Forget Darth Vader’s menacing wheeze or the droning hum of a lightsaber – the most memorable sound in movie history is a yell and returns to cinemas this week alongisde one of Hollywood’s most enduring heroes: Tarzan.
Older than almost all cinematic superheroes and anti-heroes – Frankenstein and Sherlock Holmes are the only modern characters who predate the “Lord of the Jungle” on film – Tarzan first appeared on celluloid in 1918, when silent-movie star Elmo Lincoln donned a loincloth in Tarzan of the Apes, directed by Scott Sidney.
Since then, the vine-swinging orphan-turned-action hero has appeared in more than 25 novels, 50 movies, multiple TV and radio series, comic strips, video games, an animated Disney spectacular and even a Broadway musical.
If that wasn’t enough, Tarzan is also one of the few characters to have appeared in both the DC and Marvel comics universes – but the Lord of the Jungle’s crossover and multimedia appeal date all the way back to the character’s very beginnings. Tarzan was created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the author of the Barsoom science fiction novels that were the basis for the 2012 Disney movie John Carter.
Tarzan of the Apes was his third book, but the character had appeared in pulp magazine The All-Story two years before it was published as a hardback novel in 1914.
The story of a baby, heir to the aristocratic Greystoke Estate in England, who is orphaned in the rainforests of Africa and raised by apes to become lord of the jungle, Tarzan quickly became a media phenomenon and one of the 20th century’s first great cultural icons.
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