Tarzan is a fictional character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, first appeared in the 1912 novel ‘Tarzan of the Apes’. Tarzan make his comic book debut in Western Publishing’s Dell Comics’ Four Color Comics #134 in 1947.
John and Alice (Rutherford) Clayton, Viscount and Lady Greystoke from England, are marooned in the western coastal jungles of equatorial Africa in 1888. Some time later, their son John Clayton II is born. When he is one year old his mother dies, and soon thereafter his father is killed by the savage king ape Kerchak. The infant is then adopted by the she-ape Kala.
Clayton is named “Tarzan” (“White Skin” in the ape language) and raised in ignorance of his human heritage.
As a boy, feeling alienated from his peers due to their physical differences, he discovers his true parents’ cabin, where he first learns of others like himself in their books. Using basic primers with pictures, over many years he teaches himself to read English, but having never heard it, cannot speak it.
Upon his return from one visit to the cabin, he is attacked by a huge gorilla which he manages to kill with his father’s knife, although he is terribly wounded in the struggle. As he grows up, Tarzan becomes a skilled hunter, exciting the jealousy of Kerchak, the ape leader, who finally attacks him. Tarzan kills Kerchak and takes his place as “king” of the apes.
Later, a tribe of black Africans settle in the area, and Tarzan’s adopted mother, Kala, is killed by one of its hunters. Avenging himself on the killer, Tarzan begins an antagonistic relationship with the tribe, raiding its village for weapons and practicing cruel pranks on them. They, in turn, regard him as an evil spirit and attempt to placate him.
A few years later when Tarzan is 21 years of age, a new party is marooned on the coast, including 19 year old Jane Porter, the first white woman Tarzan has ever seen. Tarzan’s cousin, William Cecil Clayton, unwitting usurper of the ape man’s ancestral English estate, is also among the party. Tarzan spies on the newcomers, aids them in secret, and saves Jane from the perils of the jungle.
Among the party was French naval officer Paul D’Arnot. While rescuing D’Arnot from the natives, a rescue ship recovers the castaways. D’Arnot teaches Tarzan to speak French and offers to take Tarzan to the land of white men where he might connect with Jane again. On their journey, D’Arnot teaches him how to behave among white men. In the ensuing months, Tarzan eventually learns to speak English, as well.
Ultimately, Tarzan travels to find Jane in Wisconsin, USA where he rescues her from a fire. Tarzan learns the bitter news that she has become engaged to William Clayton. Meanwhile, clues from his parents’ cabin have enabled D’Arnot to prove Tarzan’s true identity as John Clayton II, the Earl of Greystoke. Instead of reclaiming his inheritance from William, Tarzan chooses rather to conceal and renounce his heritage for the sake of Jane’s happiness.