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Volume 1974
By Rick Johnson

The biggest problem that I see in illustrating aliens, including our own Green Men of Barsoom, is that the artist is all too often locked into the Chimera effect.

"a thing of immortal make, not human, lion-fronted and snake behind, a goat in the middle, and snorting out the breath of the terrible flame of bright fire" ~ Homer

A Chimera is simply a puzzle, a creature composed of any number of parts that are mismatched without rhyme or reason.  The front third a lion, the middle third a goat with another head growing from its spine and the last third a snake.  Yet, no one asked "how do you combine the digestive needs of these three animals?  How does it breathe fire?  If the goat head juts out of the back, where is the spine?" You get the idea.  Like so many other aliens or monsters, no one thought it through.

Aliens are the same.  Look at my son's former favorite cartoon, the Thundercats!  These are classic chimeras.  A human body with the head and feet of a feline.  The female even has two human breasts (cats have six) and long hair. At least she wasn't wearing make-up.  Or maybe she is?  Looks like lipstick there.  Far too many illustrators do this.  To make an alien, you take a human, remove head and feet and replace with whatever animal you wish.  For added effect, add a tail and partially human hands.

I blame TV for this.  In the old movies, aliens were rubber monsters and so the FX people went wild creating more and more exotic aliens.  Who cared if they could move or not.  Realism was irrelevant to the story line.

Then Star Trek revolutionized television.  Their budget wasn't good enough to pay for exotic aliens so they focused on people in bad make-up.  Vulcans were human with pointed ears, eyebrows and a mildly greenish skin because that is all they could afford.  And Star Trek set the standards for an entire generation and more.  Farscape, Lexx, Stargate and a dozen others all have humans, occasionally in bad make-up, but still human.  Or human with bad make-up.  Or human with the occasional anatomical addition to make them look exotic.  Or if you really want to be strange, make them seahorses so that Mork gets pregnant.  But still, they are 'human'.

Most illustrations of Green Men are chimeras.  Simple chimeras but still chimeras.  The rest are nothing more than humans with bad make-up.

You remove the arms from one man, sew them to the lower ribs of another, change the head, dip in green paint and there is your Thark according to 99% of the artists.

BUT, ribs are not structural members.  They have two uses, to protect the lungs and heart from damage but mostly to be flexible and expand to allow the lungs to breathe.  Add arm joints to the lower ribs and the weight prevents the rib-cage from expanding, thus suffocating the creature.  And it still looks like a human in bad make-up.

The second version is equally foolish.

Take a man, remove his head.  Take another man, remove his hips and legs.  Glue the torso of man #2 onto the neck of man #1, change the head and, same thing.  Only now you have two entire sets of bodily organs.  And in the case of Sola, two sets of ample breasts (Green Women do not nurse so why???).

The only advantage here is that the Green man is now taller than a human.  But still... lacking in thought.

There must be a decent solution and before I go any further, I must recommend to you four excellent papers on Green Men that are vital to my arguments.

ERBzine 1502: Evolution on Barsoom by Den Valdron
ERBzine 1509: White Apes and Green Men by Den Valdron
ERBzine 1510: Tharks in Space by Den Valdron
Anatomy of the Green Man by David Bozarth

Each of these is vital to the understanding of my arguments.

So go ahead, follow the links and read them carefully.  I'll wait for you.  I have a good book to read.

...da tee da dum..
...hmmmmmmm, hmmmmnn...
..hmm, I wonder if they are finished yet?....

Done?  Good!

First of all, I agree with a lot of what these people have said but disagree with others of their ideas. Still, I would never have written anything had I not the work of these two giants as a base.

A few comments first of all.


Mars is NOT Earth.

Earth creatures developed massive limbs to support our weight against the crushing gravity of the planet.  Elephants have huge leg bones because they need them!  They have massive leg muscles because they need these huge muscles to move the body.  They need massive lungs and heart and guts to support that massive body.

People are the same.  Double the size of a creature and you double the strength but you quadruple the weight.  A 160 pound man is strong.  A 320 pound man is twice as heavy but only slightly stronger.  A 160 lb. man can run a marathon.  A 320 lb. man can barely walk to  the mailbox.

Andre the Giant was possibly 7' 5", weighed up to 500 pounds and died at 46 from his heart being unable to support that body mass at that activity.

Wilt Chamberlain, however was 7' 1" weighed at best 275 pounds and lived well into his late sixties because he was tall and THIN!  Thus reducing the stress of his heart and lungs.

Go back to my Chimera comparisons.  Each of these shows a normal 6' man.  Then I not only changed it to a Chimera, but I blew it up and kept proportions to demonstrate the next problem with illustrating a Green Man.  Size.  Green Men are 12-15 feet tall!  Look at how huge that is!  No matter how you draw it, John Carter has to reach over his own height to punch Zed in the testicles (assuming Zed had these).  There isn't anything vital within sword range of a human.  No wonder the Green Men win their fights.

Yes, illustrators persist in making the Green man between 8-9 feet tall.  Why?  Because it fits into the frame of the artwork.  Otherwise you have the frame filled with a Green Man and this really tiny human you can barely see.   Jeff Doten has an excellent painting of John Carter standing and talking toTars Tarkas who is sitting.  Note the height and weight of Tars Tarkas.  Even sitting down, Tars Tarkas is taller than John Carter. This is what we are aiming for but even here the Green Man is a bit too robust and he has four arms instead of two arms, two legs and an intermediary set of arm-legs that come from somewhere I cannot determine in the picture?  Still, the size and weight are excellent guides.

So Barsoom has only 38% of Earth's gravity.

Creatures there don't need massive limbs to support weight because they don't have the weight.  Whales are large because in the sea, they have no weight to support.  Thoats are thin because there isn't our gravity to fight.

So when thinking of Barsoomian creatures, give up the Andre the Giant idea and think Wilt Chamberlain.  Think tall and thin. Think of an antelope the size of an elephant.  Think long legs, slender body.  And tall!  Think Anorexia!


All creatures evolve from another creature.  If you dislike the word 'evolution', replace it with 'adaptation.'  Scopes would never have gone to trial had Darwin written The Theory of Adaptation to New Conditions.  Humans evolved from a ground dwelling rodent to a tree dwelling rodent-like animal then to an ape-like creature then as it moved into the veldt, it was forced to change into a human.

From a quadrapedal stance, it was forced to stand erect to see danger over the tall grass.  Watch a bunny or a mercat or a squirrel do that.  Eventually, the early man-like ape adapted to an erect stance which caused him to become an ape-like man.  Then conditions caused him to lose body hair, shift arm-like legs into arms and a number of other changes including diet which shifted from 99% plants to 80% plant with 20% meat diet.  This change in diet affected our teeth and our guts.  And eventually creating Homo Sapiens, aka the couch potato.

According to Den Valdron, the Green Man was the same.  Only the Green Man was an open plains predator who evolved an upright stance to see prey.

Please note that I am an extremely poor artist so try to visualize my concepts here.

(Note human added for size comparison.  Each square equals one foot)

Phase one.  The hexaped predator.
We have a creature that was long and thin and walked on six skinny legs.  It roamed over the arid landscape in hunting packs when Barsoom had her great oceans.  Its attack method was to rush into a herd and kill in the same fashion as a wolf-pack or lion pride.

Did the hexaped have a tail?  Maybe.

Phase two, the centaur form.
Then, as the prey became wary, it was forced to rise up to see over hills and vegetation to see its prey from a greater distance.  Note that rabbits and mercats do the same to see predators.    Over the long eons of evolution, this creature evolved into a centaur form.  It still used its four hind legs for locomotion but the forelimbs were now used to grasp the prey so it could kill with its tusks.  At this time the Green Centaur probably had claws on its forelimbs, claws that were eventually lost save as rudimentary nails in the modern female.

Note that the Arctic Apt is currently in this form, adapting as did the Green Man to the needs of distance observation and the need to contain and kill its prey.  In another million years or so, the Apt will become a fully erect predator as is the White Ape.

The big problem here is that in the hexaped form, illustrating internal organs is simple.  Lungs and heart in the forepart of the body, guts in the rear part.  Then, once the hexaped becomes the centaur, the brains fall out of the artist's head and he creates duplicate organs.  One set of heart, lungs and guts in the upper and another set in the lower.   The illustrated Centaur from Greece obviously has within the human trunk: lungs, heart, stomach and in the equine trunk, another set of hearts and lungs and stomach.  One wonders if the centaur also has two sets of genitalia?  One human between the front horse legs and one, more impressive, between the horse's rear legs depending on if it wants to mate with a human or horse. But that's another paper for the Piltdown Journal of SF.

Consider that unlike the Terran Centaur, the Green-animal didn't graft 'Green Man torso' to 'thoat body', it was one animal that bent!  The spine at the mid-limb simply adapted to a 90 degree upcurve.

There is an alternate to this based on David Bozarth's ideas.  In this case, the spine curves upward gradually, the rear legs shrank and the mid-limbs grew to almost ape-like proportions.  The big problem here is that the rear legs will slow a running carnivore down a bit.   But the upper torso still has heart and lungs, the lower still has the stomach and guts.

Phase three, the modern form.
Eventually, as things progressed, the forearms, freed of the occupation of walking, were able to grasp and fondle and as this happened, the intelligent brain of a carnivore (cows don't need brains to out-think grass, wolves need to be smart to outthink a deer) began to wonder about what it was holding and the forelimbs evolved into true arms as the brain grew and developed true intelligence.

But the prey was getting more and more wary so the Green Man had to stand higher to see farther.  This caused the creature to become a true biped.  Any possible tail was lost as was the ape-like tail in humanity.  The mid-limbs began to shift from purely legs and feet to arms BUT they are not there yet.  The mid-limbs retain aspects of legs, heavier with stubby finger-toes.  Eventually, they will become true arms with true hands but they are not there yet.    When the Apt becomes a true bi-ped, the Green Man will convert his mid-limbs into true arms -- in another million years or so.  But not today.

Illustrators  forget this last part.  They draw a four-armed giant, forgetting that the mid-limbs are not yet arms but something half-way between arms and legs.  Get a morph program and pause it midway.

Internally, there are no changes save a shift towards a vegetarian diet.  Mantilla milk and its by products become a great part of the Green Man's diet forcing a longer gut to develop.   The upper torso still is lung and heart, the lower guts.


Remember Andre the Giant  vs Wilt Chamberlain?  When illustrating the Green Man, think tall! Really tall!  Think 12 to 15 feet tall.  Look at the drawings to see the size difference.  See how mucking tall the Green Man is?  No wonder the Red Man lives in terror of facing these things!  I don't care how good a swordsman I am, I'd wet my loincloth facing just one of these giants, but an entire hoard?

Also think Thin!  Really thin!  A fifteen-foot Green Man weighs only 400 pounds. Andre at seven and a half feet was only a hundred pounds heavier and these guys were twice as tall as Andre.  John Carter was able to wear the armbands of the Green Man he killed easily.  So they must be anorexic.  Almost insect-like in their thinness.

And stop growing arms from the lower ribcage.  Ribs are there to expand and thus create a bellows effect that draws air into the lungs.  Adding arms to the ribs prevents this action.  Thus the Green Man must have a second, lighter hip beneath the ribcage and it is this hip that holds the mid-limbs.

The spine between the ribs and this fore hip must be flexible.  Highly curving or possibly with a simple hinge or u-joint.
The Skull has eye sockets on the sides, not the front as is often illustrated. The ear holes are near the top of the skull, also on the sides.  The only thing in the front are the nostrils.  The jaw is heavy to support the fangs and has massive jaw muscles.  This means heavy cheek-bones that force the eyes out to see around these muscles.

Want to kill a man?  Shoot him in the forehead. That's where the brain is.  Do that to a gorilla and you only make him angry.  That huge ape forehead is nothing but a sagital crest of bone that holds his jaw muscles.  There isn't any brain up there, the brain is behind and below the eyes.  Want to kill a gorilla?  Shoot him in the nose.  Then you'll get the brain.  Green Men don't have that crest. Maybe their ancestors did but as the brain grew, the muscles moved to the cheek-bones below the eye sockets.  He has a bony ridge below the eye to hold his jaw muscles.  These jaw muscles are flexible to allow the jaw to drop open to the chest almost.  Think Saber-tooth tiger for that image.

The brain is almost round, flattened like a red blood cell to allow the eye sockets room so the Green Man brain is almost a donut shape, thin in the middle where the eyes are, large all around.

Also eyes, look at a horned chameleon.  Those are the eyes of a Green Man.  When he looks at you, there are two cones on the side of his head (where your ears are) and they point at you almost like a hammerhead shark.  Then one eye remains on you and the other turns back to see what's happening behind him.

Try this.  Take two eggs.  Draw an eyeball on the pointed end of each.  Have a friend wear a green ski mask backwards so you cannot see his eyes.  Attach really big fangs to the lower jaw so all you see are the fangs and nostrils.   Then have your friend hold the eggs in his ears so they point outwards.  Then he turns the eggs so both eyes are looking at you.  After you get used to this, he hears something and turns one egg away to see what made the noise but the other remains staring at you in case you try something. Creepy isn't it!  THAT is how a Green Man sees.

The upper torso has ribs and lungs and a heart.  Not much else.  The air is thin and the Green Man needs as much air as he can get to support that tall body.  Human hearts are between the lungs, the Green Man's heart will be below the lungs, resting on the middle hip.

The lower torso has the stomach, liver, spleen (or their comparable organs) and the intestines.  To hold them into place they have gastralia, rib-like bones made from soft cartilage like a T-Rex on Earth.

Sex organs?  We'll have to ask Dejah Thoris about that and she's not talking.  But Lorquat Ptomel was about to rape her so there must be some ability to mesh regardless of the damage to the human woman.  Another article for the Piltdown Journal of SF.

But among Earth mammals, we have the normal human penis and we have the spines on the Tom Cat, the corkscrew of the male pig and the knot on the male dog.  Who knows what the Green Man genitals look like?  I will leave that issue to others. for now.

Here then is what a Green Man should look like.  I told you I couldn't draw.  Tall, thin, and with heavy mid-limbs with stubby fingers, true upper arms, true legs, two hips, eyes on the side of his head.  Creepy!

BUT, he is a true alien and not some cartoon chimera, nor is he an actor in rubber make-up.  But then, aliens are supposed to be creepy.  That's what makes them. alien!

Rick Johnson,  PO Box 40451, Tucson, Az. 85717
Rick Johnson Feature Articles and Fiction in ERBzine
Worlds of ERB
ERBzine 1645: Johnson: ERB Fan Profile
ERBzine 1522: Sociology of the Wieroo
ERBzine 1527: Maltheusian Decimation in Pal-Ul-Don
ERBzine 1547: Opar
ERBzine 1710: Conflict!
ERBzine 1965: Rescue In Pellucidar
ERBzine 1974: Anatomy of an Alien
ERBzine 1578: Barsoom Questions
ERBzine 1370: Mapping Barsoom I: Can It Be Done?
ERBzine 1562: Mapping Barsoom II: Compromises
ERBzine 1565: Mapping Barsoom III: The Past
ERBzine 1633: Valley Dor
ERBzine 1634: Swords On Mars
ERBzine 1711: A Panthan of Mars
ERBzine 1712: Spy: Arrival On Mars
ERBzine 2165: Battle at U-Gor
ERBzine 2166: Lost On Barsoom
ERBzine 2167: Meeting of the Panthans: Pt. I
ERBzine 2168: Meeting of the Panthans: Pt. II
ERBzine 2169: North to Barsoom
ERBzine 2196: Jahar

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