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TARZAN The Centennial Celebration Reviewed By Dr. Wesley Britton of Bookpleasures.com
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Dr. Wesley Britton

Reviewer Dr. Wesley Britton: Dr. Britton is the author of four non-fiction books on espionage in literature and the media. Starting in fall 2015, his new six-book science fiction series, The Beta-Earth Chronicles, debuted via BearManor Media. For seven years, he was co-host of online radio’s Dave White Presents where he contributed interviews with a host of entertainment insiders. Before his retirement in 2016, Dr. Britton taught English at Harrisburg Area Community College. Learn more about Dr. Britton at his WEBSITE

 
By Dr. Wesley Britton
Published on November 28, 2012
 

Author: Scott Tracy Griffin with an introduction by Ron Ely

Publisher: Titan Books (November 20, 2012)

ISBN-10: 1781161690

ISBN-13: 978-1781161692



Author: Scott Tracy Griffin with an introduction by Ron Ely

Publisher: Titan Books (November 20, 2012)

ISBN-10: 1781161690

ISBN-13: 978-1781161692


It was in 1912 that John Clayton, Earl Greystoke, alias Tarzan of the Apes, debuted in is first magazine story. For 100 years thereafter, he's been a popular icon in every medium possible. His creator, Edgar Rice Burroughs, wrote 25 sequels which sold 100 million copies worldwide in 37 languages. many print interpretations by other writers—both authorized and not—have been published.

In 1918, Elmo Lincoln became the first screen Tarzan to be followed by a host of ape-men, especially during the franchise's heyday from the 1930s through the 1960s.

On and on. In fact, to summarize Tarzan's career in newspaper strips, on stage, radio, TV, film, in print, cartoons, and comics would require a hefty tome to cover it all. That's just what Tracy Griffin has done with his lavish Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration, and celebration is exactly the right word.

Not surprisingly, Griffin's main attraction to Tarzan came by way of the original novels, and the bulk of his text is a history of Edgar Rice Burroughs publishing career. It becomes clear very quickly that Burroughs was an extremely savvy businessman as well as author who knew he had a hot property to market. Once he copyrighted the name Tarzan, Burroughs controlled and licensed his character in the various types of available media throughout the years, from pulp magazines through the films he didn't always like.

Griffin tells the story chronologically, from novel to novel illustrated with a wide assortment of Tarzan visual adaptations. This is what really makes this celebration a treasure trove not only for Tarzan fans, but lovers of comic art and movie history. We see samples of newspaper strips and colorful cover art from the novels, magazines, and comic books from the likes of Hal Foster, Burne Hogarth, Russ Manning, Mike Grell, and John Buscema.

Admittedly, many of Griffin's descriptions are hit-and-run, especially discussing projects that came out after Burroughs' death. Some films, like Disney's 1999 Tarzan, get an appreciation, but the 1981 Bo Derek vehicle, Tarzan, The Ape Man, gets only passing mention. In the case of the latter film, the reason is obvious—the Burroughs estate wasn't fond of that interpretation and Griffin clearly wants to be on the estate's good side. Still, Griffin is at his best when comparing and contrasting the literary aspects of the character vs. what we saw on screen. For example, Johnny Weissmuller—the first Tarzan to give us that signature yell while swinging through the trees—established the template of a monosyllabic hero unlike the multi-lingual literary character somewhat resurrected by later incarnations such as Ron Ely's portrayal on television.

For most readers, the visuals alone will be worth the price of admission. I suspect most will thumb through the volume looking at the potpourri of images before reading most of the text. But don't neglect that text—Griffin offers a very fleshed-out portrait of Burroughs and his most famous characters in a very straight-forward narrative. True, there's not much analysis or critique of the literary or cinematic merits of the various projects, and he doesn't respond to the critics who've accused Burroughs of racism, anti-feminism, or shoddy writing over the years. That's material for another kind of book. This is indeed a celebration and one that should appeal to anyone who's enjoyed the Lord of the Apes in one form or another.


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