Some crossovers are so obvious. I can’t believe it took 48 years to make it happen. I also can’t believe I missed it. A mashup of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan and Pierre Boulle’s Planet of the Apes is such a no-brainer! Surely ERB did as much to humanize apes as any author. It’s ironic that Boulle’s novel dehumanized mankind and elevated apes. So, an epic blending of classic characters warrants some massive chest thumping and the victory bellow of the bull ape.
In this article, I want to explore these two multimedia universes. We’ll consider the social relevance of Tarzan and Planet of the Apes. Then, let’s talk about the unexpected way kids embraced these stories. We’ll discuss the story and art behind this crossover. And finally, I’ll throw out a few crazy crossovers and ask you to mention your favorites and propose some more.
History and Profound Social Commentary
At well over a hundred years old, Tarzan the Ape Man has survived world wars, economic collapses, pandemics, cold wars, and space races. Let’s not forget the advent of the nuclear age. Boulle’s scientist-chimps, Cornelius and Zira debuted in 1963, the heart of the cold war and space race. No doubt those elements played prominently in the mind of the author and film screenwriters Michael Wilson and Rod Serling.
Tarzan and POTA each carried deeper, nuanced messages for readers and movie buffs. For example, many decades before Civil Rights leaders spoke out about racism, Burroughs powerfully illustrated the most important theme. That is, judge people by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. Tarzan’s tales demonstrated that men of all races could act as brute beasts or as faithful and intelligent friends. And sometimes ERB found the savage beasts more noble than mankind. Likewise, Boulle and filmmakers subtly hinted at the class warfare between Gorillas, Orangutans, and Chimpanzees. In Boulle’s novel, enslaving apes for servitude led to the ultimate demise of mankind. The film’s startling ending suggested that man’s violent struggle led to the ultimate nuclear devastation. And in the end, the rise of Apekind. Both speak of the dangers of moral decay.
Yet, Kids Loved This Stuff
Despite heavy adult themes, kids have loved Tarzan and the Planet of the Apes since each’s beginning. This is a comic book blog, isn’t it? The plethora of titles featuring ERB and Boulles’ characters say it all.
But, let’s go even more fun. Planet of the Apes toys by Mego and others scored big on Christmas morning in the early seventies. The struggle between ape and man played out on many living room floors. Those toys that survive are now pricey collectibles. The complete box set POTA Treehouse with figures still in plastic is currently available on eBay. Priced at $3,568, or go ahead and make an offer. (I guess the toys aren’t for kids, after all.) POTA also starred in Comic Book and Record Sets. Be sure to check out my Power Records article.
Of course, Tarzan had his own Mego character as well. Find them on eBay and other fine retailers for a couple hundred bucks.
Tarzan on the Planet of the Apes
Let’s get to the subject of this article. I planned to write about the Planet of the Apes, but then, through the eBay jungle, emerged Tarzan. The crossover captivated me. In this alternate universe, Caesar is the ape brother of Tarzan. Themes of slavery and maltreatment resound in this series as in the original Planet of the Apes.
The five issue Tarzan on the Planet of the Apes series can be found for cover price plus shipping. Not too many people have slabbed this series. A total of 3 CGCs exist. I suggest picking up your own set and slabbing them rather buying pre-slabbed. Better yet, grab these and another Boom Studios POTA short series to make a nice bound comic reader.
Fegredo Art for Tarzan / Planet of the Apes Crossover
Duncan Fegredo created some out-of-this-alternate-world cover illustrations for Tarzan on the Planet of the Apes. The cover of issue 4 stands out for me. His covers from the series are all available through Splash Page art in the three thousand to $3,500 range. Those appear to be reasonable prices considering the feature characters. Fegredo has a handful of cover sales from 2007 on Heritage Auctions. For example, a painted cover featuring Spider-Man and Rhino (smelling the daisies) sold for $1,434.
If you are interested in other fabulous POTA art, consider Ernie Chan Power Record comics art. Also, in my article on Foreign Variant original art, I pointed readers to new covers created for foreign markets. POTA covers stand out.
Even though I sometimes focus on spectacular art beyond the means of most, don’t look down on panel page art. Originals from Boom Studios/Dark Horse/IDW are often reasonably priced for interior pages by lesser-known artists. These pages may not increase in value by thousands of dollars, but they also don’t cost thousands of dollars. You may have to find the dealers “repping” these artists.
Other Crazy Crossovers
Boulle’s evolved apes have crossed other literary and media barriers. How about Captain Kirk and crew wrestling not only with the Prime Directive, but also the 800 pound gorillas in the room (ahem…planet). For me, that’s slightly more sensible than Star Trek and X-Men, but still a stretch.
I’m not sure how Roddy McDowall would have fared in the Green Lantern Corps, but Boom Studios and DC collaborated to make Cornelius a wielder of the emerald ring. I can’t vouch for the series, but the variant covers for Planet of the Apes/Green Lantern fascinate me.
When talking movie/superhero crossovers, Batman vs. Predator makes a lot of sense.
The same can be said for the Lord of the Jungle. Tarzan versus Predator at the Earth’s Core works for me. Of course, Tarzan is not new to crossovers. Burroughs creations John Carter and Carson of Venus shared adventures with the Ape Man. Burroughs himself sent Tarzan to Pellucidar.
So what crossovers stand out for you? And what team-ups are just too ridiculous? Don’t make me go all Charlton Heston on you to get a reaction!