Swinging times … Tarzan the Ape Man, with Maureen O’Sullivan, Cheeta and Johnny Weissmuller. Photograph: Everett Collection/Rex Features
Jane has an iPod and Tarzan is facing up to environmental catastrophe: following literary excursions into the childhoods of James Bond and Sherlock Holmes, readers are now set to venture into the teenage years of a 21st-century Lord of the Jungle.
Tarzan first swung onto the page in 1912 in Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan of the Apes. After his parents Lord and Lady Greystoke, marooned in west Africa, were killed, their baby was adopted by a great ape and raised as one of them, before falling for another castaway, Jane Porter. The star of 24 books by Burroughs, the bestselling story of the “brown, sweat-streaked, muscular” Tarzan has also been adapted for film, comics, television and radio.
Now the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate has backed a new children’s series about the bare-chested hero, set in modern Africa and aimed at nine to 11-year-olds. By Andy Briggs, author of the Hero.com and Villain.net books, the series is promising to “bring Tarzan the Eco Warrior to the PlayStation generation” as an “edgier and more feral” character. Briggs, a long-time fan of Tarzan, believes the character is ripe for a reboot. “I think now more than ever Tarzan is a relevant character,” he said this morning. “He was the first eco-warrior, and I wanted to hold on to that.”
Set in and around the Congo, the Tarzan of the new books will be aged around 17 or 18, while Jane, whose father is part of an illegal logging expedition, gets lost in the jungle at around 14 years old. “The original Jane is a classic character, but she’s not a modern woman,” said Briggs. “I wanted her to be tough, to be Tarzan’s equal. Not physically – she’s not jungle savvy – but I wanted her to be a tough kid. She’s had a very hard life but she’s been brought up with technology – she’s part of the Facebook generation, she owns an iPod. But as she goes deeper into the jungle, she sees its beauty.” The first book in the new series, Tarzan: The Greystoke Legacy