Modern-day jungle man

Modern-day jungle man

An author who 'rebooted' the Tarzan stories is helping to protect apes and Africa's rainforests

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Modern-day jungle man_L
Photo: Andy Briggs
Tarzan is one of the best-known literary characters in the world. The story of the jungle man who lost his parents and was raised by great apes has appeared in countless comic strips, novels and films, and on radio and television.

Now British writer Andy Briggs has taken up the challenge of giving the character a reboot.

"We see reboots all the time in the cinema - Batman, Star Trek and Spider-Man - but seldom see it in literature.

"I wanted to take all the elements of Tarzan we love and remember - not just from the books, but from the numerous movies - and incorporate them into something new and exciting, that is set in the present day."

Born in 1972, Briggs is an experienced Hollywood screenwriter and graphic novelist. His two highly original series of young adult novels, Hero.com and Villain.net, have been sold around the world.

His new Tarzan series, published in e-books and traditional books, features The Greystoke Legacy, The Jungle Warrior and last month's The Savage Lands. It gives the main characters a modern twist.

Jane Porter, the American woman that meets Tarzan in the jungle, has changed the most, he says. "In the original story, Jane just tended to faint when danger threatened. But I wanted my Jane to be a modern girl - tough, smart and superior. While she could never be a physical match for Tarzan, she is his intellectual superior."

Briggs also changed Robbie Canler, originally Jane's suitor. "Now he's a more important character, whom Jane can talk to and work with, somebody that young male readers can relate to."

However, Tarzan doesn't need to change, Briggs says. "Tarzan is more relevant today than he was when he first appeared in 1912. Protector of the weak, he defended wildlife and the jungle in days when it wasn't fashionable to do so.

"Tarzan's battle against poachers, loggers and those who want to destroy his jungle kingdom, is something that appeals to us now, with our current understanding of how fragile our world is."

Briggs is something of an adventurer himself. After working on this Tarzan series, he visited Africa's Congo Basin in January to explore rainforests in search of wild gorillas.

"I took a cameraman and we filmed a series of video blogs as we stepped in Tarzan's wake. I've set up a website, www.tarzansafrica.com, which will be the home to the free video blogs [focused on] the environment, the Baka pygmy tribe in the jungle, insects, gorillas, illegal hunting and logging. It's all created as resources for teachers and librarians to help with lessons."

Briggs is now editing many hours of footage into a film to promote the charity, Ape Action Africa, which helps wild primates in Cameroon, in west Central Africa.

"We aim to support ape conservation and help schools in Cameroon," he says.

"You can adopt your own gorilla and soon we'll be introducing "Adopt a Teacher" to enable schools worldwide to support a teacher in the jungle. By educating children there, they'll be more able to look after the rainforest; it's critical for the rest of us."

Briggs is grateful he's able to travel, subscribing to the belief that it benefits everyone by broadening the mind. "Visiting other cultures and meeting the wonderful inhabitants of this planet helps fuel my imagination."

He believes every one can write, too. He always tells students, "If I can do it, so can you!

"[You] are the writers of the future who will entertain us all - it has always been this way."

Briggs adds: "With each story - whether it's a book, a screenplay, a comic or a play - you will improve.

"Keep writing - and never give up."

Meet Andy Briggs in Hong Kong during the Young Readers Festival from March 11 to 22.

Young Post is offering five complimentary tickets to readers for his talk, If I can do it, you can! on March 19.

Send an e-mail with your name, school name and contact number to syp@scmp.com with the subject title "Andy Briggs" before March 11. You will receive a confirmation e-mail if selected.

Go to www.youngreadersfestival.org.hk/ for full details and more about Briggs.

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