Celebrating Tarzan’s 101st anniversary by walking through Scott Tracy Griffin’s Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration.
Following Tarzan the Invincible and Tarzan Triumphant, both of which featured communists as major villains, Burroughs began getting complaints about how political the Tarzan books had become. He promised that the next book would refocus on pure, African jungle adventure and he made good with Tarzan and the Leopard Men, which featured a real-life leopard cult called the anyoto.
If you’re paying close attention, you realize that Leopard Men didn’t directly follow Triumphant in order of publication – City of Gold and The Lion Man came in between – but Leopard Men was written before either of those.
The real-life anyoto – likely named after the Bafwasea word for “to scratch” – were a secret society composed of people from many different tribes. Burroughs apparently did an accurate job of portraying them except that they didn’t wear actual leopard hides. They did however tie leopard tails to their belts, imitated leopard sounds by blowing into a small pot, and use claw-like blades between their fingers in combat. Their cannibalistic practices got the increasingly efficient law after them though and they appear to have disappeared in the 1950s.
Perhaps because of the horror of the leopard men’s practices, the story has never been adapted into comics, but similar, tamer villains have appeared in the Dell and Gold Key comics as well as the Johnny Weissmuller film, Tarzan and the Leopard Woman, and the two TV series, Tarzan: The Epic Adventures and Disney’s The Legend of Tarzan.