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Volume 2215
From the Danton Burroughs/John Coleman Burroughs Archive Site
Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter®of Mars


15. "THE EARTHMAN'S PLIGHT" -- Mar. 15, '42
(read novelization

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 brute. 

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. 

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 its thoughts, 

"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 turning gray! 

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 messages.

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 Carter's grasp! 

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 cudgel. 

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.

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