Thursday, September 12, 2013

Tarzan 101 | Tarzan the Collectible

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

One of the things that's struck me most in Griffin's book is learning what an impressive businessman Burroughs was. As Griffin points out, a lot of people think of the Davy Crockett coonskin cap fad in the '50s as the birth of heavy licensing and merchandising, but the phenomenon predates that by a couple or three decades. Superman was a notable example, but the strategies implemented for that craze were developed by Stephen Slesinger while under contract to Burroughs.

For a while, Burroughs didn't mind people making money off Tarzan without paying him. He was flattered and even produced Tarzan manuscripts on unlicensed Tarzan paper. As the trend continued though, he began to be concerned about the dilution of the brand.

One example of that was Hollywood cowboy star Ken Maynard, who requested permission to name his horse Tarzan. Burroughs granted it, but grew annoyed when MGM began using the horse's name in movie and serial titles.

The first official licensed Tarzan product was a 1922 stuffed monkey that was produced by Davis & Voetsch, a toy company in New York. Sadly, I couldn't find a photo of the doll, but the picture at the top of this post is from a 1932 promotion for the Tarzan of the Apes radio show. Three different sponsors distributed over 400,000 of the clay figurines manufactured by the Gem Clay Forming Company.

The photo of the clay figures came from a cool Tarzan Appreciation thread on the Universal Monster Army message board, and there are a lot more awesome toys and collectibles to be seen there. Another great gallery of Tarzan merchandise can be found on the Plaid Stallions site.

One of my favorite pieces (not that I own it) is this 1939 board game by Parker Brothers with art by Burroughs' son, John Coleman Burroughs. The pictures come from the Flickr photostream of someone named Morbius19.

I sucked at models as a kid, so I never owned this one either, but Aurora models were ubiquitous in the late '60s and early '70s and I certainly remember seeing this one around.

Someone on the Gear Page forum demonstrated how cool it could look completed (and added an awesome customization that you can see in the link).

Speaking of models, Tarzan was also licensed to sell models that weren't even related to him, as my pal Sleestak reminds us with this ad:

In fact, Tarzan's name has been licensed for all sorts of things that aren't directly about him. From this Japanese fitness magazine... Australian glue.

Griffin's book of course has many, many more examples and photos. Curious if anyone reading this has favorite pieces of Tarzan merchandise, whether you actually own it or would just like to.

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