovers.
My introduction to Tarzan was through film. The films were by no means faithful adaptations. It was later that I would read the novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs and learn the true depth of the character and establish a respect for the writings of Burroughs that the movies had only hinted at. Tarzan was British, though raised by apes in the jungle. He was later to become educated and always possessed and exhibited a respect for the tribesmen of Africa that was absent from the movies. Tarzan was conceived as a character of mythological proportions that inhabited a world more of the imagined and fantasy than the real world. That I believe is part of his universal and enduring appeal. It has been said that truth is stranger than fiction but I know of no truth that is more compelling than the fictions of Burroughs, especially his most famous; Tarzan.

There are few if any more recognizable characters than Tarzan. Mickey Mouse, Sherlock Holmes, Wonder Woman…perhaps   but they are all in an equal stratosphere of fame and familiarity. Tarzan is truly among the world’s best and lives in that realm of the immortals of literary fiction. It is this product of the mind and imagination of Burroughs that has sparked legions of fans and other artists. The influenced of the Tarzan books live on. The covers of many of the books are as exciting and intriguing as you will find among any illustrations. Never judge a book by it’s cover? I ask but it is a fact of the literary field that certain cover artist’s works do increase sales. Boris Vallejo and Neal Adams are two artists in this select club. They are among the very best practioners to have the honor of interpreting the Burroughs vision of the Jungle Lord and are featured here for the pure pleasure of viewing their works.

In the spirit of adventure and tales of the heroic there are none greater than Adams and Vallejo and Edgar Rice Burroughs is the King of his realm of the literary.

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