I'm assuming that some people will be curious about the name I have chosen for my site - Tarzan in Terror Orstralis.  I was trying to convey two things.  Firstly, that I'm an Australian Tarzan fan.  I also wanted to capture some of that Burroughsian mystique of the lost world.  Most Australians will probably make the connection immediately, but elsewhere only students of history and well-read travellers are likely to get the gag.  The spelling is also a mild barb at the quaint Australian pronunciation.

During the Renaissance the good folk of Europe believed that there existed a great unknown southern continent, an idea that they had inherited from antiquity.  Instinctively, they just couldn't stomach the idea that there was nothing there, and they experienced an uneasy desire to place something solid amidst the vast waters south of the Tropic of Capricorn.  There was also a widely-circulated theory that there must be a land mass large enough to balance the weight of the northern continents to prevent the world from turning upside down.  On maps this mythical supercontinent was usually designated Terra Australis Incognita.  On this famous map by the Dutch cartographer, Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598) (right), a large unknown land mass is shown in the Southern Hemisphere.  It is labeled "Terra Australis Nondum Cognita", or Unknown South Land.  Needless to say, they were also hoping that this great south land would be full of delightful stuff that would make them all wealthy. (Hale)

In true Burroughsesque style the mariners of the time believed that if they crossed the equator their ships would burn up, that their vessels would be attacked by huge sea monsters, that they would be sucked to the watery depths by the "maelstrom", a giant whirlpool in the mid-Atlantic, and that if they landed on some foreign shore cannibalistic giants with two heads would eat them alive.  It is hardly surprising that it took them so long to get around to discovering Australia.  The size of the ghost continent gradually contracted as the trading voyages of Spanish and Portuguese sailors, the two dominant powers in the Southern Hemisphere, reached further afield and eventually rounded the Cape of Good Hope.  By the time James Cook set sail in 1768 successive explorations had confirmed Terra Australis to a location somewhere south of latitude 50°, somewhere east of Africa and somewhere west of Cape Horn.  His voyages on the Endeavour, and later on the Resolution, gave the myth of Terra Australis its death blow.  He did prove that there was a gigantic southern continent, but it was much smaller than previously thought, it lay south of 60°, and it was a frozen wasteland.  Someone back home thought that one of the places Cook stopped at on his trip would make a nice penal colony and 150 years later they built some picture shows there and began to show Tarzan movies. (Hale)
As far I know no one has every tried to establish a link between Australia and Tarzan before.  I'm sure that the tenuous connection that I am about to construct could be done by the inhabitants of any country on the planet, but in the 1960s I didn't read my Tarzan comics there.  I read them here.  And so, I embark on my quest full of national pride and wide-eyed preadolescent zeal.  Below, ladies and gentlemen, for the first time in the history of the planet, is the verifiable proof that without Australia, Tarzan would be merely just another guy in his underwear:
• John Farrow, one of the uncredited directors of the badly butchered Tarzan film, Tarzan Escapes (1936), was born in Sydney in 1904.  While working on the film he fell in love with and soon married the attractive brunette who was the leading lady.  Her name was Maureen O'Sullivan and they produced a daughter named Mia, who followed in her mother's thespian footsteps.

• Legendary Australian actor Chips Rafferty appeared in two episodes of the Ron Ely Tarzan TV series (1966-1968) - Cap'n Jai and The Circus.

• Less legendary, but highly recognisable, Australian actor Michael Pate appeared in three episodes of the Ron Ely Tarzan TV series (1966-1968) - The Perils of Charity Jones Parts 1 & 2 and Tiger, Tiger.  The former, a double episode, was edited into a film called Tarzan and the Perils of Charity Jones and was given theatrical release in Sweden, France, Italy, Spain, and possibly some other countries.  It was not released theatrically in English speaking countries to the best of my knowledge, and therefore is not listed amongst the 50 Tarzan films examined on my Tarzan Films pages.

• Well known Australian actor Charles "Bud" Tingwell appeared in one of the top four Tarzan films ever made - Tarzan the Magnificent (1960).  He played the role of Conway the disgraced doctor who must save the sick child of a native chief.  The other three top Tarzan films are Tarzan the Ape Man (1932), Tarzan and His Mate (1934), and Tarzan's Greatest Adventure (1959).

• As kids, most of us Tarzan fans would read a lot of comics featuring Tarzan-inspired jungle heroes, with Kaänga usually coming in as a close second behind Tarzan.  I recently learned that one of the other jungle hero comics that I used to read regularly - Yarmak, Jungle King - was a purely Australian creation.  Yarmak was published monthly by Youngs Merchandising Co, Sydney between November 1949 to June 1952, with reprints appearing after that. The character reached its popularity peak in late 1951.  Fortunately, Yarmak was illustrated by an artist who is now considered the greatest of all Australian comic artists, Stanley Pitt.  Pitt was born at Rozelle, an inner western suburb of Sydney, on 2 March 1925.  A gifted illustrator as a child, he became captivated by the work of comics legend Alex Raymond in his teens and devoted a considerable amount of time studying Raymond's style.  He began copying the Raymond Sunday strips and later by attempting to create original work in a similar style.  He succeeded brilliantly and his beautifully detailed, crisp, fine-lined style owes a lot to his mentor. In a 1976 interview when asked what his own favourite strip was Pitt replied, "Yarmak.  I never really got around to putting any really fine work into it, but I had a lot of fun."  Yarmak was inked by three of Pitt's friends - Paul Wheelahan and the brothers, Frank and Jay Ashley.  Frank Ashley also wrote many of the Yarmak stories, as did Pitt's brother, Reg.  Stanley Pitt, who was photographed in 1976 holding a treatment of his famous Gully Foyle sci-fi strip (above), is now 77 and lives in suburban Sydney. (Ryan, Shiell & Snowden)  To see an example of a page from one of Pitt's Yarmak comics, and some other examples of Yarmak covers, click HERE.

• And lastly (my pièce de resistance) is the fact that the creator of Tarzan, Edgar Rice Burroughs, visited Sydney in the summer of 1942.  ERB, never one to sit around and miss any fun, especially of a military nature, volunteered his services as a war correspondent to the US Army during World War II.  He was 67 years old, and had the distinction of being the oldest war correspondent in the US Army at the time. Ed was such a celebrity that high ranking officers would carry his bags and invite him to parties wherever he went in the Pacific.  On 5 December 1942 Burroughs boarded a B-24 and headed for New Caledonia, via Canton Island and Fiji.  After a brief stop in New Caledonia he arrived in Sydney, Australia where he spent the better part of three weeks "towning around with various uniformed cronies" (Taliafero).  Everyone wanted to have a drink with him.  Amid the barhopping he found time to attend to some ERB Inc business, which the war had hurt badly.  Paper rationing had forced the company to stop publishing books, and a number of newspapers had eliminated Tarzan from their trimmed down comic sections.  Another problem caused by the war concerned the difficulties in collecting overseas royalties.  More than three thousand dollars in Tarzan radio-show royalties had been frozen in a Sydney account since Australia's entrance into the war in 1939.  Ed vowed he would not leave without his money and on 9 January 1943 he succeeded in converting the overdue and sorely needed funds into US War Bonds.  While he was in town MGM's Australian executives gave ERB a special screening of Tarzan's New York Adventure (1942), the sixth and last of the MGM Weissmuller films.  MGM asked Ed to help promote the film and set up a number of print, radio, and newsreel interviews, which he supposedly handled with the aplomb of a visiting statesman.  On 10 January 1943 he flew back to New Caledonia to resume his coverage of army activities.  In a future version of this page I hope to include some examples the newspaper stories about Ed Burrough's trip to Sydney. (Taliafero)


Age of Exploration, by John R Hale, 1966, Time-Life International
Tarzan Forever by John Taliaferro, 1999, Simon & Schuster
Panel By Panel: An Illustrated History of Australian Comics by John Ryan, 1979, Cassell
Bonzer - Australian Comics 1900s-1990s edited by Annette Shiell, 1998, Monash University
Stan Pitt, An Interview by John Snowden in Science Fiction: A Review of Speculative Literature #14 (Vol 5 No 2 - June 1983), edited by Van Ikin, privately published fanzine


• Ortelius' map and image of demons and sea monsters are from Hale
• The photo of Tarzan and Bud and the photo of ERB are from Tarzan of the Movies by Gabe Essoe, 1968, The Citadel Press
• The photo of Stan Pitt is from the Snowden interview; the Yarmak cover is from Ryan
• Lots of beautiful art work and pulp covers at The Official Stanley Pitt Gallery

TARZAN® is the property of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., Tarzana CA
This independent, fan-based analysis of the Tarzan material is copyright © 2002-2007 Paul Wickham