What If... Superman Had Been Raised by Apes?

One of Superman's Strangest Team-Ups is one where he BECOMES the guest-star, while the guest-star is not really himself until the very end. I'm talking about Superman/Tarzan: Sons of the Jungle, a 3-issue mini-series written and well researched by Chuck Dixon with delightful art by Carlos Meglia.

Yes, it's an Elseworlds, which means the turning point also includes moving the entire supporting cast and world to another era, but it still works. Superman's What Ifs often seem to be "What if the rocket that crashed in Kansas crashed somewhere/somewhen else?" And it's a good question. Does Kal-El become Superman if he wasn't raised by the Kents? If he was raised by... ANIMALS?

Superman/Tarzan: Sons of the Jungle #1-3 (DC Comics/Dark Horse, October-December 2001)
Based on: Superman #1 (1938) / Tarzan of the Apes (1912)
The true history: Baby Kal-El was sent from a doomed Krypton to Earth, where his rocket crashed in Kansas. He was raised by the Kents and became Superman. Elsewhere, Lord Greystoke and his wife were dropped on an African beach by mutineers and killed by great apes who then adopted their only son, calling him Tarzan (White Skin). He grew up to become master of the jungle.
Turning point: What if Superman's rocket crashed in the jungles of Africa near the end of the 19th century?
Story type: Elseworld
Watcher's mood: Florid
Altered history: Baby Kal-El's rocket falling to Earth near the ape tribe was seen by the mutineers as a sign from God and they decided to show mercy and drop the Greystokes off at the nearest port. John Clayton III, Lord Greystoke, thus was raised by both his parents and became something of a layabout forever seeking his place in the world. It's like he knew!

As for the "falling star", it was found by apes who were surprised to find a human baby inside. A pretty strong human baby.
Named Argozan (Fire Skin), it was raised by the apes to adulthood when politics being politics even in the ape world, he was rejected by the tribe for being different. Argozan, whose super-simian fitness and senses made him an outcast, went back to his falling star and was greeted by Jor-El and Lara's message. He now knew he was named Kal-El of Krypton, but where was this Krypton? Spotting a human tribe, it clicked. THEY were Kryptonians like him!
Alas no. Another rejection. Still, Kal-El starts saving babies from crocodiles and the like.
Ew. His life is disrupted when another star falls to Earth, this one made of green kryptonite. He escapes its lethal glow, but it falls into the hands of the ancient inbred Atlantean nation of Opar and Princess La, who has a perfect Superman's Girlfiend kind of name and... other qualities.
Meanwhile, Lord Greystoke gets on an airship expedition with reporter Lois Lane and her assistant Jane Foster.
When Kal-El sees their airship, he concludes they must be sky people, i.e. Kryptonians, and so has to save them from La and her people who have shot the blimp down. The ensuing battle of course involves the green K, but La didn't expect Lois Lane's fist in her midriff!
In the wake of these events, Lord Greystoke finds a place where he can be happy exploring these lost civilizations, and Kal-El is invited to the modern world of Metropolis by Lois Lane. In a sense, everything is put back the way it should be.
Except for the fascist Superman uniform...
Books canceled as a result: Edgar Rice Burroughs can still write all those Tarzan books with few changes. With its new pulpier underpinnings, I'm unsure if Superman can still spawn the superhero genre the way he originally did. DC's first characters might still exist through their pulp roots (Batman as a dark avenger, Wonder Woman since she comes from a lost civilization, maybe someone like the Spectre), but it's likely none of the superhero comics produced in the last 70 years would ever have been published based on a Burroughsian model.
These things happen: Superman has had a number of jungle adventures in the past few decades. One example is his amnesiac's trip to Dinosaur Island. More than cosmetically similar.



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