15. "THE EARTHMAN'S
PLIGHT" -- Mar. 15, '42
P1: Even as the Earthman watched, the vision of the
girl and ape seemed to fade away in the misty vapors.
P2: Was this an apparition, or had they in truth
been turned to stone by the strange mist?
P3: Then he realized that the ape at least was alive,
and he raced around the geyser to intercept it.
P4: The earthman saw what he had feared -- the girl's
skin was already turning gray! Across the plaza of petrified dead, Carter's
earthly muscles carried him in great, leaping strides as he gained on the
P5: Realizing escape was impossible, Grombo placed
his foot ont he girl and turned to meed Carter. "She is mine!" he growled
fiercely. "Me kill!"
P6: With sword drawn, the Earthman advanced toward
the giant brute. "Me kill!" it shrieked again.
P7: Carter did not reckon on Grombo's uncanny speed.
In a flash the ape's club had smashed the sword form Carter's grasp!
1. In strip #15
the ape is given a name ("Grombo") and shown wearing some minimal shreds
of clothing. Grombo is able to converse with Carter is a rudimentary sort
of way. These depictions do not fit well with ERB's depictions of the Barsoomian
white apes. In the noveliation, some explanation needs to be provided for
Grombo's advanced state of evolution, as well as for his attraction to
the human female. The "name" might be explained in the novelization as
being the same as the male ape's mating call, which is unique to each individual.
His clothing might be worn haphazardly, in immitation of the calcified
humans and the green men he occasionally saw passing through the region.
His speech might be best explained as being Carter's telepathic understanding
of the ape's thoughts.
2. In panel 5
of strip #15, Dejah Thoris is shown as being awake and evidently aware
of her situation. The story at this point in the novelization can be told
mostly from her viewpoint.
"THE EARTHMAN'S PLIGHT"
Novelization of the JCB strip by Dale R. Broadhurst
The Earthman skirted the spot where the two white
apes were frozen into statuesque poses. The purple vapors had greatly subsided,
but he knew they could return without warning. He guessed that was how
the many fossilized human inhabitants had met their end so many ages ago
-- in one vast and deadly purple cloud. Probably they then had been covered
with the same protective oil he now wore on his own body, but it did not
save them. At any moment a similar potent concentration might erupt from
under his feet. But Captain Carter did not linger to consider these thoughts.
He had seen his love's skin moments before, and even from many yards away
he could tell she wore no protective oil!
The ape could not be far away, he knew that. The
creature had stood where he now stood, less than two minutes before. It
had traveled a great distance on foot, with a heavy burden and little chance
to rest. The bronzed swordsman presumed the creature could not move with
any great speed through the ghostly city of Go-La-Ra.
"It must be very close," he thought.
Then he saw the anthropoid giant, not a hundred paces
away, just past the evil looking geyser. John Carter raced around the geyser
to intercept it, but the creature was more accustomed to the crusty uneven
ground than he, and it still managed to elude him. From the distance of
a stone's throw the ugly beast roared at him and the Earthman could discern
"Grombo kill! Grombo kill!"
A cold dread swept over the swordsman -- not a fear
of the ape, but a fear of something else, something entirely beyond his
power to subdue!
Dejah Thoris awakened from her dreadful swooning
to find her body pressed, face down upon the pavement by a very heavy weight.
She struggled to lift her head, spitting from her mouth dozens of the tiny
insect fossils that filled the streets of the dead city. She caught a passing
glimpse of a man's legs -- yellowish legs. It took her a moment to realize
it was John Carter than that his skin was smeared with the same lemon hued
substance she had seen in her vision. She tried to cry out but her lungs
were half crushed by the weight of a huge white foot upon her back. And,
as if that were not enough, she could now barely move her tongue, open
her lips, or blink her eyes. A terrible transformation was slowly overcoming
her and she knew exactly how it would end!
The Earthman saw what he had so feared. Beneath the
confining weight of the monster's foot the maid of Mars was moving her
arms and legs in that same labored, mechanical way that he had seen among
the slow-moving, half calcified little animals. The girl's skin was already
To one side of the geyser the avenue opened into
a large plaza. Here again were many examples of the stony, standing dead
-- perhaps an extension of the same crowd he had inspected before. The
swordsman made his way quickly into the plaza, then in one fast jump, Carter's
earthly muscles carried him within striking distance of the brute.
"Grombo kill! Grombo kill!" came the unvarying mental
The Virginia swordsman's plan was a simple one. He
would leap upward, plant his blade deep within the creature's heart and
then pull the princess away from Grombo's death struggles. If the ape did
not expire almost at once, then the swordsman would finish the necessary
butchery with his short sword. None of this planning stole any time from
his assault; he had sized up the situation and made up his mind in that
regard before closing in on the monster. With a powerful spring John Carter
went flying at Grombo, long-sword extended.
However, the Earthman had not counted upon two things.
First of all, the ape was a little tired from the long run across the dead
sea bottom, but he was by no means exhausted. John Carter could not have
anticipated Grombo's unwavering stamina and uncanny speed. The second thing
that had escaped the Jasoomian's attention was that the ape concealed a
massive hunk of sompus root in the one hand not out in open view. The wicked
club had the size and mass of a railroad cross-tie. In a flash, before
the blade was at his breast, the ape's club had smashed the sword form
The surprised swordsman was knocked so badly off
balance by the impact upon his blade that he landed a dozen feet away,
smashing to the paving stones two overburdened stone porters who had stood
under their petrified loads for untold centuries. Captain Carter was deft
enough at Martian leaping to land upon his hands and knees without injury,
but now the ape had the upper hand in the fight. From out of nowhere, it
seemed, the great wooden club came flying down at him so quickly he could
not hope to dodge its deadly blow.
Dejah Thoris stumbled to her feet. It was the first
time she had stood, free of the ape's grasp, since her temporary respite
on the sea bottom when Grombo had stopped to eat the lizard. The girl wavered,
unable move her legs without floundering. She instinctively held out a
hand to grasp the nearest possible support and in so doing knocked into
the ape's leg. The slight impact had no effect upon the huge creature,
of course, except to make him flinch a muscle unexpectedly. It was just
enough of a flinch that his murderous aim was deflected a little to one
side. Grombo's ponderous club smashed into the stonework and broke in two
a hair's breadth from John Carter's skull.
Grombo hesitated for a heartbeat, unsure whether
he should push the broken club handle into the fallen little man's face
or reach out and grasp the tottering female. During that fleeting interval
the Earthman's short sword slashed out and Grombo dropped the stub of a
The Martian princess felt as though she were wading
neck-deep across one of Helium's great waterways, a few short stretches
of which yet remain as free flowing liquid, open to the air. Once, long
ago, she had that extraordinary experience, but even moving a long distance
through deep water had been easier than the little excursion Princess Dejah
Thoris now set out to accomplish. Moving through the plaza in Go-La-Ra,
she painfully covered but a few dozen paces in the time she might have
run a haad [.4 mile] before the onset of her new paralyzing affliction.
Her only intention now was to get out of her chieftain's way, so he could
prevail against the great white beast. She sought shelter in the shadows,
as far away from the menacing geyser as her stiff legs could take her.
Then she rested, weary beyond all measure.
Then it seemed as though the very shadows themselves
were closing in upon the battered, defenseless girl, viciously clawing
her immobile body! What this shadowy peril might be, she no longer cared.
She only hoped her end would come quickly.