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Volume 0756
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J. Allen St. John: Monster Men - title page art
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THE MONSTER MEN
Working title: "Number Thirteen" begun in March 1913
Read the e-Text Edition


PUBLISHING HISTORY (USA)

PULP
"A Man Without a Soul": All-Story: November 1913 (Methuen UK used later used this title for The Return of the Mucker)
    P.J. Monahan cover art ~ Fred W. Small B/W headpiece
FIRST EDITION
McClurg: March 15, 1929 ~ 304 pages ~ 1st Ed. Print Run: 5,000 ~ Total: 40,675 ~ Heins word count: 59,000
    J. Allen St. John dust jacket and title page drawing
REPRINT EDITIONS
Grosset & Dunlap: 1930 ~ 304 pages
    J. Allen St. John dust jacket and title page drawing
Canaveral Press: May 17, 1962 ~ 188 pages
    Mahlon Blaine dust jacket and seven interiors
Ace paperback: February 1963 and later reprint ~ 159 pages
    Frank Frazetta cover and title page art
Ace paperback reprint ~ 155 pages
    Enrich cover
Ace paperback fifth reprint ~ 185 pages
    Boris Vallejo cover
Ballantine-Del Rey paperback: September 1992 ~ 198 pages
    Michael Herring cover art
For detailed information, see Robert B. Zeuschner's
Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Bibliography (ERB, Inc., 2016).
Click on www.erbbooks.com or call 214-405-6741 to order a copy.

The Monster Men
MAN, MONSTER, OR JUNGLE GOD? They called him Number 13, the latest and best of Dr. Von Horn's attempts to make life from lifeless chemicals. He found himself an almost-human on Von Horn's hideaway jungle island off the coast of Borneo. He saw the monsters that preceded him, growing used to the dreadful travesties of humanity. Not until Number Thirteen met the American girl who was Von Horn's unwilling prisoner did he realize how different he was from the others. Because, monsters or not, he turned against his master and threw in his lot with the girl and his friends with their desperate effort to escape the island of terror. Everyone knew him, but to all he was something different. Even he himself did not know who he was -- or what he was. Professor Maxon knew him as the ultimate product of his experiments to create life - Experiment Number Thirteen. Von Horn knew him as the leader of the Monster Men - eleven ungodly horrors. Muda Saffir knew him as the stranger who defied every obstacle to pursue him with murderous intent. The Natives knew him as the invincible warrior, the fierce foe of the headhunters of Bulan! Virginia Maxon knew him as the only man who could save her from danger the The Monster Men man-being she loved.

ART GALLERY
All-Story November 1913 - Man Without A Soul - P.J. Monahan Art - AllSt. John: Monster Men interior


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Frank Frazetta Ace Cover, Frontispiece and original art (click)

Ace edition: Frank Frazetta ~ February 1963Ace edition: Boris Vallejo coverAce Edition: Enrich cover art
Ballantine edition: Michael Herring cover art

The Monster Men
Frazetta ACE cover painting (alt) (click)
 


MAHLON BLAINE CANAVERAL ART

Mahlon BlaineMahlon Blaine self portrait
click for full collage
Cover and Seven Interiors
ERBzine 0878

TARZAN ON FRANKENSTEIN'S ISLAND OF FREAKS 
Review by Dr. Hermes ~ May 6, 2010 ~ Dr. Hermes Reviews
This was one of Edgar Rice Burroughs' earliest books, written just after his initial explosion of intense creativity in which he created Tarzan, John Carter and Pellucidar in a little over a year. THE MONSTER MEN has some interesting ideas and wild images, but it also features a lot of crude and uninspired prose. What really ruins it for me is that it sets up a fascinating dilemma for its two central characters and then undermines it with an abrupt twist ending which is not only disappointing but a real cheat. In fact, I have to wonder if the conclusion wasn't a last minute revision because the ending seems to contradict most of the story I had just read.

We're dealing here with what is essentially TARZAN ON FRANKENSTEIN'S ISLAND OF FREAKS. It's pretty lurid and over the top stuff. "A Man Without a Soul" was first run in ALL-STORY for November 1913 but not published in book form as THE MONSTER MEN until 1929. This is old-fashioned melodrama at its outrageous and blatant best, the way I like it. A research scientist named Professor Arthur Maxon (formerly on Cornell University) has figured out how to grow nearly human life forms in vats of chemicals. This was long before DNA was discovered, and there's no mention that Maxon might be using human tissue samples to start a cloning process or anything like that. Nope, he just brews together an assortment of chemicals in coffin-shaped vats and lets them ferment and darned if they don't assemble into living creatures. You might ask a biologist how likely this is.

Maxon is rapidly losing his mind from the overwork and world-shaking signicance of his discovery. He sails off to an isolated island not far from Borneo where he can carry on his experiments in peace without the pesky police asking about these freaky corpses produced in the course of his work. Maxon drags his luscious young daughter Virginia along with him for no good reason that I can see; he certainly doesn't pay any attention to her, and she has nothing useful to do on the island. Virginia may be good-looking but she meekly goes along to live with her father and his crew on a jungle island halfway around with the world, not once even asking what he's up to. Later on, Maxon promises her hand in marriage (no matter what she might think of it) to his partner, the scoundrel Von Horn, as casually as if he was selling a used car. 1913 seems like a different planet sometimes.

Well, the experiments run about as smoothly as you might expect, that is to say, like a double train wreck. Maxon produces twelve horribly disfigured and unattractive monsters of limited intelligence. We're only given a description of the first (and most gruesome) of them, the appropriately named Number One, as "a great mountain of deformed flesh clothed in dirty, white cotton pajamas. Its face was of the ashen hue of a fresh corpse, while the white hair and pink eyes denoted the absence of pigment; a characteristic of Albinos." Its eyes are out of whack, one twice as big as the other and an inch higher; it has one arm twelve inches longer than the other, its feet stick out sideways, and in general, it doesn't make a good first impression.

Each of the monsters, though, seems to be constructed a little bit better than the one before it, and Maxon keeps tinkering with the formula, hoping he will eventually turn out one that meets FDA standards and can pass as human. In the meantime, he has brewed up twelve of these unruly superstrong brutes that his assistant Von Horn keeps in line with the free use of a big bull whip. (And Virginia, living in the same compound they built on the island, has no idea what's going on. That girl is not MENSA material, if you ask me.)

Luckily, experiment Number Thirteen turns out to be a success. This is a buff young man who is both good-looking and sharp enough to be quickly taught conversational English. (These creatures don't emerge from the vats as embryos or anything, they pop out fully grown.) Thirteen is the hero of the book, the one who really raises all the disturbing questions about what is a soul, what makes something truly human, all that sort of thing.

After Number Thirteen is on the scene, the story rapidly turns into a typically energetic Edgar Rice Burroughs carnival. Everyone for a hundred miles around is after either Virginia's nubile young body or the mysterious treasure chest Maxon brought along, or both. The twelve monsters, Dyak headhunters, Malay pirates, Dr Von Horn, even a tribe of aggressive orang-utans... Virginia and the chest are pursued and captured and rescued and caught again by someone else for the rest of the book. Coming to her aid is Number Thirteen (who has tumbled completely for her in a chaste Galahad sort of way), leading his brethren of horrifying misshapen freaks. It's all slaughter and chases and agita until the last page. 

Much of the story, though, frets over whether or not Number Thirteen (who has picked up the handle Bulan from the natives) has a soul. Maxon and Von Horn take it for granted that he doesn't. Since he and the other lab spawn were formed out of a chemical recipe in vats, they are by definition not human and cannot have souls. Bulan spends a lot of time agonizing over this, as he has a serious crush on Virginia but cannot see her marrying "a man without a soul". Your own religious convictions might lead you to either dismiss all this as irrelevant or else to agree that Moxon's experiments as blasphemous and doomed. Since Virginia is starting to think that this guy is the one for her (he looks like Buster Crabbe, has risked his life rescuing her a dozen times, and is the perfect gentleman even when they're lost deep in the jungles of Borneo for days), this could be a real problem.

SPOILER Warning

Okay. Virginia learns the truth, that her beloved Bulan is actually Number Thirteen of her father's goon assembly line, and she doesn't care. She loves him anyway and will stick with him, no matter what the rest of the world says. Good for you, Virginia! That's the spirit. Bulan himself has decided that, regardless of what Maxon's doctrine says, he does have a soul because he knows right from wrong. Great, these two have suffered a lot and they've earned some happiness; they should tell her father to go climb in one of his vats himself and set it to 'Boil'.

But then Burroughs does a severe cop-out. Here it comes. It seems Bulan is actually a wealthy upper-class twit named Townsend J. Harper, Jr. He got one glimpse of Virginia back in Ithaca NY in Chapter One and followed her to Borneo in the family yacht because he was so smitten with her, (thus winning the "Oh, Come On!" Award for 1913). Somehow, he ended up washing ashore with severe amnesia in a small boat. The Chinese cook Sing Lee* took him in and substituted him for the real Number Thirteen (who had not congealed at the time). Boo! Hiss! What a gyp. 

Aside from the way I felt cheated by this development after watching Bulan wrestle with his existential puzzle, the story itself contradicts this explanation. The narrative keeps referring to Number Thirteen as soulless and one of the monsters. Sing Lee (who rescued this newcomer) thinks and reacts as if Number Thirteen were in fact a vat boy. And if Bulan was actually just some preppy guy named Townsend, how in the world was he strong enough to tangle with all eleven superhuman lab monsters at a time? How could he wrestle with three adult orang-utans in a brawl, breaking the neck of one and thrashing the other two? 


 
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Phil Normand's Recoverings
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ERBVILLE: ERB Public Domain Stories in PDF
Clark A. Brady's Burroughs Cyclopedia
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Bradford M. Day's Edgar Rice Burroughs: A Bibliography
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