Logo Study: TARZAN part 1

Tarzan of the Apes 1st edition dust jacket
This and all covers and logos ©Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.

Tarzan first appeared in serialized form in 1912, and was first published in book form in 1914 in the title “Tarzan of the Apes,” and that’s where I’m beginning this logo study. What I’m really talking about at this early stage are not logos, though, but titles. The idea of a logo representing a fictional character wasn’t really thought of yet, at least not in the way we know it now. Above is the dust jacket of that first book cover, designed and illustrated by Fred J. Arting. Quite an attractive design to my eye, though his Tarzan in silhouette isn’t portrayed in a very heroic way, looking slouched and a bit paunchy. The title is quite nice, using a rounded-serif style of letters that I’m sure was popular at the time, and is still seen today, though more often on children’s books, I think. The design of the title and its placement is also attractive and creative, with “of the” slanted and in the orange sun circle, and “Apes” reversed out of the green foliage. An effective design using only a few solid colors.

Tarzan of the Apes front cover

The front cover of the book itself is also very attractively designed, and here Arting really went to town with his hand-drawn letters, adding attractive curlicues. Notice how the lower end of the F in “of” curls around the vertical stroke of the A. “Of the” and the author’s name are in a different, thinner style here than on the dust jacket, delightfully designed by someone who obviously was well schooled in hand-lettered titles. Again, it has more of a story-book fantasy feel than the content of the novel would suggest to me, but I think it looks great.

Son of Tarzan dust jacket

With the second book, “The Return of Tarzan,” artist J. Allen St. John came in as illustrator, and for most of the Burroughs titles that followed, he remained the interior and cover illustrator and designer. Here’s his fine dust jacket for the fourth novel, “The Son of Tarzan” from 1917. St. John picked up all the strengths of Arting and carried them further: his character design for Tarzan is more muscular and heroic, his art is well drawn and exciting, and his titles and lettering are equally appealing, and perhaps a bit more “masculine,” whatever that means. Here the pointed downward strokes of the T and F shaped like swords suggest that to me, anyway. The letters still have serifs, but they’re more pointed, less rounded. Again, in St. John, the publisher had found an artist who really knew his stuff with hand-lettered titles. And St. John continued to be inventive, devising new variations with each Tarzan book.

Son of Tarzan title pages

Sometimes he got a bit too carried away with the swoops and curls though, with this title page being the worst example. And here “THE SON OF” is uncharacteristically blocky and stiff, not matching the rest well. Great work on the rest of the titles and credits, though. Love those Gs in the author’s name, and the decorative shapes between lines.

Beasts of Tarzan title pages

Here’s another example with a completely different take on the word TARZAN, still serif, with open lines running through the letters, which are tightly spaced but still very readable. Clearly there was no thought of a consistent, repeating style except that of the artist himself. Each book and each project was approached with fresh vision. And what wonderful variations St. John came up with.

Tarzan the Untamed front cover

Here’s another where he’s having way too much fun with the Z. Wish I could get away with that sort of thing on comics logos!

Tarzan and the Golden Lion dust jacket

For the 1923 novel, Burrough’s ninth about the character, St. John came up with what I think is his best title yet. This is the largest picture I could find, but fear not, we’ll get a better look at this same design in a later chapter. Notice how the dagger-like vertical stroke of the T has grown in width and length, really anchoring the design of the word, which now has much more of a logo feel. It’s strong and iconic, just as the character is, and the elegantly curled banner adds even more stature and importance to the title, looking back to storybooks and manuscripts of old, suggesting grand battles on a field of valor. I like how St. John has joined all the letters after the T in TARZAN, adding to the “logo” feel. You might have thought someone would have said, “That’s it! Let’s use that on ALL the books!” But no one did, and St. John continued to come up with new ideas, though there were some repeats.

Tarzan and the Lion Man front cover

Here’s one from a novel published in 1934 with a stencilled technique in the design.

Tarzan and the Foreign Legion front cover

And here’s one from the late Burroughs novel “Tarzan and the Foreign Legion” from 1947 with a title that suggests rough brush strokes, something that certainly comes to mind for me when I think of a Tarzan logo idea, and one I’ve used for similar characters. Lots of great ideas, but not a lot of consistency. The books must have been selling just fine, so St. John was allowed to go on creating to his heart’s content.

Okay, we’ve covered the books for now. Next time we finally get to the famous newspaper strip and the comics, I promise!

More chapters and other logo studies on my LOGO LINKS page.

2 thoughts on “Logo Study: TARZAN part 1

  1. J. Kevin Carrier

    That “Tarzan and the Foreign Legion” type reminds me a little of the “Raiders of the Lost Ark” logo. Maybe Lucas (or someone in his design department) saw the St. John book and got inspired? I imagine they were looking at all kinds of ’30s and ’40s pulp adventure stuff for ideas.

  2. steve

    I have about 20 old 1920s tarzan books I want to sell
    some have good condition dust covers I want to sell them to someone who would appreciate them. Please let me know if you can give me a lead.

    too nice to just drop off at a ebay site
    Steve Domeraski
    Monmouth Junction, NJ

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *