John Clayton was stranded with his parents, the Lord and Lady Greystoke, on the West coast of Africa. Being forced to fend for themselves, his parents soon died while John was only an infant. He was then taken in and raised by a group of great apes. One in particular took on the parental role, she was known as Kala. John was named Tarzan which means "White Skin".
Tarzan will teach himself to read and write the English language from reader books of his dead parents.
He will also learn to speak several languages but only after he is an adult and from the explorers who come to the jungle.
As an adult Tarzan happened upon a group of human explorers, among them Jane Porter, with whom he developed a romantic attraction. In time John would marry Jane and they would have a son whom they named Jack (Korak).
Tarzan is a literary creation of Edgar Rice Burroughs. He is the author's most recognizable character (another being John Carter) having appeared in many comics and movies. Burroughs lived a full life of interesting jobs and careers that influenced him to write pulps. Not finding any stories of particular interest, the Roman myth of Romulus and Remus being raised by wolves influenced him to write a story of a man raised by a clan of apes.
Character Evolution and Major Story Arcs
Tarzan's first appearance in comics predates that of the first superheroes by a few years, and his appearance was in line with an era when adventurers were portrayed in comics more so than any other genre.
As comics moved away from this format he has nonetheless maintained some appeal over his many years of publication, but has struggled to maintain any long term success. Generally speaking story arcs around the character do not differ much from his basis in literature.
Because of his upbringing in the jungle, Tarzan has strength, speed, endurance, and agility far beyond normal men, and can match the strength/agility of apes and lions.
Tarzan can brachiate from tree branches and vines as easily as any ape, and also has a high tolerance to pain, never flinching when shot twice as well as having his scalp ripped off in battle. His senses are likewise increased, to the point of being able to track animals by smell as well being able to hear a blade of grass move in the middle of the African jungle.
He has also shown a quick aptitude to learn, as a boy using his knife proficiently enough to kill a full grown bull ape in battle with it, upon just acquiring it. Tarzan also taught himself to use a bow and arrow in just a month, and became proficient with a spear in a short time.
Aside from his physical abilities, he has shown a great aptitude for learning, teaching himself how to read English from a set of reader books found in his cabin; then learning several human languages including French, English, some Arabian, and the language of the Waziri. Additionally, he can communicate with some animals, including the language of the Mangani which he uses in naming animals he comes in contact with. He also can communicate with elephants by touching and feeling.