It’s not too much of a surprise if you really think about it; both are muscular, age-less men who defend innocent unremarkables from evil plots, and still manage to get and hold on to a beautiful girlfriend (although Disney only managed to recruit one of them). Tarzan was the hero in the 1912 pulp novel Tarzan of the Apes by Edar Rice Burroughs.
Superman was the brainchild of high school friends Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. The duo tried selling their stories to magazines in order to escape Depression era poverty but were usually rejected. In 1932, Siegel wrote the short story “Reign of the Superman” in which Superman was a powerful villain seeking world domination.
The story appeared in Science Fiction: The Advance Guard of Future Civilization Issue #3 with artwork by Shuster. In 1933, Superman underwent a bit of a career shift; Siegal re-wrote the character as a superhero, and went on to produce a string of Superman comics that are still marveled at today.
When asked about his inspiration, Siegal named Tarzan as an early influence. Yes, the “King of the Apes” evolved into the spandex-wearing, cape flourishing, defender of Metropolis.