Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Tarzan 101 | The Beasts of Tarzan

Celebrating Tarzan's 101st anniversary by walking through Scott Tracy Griffin's Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration.

The Beasts of Tarzan completes what I like to think of as Burroughs' Tarzan Trilogy. Spoilers for the first two books in the rest of this paragraph, but Tarzan of the Apes details Tarzan's meeting Jane and ends with their being separated. In The Return of Tarzan, he makes up his mind to fight for her and marries her by the end.

In The Beasts of Tarzan, the couple has a newborn son, Jack, who is kidnapped by Tarzan's arch-enemy from Return of Tarzan, Nikolas Rokoff. Tarzan and Jane soon also fall into Rokoff's hands and Tarzan is abandoned on an island, knowing that Rokoff plans to sell Jack to a tribe of cannibals to be raised by them.

Of course, Rokoff's mistake is leaving Tarzan in the jungle, island or no island. The ape man puts together a super-team of apes, a panther, and an African warrior and escapes the island. The team's hunt for Rokoff and Tarzan's family is edge-of-your-seat exciting, made even cooler by Jane's showing some badass tendencies herself.

The reason I think of the first three books as a trilogy is that after Beasts, it's obvious that Burroughs is struggling for a way to continue the series. He eventually figures it out, but it takes him a few books to do that. More on that next week.

Thinking about The Beasts of Tarzan, I don't remember Tarzan's jungle estate appearing in the book. That made me wonder about its and Jack's appearance in The Eternal Lover. In my post on The Return of Tarzan, I called Eternal Lover the first appearance of both the estate and Jack, but if the estate existed in Beasts, I'd expect at least a mention. Turns out, I (by which I mean, Griffin) was right about the first appearance, but I misunderstood what that meant.

Eternal Lover was published in the 7 March 1914 issue of All-Story; Beasts began in the May 16 issue that same year. So Lover was the first published appearance of Jack and the estate, but that doesn't mean it's the first appearance of Jack from the standpoint of story chronology. I haven't read Lover, so I don't know if it mentions Jack's age, but it's possible that Beasts takes place before Lover, even though Lover was published first.

In trying to figure all that out, I discovered that the relationship between Eternal Lover and Burroughs' The Mad King is a little more complicated than Griffin makes it out to be. Griffin calls Eternal Lover "a sequel to Burroughs' romance, The Mad King," but according to Wikipedia, the two novels were published more or less simultaneously and Eternal Lover takes place chronologically between the first and second halves of Mad King. If I were reading them, I'd do Eternal Lover first.

As usual, Griffin includes a chapter after Beasts of Tarzan on a topic related to the novel. This time it's on the mangani, the specific race of apes that Burroughs created to raise Tarzan. Despite how they're usually portrayed in adaptations, Burroughs always acknowledged that his version of Africa was a fantasy version and that included Tarzan's apes, who are sort of a cross between chimpanzees and gorillas, but more intelligent than either. Burroughs apparently based the mangani on actual legends of super-intelligent apes, and Griffin talks about how those tales may possibly be connected to a recently discovered group of chimpanzees in the northern Congo forest of Bili. The Bili apes are human-sized, share some behavior with gorillas (like tree-drumming and ground-nesting), and aren't afraid of predators.

(Image via Ray Alex Web)

Monday, February 25, 2013

A dark and stormy night

Still working on getting the Kill All Monsters Kickstarter ready, but that's a joint effort that's required the juggling of multiple people's schedules. Meaning that I've been able to squeeze in some actual writing here and there. I've finished my re-write of the next-to-last chapter of KAM and with any luck I'll be done with the whole thing by this time next week.

The new thing I did last week though was to finish up a short story for a comic anthology. Don't wanna say more until it's been approved, but it's a thriller and (as the title of this post suggests) takes place in an isolated, old mansion on a dark and stormy night. I like how it turned out, so fingers crossed that the editor will too.

(Image via Papergreat)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Tarzan 101 | The Return of Tarzan

Celebrating Tarzan's 101st anniversary by walking through Scott Tracy Griffin's Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration.

Griffin's summary of the plot of The Return of Tarzan isn't as detailed or spoiler-filled as the one for Tarzan of the Apes, which is a good thing. As we get deeper into the series, I'm going to know less and less about these stories, so I'm glad to have brief teasers instead of complete summaries.

Besides, what I most appreciate about Griffin's book is the history and commentary and there's plenty of that for Return. For instance, I never would have guessed that Burroughs didn't end Tarzan of the Apes with a sequel already in mind. It ends on a what I've always thought of as a severe cliffhanger, but Burroughs was actually skeptical about doing a sequel and had to be talked into it by his editor at All-Story.

Thinking about that ending again though, I realize that it's only a cliffhanger if you're familiar with Tarzan's story. Tarzan of the Apes ends without a major element of the Tarzan story in place, but if you didn't know to expect that element, that wouldn't bother you. In fact, from that perspective Tarzan of the Apes ends beautifully and perfectly. I can see why Burroughs was reluctant to mess with it.

I'm glad he did though, because Return of Tarzan is a great book, from its opening chapters with Tarzan in Paris (Burroughs' original title for the story was Monsieur Tarzan) to his spy adventures in the mysterious deserts of northern Africa, to the introduction of the lost jungle city of Opar and its priestess, La. Return also debuts Tarzan's arch-nemesis, the villainous Nicholas Rokoff.

After the section on Return, Griffin has a brief chapter about Tarzan's cameo appearance in Burroughs' novel, The Eternal Lover (sometimes re-printed as The Eternal Savage), which was a sequel to his earlier The Mad King. I didn't even know this existed, but I'm going to track it down now as it's the first appearance of Tarzan's jungle estate and his infant son, Jack, who plays such a major role in the next Tarzan novel.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Guest Post | G.W. Thomas on Hawk Carse

Author G.W. Thomas is back with the next in his series of articles looking at the great space pulp characters. Thomas has appeared in over 400 different books, magazines and ezines including The Writer, Writer's Digest, Black October Magazine and Contact. His website is He is also editor of Dark Worlds magazine. Thanks for another great article, G.W.!

The author of “Hawk Carse” was one of the Age of Wonder’s great mysteries. Who was Anthony Gilmore? The answer turned out to be Harry Bates and Desmond W. Hall, the editor and assistant editor of the magazine that published Hawk’s four original adventures, Astounding Stories of Super-Science, what fans now call the Clayton Astounding. This magazine was the first to offer Science Fiction as an adventure medium (not a hobbyist magazine like Amazing or the high-brow of Campbell’s Astounding in 1938) for Pulp readers during the Depression era. And the hero of such a magazine would have to be an amazing adventurer.

Living on the Saturnine moon, Iapetus, Hawk roars around the solar system in The Star Devil, the fastest and most up-to-date cruiser. Amongst Hawk’s allies is Friday, the black man rescued from a Venusian slave-ship by Carse, nick-named ‘Eclipse’. He is a muscular and quick-witted friend. Master Scientist Eliot Leithgow (or M. S.) is the scientific mind behind Carse’s modern gadgetry, working away in his secret laboratory to create new and exciting weapons for Carse to use against his sinister enemies such as Kui Su, the evil puppet-master behind the criminals of the solar system, master to men like Judd the Kite. The model for this dastardly villain isn’t hard to spot: Sax Rohmer’s Dr. Fu Manchu. Along with Rohmer’s good guys and bad guys, Gilmore also inherited his racial elements, but more on that later.

The first episode in Hawk Carse’s career was the self-titled story “Hawk Carse” (Astounding, November 1931) which details how Carse’s shipment of Phanti horns, harvested from Carse’s ranch on Iapetus, are stolen by Ku Sui’s agent, Judd the Kite. But the theft has a more sinister plot behind it. For when Carse rescues the stolen horns and begins to pursue the ship of villains who attacked his ranch and killed his people, the voice of Judd the Kite announces a special doom is coming. The phanti horn has been infected with a killer fungus that fills the ship with flesh-eating greenery. Judd the Kite wasn’t interested in the valuable horn but in capturing Carse and taking his space ship for his own. The pirates return to Iapetus to celebrate and Carse must do some quick thinking and even quicker shooting to save Friday from a terrible death. This tale sets up the series well with plenty action, reversals and host of baddies, but the over-all feel is more of the range than the spaceways. It isn’t hard to see how Bates and Hall used Western plot elements to create the tale. As Gene Roddenberry would sell Star Trek thirty years later as “Wagon train to the Stars”, so too did Anthony Gilmore begin on the farm then look to the stars.

"The Affair of the Brains" (Astounding, March 1932) picks up after the first story with Hawk and Friday going to keep Judd the Kite’s rendezvous with Ku Sui. This proves ill-advised since Ku Sui captures them and takes them to his secret base on an invisible asteroid. Ku Sui uses a weird color machine to ring information out of Carse, namely the location of his friend, Master Scientist Eliot Leithgow. For Ku Sui has taken the brains of the galaxy’s top geniuses and connected them in a special tank. The combined power of these minds gives him a kind of mental conglomerate that he uses to invent new creations and to plot his evil schemes. Capturing Leithgow, Ku Sui forces Carse to watch the operation that will remove his brain. From a seemingly escape-proof cell Carse and Friday manage to get free, capture the operating room and their friend Leithgow. Then using the advice of the brains they escape their barricade, destroy the dome that the asteroid base uses to hold in the atmosphere, and are blown out into space in spacesuits. The scene of Ku Sui torturing Hawk Carse seem to be taken right out of a James Bond movie (something that won’t exist for 30 years) for Bates and Hall were inspired by Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu, just as Ian Fleming would be years later.

"The Bluff of the Hawk" (Astounding, May 1932) is a short interlude in the saga of Carse and Ku Sui. It begins right after the events in “The Affair of the Brains”. Using the prototype spacesuits they escaped in, Hawk, Leithgow and Friday jet back to Satelitte III, landing in a swamp. Hawk is attacked by a tentacled monster while they sleep after the arduous journey, fending it off with a ray gun. Carse sends the other two to an ally nearby while he goes into the city of Porno (unfortunate name choice!) to retrieve papers Leithgow left behind when kidnapped. On these, in a numerical code, is the secret location of Leithgow’s lab. What seems a mere notation to us will be quite clear to a genius like Ku Sui, so Carse desperately needs to get the papers. Unfortunately they have been taken by a Venusian agent of Ku Sui. (Venusians are odiferous and Carse is able to logically deduct who has taken the papers, Lars Tantril, Venuisian drug-dealer and Ku Sui agent). Using the spacesuit, Hawk flies to Tantril’s ranch, flying low and having to evade the large flying monsters of Satelitte III. Hawk attacks the base, knocking out all the guard towers. In the panic he doubles back and finds his way into Tantril’s inner sanctum and the secret papers. Unfortunately, Lars and the boys capture him, knocking out the grav plates on his suit and making flying impossible. Now comes the bluff of the title. While secretly destroying the incriminating numbers from the paper, Carse suggests to Tantril a trade. He will explain the single weakness of the drug-dealer’s base if he’ll let him go free. Neither party is acting in good faith. Tantril agrees but has no intention of freeing his biggest enemy. Hawk leads the Venusians to the lake near the base and slowly works his way deeper and deeper until he finds the drop off. Sealing his suit, he dives to the lake bottom and walks away laughing.

"The Passing of Ku Sui" (Astounding, November 1932) is the longest and in many ways the weakest of the series. Hawk knows that Ku Sui will be meeting Tar Lantril at his ranch, giving the Hawk and his friends a chance to find the invisible asteroid and kill the captured brains. Using a scanner invented by MS they go to the asteroid, take it over and lay a trap for the returning Ku Sui. Instead of asking for death the brains want to be placed in new bodies, so Hawk captures Ku Sui and forces him to operate, for only he can return the brains to their bodies. An unfortunate sub-plot hinging on race muddies the story but eventually the brains are placed in new bodies and Ku Sui is being taken to Earth to clear MS’s name. But Ku Sui escapes to his asteroid, which is burning up in Earth’s atmosphere, and Carse follows him in a finale in which the villain dies (but we don’t see it!) and the hero wins. Smell a sequel here? Working in the Fu Manchu style, the authors have built in an escape route to allow the baddy to return. This is one of the structural weaknesses that make the ending unsatisfying.

And so the original adventures of Hawk end with the passing of his arch-enemy. Or does it? - as they like to say in bad films. In 1942 Hawk would appear one last time in “The Return of Hawk Carse” (Amazing Stories, July 1942). Written by Harry Bates alone it appeared in the rival magazine Amazing (because Astounding had morphed into the top SF market under John W. Campbell and such space opera would never appear there.) Amazing Stories was no longer the leader in SF but an entertainment magazine much as the Clayton Astounding had been. Hawk’s return was not significant enough to earn the cover (which went to "Blitzkrieg in the Past" by John York Cabot and its dinosaur fighting a Nazi tank) though the top of the cover bears "THE RETURN OF HAWK CARSE by Anthony Gilmore". The plot picks up where it left off with the wives of the scientists who had had their brains transferred being shocked and horrified by the gross bodies the men now inhabited. There is madness and suicide and eventually Kui Su shows up to create the Unborn Q, a composite man who ultimately beats his creator and hustles him off stage like a naughty boy.  As Lester del Rey says in The World of Science Fiction (1979): “…But time had dimmed the luster. It was no longer the right atmosphere for Hawk Carse.” The hero of the Great Depression was not the one that a United States at war required.

Issues plague today’s editors of these old stories: racism, sexism, old ideas about politics and people. It may have been acceptable in 1931 (even 1942) to feature Asians as “Yellow Peril” villains and Uncle Tom African-Americans but today these elements cause our teeth to grate and there is a desire to edit them away. I was faced with this temptation while preparing the Clayton Astounding reprint series for RAGE m a c h i n e Books, but with a little thought I paused. Granted Gilmore’s portrayal is not politically correct by today’s standards, but let’s consider the other 99% of space opera from that period. How many of these other stories even contain people of color (except green perhaps)? Very few. If any. The alternative to racism appears to be completely ignoring the existence of other races or creeds altogether. This seems to me to be an even worse form of discrimination. I chose to leave the contents of “Hawk Carse” alone. Readers are not so inept at distinguishing between current and out-moded attitudes that we need to treat them as children. Hawk Carse is one of the great adventure heroes, warts and all. It would be a shame to get only half his story.

Previous entries in G.W. Thomas' series for the Adventureblog:
Buck Rogers
John Hanson of The Space Patrol Service

Monday, February 18, 2013

Kill All Monsters: The Banner (and Forbidden Island)

If you're trying to spot Jason at Emerald City, C2E2, or any of the other shows he's going to, this is what you're looking for. It'll be looming over his table like a... well, like a giant robot. Can't wait to sit beneath it at C2E2.

I don't know if I've mentioned that Jason and I are going to be at C2E2 with copies of Kill All Monsters, Volume 1: Ruins of Paris. Yes, we are.

In mostly unrelated news, the Forbidden Island story I mentioned a couple of weeks ago is a go for the anthology I wrote it for. More details about that as official announcements are made, but I'm excited that the editor liked it.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day from a loyal follower

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! Hope you've enjoyed the goofiness.

I apologize for not knowing where all of these Valentines originated (except for the couple I made). Some are official, licensed cards, but some are handmade and I wish I knew who made those. By the time they get to me, they're all in a hodge podge, but I'll be glad to give credit where it's due if you let me know.

Happy Valentine's Day from the other Captain

Happy Valentine's Day from not a merry man

Happy Valentine's Day from a man who knows his measure

I made this one too. Sigh.

Happy Valentine's Day from the Captain

Happy Valentine's Day from Col. Taylor

Made this one myself!

Happy Valentine's Day from a keeper

Happy Valentine's Day from the Prisoner of Azkaban

Happy Valentine's Day from Sauron

Happy Valentine's Day from a guy who thinks about you all the time

Happy Valentine's Day from Middle Earth

Happy Valentine's Day from a scurvy knave

Happy Valentine's Day from Jonah and his love guns

Happy Valentine's Day from the purrfect woman

Happy Valentine's Day from a guy with a hot car

Happy Valentine's Day from a smooth talker

Happy Valentine's Day from a swinger

Happy Valentine's Day from Aquaman and Mera

No snark for this one. These two have a hard enough time.

Happy Valentine's Day from DC's Dysfunctional Couple

Happy Valentine's Day from the batcave à trois

Happy Valentine's Day from DC heroes who don't really like you "that" way

Happy Valentine's Day from a team that never existed

Happy Valentine's Day from DC's "power couple"

Happy Valentine's Day from Superman

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Tarzan 101 | Tarzan of the Apes

Celebrating Tarzan's 101st anniversary by walking through Scott Tracy Griffin's Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration.

If the entry for Tarzan of the Apes is typical, Griffin covers each novel in a way that's just about perfect. He starts with a synopsis of the plot, talks about the creation of the novel, and runs a checklist of adaptations (comics and movies, for example) of the work. Finally, he'll include a separate chapter or two about a topic suggested by the story.

The synopses are complete without spoiling the ends of the novels, but they do spoil some big events along the way. Something to be aware of if you haven't read them before. I won't talk about the plot of Tarzan of the Apes in this post simply because it's so familiar to me that I don't know what else to say about it, but I'll try to avoid any big revelations about plot as we continue on in this series. If I break that rule, I'll be sure to offer a spoiler warning.

In his notes on the creation of Tarzan of the Apes, Griffin offers some cool facts I'd never heard before, like how Burroughs considered Zantar and Tublat Zan as possible names for his main character. Or how Tarzan's English name was Bloomstoke for several pages before Burroughs decided to change it. There's also a bit about Sabor the lioness, who was a tiger in the original manuscript because Burroughs didn't realize that striped tigers don't live in Africa. (Griffin also explains how European explorers of Africa contributed to Burroughs misunderstanding and points out how Burroughs poked fun at himself for the error in later novels.)

There are of course lots of cover images, from various editions of the book to DC and Gold Key covers of adaptations.

Griffin includes two additional chapters related to Tarzan of the Apes: one on Burroughs' potential inspiration for the character and another on how to pronounce Tarzan's name. Burroughs was apparently very relaxed about how people said it, but would admit to how his family did it and - when pressed - finally settled on an official pronunciation: accent on the first syllable with the first a as in arm and the second a as in ask. He really, really didn't care how you did it though, especially if you were Maureen O'Sullivan and the studio's checks cleared.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Kill All Monsters motionless comic preview

While Jason's getting books and prints ready for Emerald City, I'm still working on the Kickstarter. Here's a very rough test to see how we might show off the comic for the campaign. It's sort of like a "motion" comic, only without any motion. We'll try to Ken Burns it up for the actual Kickstarter video (which will also have voiceover and footage of me talking about the graphic novel).

Like I said, this is very rough, but it's also kind of fun and - if you haven't had a chance to check out Kill All Monsters yet, either in the webcomic version or via Artist Alley Comics - a good taste of what the comic is like.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Kill All Monsters at Emerald City Comicon

Check out this rough of the next Kill All Monsters print that Jason's working on. It'll be one of a few that he'll have for Emerald City Comicon at table P-17. He's also going to be on the Graphic Novels and Motion Comics panel Saturday night, so if you're going to be at the show be sure to check that out.

Most exciting of all though is that he'll have print copies of Kill All Monsters, Volume 1: Ruins of Paris! It'll be a limited edition, print-on-demand run - not the official version coming out from Alterna - but it'll be there and people can buy it. And I'll be totally jealous if you do. I still have to wait a couple of months 'til I get mine.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Tarzan 101 | An Introduction

Last year was the 100th anniversary of the publication of the first Tarzan story and, frankly, I was disappointed by the lack of celebration overall. Especially by me, but I'll be happy to point my finger elsewhere as a distraction. Couldn't we at least have gotten a new Tarzan movie?

I'm mostly kidding. There was the Lord of the Louisiana Jungle documentary as well as a new series of novels to re-introduce the character to modern, young readers, so it's not like everyone was ignoring the event. But I wanted more and should have done more. Tarzan didn't get the celebration he deserves.

That is, until Scott Tracy Griffin's Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration came out. It's a massive, coffee table sized book that covers the entire history of the character, from his creation by Edgar Rice Burroughs to modern Internet fandom, with all the books, movies, and TV shows in between. And when I say it's coffee table sized, I mean that it's the size of a friggin coffee table. This thing is seriously huge. I'll try to show the perspective better in future posts.

Because, oh yes, there will be future posts.

The only negative thing I can think of to say about the book is that it was released in time for Christmas. That's understandable, but I would have loved to have had it earlier to enjoy all year long. Also, I got it about the time I was waist-deep in Scrooge and couldn't do it justice right then. I really, really wanted to, but I was swamped. So I started thinking about other ways to talk about the book.

Finally, it hit me that 2013 is the 101st anniversary of the first Tarzan story (in the October 1912 issue of The All-Story magazine, as Griffin's book taught me). What better year to do a series of Tarzan 101 posts about the history of the character? Each week for the rest of the year (Best Laid Plans caveats apply), I'm going to try to talk briefly about what I learned from Griffin that week. I won't spoil large sections of his book, but it'll be a way to give Tarzan the year-long celebration I wanted for him, even if it's after his centennial.

The Centennial Celebration starts with a couple of chapters on Burroughs himself: his early life and his writing career before Tarzan. There's not much to his pre-Tarzan career, just A Princess of Mars and an unpublished, medieval adventure. I love this quote that Burroughs gave an interviewer in 1929 about why he started writing. He was flipping through a pulp magazine to check the placement of some ads for the company he was unhappily running at the time and decided, "If people were paid for writing such rot as I read, I could write stories just as rotten."

Turns out, no, he couldn't.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Edward and Bela

I don't understand why everyone gives them such a hard time. Their movies may suck, but they're a great couple.

Monday, February 04, 2013

The Forbidden Island

This is exactly what I look like when I'm writing.

I hate when other people write posts like this, so I apologize, but I spent a heck of a lot of time writing actual fiction last week and want to stop and celebrate for a minute. I turned in a short story for a prose anthology that I'm looking forward to talking about more later if the editor doesn't hate it. Hopefully he won't because it's about a missing woman, a forbidden island, a sinister industrialist, and a heroic pilot. And I had a blast writing it.

We'll call it "The Forbidden Island" for now, because that's how original I am with titles. If it actually makes it to publication, I'll reveal more.


Related Posts with Thumbnails