Ape-Man by Sean Egan (book review)

When I was asked to review a book about swinging, I was more than a little confused about the direction this website and the Science Fiction and fantasy genre were taking. Imagine my relief/disappointment when I discovered it was about 100 years of Tarzan and how the character has impacted the media industry.

Ape Man

‘Ape-Man’ is obviously a labour of love for Sean Egan. In this unofficial and unauthorised guide, he charts the character’s early exploits on the printed page all the way to the numerous films and serials that followed before it became out of touch with what the public wanted. It’s fair to say that no stone is left unturned or perhaps no vine left tangled.

What is interesting about Egan’s extensive work and research is his honesty. He recognises Edgar Rice Burroughs’ failings and the sometimes ridiculousness of the Tarzan story. We all know that it’s a bit implausible that Tarzan and the other characters would keep bumping into each other or that he would become fluent in French after a very short period of time, but that’s okay, as it’s supposed to be escapism. Egan sees this and gets it out of the way quite quickly rather than apologising for it. It’s also interesting to note how Burroughs became bored with his creation but financial pressures compelled him to keep churning them out.

Unfortunately, Egan does get a bit too bogged down in his research. In an admirable effort to get all points and counterpoints across, including those of the Burroughs family, he sometimes sacrifices the flow of the book and paragraphs drag on a bit.

It’s also a shame that such an in-depth investigation that covers many different mediums doesn’t feature any images inside. I understand that it is unauthorised but I think one would be hard-pressed to find a more thorough examination of the character, authorised or not. A few pictures here and there would have helped break up the text a little. Plus who doesn’t want to see pictures of Johnny Weissmuller wrestling a mechanical crocodile?

Even though this is unofficial, ‘Ape Man’ also provides a fascinating insight into Burroughs and his most famous creations. The author also has some interesting points about Burroughs’ other series, ‘John Carter Of Mars’, and how it has influenced many tales in the genre.

Worth checking out, especially if you’re a fan of the oldest swinger in town.

Aidan Fortune

February 2013

(pub: Telos. 298 page small softcover. Price: £15.99 (UK), $34.95 (US), $34.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-84583-067-0)

check out websites: www.telos.co.uk


Once called a "fountain of useless pop culture knowledge", Aidan is an unashamed geek, grateful that he is allowed share his opinions on a global scale. A journalist by trade, Aidan is a massive fan of comics and recently set up a comics group in Brighton in order to engage more with like-minded people. His home is subject to a constant battle of vintage paraphernalia and science fiction & fantasy toys.

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