Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tarzan 101 | Tarzan and the Forbidden City

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

I don't know if it's totally fair to say that Burroughs was out of ideas in 1937, but it certainly seems that way. The plot that became the unremarkably titled Tarzan and the Forbidden City was neither particularly original nor even Burroughs' to begin with. It began life as the script to a radio serial called "Tarzan and the Diamond of Asher," written by Rob Thompson and reworked into prose by Burroughs. It features standard Tarzan tropes: a lost treasure, greedy outsiders looking for it, a plea for Tarzan to help those outsiders, yet another Tarzan lookalike, and a hidden civilization with a couple of generic, feuding kingdoms, arena battles, and human sacrifices. At least they also manage to throw in Paul D'Arnot, a dinosaur, a sea serpent, and a shark.

When Argosy serialized the story, they had a couple of editors rewrite it, adding a prologue about a red star as a plug for Argosy's distributor, the Red Star News Company, and renamed it "The Red Star of Tarzan." Burroughs restored his version for the book collection, Tarzan and the Forbidden City.

One remarkable thing about Forbidden City is that it's the first Burroughs novel to be published in American, mass-market paperback format. Griffin talks about that in his supplemental chapter, "The Paperback Revolution," which covers the decline of pulp magazines and the rise of cheap paperbacks. Burroughs was against the cheaper editions at first, fearing that it would cut into profits on his reprint volumes, but eventually came around and licensed Forbidden City (retitled Tarzan in the the Forbidden City) as an abridged version available in bus station and airport vending machines.

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