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Tarzan Comic Strip Reaches End of the Vine

After 92 years the Tarzan comic strip will no longer be offered as a syndicated comic strip.
Andrews McMeel Syndication (AMS) has confirmed that it will halt distribution on June 20, 2021.

For decades the Tarzan comic strip has been in rerun status – the dailies since 1972, the Sundays since 2002 – now even those will no longer be offered to newspapers.

A couple of reasons have led to this.

The client list is minimal. It wouldn’t be surprising if the number of client papers for the strip in America was in the single digits. (Does anyone know of a U.S. newspaper that carries the comic?)

When asked about the reasons for ending syndication Andrews McMeel comics editor Shena Wolf replied that the decision was “based on the very small client list (as you suspected) and content concerns that come with running a comic that was made nearly one hundred years ago.”

Since rerunning strips have minimal costs the second reason is probably the overwhelming factor.

The content problems with the strip are obvious. The daily comic strips being rerun now are from the early 1950s. Even the Sundays, currently from 1980 (and by recognized comic geniuses Archie Goodwin and Gil Kane), are not sensitive to today’s culture.

But no matter how well done the White Man’s Burden aspect of an English lord being King of the Jungle is hard to ignore in these “woke” days. Which is why the GoComics Tarzan page includes this notice:

This historic comic is presented in its original form, unedited from the time period in which it was created. These images may contain harmful stereotypes, problematic and antiquated ideologies, or otherwise negative cultural depictions and themes indicative of the context in which it first appeared. We run these vintage comic strips to preserve a digital archive of the medium’s early examples.

 

When contacted by The Daily Cartoonist Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. (ERB, Inc.) President Jim Sullos responded with a statement that reads in part*:

Tarzan has proven to be a timeless character, maintaining his perennial qualities of strength, courage, protector of wildlife and the environment, and defender of those in need, even as he adapts to the changing world. Every generation has its Tarzan, and its own way of experiencing the ape-man’s adventures, and this generation is no different…

We are extremely proud of Tarzan’s 92-year run in the print newspaper strips, which is a testament to his enduring nature. As forms of media change over the years, Tarzan adapts as he always has and as we have always anticipated. Therefore, nearly a decade ago, we transitioned the Tarzan comic strips to our robust online comics program at edgarriceburroughs.com/comics, where we have enlisted a creative team of major industry talents such as Roy Thomas and Thomas Grindberg to continue the legendary ape-man’s all-new exploits. These webcomics are the direct continuation of the print Tarzan newspaper strips, with the first online strip of “THE NEW ADVENTURES OF TARZAN” being labeled #3693, picking up the numbering sequence uninterrupted from the last original Tarzan Sunday newspaper strip in 2002.

*the complete statement by ERB Inc. president Jim Sullos,
with exciting news for fans of the Tarzan comic strip,
is in a separate post.

The Tarzan comic strip, during its run, has benefited from the service of acknowledged Masters of Comic Art. Along with the aforementioned Goodwin and Kane there was Harold Forster, Burne Hogarth, and Russ Manning. Also contributing were top of the line comic illustrators like Dan Barry, Nick Cardy, Bob Lubbers, Gray Morrow, Mike Grell, and others.
ERBzine has indices of the daily run and of the Sunday run.

It is unknown if the 25 year archive will remain up at GoComics,
or if ERB, Inc. will shop a Tarzan comic strip to other syndicates.


Tarzan © Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.
April 18: Article edited to include the GoComics notice.

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