Saturday 20 August 2016


                                                          Art: Karen Smithey

when all this madness ends
I’ll finish that novel,
sit and peck out laptop words
deciphering this delirium
replaying it as memory,
when all this madness ends
I’ll sit beneath the lilac tree
with pizza and a Bud
and calmly reflect on this
delicious rage that rips me apart,
yes, yes, I’ll do all that
tomorrow, or the day beyond
when this intoxication fades,
dripped out like sweat through my pores,
when all this madness ends
I’ll walk through drifts of dragonflies
around the lake’s-edge beneath the sky
watch rabbits and squirrels dash,
pause at the water’s rim and reflect
on all the what might have beens
in the shattered ripples of sunlight,
but not now, please, not yet,
when all this madness ends
I’ll think of you, now and then,
wonder where you are, who you’re with,
and if this makes any sense at all
because it’s sure as hell
the sweetest madness to me

Thursday 18 August 2016



Created out of the modest daydreams of arch-fantasist 
Edgar Rice Burroughs in 1912, 
the Jungle-Lord became one of the biggest 
cross-media franchises of the twentieth-century

Of all the great mythic twentieth-century heroes – James Bond, Batman, Superman or Flash Gordon, plus Sherlock Holmes and Dracula who are both technically nineteenth-century creations, few of them achieved the universal presence of Tarzan, the real King Of The Swingers, the real Jungle VIP. There have been Tarzan movies for as long as there have been movies – silent, black-&-white, talkies, Technicolor, CGI… DVD’s, barely a year of that lapsed century passed without one movie version or another appearing at the local flea-pit, or later, on the TV screen. Everyone is familiar with the exploits of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ ape-man. 

Yet, although it has become an essential part of mainstream Pop-culture, Tarzan’s secret domain began as part of a sub-literary sub-genre of Lost World fantasies. One that also encompasses Arthur Conan-Doyle’s wonderful ‘The Lost World’ – set on an inaccessible South American plateau, or H Rider Haggard’s proto-Indiana Jones ‘King Solomon’s Mines’ – located in a remote African region. ‘King Kong’ from Skull Island – discovered off the coast of Sumatra, operates within the same Lost World genre, as do exploits in submerged Atlantis, within the molecular structure of matter – as in Ray Cummings’ “Girl In The Golden Atom”, or through a convenient dimensional portal to Clark Ashton Smith’s “City Of The Singing Flame”.

In fact, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ had a fictional penchant for placing lost civilisations in every possible – and numerous highly improbable places. At the Earth’s core – where Tarzan links up with ERB’s other fantastic voyagers in Pellucidar, or the mist-shrouded island of Caspak, as well as the Moon, Mars and Venus. Back then – in October 1912 when the first Tarzan ‘Romance Of The Jungle’ emerged as the dramatic cover-story of Munsey’s fifteen-cent ‘All-Story Magazine’, it was still possible to think in terms of his African home as being a ‘Dark’ partially-unexplored continent in which strange and startling discoveries were yet to be made. Lost children reared by apes perhaps, even if the wealth of Lost Cities, Hidden Valley Civilisations and Forgotten Realms he habitually stumbles across seemed less likely. It’s odd that the Tarzan myth remains as seductive now, in an age when satellite surveillance global-mapping has left no part of the Earth’s surface unobserved and unknown.

Is the Tarzan myth a racist metaphor? In the sense that a lone white orphan, brought up by apes, overcomes all natural obstacles to triumph as Lord Of The Jungle – just possibly. Except that Tarzan excels only in the way that heroes tend naturally to excel, and only in the same way that Edgar Rice Burroughs’ other creation – John Carter, triumphs over all Martian adversaries to become Warlord Of Barsoom. It’s difficult to frame a species-ist argument against Burroughs on that score, so why complicate Tarzan with such accusations?

Tarzan is also a member of the English aristocracy – he is the cultured Lord Greystoke, so it could equally be argued that his triumph over nature is due to his upper-class bloodlines. But Burroughs was a democratic American who stood for no truck with the superior claims of the Ruritanian European class structure, beyond a kind of hazy fairy-tale romanticism. His aristocracy is more a plot-device, than evidence of any political subtext. No, it is Tarzan’s natural attributes of courage, decency, and sense of fairness that sets him apart, not race or class. Tarzan is less about white supremacy than he is about the persistent legends of feral children brought up by animals, a belief that goes back at least as far as Romulus & Remus, and analogous to Rudyard Kipling’s Mowgli, reared by wolves.

Stories persist to this day of real-life cases, about children discovered living wild with animals. Edgar Rice Burroughs was reworking that idea, integrating it into the heroic-fantasy pantheon, to create one of the great fictional images of the age. Tarzan speaks the secret language of animals. There are battling war-like natives, but largely Tarzan respects, and is respected by noble African tribes-people. Tarzan’s primary opponents are the white exploiters who seek to penetrate the jungle only to despoil and desecrate the rainforest environment in which he is so perfectly at home, to rob it of its primordial purity. So claims to an eco-conservationist subtext give it renewed contemporary relevance. Yet like all of ERB’s stories, Tarzan is an escapist power-fantasy, a daydream wish-fulfilment that answers to, and is only responsible to the rules of dream. And like dream, it embodies something of the desires, aspirations and archetypes of the subconscious forces that generate it.

Tarzan may have sprung fully-formed from the hyper-productive pen of ER Burroughs, but the Lord of the Jungle immediately took on an independent life of his own. Like those other great recurring fictional myth-figures, he prospered and developed through the intervention of other hands, in other media, through other creative teams. The high-adventure picture-strip incarnation of Burroughs’ novels was first syndicated in the funny-pages of American national newspapers… alongside ‘Little Orphan Annie’ and ‘Mutt & Jeff’. It commenced 7 January 1929 – oddly enough, the same day the ‘Buck Rogers’ daily strip was launched! To comics-historian Les Daniels ‘the two strips which bowed simultaneously on that day threw startled newspaper readers backwards into the passionate, primeval past of the jungle, and forward into the fantastic future of space travel and science-fiction’ (in ‘Comix: A History Of Comic-books In America’ Fusion Books 1973).

Although he had no great love for the character, Harold R Foster illustrated the first 300 panels of ‘Tarzan of the Apes’. The thirty-six-year-old artist later claimed, ‘I had no instructions at all, just the book, I did the adaptation myself.’ Those strips were initially drawn from ERB-stories that first appeared in ‘All-Story’, and later in ‘Argosy’. And Foster’s artistic innovations rapidly develop into impeccable draftsmanship, with accurate anatomy and dramatic strongly-masculine composition, all executed with crisp rendering. To Brian Kane, ‘Foster created the definitive Tarzan. He established a look of nobility and aristocracy that would influence Burne Hogarth, Rubimor (Amilcar Ruben Moreira), Bob Lubbers, Russ Manning, Gil Kane, Mike Grell, Gray Morrow, Joe Kubert, John Buscema, and every other artist who illustrated the Ape-Man.

Another Foster trademark that appears for the first time in comics is the use of captions instead of word balloons. This technique, known as the story-strip, allowed Foster to create compositions containing amazingly detailed backgrounds unhindered by text. As an indicator of the synergy that exists between comics and cinema, Tarzan was on the newsstands both in his picture-strip incarnation, and in fan-mags that relied on stills from his career as a movie-hero. And those two visual methods of story-telling – developing more or less simultaneously across the same years, had a profound effect on each other. A two-way interaction of weird angle shots and imaginative frame-composition suggesting new techniques for visual progression.

Lured away by William Randolph Hearst in 1936, Foster took his classicism on to create ‘Prince Valiant’, leaving Tarzan to the more vigorous pen and unparalleled ingenuity of Burne Hogarth, who – from 1937 to 1945, then from 1947 to 1950, was to become one of the most celebrated Tarzan artists. He was also instrumental in setting up ‘The Cartoonists & Illustrators School’ in 1946 designed for ex-GI’s who had aspirations of retraining as cartoonists. Among its alumni were Harry Harrison, Al Williamson, Wally Wood and Roy Krenkel.

Tarzan strips were soon being reprinted in Britain in the George Newnes magazine ‘Tit-Bits’, and then again in the boys weekly ‘Pilot’. The first colour-comic appearance was in the English-language version of a French weekly – the large-format ‘Tarzan: The Grand Adventure Comic’ from 15 September 1951. The front-page strip of the first issue opens lyrically with ‘the dawn of a beautiful day is breaking. A day of peace and joy. Tarzan fills his lungs with the scented air of the jungle. He swings from tree to tree through the forest. Suddenly he stops and listens…’ He’s alerted by Nikima, his monkey-friend, of a strange intruder in the Mangani tribal land.

Although Tarzan films seldom fail to do good box-office, and despite expenditure on wardrobe requirements being negligible, the celluloid exploits were subject to severe budgetry restrictions which limited the scope of the adventures to tribal cults and ivory-hunting poachers. Comic-strips – like the original ER Burroughs novels which they soon outgrew, were restrained only by the reach of the creator’s imagination, and by his technical ability to convincingly portray it in a series of picture-frames.

Burne Hogarth accepted no limitations whatsoever, and his superbly exaggerated art is in every way equal to – and surpasses its remit. As with Burroughs’ prose, Tarzan’s restless wanderings take him into innumerable lost valleys and hidden civilisations where beautiful princesses are menaced by the ambitious schemings of sinister high priests in evocatively drawn pagan jungle cities. Most bizarrely of all Burne Hogarth conceived the Onone’s in 1949, a race of creatures consisting of evil spherical human heads from which spindly arms project from either side. With expressions of uniformly vile hatred they constitute wonderfully nasty antagonists for the perfectly-proportioned ape-man hero to battle against. This series of adventures were among those adapted by a young – an absurdly young Michael Moorcock for the UK edition of Westworld’s ‘Tarzan Adventures’, for which the American strips were scissored and re-pasted into portrait pages, with frames extended to fit by the addition of extra foliage down the side, or cropped to fit the space requirements of the new format. Moorcock was quick to seize the opportunity of indulging his passion for ER Burroughs in the remaining pages which he used for features, reviews, new strips and fiction – including his own now highly-collectable first attempts, as well as photo-spreads from the currently new Tarzan movies.

Those movies actually predate the picture-strips, starting and captivating audiences during the very earliest days of Hollywood’s black-&-white silent era, going on to originate and develop powerful new elements of the mythos, including the famous Tarzan-cry. The vine-swinging. Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O’Sullivan improvised the ‘Me Tarzan, you Jane’ routine in the Culver City parking lot of ‘Tarzan, The Ape Man’ (1932), the first Tarzan ‘talkie’. Although not in the original script, their playful spontaneity was retained. Perhaps the greatest screen-Tarzan of them all, Weissmuller-as-Tarzan went on to be commemorated on the Beatles’ ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ (1967) album cover-collage, just behind Ringo, looking at Paul.

Tarzan has been many things across many decades, but he’s seldom been considered confrontational. Yet oddly enough, the first major instance of censorship under the Hays Production Code involved the 1934 jungle romp ‘Tarzan & His Mate’ (1934), in which brief nude scenes involving a body double for Maureen O’Sullivan were edited out of the master negative of the film. Later still, when young Johnny Sheffield was introduced into the series with ‘Tarzan Finds A Son’ (1939), it was deemed too risqué for the unmarried Tarzan and Jane to actually produce a son as the natural result of their (supposedly chaste!) cohabitation, so he’s introduced as the sole survivor of a plane crash. In fact, ER Burroughs established a legitimising precedent, as his textual Tarzan already had a son, Jack ‘Korak’ Clayton.

The personable Sheffield features in eight Tarzan films, carrying Johnny through from age seven, to sixteen. Philip José Farmer also manages to tease out the potential of the erotic subtext through a series of playful novels. Meanwhile, the noble ape-man spawned an entire category of imitators, spoofs, variants and would-be-rivals, complete magazines and comic-books devoted to ‘Jungle Adventures’. ‘Sheena: Queen Of The Jungle’ was created by ‘W Morgan Thamas’ (an aka of SR Powell), she began in ‘Jumbo Comics’ (September 1938) but graduated into her own title by Spring 1942. Elsewhere, the list of clones extends all the way from ‘Jungle Jim’, ‘Ki-Gor’, to Terry Scott’s hapless flabby ‘Ugh The Jungle Boy’ in ‘Carry On Up The Jungle’ (1970)…!

A remorseless defender of natural order, visiting swift justice on despoilers of his savage realm, the Tarzan archetype has remained as potent across a century in which every corner of the planet has been subjected to the most scrupulous scrutiny, has been exhaustively Google-Earth mapped, and is now routinely reduced down to a global theme-park. Tarzan’s longevity provides absolute evidence of the enduring power of the image ERB envisioned.



(1912) ‘TARZAN OF THE APES’ published in the October 1912 issue of Frank A Munsey’s pulp ‘All-Story Magazine’, the dramatic cover-story ‘A Romance Of The Jungle’ alongside short stories by Frank Comstock, Ella Argo, Frank Condon, John Swain, Jack Brandt and RA Ellis

(1913) ‘THE RETURN OF TARZAN’ serialized in seven parts in ‘New Story Magazine’ from June to December 1913, taking Tarzan from America to Europe, a sequence of adventures with Arabs in Algeria, then back to Africa where he becomes chief of the Waziri tribe who lead him to the lost jungle city Opar. He rescues Jane from the Oparian ape-men, assisted by the beautiful priestess La, who loves him. The novel ends with Tarzan marrying Jane

(1914) ‘THE BEASTS OF TARZAN’ serialized in ‘All-Story Cavalier’ magazine, Tarzan and Jane have a son – Jack, who is kidnapped by Tarzan’s adversaries from the previous novel, Nikolas Rokoff and Alexis Paulvitch. Marooned on a jungle island Tarzan uses the panther Sheeta and Akut’s tribe of great apes to escape and pursue the bad guys

(1914) ‘THE SON OF TARZAN’ again serialized in six-parts in ‘All-Story Weekly’, in England, Paulvitch is exhibiting the captured Akut. When Jack assists the ape to escape back to Africa, Paulvitch is killed, and Jack flees into the jungle where he’s named ‘Korak’ by the Mongani apes. He rescues an abused girl, Meriem, and shares a jungle life with her before he’s reunited with his parents at their Waziri estate. In London, Jack and Meriem are married

(1916) ‘TARZAN & THE JEWELS OF OPAR’, the lost colony of sunken Atlantis has a treasure room of mined gold. Tarzan is trailed there by Belgian army officer Albert Werper, who’s Arab employer kidnaps Jane. A rock-fall causes Tarzan to lose his memory. He again rejects priestess La’s love, and – with Werper, escapes from the lost city with Opar’s sacrificial knife

(1919) ‘JUNGLE TALES OF TARZAN’ collection of tales originally run in ‘Blue Book Magazine’, with ‘Tarzan’s First Love’ (1916), ‘The Capture Of Tarzan’ (1916), ‘The Fight For The Balu’ (1916), ‘The God Of Tarzan’ (1916), ‘Tarzan And The Black Boy’ (1917), ‘The Witch-Doctor Seeks Vengeance’ (1917), ‘The End Of Bukawai’ (1917), ‘The Lion’ (1917), ‘The Nightmare’ (1917), ‘The Battle For Teeka’ (1917), ‘A Jungle Joke’ (1917), ‘Tarzan Rescues The Moon’ (1917).

(1920) ‘TARZAN THE UNTAMED’ made up of ‘Tarzan The Untamed’ (from ‘Red Book’, 1919) and ‘Tarzan & The Valley Of Luna’ (‘All-Story Weekly’, 1920), fearing Jane has been killed by invading World War I German troops, Tarzan’s quest for revenge takes him to a secret desert valley and the lost city Xuja

(1921) ‘TARZAN THE TERRIBLE’ following clues that Jane is still alive, Tarzan reaches Pal-u-don, a hidden valley of dinosaurs, where he encounters two tailed human-like tribes, the hairless white-skinned Ho-don and hairy hill-dwelling Waz-don. Held here by her German abductor, Jane escapes, only for Korak to intervene and save both of his parents. The book edition includes a map and glossary

(1922/ 1923) ‘TARZAN & THE GOLDEN LION’, two expeditions to Opar, one led by Flora Hawkes with a Spanish actor ‘fake’ Tarzan, Esteban Miranda, the other by Tarzan himself. La has fallen out of favour with the High Priest, and escapes with Tarzan into the Valley of Diamonds where intelligent gorillas have enslaved devolved humans. With help of Jal-bal-ja, his Golden Lion and the natives, Tarzan restores La to power. Then he confronts the ‘fake’ Tarzan!

(1924) ‘TARZAN & THE ANT MEN’, first published as a seven-part serial in ‘Argosy All-Story Weekly’, travelling through the thorny jungle-belt of the Alali – ruled by their females, Tarzan enters Minunia with its inhabitants one-quarter human size. The Minunians live in magnificent city-states that frequently wage war against each other. Tarzan befriends king Adendrohahkis, and prince Komodoflorensal of the city called Trohanadalmakus, and joins them in war against the onslaught of their warlike neighbours from Veltopismakus. He’s captured in battle and imprisoned by Gefasto of the Veltopismakusians, whose scientist Zoanthrohago conducts an experiment reducing him to the size of a Minunian, and the ape-man is imprisoned and enslaved among other prisoners of war. He meets Komodoflorensal in the dungeons, and together they’re able to make a daring escape. There are elements of ERBs Barsoom stories here, ‘The Master Mind Of Mars’ or ‘Swords Of Mars’

(1927, 1928) ‘TARZAN, LORD OF THE JUNGLE’ in a ‘forbidden valley’ hidden in the mountains, Tarzan discovers an outpost of European knights and crusaders

(1928) ‘TARZAN & THE LOST EMPIRE’ Tarzan and a young German find a lost remnant of the Roman empire hidden in the mountains of Africa. This novel is notable for the introduction of Nkima, who serves as Tarzan's monkey companion in it and a number of later Tarzan stories. It also reintroduces Muviro, first seen in ‘Tarzan and the Golden Lion’, as sub-chief of Tarzan's Waziri warriors

(1929) ‘TARZAN AT THE EARTH’S CORE’ In response to a radio plea from Abner Perry, a scientist who with his friend David Innes has discovered the interior world of Pellucidar at the Earth's core, Jason Gridley launches an expedition to rescue Innes from the Korsars (corsairs), the scourge of the internal seas. He enlists Tarzan, and a fabulous airship is constructed to penetrate Pellucidar via the natural polar opening connecting the outer and inner worlds. The airship is crewed primarily by Germans, with Tarzan's Waziri warriors under their chief Muviro also along for the expedition. In Pellucidar Tarzan and Gridley are each separated from the main force of the expedition and must struggle for survival against the prehistoric creatures and peoples of the inner world. Gridley wins the love of the native cave-woman Jana, the Red Flower of Zoram. Eventually everyone is reunited, and the party succeeds in rescuing Innes. As Tarzan and the others prepare to return home, Gridley decides to stay to search for Frederich Wilhelm Eric von Mendeldorf und von Horst, one last member of the expedition who remains lost (The missing Von Horst's adventures are told in a sequel, ‘Back to the Stone Age’, which features neither Gridley nor Tarzan)

(1930, 1931) ‘TARZAN THE INVINCIBLE’ Tarzan, his monkey friend Nkima, and Chief Muviro and his faithful Waziri warriors prevent Russian communists from looting the lost city of Opar

(1931) ‘TARZAN TRIUMPHANT’ backed by Chief Muviro and the Waziri warriors, Tarzan faces Soviet agents seeking revenge, and a lost tribe descended from early Christians practicing a bizarre and debased religious cult

(1932) ‘TARZAN & THE CITY OF GOLD’ Tarzan rescues Valthor from a group of ‘shiftas’ bandits, and befriends this warrior of the lost city of Athne, City of Ivory and capital of the land of Thenar. Tarzan is captured by the insane yet beautiful queen Nemone of its hereditary enemy, Cathne, City of Gold, capital of the land of Onthar. Tarzan is forced to fight Cathne’s strongest man in its arena, and easily overpowers his antagonist. ThenTarzan is forced to fight a lion, he at first believes he can outrun the beast but this lion is specifically selected for endurance, and ultimately an unarmed Tarzan must turn to face him. Fortunately his own lion ally, Jad-bal-ja, whom he had raised from a cub, arrives and intervenes, killing Belthar and saving Tarzan. Nemone, who believes her life is linked to that of her pet, kills herself when it dies. Unusually for lost cities in the Tarzan series, which are typically visited but once, Cathne and Athne reappear in a later Tarzan adventure, ‘Tarzan the Magnificent’ (the only other lost city Tarzan visits more than once is Opar)

(1933, 1934) ‘TARZAN & THE LION MAN’ Tarzan discovers a mad scientist with a city of talking gorillas. To create additional havoc, a Hollywood film crew sets out to shoot a Tarzan movie in Africa and brings along an actor who is an exact double of the apeman himself, but is his opposite in courage and determination

(1935) ‘TARZAN & THE LEOPARD MEN’ an amnesiac Tarzan with monkey companion Nkima are taken by an African warrior to be his guardian spirits, and as such come into conflict with the murderous secret society of the Leopard Men

(1935, 1936) ‘TARZAN’S QUEST’ in her first appearance since ‘Tarzan and the Ant Men’, Jane gets involved in a quest for a bloodthirsty lost tribe who allegedly possess an immortality drug. Tarzan and his monkey companion, little Nkima, are also drawn in, with the Waziri warriors, who are searching for Chief Muviro’s lost daughter Buira. Nkima’s vital contribution to the adventure is recognized when he’s made a recipient of the treatment along with the human protagonists at the novel’s end

 (1938) ‘TARZAN & THE FORBIDDEN CITY’ Brian Gregory’s gone missing on his quest to find the legendary city of Ashair, lured by rumor of the world’s hugest gem – the Father of Diamonds. Tarzan cares little for him, but responds to Paul d’Arnot’s request to guide the expedition Gregory’s father and sister organize for his rescue. The enigmatic Atan Thome is also obsessed with the gem, and uses agents in the safari to spy out its route and sabotage its efforts. Both parties reach their goal, remote Ashair... as prisoners of its priests, doomed to die in hideous rites

(1939) ‘TARZAN THE MAGNIFICENT’ made up of ‘Tarzan and the Magic Men’ (1936) and ‘Tarzan and the Elephant Men’ (1937-1938), Tarzan encounters a lost race with uncanny mental powers, after which he revisits the lost cities of Cathne and Athne, encountered in the earlier novel ‘Tarzan and the City of Gold’. As usual, he’s backed up by Chief Muviro and his Waziri warriors

(1947) ‘TARZAN & THE FOREIGN LEGION’ while serving in the RAF during World War II under his civilian name John Clayton, Tarzan is shot down over the island of Sumatra in the Japanese-occupied Dutch East Indies. He uses his jungle survival skills to save his comrades in arms, and fight the Japanese while seeking escape from enemy territory

(1964) ‘TARZAN & THE MADMAN’ Tarzan tracks down yet another impostor resembling him, who is under the delusion he is Tarzan

(1965) ‘TARZAN & THE CASTAWAYS’ made up of ‘Tarzan and the Castaways’ (1941), ‘Tarzan and the Champion’ (1940), ‘Tarzan and the Jungle Murders’ (1940)

Other ERB stories:

(1963, for younger readers) ‘TARZAN & THE TARZAN TWINS’ with ‘The Tarzan Twins" (1927), and ‘Tarzan and the Tarzan Twins and Jad-Bal-Ja the Golden Lion’ (1936).

(1995) ‘TARZAN: THE LOST ADVENTURE’ (with Joe R Lansdale)

TARZAN’ by other authors: 

By Barton Werper: (never authorised by Burroughs, Inc, and destroyed following litigation)

By Fritz Leiber: 
(1966) ‘TARZAN & THE VALLEY OF GOLD’ (the first novel authorized by the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate, and numbered as the 25th book in the Tarzan series).

By Philip José Farmer: 
(circa 1966) ‘A FEAST UNKNOWN’ A character based on Tarzan (Lord Grandrith) appears in the Nine trilogy (circa 1966) ‘LORD OF THE TREES’ and ‘THE MAD GOBLIN’
(1972) ‘TARZAN ALIVE’, a fictional biography of Tarzan (here Lord Greystoke), one of two ‘foundational’ books – along with his ‘Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life, of the Wold Newton Family. (1974) ‘THE ADVENTURES OF THE PEERLESS PEER
(1985) ‘TIME’S LAST GIFT’ explains how Tarzan came to be in Ancient Opar (see below)
(1999) ‘THE DARK HEART OF TIME’ officially authorized by the ER Burroughs estate, and uses the ‘Tarzan’ name rather than just inference
(1976) ‘FLIGHT TO OPAR’ The ER Burroughs estate authorized the ‘Opar’ novels in which a secondary character – while not specifically named as ‘Tarzan’, is intended by Farmer to be Tarzan, and is included as such by most Wold Newton Family scholars. Farmer also wrote a novel based on his own fascination with Tarzan, entitled ‘LORD TYGER’, and translated ERB’s original ‘TARZAN OF THE APES’ novel into Esperanto.

By R.A. Salvatore: 

By Nigel Cox: 
(2004) ‘TARZAN PRESLEY’ spoof novel about a character named ‘Ted Nugent who combines elements of Tarzan with Elvis Presley, set in New Zealand and America. Subject to litigation, has not been reprinted since its initial publication.


(January 1918) ‘TARZAN OF THE APES’ (National Film Corporation Of America, 73 minutes) Dir: Scott Sidney. ‘The Wonder Story Of The Age’ – first-ever Tarzan film, silent, but a reasonably faithful adaptation by Fred Miller & Lois Weber of the first half of Burroughs’ first novel. Lord John and Lady Alice Greystoke’s baby is born shortly after they’re put ashore in Africa by mutineers. After their death the young Tarzan (Gordon Griffith) is raised by the Great Ape Kala. Years later a search party – of which Jane Porter (Enid Markey) is a part, arrives. Tarzan, now fully grown (Elmo Lincoln), falls in love with her and she with him. Lincoln makes a hunky Tarzan, and acquits himself well. According to movie-legend he genuinely kills a very old lion in this film. Also features George B French as mutineer sailor Binns aboard the ‘Fuwalda’

(September 1918) ‘THE ROMANCE OF TARZAN’ (National Film Corporation Of America, 96-minutes, although now lost) Dir: William Lucas. Based on the second part of ER Burroughs’ novel ‘Tarzan Of The Apes’, adapted by Bess Meredyth. Tarzan (Elmo Lincoln) follows Jane (Enid Markey) to the Porter’s Californian ranch where complications with outlaws, and romance set in. Also features Thomas Jefferson (as Prof Porter) and Cleo Madison (as La Belle Odine, who Jane mistakenly believes has designs on Tarzan)

(May 1920) ‘THE REVENGE OF TARZAN’ (Goldwyn, 90-mins, now lost) with Robert Saxmar’s screenplay based around ER Burroughs’ ‘The Return Of Tarzan’, this silent film stars Gene Pollar (his only screen-Tarzan) as an unconvincing Ape-Man, and Karla Schramm (Jane) – she will return as Jane for ‘The Son Of Tarzan’

(March 1927) ‘TARZAN AND THE GOLDEN LION’ (57-minutes) Director: JP McGowan. With James H. ‘Big Jim’ Pierce (Tarzan), Dorothy Dunbar (Jane), and Boris Karloff (as Owaza, the Wazari chief). Recently re-discovered, Tarzan, along with his companion Jad-bal-ja – the Golden Lion of the title, journeys to the mysterious City of Diamonds to save his friends. Lots of action and some interesting vine-work. Jim Pierce – ER Burroughs’ son-in-law, also played Tarzan in radio serials and does a fine job

(March 1932) ‘TARZAN, THE APE MAN’ (MGM, 99 minutes) Johnny Weissmuller (Tarzan), Maureen O'Sullivan (Jane), Dir: WS Van Dyke. With dialogue by Ivor Novello. Among its notable firsts, this is the first Tarzan ‘talkie’, the first to feature Cheeta the Chimp, the famous Tarzan-call, and the famous ‘Me Tarzan, you Jane’ sequence. Weissmuller is easily the best-known movie Ape-Man and does a great job, even if his Tarzan isn't portrayed as the intelligent guy he is in the books. And Maureen O'Sullivan IS Jane, intelligent, sexy and quite capable of taking care of herself – until she meets Tarzan. She tags along with her father, James Parker (played by C Aubrey Smith) and his partner Harry Holt (Neil Hamilton)’s safari searching for the mysterious elephant graveyard. Once they’re deep in the jungle, Tarzan ‘discovers’ Jane and promptly kidnaps her. They quickly fall in love and then the action begins. The safari is captured by a tribe of pygmies and Tarzan must rescue them – with the help of his elephant friends. A classic adventure film, remade in 1959 with Denny Miller, and in 1981 with Miles O'Keeffe

(April 1934) ‘TARZAN AND HIS MATE’ (MGM, 93 minutes) Dir: Cedric Gibbons. Johnny Weissmuller. Maureen O'Sullivan. After barely surviving first time around Harry Holt, with womanizing new partner Martin Arlington (Paul Cavanagh), returns to seek the elephant graveyard, hoping Tarzan will help them, but when he refuses they go it alone. Only to find themselves fighting for their lives surrounded by hostile natives. Tarzan – and the elephants, arrive just in time to save Jane. For many, this is the ULTIMATE Tarzan movie! The extended footage included on the video release makes it even better! Tons of exciting action, a cool villain, great photography and Miss O'Sullivan in a leather bikini! The characters are well portrayed and the excitement/wonder never stops. The much-repeated crocodile battle sequence happens here for the first time

(November 1936) ‘TARZAN ESCAPES’ (MGM, 89-mins) Director: Richard Thorpe. Johnny Weissmuller. Maureen O'Sullivan. Jane's cousins want to inform her of a large inheritance she’s received, and hire an unscrupulous guide to help them find Tarzan. The guide, on the other hand, wants to capture Tarzan and make an exhibit of him. Once again the safari is surrounded and captured by hostile natives and, with the help of the elephants, Tarzan rescues them. Film-goers get their first glimpse of Tarzan’s famous tree-house. Jane wears more clothing this time around, but she’s still breathtaking

(January 1937) ‘TARZAN'S REVENGE’ (20th Century Fox, 70-mins) released during a lapse in the MGM-franchise, with Glenn Morris as Tarzan, and Eleanor Holm as ‘Eleanor Reed’ (a stand-in Jane). Directyor: D Ross Lederman. A hunting expedition arrives and quickly finds trouble. A sheik wants to make a bride of the lead hunter's daughter, Eleanor (not Jane, again). Tarzan has other ideas and foils the sheik's plans at every turn. This movie is just plain horrible

(June 1939) ‘TARZAN FINDS A SON’ (MGM, 82-mins) Director: Richard Thorpe. Johnny Weissmuller. Maureen O'Sullivan. Johnny Sheffield. A small plane crashes in the jungle, its only survivor a baby boy. The baby is rescued by Cheetah and taken to Tarzan's home. He and Jane raise the child as their own and name him Boy. Later, a safari arrives looking for the lost plane. The safari, Jane and Boy manage to get captured by (you guessed it) hostile natives and, after a breathtaking escape by Boy, are rescued by Tarzan and his elephant friends. I love this movie. It is exciting and I always wished (and I sometimes still do) I could be Boy…

(December 1941) ‘TARZAN'S SECRET TREASURE’ (MGM, 81-mins) Director: Richard Thorpe. Johnny Weissmuller. Maureen O’Sullivan. Johnny Sheffield. Boy runs away in search of civilisation. But winds up in a plague-infested native village, from where he’s rescued by a scientific team. Boy unknowingly informs two less scrupulous members of the party – Medford (Tom Conway) and Vandermeer (Philip Dorn), of the existence of gold in Tarzan’s jungle-escarpment. They kidnap Jane and Boy in order to make Tarzan show them the location of the gold. But soon the group is captured by bad natives, so they, in turn, must be rescued by Tarzan (with the elephants). Meanwhile, Boy befriends a young African lad, one of the few black people in a Tarzan film to actually say much more than ‘Yes, Bwana’!

(May 1942) ‘TARZAN'S NEW YORK ADVENTURE’ (MGM, 71-mins) Director: Richard Thorpe. Johnny Weissmuller. Maureen O'Sullivan. Johnny Sheffield. Boy is kidnapped and taken to New York City, believing Tarzan and Jane are dead. Tarzan and Jane track him down to where he’s been put to work in a circus. Tarzan must fight for his custody in court, in a suit!, and - with the help of the elephants, gets Boy back. Tarzan dives off the bridge, and there’s an unnecessarily racist phone gag. The film ‘contains shots of the only BABY ELEPHANT ACT ever TRAINED OR FILMED!’ – with Sally, Happy, & Queeny conducted by Boy and presided over by Cheetah. MGM’s animal trainer, George Emerson was more used to working with ‘Bull’ elephants. After 14 films with Weissmuller, this was Maureen O’Sullivan’s last Tarzan, she went on to become John Wayne’s most perfect screen partner, and mother of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ actress Mia Farrow

(February 1943) ‘TARZAN TRIUMPHS’ (RKO, 76-mins) Director: Wilhelm Thiele, with Johnny Weissmuller, Frances Gifford (as Zandra) and Johnny Sheffield. ‘Now Tarzan make war!’ declares Tarzan as he battles Nazi agents intent on enslaving the hidden city of Palandrya. An absent Jane has supposedly returned to London to be with her sick mother, but Boy manages to get captured, before Tarzan begins to pick off the Germans one by one. ‘Jungle people fight to live, civilised people live to fight’ says Tarzan. Frances Gifford played Nyoka in the Republic movie-serial ‘Jungle Girl’ – on which Ike Turner modeled Tina’s early stage routine, and which features some of the coolest vine-swinging on celluloid

(December 1943) ‘TARZAN'S DESERT MYSTERY’ (RKO, 70-mins) Director: Wilhelm Thiele, with Johnny Weissmuller, Nancy Kelly, and Johnny Sheffield. Jane sends a request for Tarzan’s fever medicine to aid Allied soldiers stricken with jungle fever. Tarzan and Boy journey across a great desert to retrieve the vines needed for the medicine. They get mixed up in a spy plot involving an Arab prince, a wild stallion, and a beautiful American magician (played by Nancy Kelly). Tarzan’s battle with a giant spider has to be seen to be believed. Jane is still ‘absent’

(April 1945) ‘TARZAN AND THE AMAZONS’ (RKO, 76-mins) Director: Kurt Neumann. Johnny Weissmuller. Johnny Sheffield. Jane returns in the form of Brenda Joyce, with the longest hair in Hollywood – 39-inches, and an American accent. An archaeological team arrive in search of the lost Amazon city of Palmyria. Tarzan refuses to help them, but they trick Boy into helping them and go on anyway. Tarzan saves both the city’s relics and Boy in the nick of time

(January 1946) ‘TARZAN AND THE LEOPARD WOMAN’ (RKO, 72-mins) Director: Kurt Neumann. Johnny Weissmuller. Brenda Joyce. Johnny Sheffield. Trader caravans are being ambushed by an evil leopard cult. Their leader is the beautiful, but deadly, High Priestess Lea (Acquanetta). Her twisted little brother is sent to spy on Tarzan and his family ... providing the perfect foil for Boy. Tarzan rescues four teachers, Boy, and Jane from the cult in a crashing finish Weissmuller got himself back in shape for this, and the villainess is very cool. ‘If an animal can act like a man, why not a man like an animal?’ Tarzan asks Cheeta. There’s a movie-poster for ‘Tarzan & The Leopard Woman’ on Rigsby’s wall in TV’s long-running sit-com ‘Rising Damp’

(April 1947) ‘TARZAN AND THE HUNTRESS’ (RKO, 72-mins) Director: Kurt Neumann with regular Producer Sol Lesser. Johnny Weissmuller. Brenda Joyce. Johnny Sheffield. Animal trappers come to capture animals for the zoos. They want more than they are legally allowed and have King Farrod (Charles Trowbridge), a friend of Tarzan’s, killed to avoid the quota. Tarzan gets involved and rescues the animals and makes sure the King’s son, Prince Suli assumes the throne. This movie marks Boy’s last appearance. Johnny Sheffield (11 April 1931 – 15 October 2010), in a radical career-switch, went on to play Bomba, the Jungle Boy, in his own film series through Monogram movies, directed by Ford Beebe. The twelve low-budget films run from ‘Bomba, The Jungle Boy’ (1949) to ‘Lord Of The Jungle’ (1955)

(May 1948) ‘TARZAN AND THE MERMAIDS’ (RKO, 68-mins) Director: Robert Florey. Producer: Sol Lesser. Johnny Weissmuller. Brenda Joyce. Tarzan travels to the forbidden island Aquatania, to free its people from corrupt High Priest Palanth (George Zucco). Tarzan dives from a perilously high cliff and battles a giant octopus before unmasking Aquatania’s pagan god and saving the day. Weissmuller’s last Tarzan, although he went on to star in sixteen low-budget ‘Jungle Jim’ movies – adapted from a rival comic-strip franchise created by Alex (‘Flash Gordon’) Raymond, some of which aren't too bad, and twenty-six episodes of a spin-off TV series

(1949) ‘TARZAN’S MAGIC FOUNTAIN’ (RKO, 73-mins) Director: Lee Sholem. Screenplay by Curt Siodmak and Henry Chandlee. Tarzan (Lex Barker) must protect a lost race who have discovered a fountain of youth from ruthless kidnappers. Jane (Brenda Joyce) is tricked into leading them to the hidden city. Elmo Lincoln has a cameo in this one. An exciting first Tarzan outing for Lex Barker, who makes an interesting Tarzan, filling Weissmuller’s shoes – or lack of them, admirably. In the last of her five contributions, Brenda Joyce becomes the only Jane to work with two Tarzan’s. She retires from movies, and dies in July 2009

(March 1950) ‘TARZAN AND THE SLAVE GIRL’ (RKO, 74-mins) Director: Lee Sholem. Producer: Sol Lesser. Screenplay by Arnold Belgard and Hans Jacoby. Women are being kidnapped and a plague threatens to spread out of control. Tarzan (Lex Barker) rescues Jane (Vanessa Brown) and the other women before they are forced to repopulate a plague stricken city

(March 1951) ‘TARZAN'S PERIL’ (RKO, 79-mins) Director: Byron Haskin. Producer: Sol Leser. Lex Barker. Virginia Houston (as Jane). A ruthless slaver/ gunrunner has escaped from prison and returned to his evil ways. Tarzan must stop him from contributing to a tribal war and rescue Jane in an exciting climax. The first Tarzan to be actually filmed in African locations, it has some nice, authentic, African location footage…

(March 1952) ‘TARZAN’S SAVAGE FURY’ (RKO, 81-mins) Director: Cy Endfield. Lex Barker. Dorothy Hart. Another hunting party comes to Africa - this time lead by a man claiming to be Tarzan's cousin, the current Lord Greystoke (Charles Korvin). The man is actually a crook named Rokov and he hopes to steal a cache of diamonds from the Waziri. Even with a new Boy-like character, Joey (Tommy Carlton), running around with Tarzan, this movie isn’t very good

(1953) ‘TARZAN AND THE SHE-DEVIL’ (RKO, 75-mins) Director: Kurt Neumann. Lex Barker’s fifth and last appearance as Tarzan, with Joyce Mackenzie (Jane). Tarzan must keep ivory hunters, led by the She-Devil of the title (Monique van Vooren), from slaughtering a huge herd of elephants

(1955) ‘TARZAN'S HIDDEN JUNGLE’ (RKO, 73-mins) Director: Harold D Scuster. Producer: Sol Lesser. Screenplay: William Lively. Gordon Scott’s inauspicious debut as Tarzan, with Vera Miles (as Jill Hardy). Crooked hunters, with the unwitting help of a United Nations doctor and his beautiful assistant, travel to forbidden territory to trap their prey. The hunting party’s arrival angers Tarzan, who defeats them, rescues the doctor and his assistant, returning the jungle to normal. Scott redeems himself later (see below)…

(April 1957) ‘TARZAN AND THE LOST SAFARI’ (MGM, 86-mins) Director: Bruce Humberstone. Producer: John Croydon. The first Tarzan movie to be filmed in Eastman-color. Gordon Scott. Betta St. John (as Diana Penrod). After rescuing the passengers of a crashed plane, Tarzan leads them safely through the jungle. The natives of Opar have other ideas and harass the party along the way. A nice premise makes for an enjoyable movie. There is a wonderful children’s book adaptation of this movie. Also features Wilfred Hyde-White (as ‘Doodles’ Fletcher) and George Coulouris (as Carl Kraski)

(July 1958) ‘TARZAN’S FIGHT FOR LIFE’ (MGM, 86-mins) Director: H Bruce Humberstone. Producer: Sol Lesser (his final Tarzan). Screenplay: Thomas Hal Phillips. Gordon Scott. Eve Brent. Tarzan must convince the local natives that the ‘white doctor’ is a good thing, despite the efforts of a devious witch doctor who doesn’t want that to happen. Another Gordon Scott stinker…

(1958) ‘TARZAN AND THE TRAPPERS’ (Sol Lesser Productions, 74-mins) Directors: Charles F Haas, Sandy Howard, and uncredited H Bruce Humberstone. Gordon Scott. Eve Brent (as Jane). Tarzan battles a motley band of trappers... one after a lost treasure – another wants to murder Tarzan – ‘They Wont Rest Until They Capture The King Of The Jungle!’ Originally intended for a television series, three black-and-white episodes were edited together to make this slow movie

(1959) ‘TARZAN’S GREATEST ADVENTURE’ (88 minutes) Director: John Guillermin. With Gordon Scott and Sara Shane. He ape-man clashes with diamond-hunting baddies Anthony Quayle (Slade) and a young Sean Connery. There’s some violence early on, but it settles down into a reasonably entertaining yarn. Filmed on location in Africa, Scott plays an intelligent Tarzan and the pace never lets up! Slade and his cronies are traveling upriver to a hidden diamond mine. Along the way they kill and plunder, taking what they need. Tarzan must stop them before they get there and proceeds to pick off the henchmen one by one (when they aren't busy fighting amongst themselves), leaving just Slade left for the incredible finish

(1959) ‘TARZAN, THE APE MAN’ (82 minutes) Denny Miller. Joanna Barnes. A remake of the 1932 Weissmuller/ O'Sullivan film with colourised footage from earlier Weissmuller movies integrated into this film. Usually considered one of the worst Tarzan movie (I rank it a notch above Tarzan in Manhattan, 1989). In which Tarzan is never actually referred to by name. And, finally, the rubber leopard face is the funniest thing I've ever seen in a Tarzan movie!

(1960) ‘TARZAN THE MAGNIFICENT’ (88 minutes) Gordon Scott. Betta St. John. Gordon Scott returns with another winner! This isn’t quite as good as Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure but it’s mighty close. Jock Mahoney, who plays Tarzan in the next film, is the villain! Tarzan, burdened with an assortment of stranded travelers, must deliver Coy Banton, a cold-hearted murderer, to the authorities in Mantu. Following them on their journey, and determined to stop them before they reach Mantu, are Banton’s equally cold-hearted father and brothers

(1962) ‘TARZAN GOES TO INDIA’ (86 minutes) Jock Mahoney. Tarzan travels to India to save hundreds of elephants that will be drowned when a dam (for a newly constructed power plant) is completed. With the help of Jai, the elephant boy, Tarzan manages to save the elephants and the power plant. Some critics seem not to care for Jock Mahoney’s portrayal of Tarzan, despite some attractive location filming…

(1963) ‘TARZAN’S THREE CHALLENGES’ (92 minutes) Jock Mahoney. Again Tarzan travels abroad- the time to the far east, championing a boy set to assume the throne, Tarzan must battle a challenger in an ancient ritual. Mahoney took ill while filming this movie and by the end he looks horrible. It is hard to believe Tarzan could best Woody Strode in the shape he was in!

(1966) ‘TARZAN AND THE VALLEY OF GOLD’ (90 minutes) Mike Henry. Nancy Kovak. Tarzan travels to Mexico in an attempt to stop a group of mercenaries from murdering a looting a lost Incan civilization. With the help of a lion and a leopard, Tarzan tracks them down and makes sure justice is served. A kind of James Bond-meets-Tarzan theme with a trendy sixties feel to it. The Fritz Leiber ‘novelization’ works even more effectively

(1967) ‘TARZAN AND THE GREAT RIVER’ (88 minutes) Mike Henry. Diana Millay. A deadly leopard cult is sacking villages and enslaving their people to work in a hidden diamond mine. Tarzan defeats Barcuma, the cult leader, and frees the people

(1968) ‘TARZAN AND THE JUNGLE BOY’ (90 minutes) Mike Henry. A boy, presumed dead six years earlier, is found alive and well and living in the jungle. While Tarzan is trying to locate the boy, he gets mixed up in a tribal feud as they attempt to choose a successor for their dying chief. Another hopeless attempt at a Boy-like character…

(1970) ‘TARZAN’S DEADLY SILENCE’ (88 minutes) Ron Ely. Jock Mahoney & Woody Strode play the villains in this feature version of a two-part story from Ely’s television series. A madman called the Colonel is enslaving the locals and building himself a formidable army in the process. Tarzan, after temporarily losing his hearing, battles the military expert with the help of jungle animals and cunning tactics

(1970) ‘TARZAN’S JUNGLE REBELLION’ (92 minutes) Ron Ely. Ulla Stromstedt. Another movie made from a two-part story (The Blue Stone of Heaven) from Ely's television series. The Blue Stone of Heaven, according to legend, will give its owner incredible power. The evil Colonel Tatakombi wants it and doesn't intend to let Tarzan guide an archaeological team to it

(1982) ‘TARZAN, THE APE MAN’ (112 minutes) Miles O'Keeffe, Bo Derek. Another remake of the 1932 Weissmuller film. Tarzan doesn’t speak a word (he does grunt a lot) and Jane can’t seem to keep her clothes on. A nicely photographed movie but it still really stinks

(March 1984) ‘GREYSTOKE, THE LEGEND OF TARZAN’ (143 minutes) To follow-up his Oscar-winning ‘Chariots Of Fire’, Director Hugh Hudson attempts to re-boot the oft-filmed tale as an epic commentary on Victorian values, by returning to ERB’s original book, with added elements lifted from Philip Jose Farmer’s mock-biography ‘Tarzan Alive’. Christopher Lambert does a creditable job as the orphaned jungle aristocrat – although he’s never actually referred to as ‘Tarzan’. The opening portion of his early life (with Tali McGregor as infant, Peter Kyriakou at 1-year, Danny Potts at 5-years, and Eric Langlois at 12-years-old) is exceptionally well-done. Until he’s found and persuaded to swap his tree-house for the finery of his ancestral Scottish home. Cue an even better performance from Ralph Richardson in his final film, as Tarzan’s grandfather (the Earl of Greystoke), who tries to educate the lad in the ways of ‘civilised’ society. ‘Observer’ reviewer Philip French calls it ‘an ambitious/pretentious failure, it looks magnificent and features several memorable performances’, especially those of Ian Holm (Capitain Philippe D’Arnot), and Andie McDowell (as Jane Porter, with her voice dubbed by Glenn Close). Co-screenwriter Robert Towne replaced his own name on the credits with that of his own pet dog!

(1989) ‘TARZAN IN MANHATTAN’ (TV Movie, 100 minutes, DVD) Joe Lara. Kim Crosby. Cheetah is kidnapped and brought to New York to be used as an experimental test subject. Tarzan follows, meets Jane (a cab driver!) and her father, rescues the animals and foils the villain’s plans. The worst Tarzan movie ever made - the less said the better

(1996) ‘TARZAN: THE EPIC ADVENTURES: TARZAN’S RETURN’ (TV Movie, 100 minutes) Joe Lara. Cory Everson. Joe Lara is back - and he’s improved. The climax takes place in Pellucidar; something never seen before in a Tarzan film. Tarzan is (reasonably) intelligent but what is the deal with those boots!?

(1998) ‘TARZAN AND THE LOST CITY’ (83 minutes, video, VCD, DVD) Casper Van Dien (of ‘Starship Troopers’) struts his beefcake stuff as the jungle hero. He’s in England, just about to marry his voluptuous soulmate Jane March (as Jane) when they’re called back to Africa where evil mercenaries are searching (again) for the treasures of lost city of Opar. A lot of nice scenery and a decent (though short and very soft-spoken) Tarzan. More hocus-pocus than any other Tarzan movie and its not entirely clear why Opar needed Tarzan's help - they seem more than capable of taking care of themselves. US-Germany-Australia/ Director: Carl Schenkel

(1999) ‘TARZAN OF THE APES’ (48 minutes, animated, video) From Sony Wonder Home Video. Produced by Diane Eskenazi. A cheaply made, direct-to-video, animated film trying to capitalize on the Disney feature film. Some embarrassing songs and poor animation make this ‘movie’ very easy to dislike

(1999) ‘DISNEY’S TARZAN’ (100 minutes, animated feature, video, VCD, DVD) Tony Goldwyn. Minnie Driver. Disney does Tarzan and they do a wonderful job! Fantastic animation highlights this delightful story of Tarzan's youth and his first encounter with Jane. Tarzan races through the jungle like never before. The scene where Tarzan and Jane exchange names is terrific!

(2002) ‘DISNEY’S TARZAN AND JANE’ (70 minutes, animated, video, DVD) Michael T. Weiss, Oliva d'Abo. Tarzan and Jane celebrate their first anniversary together in this direct-to-video sequel. The character development, plot, and animation are all markedly inferior to the feature film version, but the movie is still quality kid's fare

(July 2016) ‘THE LEGEND OF TARZAN’ (110-minutes) Dir: David Yates. Tarzan is ‘True Blood’s’ Alexander Skarsgård in 1884 as a 30-something back in England married to Jane (Margot Robbie) in his stately pile insisting ‘my name isn’t Tarzan, it’s John Clayton III, 5th Earl of Greystoke’. There are flashbacks to his meeting Jane, before they arrive back in Africa to encounter Samuel L Jackson’s US Civil War veteran, while Christoph Waltz (‘Spectre’) is a suave Belgian villain hungry for the diamonds of Opar


(1920) ‘THE SON OF TARZAN’ (National Film Corporation Of America) 15-episode movie-serial (253 minutes) P. Dempsey Tabler. Karla Schramm. Kamuela Searle. This movie does a decent job of following the ERB book, not many Tarzan movies even try. Tarzan's son, Jack, runs away to Africa and gets involved with the kidnapping of a small girl. In the process of rescuing her (through many chapters), Jack becomes known as Korak the Killer, the Son of Tarzan. Both Tarzan and Korak are in on the finale, although Korak is the star of the movie. The big finish has Korak tied to a stake and rescued by Tantor, the elephant. Searle is terrific as Korak, but Tabler is completely out of place as the ape-man. (1920) ‘THE SON OF TARZAN’ - feature film version of serial (111 minutes) P. Dempsey Tabler. Karla Schramm. Kamuela Searle

(1921) ‘THE ADVENTURES OF TARZAN’ (Numa pictures) 15-episode movie-serial (video) Elmo Lincoln. Louise Lorraine. Tarzan battling a pair of villains in search of the lost treasures of Opar, using a map tatooed on Jane's shoulder. She manages to get captured often, but Tarzan is there to rescue her each and every time. The copy I have is very poor and hard to watch. A confusing romp with tons of action serving no purpose. Based on ER Burroughs’ novels ‘The Return Of Tarzan’ & ‘The Jewels Of Opar’

(1928) ‘TARZAN THE MIGHTY’ 15-episode movie-serial. Frank Merrill. Natalie Kingston

(1929) ‘TARZAN THE TIGER’ (Universal Studios) 15-episode movie-serial (video) The last of the silent Tarzans! Frank Merrill as an extremely well-built and fairly believable ape-man. Natalie Kingston as Jane. Based on ERB's novel ‘Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar’, the story once again deals with La and her amazing lost city, and Tarzan, battling amnesia, fights his way through

(1933) ‘TARZAN THE FEARLESS’ - 12 Chapter Serial. Buster Crabbe. Jacquelene Wells. (1933) ‘TARZAN THE FEARLESS’ - feature version of serial (85 minutes - video, DVD) Buster Crabbe. Jacquelene Wells. A safari comes looking for a friend of Tarzan, Dr. Brooks. Brooks has left in search of a lost temple and this, of course, excites the crooked safari guides. Lots of action and mischief follow. This movie (I haven't seen the serial version) is saved only by the cool shots of Tarzan swinging through the trees. The female lead is Mary, not Jane

(1935) ‘THE NEW ADVENTURES OF TARZAN’ – 12 Chapter Serial (video) Herman Brix. Ula Holt. Tarzan joins an expedition to the jungles of Guatemala in search of the Dead City and its priceless Lost Goddess. Tarzan rescues his old friend D’Arnot from Mayan captivity and, ultimately, wins the Goddess. Tarzan as an intelligent gentleman. Herman Brix looks and acts (at least for the opening chapter) more like the Tarzan of the books than any actor before or since. Too bad the story is pathetic. The two movies made from this serial make even less sense. (1935) ‘THE NEW ADVENTURES OF TARZAN’ - movie version of serial (75 minutes) Herman Brix. Ula Holt. (1938) ‘TARZAN AND THE GREEN GODDESS’ - 2nd feature from of 1935 serial (72 minutes) Herman Brix. Ula Holt


(September 1966-April 1968) ‘TARZAN’ 57-episodes. The first Tarzan television series ran from September 1966 to April 1968, for a total of 57 episodes. I saw them in syndication and they were my first exposure to the wonders of Edgar Rice Burroughs! Ron Ely played an intelligent Tarzan and I love the show

(1976) ‘TARZAN: LORD OF THE JUNGLE’ Filmation. 36-episodes. Tarzan returned to television in 1976 as an animated Saturday morning show (originally titled: Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle). The voice of Tarzan was provided by Robert Ridgely. This series (currently hard to find!) is fondly remembered for its exciting, though limited, rotoscoped animation

(1991-1994) ‘TARZAN’ 75-episodes. A new live-action adventure series with Wolf Larson portraying Tarzan as an environmentalist-protector of the jungle and its creatures. A series with very little going for it, beyond Ron Ely appearing as a guest villain

(1996-1997) ‘TARZAN: THE EPIC ADVENTURES’ 20-episodes. With Joe Lara as the ape-man, the premiere movie shows some promise - which the series doesn’t quite live up to. A series which relies more on sword & sorcery magic/hocus-pocus than ERB

(2001) ‘DISNEY’S LEGEND OF TARZAN’ 39-episodes. Picking up where the feature film left off, with animation well below the big-screen version, it’s nevertheless an enjoyable weekly dose of TV-Tarzan


TARZAN’ from 7th January 1929 drawn by Harold ‘Hal’ R Foster
(Sunday strip by Rex Maxon from 15th March 1931)
From 1937-1945 by Burne Hogarth, then again from 1947 to 1950
Rubimor (Amilcar Ruben Moreira) from 1945 to 1947
Also Bob Lubbers (Daily and Sunday strips from Summer 1950 to 1954), Joe Kubert (1972 DC Comics ‘Tarzan no.207-214’), John Buscema (launched ‘Tarzan’ for Marvel comics in 1977) and Gil Kane (Sunday pages 1979 to 1980)
Russ Manning, daily strip from 1967 to 1972, and Sunday strip 1967 to 1979, plus Dell and Whitman comic-book covers, ‘The Burroughs Bulletin’ fanzine from July 1947, European ‘Tarzan’ projects, and other work. Scripted by Don Kraar from 1982 to 1995
Sunday strip by Gray Morrow from 1983 to 2001, after which it continued as a reprint series


PILOT’ (Amalgamated Press) includes a weekly serial reprinting US newspaper strips, 1937-1938

TARZAN COMIC’ (Peters/ United Features) 1950 (four 68-page gravure issues), to October 1951 (fifteen 36-page issues)

TARZAN: THE GRAND ADVENTURE COMIC’ (Westworld) 15 Sept 1951-3 April 1953 (volume 1 four-colour 12-page tabloid, 6d – opening front-page strip ‘Tarzan The Victorious’, smaller volume 2 format from 1 Aug 1952, volume 3 36-issues, it then becomes…

TARZAN ADVENTURES’ (Westworld/ United Features) 8 April-26 December 1959 (344 weekly issues, each volume 52 issues except volume 9 which is 32 issues) 28-pages US reprints, with cover art by George Bunting (volume 3), James Bleach (v4), J&M Thomas (v5), A Graham (v6), James Cawthorn (v7), Drummond Riddell (v8), and King- Ganteaume (v9)

TARZAN: WORLD ADVENTURE LIBRARY’ (World/ Dell) May-August 1967, four 68-page issues

TV TORNADO’ (City) includes a weekly strip by artist Don Lawrence from no.1 14 January 1967-1968, then ‘TV21’ 1968-1970, and ‘TV COMIC’ 1971-1976 (Polystyle)

TARZAN OF THE APES’ (Top Sellers/ Dell) 1970 – one 36-page issue, then 1971-1975 monthly. ‘TARZAN OF THE APES’ (Top Sellers/ Dell) 1972, one 260-page issue, US reprints

TARZAN OF THE APES: SPECIAL SUPER ADVENTURE’ (Williams/ Dell) 1972 – two 52-page issues

TARZAN WEEKLY’ (Byblos) 11 June 1977, 32-page US reprints

TARZAN SPECIAL’ (Byblos) May 1978-November 1981 (ten Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter issues)

TARZAN MONTHLY’ (Byblos) 1980 (one 68-page issue), 18 February 1981-25 February 1982 (thirteen 52-page issues) US & foreign reprints

With thanks to

Thursday 11 August 2016



 Review of: 

With Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins and Samantha Morton. 
 Director: Andrew Stanton. Producer: Jim Morris, Colin Wilson and 
Lindsey Collins. Screenplay: Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews and 
Michael Chabon from the novel ‘A Princess Of Mars’ by Edgar Rice 
Burroughs’. Original Release: Disney Pictures, March 2012. 
 DVD, Disney Studios Home Entertainment, July 2012

‘One-Hundred Years In The Making’ claims the bonus DVD making-of feature. And that’s part of the problem. Watching this epic movie you could be forgiven for thinking yes, ‘Star Wars’, and yes, ‘Flash Gordon’. Which is, in actuality, a total reversal of the true situation. Edgar Rice Burroughs’ ‘A Princess Of Mars’, the 1912 novel that introduced both worlds to John Carter, was immediately much-imitated. Generations of SF-writers have drawn on his vision of flashing-swords and derring-do heroics beneath the two moons of dying Mars, from Otis Adelbert Kline through Leigh Brackett and John Norman all the way to Michael Moorcock. Alex Raymond’s vivid ‘Flash Gordon’ series set on the planet Mongo – launched as a King Features newspaper-strip in 1934 is certainly part of that tradition. While when George Lucas was storyboarding the first installments of the ‘Star Wars’ cycle he had the movie-matinee ‘Flash Gordon’ cinema-serials vey much in mind, with the intention of recreating his own sense of adolescent wonder, with the added benefit of improved special-effects. So that by the time we get to Disney’s much-hyped ‘John Carter’ (2012), much of it already seems, by default, like overdone swords-and-sorcery cliché caught in a diminishing echo.

There’s an argument that – like Peter Jackson’s ‘Lord Of The Rings’ movie-trilogy, it was not technically possible to do justice to the wide-screen vision of ‘A Princess Of Mars’ before the advent of computer-generated imagery. It could, and has been, portrayed in garish magazine-art, astounding comic-strips and comic-book editions where artists were limited only by the constraints of their imagination and skill. During the 1930’s Warner Brothers animator Bob Clampett drew test-footage, which still survives, but the project was dropped largely because ERB’s bestiary of extravagant Martian creatures seemed impossible to represent on screen. How to film six-armed Tharks or the giant Thoat mounts they ride, and give them any semblance of life? How to convincingly animate the ten-legged Banths, Apts and huge ferocious White Apes? TV Sci-Fi and Creature-Feature Drive-In Shockers have always used prosthetics and strings, miniaturisations and puppetry to achieve their shoddy ends. Film-makers such as Jon Favreau and Guillermo Del Toro toyed with the idea of using such techniques, while John ‘Jim’ Morris – working with director John McTiernan during the pre-digital late-eighties, got as far as casting Tom Cruise in the ‘John Carter’ role. But they always stopped short of visualising Barsoom. Until now. The Disney tagline promises ‘Movies, Magic and More’. Whether it delivers for John Carter is still very much open to debate.

Burroughs was not a sophisticated writer. The making-of feature uses rare recordings of Burroughs’ own voice to narrate his life-story. About how, with his career in what scripter Michael Chabon describes as a state of ‘desperate existential despair’, he began ‘slumming-it for a pay-cheque’ (Jon Favreau). Reading a selection of pulp magazines he decides ‘I was sure I could write stories just as rotten as theirs.’ But when he did, he hit an immensely lucrative mythological nerve. So would he have enjoyed this movie? My guess is that he would. He was quick to license Tarzan for all manner of multiplatform projects, from comic-strips to films, and was equally happy for production crews to inflict their own interpretations onto his creations, no matter how outrageously preposterous.

And ‘John Carter’ is, for the most part, more faithful to the original text than could reasonably be anticipated. Not that it’s without its moments of self-awareness. ‘A Princess of Mars, how about that?’ exclaims Carter at one point, ‘a princess who ran away to avoid marriage. Is that all there is to this story?’ The princess, Dejah Thoris, always was a forceful character, as far back as Burroughs’ magazine serial “Under The Moons Of Mars” which began in ‘All-Story’ (February 1912). That she’s now a scientist-warrior action-hero is no real revelation. Yet underneath, the plotline could be reduced down to Carter’s quip. The pre-credit sequence shows an aerial war fought between Helium, the city-state precariously built on a tower of Martian rock, and the lumbering steam-punk many-legged walking predator-city of Zodanga. With its traditional long-term enemy assisted by the Ninth Ray energy-weapon provided by three ‘agents of the goddess’ (the Therns), it seems Helium must fall, unless its red-Martian Princess agrees to a political marriage that will end hostilities. Initially reluctant to intervene, a brooding hard-bitten Carter – a man without a cause, cynically points out that ‘everyone thinks their cause is virtuous.’

 Writing at a time when readerships were less familiar with exploits into the fantastic, Burroughs used framing-sequences as linking devices by which his characters were introduced to the bizarre. This film does the same thing. A stuttering awkwardly-uncertain Edgar Rice Burroughs himself is present, in the shape of actor Daryl Sabara. It’s he who investigates the ‘private journals’ of his late uncle, John Carter. Telling how in 1868, Carter is a Confederate misfit in post-Civil War Arizona, traumatised by loss and bereavement, attempting to make his way as a solitary gold prospector. Forcefully ‘invited’ to join the Seventh Cavalry in action against the Apache, he escapes and flees. Played on a short fuse by Taylor Kitsch this John Carter is a darkly truculent and largely inexpressive presence, although this is used to justify the tagline ‘Lost In Our World, Found In Another’. Seeking refuge in the inner recesses of a cave he stumbles upon a Thern medallion that instantaneously transports him into otherness. In the book his transition to Mars is achieved by a kind of astral projection, here ‘he’s telegraphed as a copy of himself’. 

It’s only later, through Dejah Thoris’ diagram of a nine-planet solar system scratched into Martian sand, that he learns he’s on Mars. And the planet they call Barsoom is an ancient world of devolved races and hideous sciences. Its ‘time of oceans’ long-since passed. ‘Mars, so you name it’ drones the voice-over, ‘but you do not know Mars.’ With real-life expectations of finding organisms on the red planet receding to microbial life-forms… if that, Mars is fast-falling out of favour with film-makers. Hence dropping the ‘…Of Mars’ from the film title. The Tom Cruise remake of ‘War Of The Worlds’ (2005) even edits the alien’s Martian origins out of the plot entirely. Yet robot probes now trundling across the Martian surface indicate that there was indeed a billions-years-back time of shallow seas. And by making Carter’s interplanetary projection also a time-shift back a million years, an edge of credibility could have been retrieved. But maybe that’s to take it all too seriously. Despite the cult that’s grown up around his work, Burroughs was essentially a trashy storyteller who required only that his readers had ‘a youthful and elastic mind’, and this film continues in the tradition of outlandish yarns that he established.

Carter falls into the barbaric green hands of savage Tharks, led by Tars Tarkus (Willem Dafoe), where his feats of superhuman agility and physical strength – enabled by the planet’s lesser gravity, earn him grudging respect. Due to an initial misunderstanding Tarkus calls him ‘Virginia’. The desolate desert Mars-scapes of ruined cities is an eye-ripping spectacle, impressively rendered as Carter rescues a fleeing Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) as her radium-powered ship comes under attack by a pursuing Zodangan warship under the control of her suitor Sab Than (Dominic West). She finds the lost Earthman’s tales of ocean-going ships as fantastic as he finds her ships that glide on light. Warily, Carter and Dejah Thoris, with Sola (Samantha Morton) and his faithful Woola – more of a cute slobbery reptilian-dog here than in the novels, quest along the sacred river Iss to locate a way back home. Then, taken to Helium itself he’s assisted by a personable Kantos Kan (James Purefoy). And through the ensuing knuckle-gobbling adventures the previously dour Carter not only finds love, but rediscovers the sense of purpose he’d lost on Earth. He ‘finds his true home.’ The climax scene in which he’s sentenced to battle two four-armed Great White Apes in the arena alongside a deposed Tars Tarkus, had unfortunately been trailored by a similar sequence in ‘Star Wars: Attack Of The Clones’ (2002), but is sufficiently generic to stand in its own right. Victorious, he erupts up through the monster corpse drenched in the White Ape’s blue blood. To lead the Thark horde in a spectacular battle against treacherous Zodanga even as the fatal marriage commences.

If ‘John Carter’ was intended to be the first of a movie-series, its poor box-office performance means this will not now happen. Despite the long-tail ongoing profits generated from Blu-ray/DVD-sales and endless small-screen reruns to come, in which it will surely be better-valued. That’s unfortunate because – as with the prematurely truncated ‘Narnia’ films, there are not only Barsoom books aplenty left to film, but a closing sequence of ‘A Princess Of Mars’ itself is excluded – relating to unlocking the atmosphere machine. Instead, the role of the controlling sapphire-eyed Therns is ramped up, explaining ‘we don’t cause the destruction of the world, Captain Carter, we simply manage it, feed off it, if you like.’ Their influence extending across the gulf of space to Earth, to where Carter is unwillingly returned.

Carter then narrates how he becomes a kind of Indiana Jones scouring ancient sites of the world for evidence of all-powerful Thern intervention in terrestrial history. The framing-sequence resumes as ER ‘Ned’ Burroughs opens up his uncle’s Poe-like tomb, to find it empty, and his faked death a ruse intended to lure the shape-shifting Therns out of disguise, enabling him to return to Dejah Thoris and resume his role as Warlord of Helium. The inscription above his tomb – ‘Inter Mundos’, translates as ‘between worlds’. And before returning to Mars, John Carter instructs his nervous nephew to document the ‘most wondrous stories’ of his full transplanetary trip, bringing it all full-circle. The tale we are watching onscreen is taken from the text he subsequently wrote. One hundred years after he wrote it. So, this is a film one-hundred years in the making. And maybe that’s part of the problem…?



JOHN CARTERWalt Disney Pictures. Director: Andrew Stanton. Producer: Jim Morris, Colin Wilson, Lindsey Collins. Screenplay: Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon from the novel ‘A Princess Of Mars’ by Edgar Rice Burroughs’. With Taylor Kitsch (as John Carter), Lynn Collins (as Dejah Thoris), Samantha Morton (as Sola), Willem Dafoe (as Tars Tarkas), Thomas Haden Church (as Tal Hajus), Mark Strong (as Matai Shang), Ciaran Hinds (as Tardos Mors), Dominic West (as Sab Than), James Purefoy (as Kantos Kan), Bryan Cranston (as Powell), Polly Walker (as Sarkoja), and Daryl Sabara (as Edgar Rice Burroughs). Music: Michael Giacchino. 127-minutes. ‘Dedicated to the memory of Steve Jobs.’ Original Release: Disney Pictures, 9 March 2012 (USA). DVD, Disney Studios Home Entertainment, July 2012

Published in:
‘THE SUPPLEMENT Issue 69’ (UK – April 2014)

Sunday 7 August 2016

Edgar Rice Burroughs: 'PELLUCIDAR'


Fantastic landscapes exist 500 miles beneath 
our feet, in the ‘eternal minute of timeless Pellucidar’. 
With Edgar Rice Burroughs, the fictional amputation from 
 reality is absolute. But when he also provides access points 
into his realms of extravagant dream… 
 where exactly does the dream end?

 in the first place please bear in mind 
that I do not expect you to believe this story... (1) 

My name is Andrew John Darlington. I grew through the usual turbulences of adolescence in the city of Hull on the North-East coast of Yorkshire. In those distant late-1950’s years Hull was a busy port thronging with the import and export of often exotic trade goods from all corners of what it was still possible to refer to as ‘the Empire’. And it was here, while apprenticed and undergoing tuition in the finer points of the Print and Reprographics Trade, that I first came into possession of the documents discussed below. I found them secreted in an almost casual and serendipitous manner within the confused arcania of an ancient bookshop, where they had no doubt been deposited by a previous initiate. And these texts were to lead me down eccentric pathways in a confusion of myth, adventure, and deliberate mystification, exerting a strange fascination on my juvenile mind. One that continues to engage my imagination years, and indeed decades later. Exploits that stretch the credulity to, and beyond the very limits of rational comprehension, yet which invite repeated excursions into the fantastical landscapes they depict…

...excuse my self-indulgence.

But Burroughs – Edgar Rice rather that William S, frequently avails himself of a ‘framing narrative’ device along the lines I’ve attempted to replicate here, to create a threshold into his extravagant fictions. They provide an introductory pre-credit sequence explaining how the manuscript he invites you to evaluate came into his possession. He might do it through his own persona, or at least through an ersatz-Burroughs posed as a fabricated self-portrait, or perhaps through the guise of an academic or an acquaintance of the narrative’s protagonist. Through this baffle of masks he can add confirming detail designed to reinforce the illusion that at least some elements of the story you are about to read, are real. 

In addition, they serve the extra purpose of velcroing Burroughs’ diverse worlds into some kind of attempted continuity, the framing details of ‘The Pirates Of Venus’ (1934), for example, name-drop David Innes and Pellucidar, as ‘The Moon Maid’ (1926) similarly links into the Martian story-cycle. The Edgar Rice Burroughs accredited on the book-jacket, the framing device says, is one of us. He’s a reader, a consumer, rather than a fantasist. He doesn’t construct these stories from the stuff of dreams. Nothing as simple as that. No – he is merely a ‘Middle Man’ in the fortunate position of acquiring this information on our behalf. He just opens the window onto these strange worlds, then passes the view on to us for our entertainment and edification.

Of course, readers of the early Twenty-First Century no longer need such elaborate preparation. We’re already pre-programmed to switch perspectives and immerse in fictional fantasias as easily as we hop TV channels from one unreality to another. So the framing device has largely fallen from favour among writers – unless used in the form of a deliberately archaic pastiche designed to create period ‘atmosphere’. But it was by no means unusual in Burroughs’ time. Used as an intermediate phase, a buffer zone, or an interface between the dull reality the reader is forced to inhabit, and the outrageously exotic worlds of deep subterranean Pellucidar, the arid plains of Barsoom lit by the pale moons of Mars, or the jungles that lie beneath the dense cloud layers of Venusian Amtor. A fictional departure lounge for flights into realms where the drag of rational morés no longer prevail. It’s a method of artful distancing by interposing the teasing concept that just possibly this is not mere fanciful fiction – but a retrieved document deserving at least some of our attention.

The ‘manuscript’ that comprises David Innes first trip to Pellucidar, ‘At The Earth’s Core’, was completed in February 1913. It was published soon after in the April 1914 issue of ‘All-Story’ magazine. But Walter Gillings, SF activist and editor of one of Britain’s pioneering SF pulps (‘Tales Of Wonder’), first discovered the primordial world at the hollow centre of the Earth in 1928, serialised in the two-penny weekly ‘Puck’ magazine, and ‘the notion of a primeval domain deep in the Earth’s interior where intelligent reptiles kept human beings enslaved, and even found them good eating, seized my ten-year-old imagination.’ Gillings experience is not untypical. Among SF myth-merchants Edgar Rice Burroughs holds a unique place as catalyst of dreams for probably more subsequent addicts than anyone else. And his domain beneath the Earth’s crust is a powerful lure.

‘Pellucidar, as every schoolboy knows, is a world within a world, lying, as it does, upon the inner surface of the hollow sphere which is the Earth’ (4), and because its geography conforms to the inner contours of the planet, Pellucidar’s horizon rises panoramically ever-upwards, rather than vanishing below the curve of vision as we experience it here, upon the dull limitations of the ‘outer crust’. But this ‘inner world’ has its own sun, and even a moon, the ‘Pendent World’ which casts a permanent twilight over an area known as the Land of Awful Shadow.

Innes, a thirty-year old Connecticut-born adventurer, is a regular Burroughs’ hero, capable of modestly boasting of a physique that has always ‘been the envy and despair of my fellows’. On Barsoom, John Carter uses his similarly impressive physical endowments to protect his Martian Princess, Dejah Thoris. Within that Inner World, David Innes discovers Dian the Beautiful of the tribe of Amoz, who dwell in the cliffs above the Darel Az, or Shallow Sea. And his missions to attain, protect, or return to her take him through savage countries of monsters, part invention and part-prehistoric. Here there be Dinosaurs, Sagoths, Mastodons, Tarags (sabre-toothed tigers), bull-like Bos, Dyals, and Thipdars (pterodactyls), a mix of evolutionary fossils and primitives.

But there’s also the ‘dominant race of Pellucidar’ the winged all-female Mahar who so repulse and intrigue the ten-year-old Walter Gillings. They are remnants of the ‘rhamphorhynchus of the Middle Olitic’ who communicate in a sixth-sense fourth-dimensional language, and who rule ‘all that walks or grows upon its (Pellucidar’s) surface, or creeps or burrows beneath, or swims within its lakes and oceans, or flies through its air.’ Abner Perry – ‘loveable old inventor and palaeontologist’ and Innes’ scientific companion, explains that these are all species which, ‘roamed the outer crust with the cave bear and the mammoth ages and ages ago. We have been carried back a million years, David, to the childhood of a planet – is it not wondrous?’ And yes, wondrous it is.

If Mars is Burroughs depiction of a cruel and decadent senility, antique and perverse, Pellucidar is his New World, untainted by the corruptions of experience, in which all future possibilities co-exist. He wrote seven books located there, from ‘At The Earth’ Core’ (1914) to the posthumously-published ‘Savage Pellucidar’ (1963). And they form what is probably his most beautifully outrageous and imaginatively ambitious story-cycle. Yet all seven happen in the same long Pellucidarian day, ‘the same day upon which I broke through the Earth’s crust from the outer world thirty-six years before... the same day and hour that this world was born, the same day and hour that would see its death, the eternal day, the eternal hour, the eternal minute of Pellucidar’ (6). For the sun does not move in the Pellucidar sky. Hence there is no succession of night and day. And because there’s no night and day, according to Burroughs’ rather dubious reasoning, there is no time. Although ‘time passed, as it must even in a timeless world’ time in its absolute sense is abolished, allowing all manner of odd temporal phenomena to occur. The least of which is David Innes’ immunity to the effects of ageing as he would have experienced it on the outer crust. Giving him virtual immortality.

There is nudity, and near-nakedness too. Dian the Beautiful is ‘naked, but for the most sketchy loin cloth’(6). While the other girls of Pellucidar are ‘slender, well-formed, and quite good-looking. Their only clothing consisting of scanty loin cloths’ (5). Jana, the Red Flower of Zoram is slightly more explicitly described, ‘her single soft garment... whipped about her naked legs, half revealing, half concealing the rounded charms of her girlish figure’ (4). These descriptions supply only the slightest of allusions to naked breasts proudly bared to the warm Pellucidarian air, but the mental image for a 1930’s youth must have been indelibly planted. As it was for me, in the 1950’s. Just as the perversely erotic image of Barsoomian maid Thuvia who spends fifteen years as the naked ‘plaything and slave’ of the White Martians in Burroughs’ John Carter story-cycle must have led to prurient adolescent imaginings of a more graphically salacious nature.

But casual nudity is all part of Burroughs’ idealisation of simpler life-styles, values he sees as untainted by the corrupting influence of intellect or suspect ‘civilising morality’. He claims ‘the principal difference between the people of the Old Stage Age and those of modern-day civilisation seem to lie in the matter of inhibition.’ Implying that in Pellucidar they don’t bother with such stultifying affectations. And are better for it. ‘The human race of the Outer Crust had deteriorated rather than improved with the march of the ages.’ Burroughs, through the eyes of David Innes and Abner Perry, compares ‘the standards of effete Twentieth-Century civilisation’ (1) unfavourably with the primitive nobility of Tarzan’s quasi-religious awe of nature. We, of the then-Twentieth Century are enveloped by ‘the thin veneer with which civilisation conceals but does not eradicate primal instincts’ (4).

And in Pellucidar David Innes is allowed to ‘slough practically the entire veneer of civilisation that it had taken generations to develop, and slip back perhaps a hundred thousand years...’(5)

Now he springs ‘like the beast of prey that man really is’


‘read it yourself and see if you, too, 
do not find food for frantic conjecture…’ 

There had been previous stories set in similar worlds underground. As a refuge for wild imaginings, the ground beneath our feet has unsurprisingly proved less enticing than what lies beyond the sky. And less so as the century has progressed. But there’s nevertheless a rich literary and pseudo-literary vein of ‘Chthonian’ fiction – that is, stories set within the Earth’s ‘bowels’. It’s possible to look back to Jules Verne’s ‘Voyage Au Centre De La Terre (Journey To The Centre Of The Earth)’ (1863), and to the fictional voyage of one Niels Klim for precedents. To sniff around suggestions made by Edgar Allen Poe about holes located at the Polar regions which give access to the Hollow Earth. Just as it’s possible to fast-forward into Barrington J Bayley’s mind-mulching novelette ‘The Radius Riders’ (in ‘SF Adventures no.27’, July 1962) resurrecting the long-neglected boring machine as well as Burroughs’ ideas about the time-distorting effects of subterranean travel. Or even Arthur C Clarke’s short story “The Fires Below” (1949) which imagines species and civilisations existing beneath the Earth’s crust. But it’s just as convenient to buy Brian Aldiss’ view of hard-pressed fantasists who, when ‘hard up for secret worlds... find them under the Earth, in a puddle, in an atom, up in the attic, down in the cellar, or in the left eyeball...’ Aldiss goes on to quote examples of each.

But tenacious adherents of the ‘Hollow Earth’ theory persist, surviving in obscure Fortean X-Files on the outer rim of extremist weirdness. Nineteenth Century American writer Captain John Cleves Symmes believed the Earth to be constructed of no less than five hollow concentric spheres with space between each, habitable on all of the resulting convex and concave surfaces. According to Symmes there are also countersunk holes at the top and bottom of the world amid ice-free polar seas, which allow access to these inner domains. Stranger still is the fact that Symmes’ petition to the US Congress to sanction a voyage testing out his theories received no less than twenty-five affirmative votes! Or that Adolf Hitler, fascinated by arcane Aryan mystic theories, mounted a Nazi expedition to also investigate its possibility.

Meanwhile, Captain Adam Seaborn (who may have been a Symmes alias) wrote ‘Symzonia: A Voyage Of Discovery’ in which he sails a ship through the South Polar opening in 1820 to discover a utilitarian utopia ruled by a ‘Best Man’ where poverty and greed are unknown. But even he’d been anticipated by Danish writer Baron Ludwig Holberg’s ‘The Subterranean Journey Of Niels Klim (The Journey Of Niels Klim To The World Underground)’ (1741) which out-fantasies Burroughs Pellucidar in depicting an entire planetary system – with a miniature sun orbited by miniature planets, located inside the hollow centre of the Earth. In this charming fantasy Holberg’s hero Nicholas Klimius is carried by a giant bird to the inner planet Nazar where he meets human-headed trees.

There are, inevitably, other tales of subterranean derring-do – both before and after Burroughs. Examples would have to include Bulwer Lytton’s ‘The Coming Race’ (1871), and William R Bradshaw’s ‘Atvatabar: Being The History Of The Interior World And Conquest Of Atvatabar’ (1892), through to A Hyatt Verrill’s ‘The Voice From The Inner World’ (1927) and Edmond Hamilton’s ‘The Hidden World’ (1929) which envisages exploits on an inhabited 3000-mile diameter sphere within the Earth’s outer shell. And they all happened before the Cavern-Worlds of the Shaver Mysteries which became major cult material through post-war issues of ‘Amazing Stories’. Then there’s the prolific John Russell Fearn who not only uses a mechanical mole, but even calls his 1938 story “Through the Earth’s Core”.

But Burroughs does form an important watershed in ‘Inner World’ fictions. Because ERB is not didactic. Unlike Captain Adam Seaborn and his other predecessors he doesn’t create loopy imaginary worlds as utopian blueprints for moral lessons. He writes for fun. Burroughs is not concerned with facts. And he has nothing whatsoever to do with realism. In his worlds, semi-naked women battle side-by-side with their mighty-thewed sword-wielding mates in domains of wonder, because that makes for entertaining escapism. Heroism may be difficult in the dreary everyday world. Not so Mars, Venus – or Pellucidar. His Inner World tales are ‘remarkable adventures which parallel fairly closely the crises, hairbreadth escapes, and cliff-hangers of (John) Carter and Tarzan. Only the cliffs are different’ as Brian Aldiss succinctly observes.

Another ERB-ian story-cycle is set within a hollow world located inside Earth’s moon. That could possibly relate to HG Wells’ similarly sub-Lunarian Selenites of ‘First Men In The Moon’ (1901), but more likely it’s just Burroughs transposing his penchant for Lost Valleys and Forgotten Civilisations into fresh locales. As though he’s working through a roster of potential venues. How long before John Carter discovers the inhabited interior of Barsoom? Or Carson Napier adventures to hidden civilisations beneath the crust of Venus? Perhaps all the worlds of the Solar System are not solid planetary bodies at all, but thin-skinned bubbles of double-sided habitation?

the more civilised people become, the more deadly 
are the inventions with which they kill each other...(7) 

Burroughs garish tales always offered themselves up for easy visual adaptation. As early as January 1929 Tarzan had become not only a Movie star but a newspaper comic-strip serial too. And Pellucidar was also destined to cross over into both media. ‘Hi-Spot Comics no.2’ (November 1940) features a ‘David Innes of Pellucidar’ picture-strip illustrated by ERB’s own youngest son John Coleman Burroughs. The cover misleadingly displays an Earth impaled by a ‘borer’ like an arrow through an apple! Later ‘Tarzan At The Earth’s Core’ is fairly accurately serialised in the British ‘Tarzan Adventures’ (Vol.8 No.44 in January 1959), a weekly comic edited by the teenage Michael Moorcock whose job it was to adapt and re-ink dialogue continuity for the frames, which originated in American newspaper strips.

An unpretentious and rather poor 1976 movie followed, starring the two-fisted Doug McLure and absent-minded Professor Peter Cushing, aided and abetted by Cy Grant and Caroline Munroe. But although based on ‘At The Earth’s Core’, it totally misses out on the sheer scale of Burroughs’ creation. Innes’ party, as Burroughs depicts, use an out-of-control ‘Mechanical Subterranean Prospector’ – a hundred-foot long ‘land submarine’ boring machine to penetrate five-hundred miles through the stratum of the Earth’s crust. Here they find themselves in huge subterranean grottoes menaced by, and eventually defeating the Mahars, scientific winged reptiles in ancient underground cities with their slave race, the ape-ish Sagoths.

But as Burroughs describes the ‘buried world of Pellucidar’ it is much much more than that. It is made up of no less than ‘one hundred and twenty-four million square miles of land surface’. And because the ratio of ocean to land is reversed, there is actually a greater surface area within the world than there is outside it. Similarly, the text used as base material for the movie covers only the first part of Innes’ epic adventures. For the scope for fantastic adventure is limitless. After a brief return to the surface at the climax of the novel, Innes re-emerges into Pellucidar far from his original location, and then has to find his way back to Sari where Dian the Beautiful and Abner Perry await him. And where, by the end of the second novel, Innes has become Emperor of Pellucidar.

As with the Martian cycle, once Burroughs has established the characters and basic premise with the initial novels (‘At The Earth’s Core’ and ‘Pellucidar’), he then shifts the focus away to other plotlines following secondary heroes and heroines. After a thirteen-year pause he resumes the Inner World mythology with the adventures of Tanar and Stellara whose travels bring them into conflict with the Cid, leader of the Korsar pirates, originally ‘Corsairs’ from the Outer world. Tanar’s story is picked up (through the ‘framing sequence’) by Jason Gridley – inventor of the ‘Gridley Wave’ communication system, through which he also discovers that David Innes is being held prisoner by those same vile Korsars. Gridley then determines to escape the restrictions of being a mere name in the prologue (of both Martian and Pellucidar novels), to become a protagonist in his own right. But not before first enlisting the aid of the mighty Tarzan himself!

‘Tarzan At The Earth’s Core’ is the consequence, originally available in Britain through Methuen’s ‘Sixpenny’ paperback series (no.22), with no cover illustration – just title, author, and blue-and-white Kingfisher logo. And it’s the first Burroughs’ novel to make use of Symmes idea, already alluded to by Poe, of Polar openings to the inner world. Burroughs gives more exact dimensions. The opening is 85 North latitude, 170 East longitude. And his fictional crew ‘fly out across the frozen polar wastes to the opening to Pellucidar’ using the 0.220, a 75 ton cigar-shaped airship, 997ft long and 150ft in diameter, buoyed up by vacuum-chambers made from Harbenite from the Wiramwazi Mountains. Burroughs ducks further explanation with a convenient ‘it is not my intention to weary you with a recital of the details of the organisation and equipment of the Pellucidarian expedition.’

But the crew consists of Tarzan, Jason Gridley of Tarzana, the incongruous warriors of the Waziri tribesmen, plus Captain Zuppner, Von Horst and Lieutenant Dorf from the German Imperial Air Force. Once within Pellucidar, in some of Burroughs’ most complex plotting, chapters alternate as Tarzan is captured by Sagoths who, he discovers, speak the universal ‘language of the apes’ of the outer crust. Burroughs seems to be suggesting that such creatures are ‘pioneers upon the frontiers of humanity’, a further evolutionary link between both inner and outer worlds.

While Gridley’s aeroplane flight is abruptly ended by a predatory pteranodon, after which he meets Jana, the Red Flower of Zoram with full use of Classical allusion – ‘Odysseus never met a more potent Circe’. The novel’s basic structure is typical of Burroughs’ simple plotting with regular encounters with Snake-men riding lizard mounts, a flying stegosaurus gliding on its spiny armour, and passage through the Forest of Death. But it is more fully and reflectively developed. Jana and Jason have the routine romantic misunderstanding, but Burroughs’ illustrates their social differences with wryly satiric sequences attacking the manners and pretensions of American womanhood. While Tarzan, eating raw meat, recalls a ‘fussy old nobleman with whom he had once dined at a London Club who almost suffered a stroke of apoplexy because his bird had been slightly underdone.’

As ‘Back To The Stone Age’ opens, Von Horst has been abandoned to his fate when Jason Gridley and the 0.220 return safely to the Outer Crust through the hole at the pole. A further sequence of adventures for the young German inevitably follows. He succeeds in rescuing Dangar from a Trodon’s nest by butchering one its fledgling young and cutting its reptilian skin into a ‘rope’. Then there’s an Androcles-&-The-Lion-variant in which ‘Old White’ the killer mammoth helps Von Horst to escape the Little Canyon arena of the Mammoth-Men after he’d earlier drawn stakes from its feet. An outcome hardly unexpected by the reader, and well-signalled by Burroughs. Von Horst also rescues Skruf from a hyaenodon. And similarly, with a name like ‘Skruf’ of the dubiously named Basti tribe you know in advance that deviousness is to be expected. Then there is Trog. A race of Minotaurs. The cannibalistic Gorbuses – fanged albino’s of limited memory-spans with their myths of coming from the ‘outer world’. And the Ganak Bison-Men. ‘In Pellucidar’ the hero muses ‘I shall never die of ennui.’ Innes, now free of the Korsars, last encounters Von Horst as the contented chief of the Lo-Har, with a predictably beautiful mate called La-Ja.

‘Land Of Terror’ – which uniquely appeared only in book form, and is consequently one of the rarest Burroughs novels, is narrated in the first person by David Innes. The Emperor of Pellucidar is now travelling home from Lo-Har, straight into a new series of strange encounters. He’s captured by Jukans – an odd race prone to unpredictable madness and equally sporadic memory lapses, an element that ERB captures well. However, Burroughs is himself perhaps afflicted by their qualities as his portrayal of their society grows and develops inconsistently, as though it expands to encompass the vagaries of Innes’ predicament. The Jukan settlement is first ‘a crudely palisaded village that stood in a small clearing’. He’s taken to the palace of King Meeza – ‘a low rambling crazy-looking structure’. Later, as Innes escapes and looks for a secret passage to the exterior the village has become ‘a city’, while the Palace is now ‘a village to itself’ which ‘must have covered several acres of ground’. While fictional unlikelihoods multiply all around him. Recaptured, Innes is locked into what he at first assumes to be a cell, but no, feeling around in the darkness he discovers... not only a corridor that first leads him to where Dian the Beautiful is held, but also the elusive secret exit to the exterior!

The final book in the ‘Inner World’ series, ‘Savage Pellucidar’, is a compilation of uncollected tales, including one published posthumously. But it goes some way towards redeeming the glaring inadequacies of the two preceding volumes. During David Innes’ absence Abner Perry has created the Sarian Navy to ‘spread civilisation and sudden death to an extent that amazed the natives.’ He then works on ‘trying to perfect poison gas’ which he claims will ‘do even more to bring civilisation to the Old Stone Age’(!). But despite Innes’ assurances that ‘Perry’s plans for slaughter were purely academic’, and that he was ‘a theoretician, pure and simple’, his morally suspect devices do succeed in becoming instrumental in the adventures of two of Burroughs’ most delightful creations. There’s the strong-willed resourceful O-aa, whose penchant for exaggeration propels her into increasingly bizarre predicaments, including being mistaken for the ‘Noada’ – or priestess of the bronze-age Tanga-tanga culture. And the cantankerous Ah-Gilak – ‘the old man from Cape Cod whose name was not Dolly Dorcas’, a shipwrecked Outer World Ancient Mariner, whose extreme survival methods have given him a cannibalistic taste for human flesh (especially Swedes!). His creepy intentions towards O-aa are less lustful, more culinary! Following Perry’s experiments with aircraft, and the hot-air balloon made of dinosaur-peritonea that transports O-aa into adventure, the Pellucidar saga closes with ‘already, mentally, he was inventing a submarine….’

There is no world within a world. Pellucidar is 
but a realm of your imagination. Nothing more (2) 

Jason Gridley begins as the passive recipient of messages from Barsoom and Pellucidar. But, learning of David Innes’ predicament, he crosses over to become an active protagonist in his rescue. Just as Ulysses Paxton first reads Edgar Rice Burroughs pulp novel ‘A Princess Of Mars’ (1912) as an ordinary consumer, just like you and I. ‘The story made a profound impression upon me, and while my better judgement assured me that it was but a highly imaginative piece of fiction, a suggestion of the veracity of it pervades my inner consciousness’ (framing narrative to ‘Master Mind Of Mars’, 1928). Paxton becomes fascinated by the book. Obsessed. So that later he’s able to travel to Mars by mystical means in conscious imitation of John Carter, and be subsumed into that same cascade of wonderful adventure. The subtext is obvious. Gridley and Paxton did it. So can you. Dream – if it’s done intensely enough, can be a powerful force. Burroughs even provides the fictional departure lounge…

But dream is also irrational. And sometimes dangerous. It’s unreasonable to expect such lavish confections to conform to current social etiquette, any more than – say, Burroughs Mars should relate to the real scientific Mars you can see through the telescope. Unfortunately, when Burroughs was writing, Political Correctness was a long long way in the future. He could hardly be expected to be guided its principles. And, as not only an unintellectual – but a relentlessly anti-intellectual writer, it would equally be highly unrealistic to expect him to anticipate modern social sensitivities. Anyway, things were different then, weren’t they? At least they seemed to be. And as a result, some of his racial caricatures now seem offensively distasteful.

Robert Jones is the black cook aboard the 0.220 airship who exclaims ‘Lawd niggah! you all suah done overslep yo’sef’ and ‘Dem niggahs is sho nuf hot babies’. Yet it could be argued that this black-face Negro patois is objectively no more offensive that Burroughs’ equally crude attempt at imitating Cockney speech-patterns in his Caprona trilogy. And, unless you argue that Tarzan himself is a White Supremacist symbol, then Burroughs treats his Waziri warriors as a noble and admirable people. Indeed it is the purity of their culture that is threatened by ‘the atrocities with which (white) man scars the face of nature.’

He’s on less sure footing with his regard to the treatment of women. Burroughs displays a typically pre-Feminist dualism in that he idealises them, yet simultaneously places them within a strictly defined social context. His are gender relationships that echo images of a more innocent age. In ‘Tarzan And The Ant Men’ (1924) the jungle-lord encounters the ape-like Alali, a matriarchal tribe where males are subjugated. Tarzan’s example provokes violent social change, after which the females not only become submissive and obedient to their mates, but prefer it that way! But Burroughs’ women, perhaps atypically of the time, can be warriors and active participants in the action. On Mars ‘when the necessity arises (women) fight with even greater intelligence and ferocity than the men.’ And Burroughs is capable of operating on a number of different levels where gender politics are debated.

‘Who is Jubal the Ugly? And why did you run away from him?’ asks David Innes. ‘Why DOES a woman run away from a man?’ answers Dian, in tones that to the sexual sensitivities of the 1990’s would imply the threat of rape and abuse.

But ‘they do not (run away) where I come from. Sometimes they run AFTER them’ replies Innes, shifting the issue into another perspective of predatory marriage-hungry women (1). An attitude he provocatively satirises later in a comment on women, and marriage customs on the Outer Crust – ‘marriage to them meant a struggle for supremacy. It was a 50-50 proposition of their own devising – they took fifty and demanded the other fifty’ (5). Then Innes is captured by the Terrible Bearded Warrior-Women of Oog. In ERB’s tradition of appropriate nomenclature, one of them is called Rhump! But this reversal of traditional gender-roles allows Burroughs to muse that ‘one of the sexes must rule; and man seems temperamentally better fitted for the job than women.’ The brutality of the Oog he sees as proof that ‘we should see that they (women) remain always subservient to men, whose overlordship is, more often than not, tempered by gentleness and sympathy’ (5).

In his defence – if defence is needed, Burroughs does write with savage eloquence castigating the rapacious environmental damage done by modern technological society, its part in the genocidal extermination of species, and eventually to global ecological disaster (particularly in ‘Tarzan At The Earth’s Core’). But that’s largely part of his romantic illusion of primitive virtue contrasted with the ‘weaknesses, vices, hypocrisies and little vanities’ of the civilised world. For in truth, with Edgar Rice Burroughs the reader is never seriously called upon to think. With Burroughs, the amputation from reality is absolute. His stories are fabulous. In the exact sense of that overworked word. To Sam Moskowitz, writing in ‘Science Fantasy no.41’, fantastic worlds such as Pellucidar are ‘literally a transcription on paper of daydreams engaged in by the author to divorce himself from the cold failures of his everyday life. Coupled with his born gift of story-telling, the same fantasies were to act as an opiate, to make more bearable the problems of others.’

Excuse my self-indulgence, but I’m inclined to agree.

That which has never come within the scope of our really pitifully 
 meagre world-experience cannot be – our finite minds cannot 
 grasp that which may not exist in accordance with the conditions 
 which obtain about us upon the outside of the insignificant grain 
 of dust which wends its tiny way among the boulders of the 
 universe – the speck of moist dirt we so proudly call the world…’ 


(1) ‘AT THE EARTH’S CORE’ (‘All-Story Magazine’ 4 April to 25 April 1914, first book publication 1922)

(2) ‘PELLUCIDAR (BEING THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF DAVID INNES IN THE LAND UNDERNEATH THE EARTH’S CRUST)’ (‘All-Story Cavalier’ 1 to 29 May 1915, first US book publication 1923, first UK edition 29 May 1924)

(3) ‘TANAR OF PELLUCIDAR’ (‘Blue Book’ March to August 1929, first hardback edition 1930, UK edition 19 January 1939)

(4) ‘TARZAN AT THE EARTH’S CORE’ (‘Blue Book’ Sept 1929 to March 1930, first hardback edition 1930)

(5) ‘BACK TO THE STONE AGE, A ROMANCE OF THE INNER WORLD’ (formerly ‘SEVEN WORLDS TO CONQUER) (‘Argosy’ 9 Jan to 13 Feb 1937, first hardback edition 1937)

(6) ‘LAND OF TERROR’ (First hardback edition 1944)

(7) ‘SAVAGE PELLUCIDAR’ consists of: ‘The Return of Pellucidar’ (‘Amazing Stories’ Feb 1942), ‘Men of the Bronze Age’ (‘Amazing Stories’ March 1942), ‘Tiger Girl’ (‘Amazing Stories’ April 1942), and ‘Savage Pellucidar’ (‘Amazing Stories’ November 1963), first hardback edition 1963, Ace paperback edition with art by Frank Frazetta 1963) All subsequently republished in various book editions from Tandem-Universal, Ace, Methuen, WH Allen-Pinnacle etc

Two subsequent novels were authorised by the Burroughs Estate and written by John Eric Holmes, ‘Mahars Of Pellucidar’ published in 1976, the second – ‘Red Axe Of Pellucidar’ was disputed, and independently published in 1993

 Other sources used while researching this feature include ‘EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS: THE MAN WHO CREATED TARZAN’ by IRWIN PORGES (Ballantine Books - 1975), ‘EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS: MASTER OF ADVENTURE’ by RICHARD A LUPOFF (Ace Books - 1965)