I e-mailed ERBzine and expressed interest in writing an article. I received an immediate response that contributions were always welcomed. So I came home and decided to start my article and then came the hardest part: how do I begin?
My interest in Edgar Rice Burroughs goes back to the 1970s if you wish to stretch things a bit. My Mom owned a few Tarzan comics I used to look at. I also can vaguely re-call watching the old movies on TV. I was also a fan of the Tarzan cartoon. Living in the country I had an idea one night to play "jungle boy" and run around naked outside. (My cat, oh faithful companion, ran next to me.) Seriously is was so cold that night I never did that again.
The year is 1980. Ask me what was going on in the world and I'd have to google it. (I led a verrrry sheltered and isolationist childhood.) While at the store one day I was checking out the book section and saw the cover of a book that caught my eye. I noticed it was #1 and it had 10 other books in the series. The name of this little book was "The Martian Tales of Edgar Rice Burroughs A Princess of Mars." The cover was beautifully done by Michael Whelan. In truth, I think it was the naked people that caught my eye. But so did those green things. Anyway my Mom bought them all for me and I took them home and admired the covers.
The next day I went out, sat on my swing and began to read the first one. Needless to say I did not put it down. For the entire day I sat in my swing as I traveled to another world with the protagonist John Carter. I experienced his anxiety, his triumphs, his love for the incomparable Dejah Thoris. I finished that novel in one day just as the sun upon my own Jasoom was beginning to set.
The next day I read the Gods of Mars and happily returned to Barsoom. On the third day I traveled north to Okar and felt his triumph as he was named the Warlord of Mars. And then I became interested in other books and . I did read Thuvia, Maid of Mars but the other little treasures remained on my shelf untouched. (For those who care about such things I was reading the Oz series by L. Frank Baum and my super-hero comics.)
Jump ahead two years Cable television was still in its early years. One of the stations we received would play the Tarzan movies on Saturday afternoons. So I began to watch them. I also recall I saw the complete Tarzan collection at the Waldenbooks right near my Mars books. Thus I bought them sat in my room (the swing had been gone for a couple years) and traveled to the jungle to be raised by apes. I was never able to watch those old films the same way again but I'm sure many of you can sympathize with me on that.
I also recall reading a few of the Marvel Tarzan comics when I was younger, and three issues of their John Carter series. However, I at the time I was more interested in the Avengers, the X-Men, Batman and the other heroes so ERB was nearly forgotten by me. The most I accomplished in the area of reading Burroughs was to get a copy of Phillip Jose Farmer's Tarzan Alive. (You know, for a few year I honestly believed that Tarzan was a real person.) I vaguely recall watching Tarzan in Manhattan. But as much as I liked Tarzan it was always Mars that called me.
When TSR put out a Marvel RPG I began playing with a friend of mine. For no reason I can remember I decided to send him to Barsoom. The first adventure went so well I picked up my old mars books and began to read them again. This time it was a bit different. I didn't stop at the fourth one I went on to the fifth, the sixth, and eventually I finally read them all.
I began to recall how much the worlds of ERB swept me away into wonderful adventures. I even began to create my own stories in my imagination for entertainment (I never have written any of it down.)
While I read them I began to make a list of all the wonderful and creative ideas that existed upon Barsoom. Just so I could keep things straight in my head. I also read Tarzan again, and the Return of Tarzan. I re-call I watched the movie Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan. (I had tried to forget Tarzan, The Ape Man with Bo Derek; and most of the other ones.)
Several years pass. I had became more interested in Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles, and several other things. I spotted a book in a used book store named Edgar Rice Burroughs: Master of Adventure. On a whim I bought it. I began to read and was fascinated by the information contained with in. I began to ask myself who was ERB? But while reading I was encouraged to pick up my old Mars Series and read them again. Many years had passed since I first read them, and my more mature sensibilities allowed me to experience the world in new ways. My older sister had read all these novels years before I had. I once commented to her on how advanced the Barsoomians were to which she quickly replied No they're not. All the guys do is chase some girl around the planet.
Now I'm not going to deny that was true. However I don't think that my sister ever tried to read the novels in context with the era they were written like I later did. (Burroughs had airships that were run by a "mechanical brain" or what we today may call a computer. Pretty sure it was unknown in at that time.)
My brother-in-law had a copy of The Moon Maid. Can you imagine my thrill at learning it was connected to my beloved Barsoom series? Not only did I read it but I enjoyed it immensely. The potential future that Burroughs wrote about was fascinating. Of course I recall in the 1970s seeing on TV we had gone to the Moon. Not that I really cared that much it interrupted my cartoons on Saturday morning. But completing the Moon Maid soon led to my wish to explore his other works.
The next one I picked was At the Earths Core -- there was also a movie by that name. Dinosaurs and cavemen . I was happy. To me the storyline read like nearly every other novel: a mysterious lost world. Man meets girl, fall in love, girl hates him, spends next two novels searching, finding, loosing and getting married. The Jahar were kind of neat too. But wait! Jason Gridley? The name from A Fighting Man of Mars? This was wonderful. He went to talk to Tarzan. I was so jealous. I just know Tarzan would have liked me better! . Yes I went with them.
Tarzan at the Earth's Core is one of the better books I ever read. Unlike the books I remember it was more ensemble then the usual main characters point of view. This was another adventure I enjoyed. (Tarzan at the Earth's Core was the last Tarzan novel I ever read.) Well, having fought dinosaurs and swinging about in the tree tops I decided to give the Venus Novels a try. And Carson again referenced Barsoom I was beginning to enjoy this trend. I discovered I liked the Venus series. It was very similar to his other work on both Barsoom but with just enough originality to keep me interested. As with his Mars Series I finally read them all and ended up wanting more.
Real life got in the way of my novelist escapes yet again . or maybe it was Xena Warrior Princess. I don't re-call which one it was. But for several years I was more interested in other things and put Burroughs aside.
As a quick side note I have noticed I have not talked much about Tarzan. But as much as I liked the four books I read most of my experiences with the character is from non Burroughs sources. Besides those mentioned I saw the last Tarzan film (with Casper Van Dien.) And with considerable hesitation I saw the Disney cartoon Tarzan. Okay . . . that I liked. I even used to watch the series on TV. (As a side note I did briefly create my own Tarzan inspired stories but they never really inspired me as much as some of the other works of Burroughs.)
With the rise of the internet I began to discover so many wonderful things. For example the notes I had been making for a few years on Barsoom? Someone else had created a website (Thank you David Bruce Bozarth) which was almost exactly what I had been doing for so long! What's more I discovered other fans had created their own fan fiction. (So I wasn't the only one.) Discovering these led me to the Bill and Sue-On Hillman ERBzine. This was wonderful. Such wonderful and creative ideas I read about, such well written stories and articles that involved the worlds of ERB. I was not alone in my love of these books.
I began to transfer my notes to my PC and as is typical of me I expanded upon them. Then my PC crashed . I lost everything. No more Barsoom, Tarzan, Amtor, Pellucidar. Erased as of it had never existed. I also moved to a new town and was forced to leave all my beloved books behind. Thus I tried very hard to put these worlds out of my mind.
In the last few years I have experienced family tragedies and loss. Life just fell out from under me and it was only in the last year I have been able to become semi-stable again. But I'm sure many of you can still hear the Song of Barsoom in the back of your mind. Or you feel the urge to return to the jungle you were raised in. Having no TV I'm a bit out of the loop on a few things.
While surfing the internet I saw a mention of a movie called John Carter of Mars. By Disney? I was skeptical, hesitant even. But once again the Song of Barsoom slowly, softly began to sing pleasantly in my heart and soul and the world I had left so long ago called out to me, as if it wished I would return. I re-discovered the ERBzine and was so pleased that something I had left so long ago was still active!
After careful consideration I finally I decided to be brave and watch this John Carter film. I was almost afraid they would butcher my beloved memories of my second home. (Just like the Tarzan films did to the Lord of the Jungle.) Fortunately I learned long ago to detach myself and try not to judge. Taylor Kitsch was a good choice for Carter. (I liked him as Gambit in Wolverine Origins.) The beginning introduction was nicely handled, the appearance of ERB was a nice touch and wonderful tribute to the Father of the series. The additional background the film-makers added for Carter were logical and helped flesh out the character. One very pleasant surprise was Woola. I had always liked the Whelan portrait of him but the CGI "nice monster dog" and his role was just so darn cute I ended up loving it. (Says a lot for a guy who likes cats better than dogs I think.) The film particularly caught my interest when it deviated from the book with original ideas but I won't ruin it for anyone. Oh and the soundtrack was good too. I know everyone has there own opinion and mine is the film was well done and a wonderful tribute to Burroughs. But I know as much as I liked it a lot others probably hate it.
I returned to the ERBzine. Slowly I re-read many of my old beloved articles. Those by Den Valdron have always been a nice read. To my pleasant surprise I discovered new ones. (I want to extend a special thanks to Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr. for his Wonders of Mars articles, and his Nakedness on Mars article. I can never read the Martian Tales the same way again....)
On a what for me was a daring move I decided I wanted to contribute to this wonderful site and so I have. Today I still ask myself about who Edgar Rice Burroughs was. I read things and often wonder where people get there information. I've seen the chronologies, I have seen pictures, but it seems he had a more interesting life then I imagined. Maybe someday I will come across a biology online I can read. But for now I'm okay with not knowing more. Having been a huge Star Trek fan I read three biographies about Gene Roddenberry after he died. The good, the bad and the ugly sums up all three. I guess I have finally matured enough that I won't obsess with it and just accept it with few questions asked.
I feel that people who have never honestly read anything by Burroughs probably don't realize what he has done for the modern genre. I was speaking to someone recently and he mentioned the novel and film adaptation to Dune. Personally I could never read the novel, and the movie bored me. But that doesn't mean I think the work is bad, it's just not of interest to me. But if you look at a few of these modern works of sci-fi such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate, or many others I bet the people who work on them were either inspired by Burroughs, or someone he inspired.
Just a few years ago I was talking casually with a 19-year-old who said he could not call his girlfriend Princess because he was reading A Princess of Mars. It was satisfying to know that even today the works of Burroughs could have some kind of influence on someone.
With the Song of Barsoom again filling me with that sense of adventure I came across articles that said Dynamite entertainment was publishing a new Warlord of Mars series. (I have finally read the complete earlier work by Marvel comics Bambi's father said if you can't say something nice don't say anything at all ) The work is not bad. Basically the novel is being adapted, some new logical material added and pretty good artwork. But comics are not for everyone.
They say that once you post something on the internet it's there forever but at least with this article I can feel a certain pride that I have contributed something good, something I hope people enjoyed, and for at least a moment feel as if I were a part of a legend that has existed for a century. I welcome comments on this article. Who knows someday I might write another
Ronald Greenfield - ERB Fan
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