Tarzan 101 | Tarzan the Terrible

Celebrating Tarzan’s 101st anniversary by walking through Scott Tracy Griffin’s Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration.

Hey, look! It’s my comic book birth sign! (I have an ascendant one too, but this ain’t that.)

In 1920, Edgar Rice Burroughs was just about out of ideas. According to Scott Tracy Griffin, Burroughs wrote a letter to his editors saying that he’d written every possible scenario in the Tarzan books. Fortunately, a fan sent him some newspaper clippings about a prehistoric creature that had been reported in the swamps of central Africa. The lightbulb went on and Burroughs went back to work.

The result was Tarzan the Terrible, in which Tarzan tracks the German villain from Tarzan the Untamed whom Tarzan suspects has abducted Jane. The ape man follows them to a hidden valley called Pal-ul-Don, a land filled with dinosaur-like creatures such as the man-eating, underwater triceratops called the Gryf. It’s the valley’s inhabitants who give Tarzan the title, “Tarzan-jad-guru,” or “Tarzan the Terrible.”

As Griffin points out in his supplementary chapter on “Dinosaurs in Africa,” the name Gryf brings to mind the bird-like griffin; appropriate considering the dinosaurs’ evolutionary legacy in general and the triceratops’ beaked mouth in particular.

Thank God for writers block and weird fans, because with Tarzan the Terrible, Burroughs found his groove and pulped the heck out of the series. It was a short jump from there to ant-men, lost colonies of the Roman Empire, and the earth’s hollow core.

Incidentally, if you’d like to read the comic behind the cover above, ERBzine has the whole thing scanned in for you.

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