Tarzan has been in the comics for about as long as comics have been around. Some of the earlier comic book stories were reprints of newspaper strips. Titles like Tip Top Comics (1936), Comics on Parade (1938), Large Feature Comic (1939), and Sparkler Comics (1941) featured Tarzan stories.
The most popular Tarzan series spanned at least three publishers running from 1939-1979. Dell published the Tarzan title from 1939-1947 for 131 issues. Issues 132-206 appeared under the Gold Key label from 1948-1972. DC Comics continued the numbering with 207-259 (1972-1977). Then Marvel secured the rights to Tarzan with renumbering starting in 1977, running for 29 issues and three annuals.
The Tarzan comic series often complimented the Tarzan movie series which was produced during many of the same years. In addition to various stand-alone Tarzan movies, the movie series starred the following actors in the lead role:
- Johnny Weissmuller [12 movies] (1932-1948)
- Lex Barker [5 movies] (1949-1953)
- Gordon Scott [6 movies] (1955-1960)
- Jock Mahoney [2 movies] (1962-1963)
- Mike Henry [2 movies] (1967-1968)
- Ron Ely [2 movies] (1970)
Several of these actors appeared as Tarzan on photo covers of the comics. The Dell series featured Lex Barker on the covers from issues 13-54 and Gordon Scott from issues 80-110. Gold Key featured Ron Ely on at least four covers (162, 165, 168, 171). To my knowledge, Johnny Weissmuller, the most popular Tarzan never appeared on a comic cover. Some fan sites have mistakenly listed him as pictured on Dell covers, but these pictures are actually of Lex Barker who bore some resemblance to Weissmuller.
The Tarzan comics have boasted such artistic talent as Hal Foster, Jesse Marsh, Joe Kubert, and John Buscema. The 80s were slow years for Tarzan in both movies and comics, with highlights including the 1984 Greystoke movie and Marvel's accompanying adaptation. A seven issue mini-series was published by Malibu Comics in 1992-93. The mid-nineties through early 2000s found Dark Horse with the licensing to Tarzan including comics series and an excellent mini-series in which Tarzan teamed with Batman in an Elsesworlds story set in 1939.
Tarzan has mostly been absent from the movies with exceptions including the live action feature Tarzan and the Lost City starring Casper Van Dien and Disney's animated 1999 feature which brought Tarzan back into vogue (though its TV and video sequels were quite bad).
Dynamite Entertainment published a 15-issue Tarzan series titled Lord of the Jungle in 2012-13. Tarzan may now have a new lease on life in the movies with a new Tarzan feature scheduled for release in 2016. It stars Alexander Skarsgard as Tarzan and Margot Robbie as Jane. I'm hoping this movie will breath new life into Tarzan while being grounded in the source material. Perhaps this will launch a new franchise.