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Is Luke Skywalker of ‘Star Wars’ inspired by Wisconsin war hero?
Milwaukee-Wisconsin JOURNAL SENTINEL ~ December 16, 2015 ~ by Meg Jones
Local Wisconsin historian, Jim Heinz, thinks the “Star Wars” character Luke Skywalker
was likely based on Howard Bass Cushing, a Civil War hero born in Milwaukee.

ERBzine Editor's Note: A number of researchers on the life and works of writer Edgar Rice Burroughs – Michael Sellers, Frank Puncer, and myself – provided information to lend credence to this theory. I had a long telephone conversation last week with Milwaukee journalist Meg Jones who was requesting background information that she could use in this article. I mentioned that we had suggested such a link numerous times over the years in our ERBzine articles and sent her an abundance of relevant links to back up the theory. She drew heavily on the information in these links and even used one of my quotes from our phone interview :)
"You couldn't grow up in the 20th century without being exposed to the creations of Edgar Rice Burroughs," said Bill Hillman, a Burroughs historian and editor of ERBzine and Burroughs websites. "He's inspired people from Jane Goodall to astronauts to Carl Sagan. It was his stories and imagination that infused them with the will to pursue their pursuits."
Luke Skywalker, the swashbuckling, light saber-rattling hero of George Lucas' imagination, could be based on a Civil War hero born in Milwaukee. Emphasis on "could."

Some "Stars Wars" fans will likely scoff at the idea that Darth Vader's son was inspired by a soldier who lost his father at a young age and left home to wage war in a land far, far away. But an amateur historian and Civil War buff from Milwaukee thinks he can draw a fairly straight line from Howard Bass Cushing to the hero of the blockbuster franchise reappearing on movie screens Thursday.

This particular narrative thread involves a guy who survived brutal Civil War battles before heading west, the creator of Tarzan, the adventures of comic book hero Flash Gordon and a filmmaker who liked his science fiction light on science and heavy on fantasy. "When you see Luke Skywalker, you're looking at Howard Cushing," said Jim Heinz, a retired University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee police officer who occasionally lectures on Civil War history — including the connection between "Star Wars" and Cushing.

Born in Milwaukee in 1838, Cushing and his three brothers spent part of their childhood in Delafield, where a large monument stands today in their honor in Cushing Park. All four Cushing brothers fought in the Civil War. President Barack Obama awarded Howard's younger brother Alonzo the Medal of Honor last year. Alonzo was an artillery officer killed at Gettysburg as his battery helped stave off Pickett's Charge. After Alonzo's death, Howard petitioned the secretary of war to serve in his fallen brother's unit — a request President Abraham Lincoln personally approved. When Howard Cushing joined Battery A, 4th Artillery, one of his brother's men gave him the bloody shoulder straps Alonzo was wearing when he was killed. Meanwhile, another brother, William Cushing, was a Union naval officer who gained fame by sinking the Confederate ironclad CSS Albemarle in a daring raid.

So how does Howard Cushing, greatly outshone by two of his brothers in the Civil War, end up possibly inspiring Luke Skywalker? Through the imagination of Edgar Rice Burroughs, who dreamed up John Carter of Mars, which he serialized in a pulp magazine before creating Tarzan. "Howard is sort of the forgotten Cushing brother. While I was researching him I discovered a fanzine for Edgar Rice Burroughs where they say Howard Cushing is the basis for the John Carter of Mars character," said Heinz. "I did some research and learned that was probably true."

Cushing to Carter
A central character in the Howard-Cushing-is-Luke-Skywalker narrative is John G. Bourke, who served in the 3rd Cavalry in Arizona and New Mexico with Howard Cushing as their troop chased and fought Apaches, including Geronimo. The two were posted to several forts, among them Fort Grant in Arizona. Bourke — who earned a Medal of Honor during the Civil War — helped recover Howard Cushing's body after the 1st lieutenant was killed in an ambush with Apaches in May 1871. He called Howard Cushing the bravest man he ever knew. He also wrote several popular books about his time in the Southwest.

Twenty-five years later, Burroughs was stationed at Fort Grant with the 7th Cavalry — the same unit killed at Little Big Horn with Gen. George Custer. By 1896, Fort Grant was a desolate outpost where Burroughs spent his time fighting dysentery, digging ditches and running the cavalry unit's stables. Homesick, Burroughs wrote his politically connected father back in Chicago and managed to get an early discharge after serving just 10 months of a three-year enlistment.

Burroughs scholars — yes, there are people who study the Tarzan author — point out that Burroughs read Bourke's books for research, including an ethnology report where Bourke described caves with peculiar medicine properties used by the Apaches. Burroughs may have used that as a plot device; in his series, John Carter enters a cave where he's overcome, leaves his body and ends up on Mars. Bourke also described Howard Cushing in several chapters in his memoir, "On the Border With Crook," which Burroughs most likely read.

Heinz noted there are similarities between the descriptions of Howard Cushing by Bourke and John Carter of Mars by Burroughs. John Carter of Mars is a recklessly brave Civil War veteran, an Indian fighter, and a good marksman who is at home on a horse and discovers minerals in Arizona. He has closely cropped black hair and steel gray eyes "reflecting a strong and loyal character, filled with fire and initiative," Burroughs wrote.

Howard Cushing was a Civil War veteran, Apache fighter and marksman who spent a lot of time on horseback and discovered rich copper deposits as well as an abandoned silver mine. He had "keen gray or bluish gray eyes, which looked you through when he spoke and gave a slight hint of the determination, coolness and energy which had made his name famous all over the southwestern border," Bourke wrote.

It's unknown whether Burroughs and Bourke ever met or corresponded, though both worked at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Bourke was curator of a State Department exhibit displaying documents and artifacts related to European exploration of the New World; Burroughs drove a battery-powered car around the fairgrounds to advertise his father's battery company, according to an article written by Frank Puncer for the Burroughs Bulletin.

What's key is Burroughs was probably influenced by Bourke's writings, and Bourke wrote quite a bit about Howard Cushing. "I'm aware of Cushing and I think Cushing is a good piece of John Carter of Mars — how a Civil War hero inadvertently found his way into literature," said Michael Sellers, a Burroughs scholar and author of "John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood."

Connection to Lucas
Burroughs worked as a cowboy, railroad police officer, gold miner and shopkeeper, but it was while selling pencil sharpeners — a job apparently with a lot of free time — that he began writing stories, publishing his first John Carter of Mars story in 1912 followed shortly by his first Tarzan story. Both characters became incredibly popular and spawned numerous books and films.

"You couldn't grow up in the 20th century without being exposed to the creations of Edgar Rice Burroughs," said Bill Hillman, a Burroughs historian and editor of ERBzine and Burroughs websites. "He's inspired people from Jane Goodall to astronauts to Carl Sagan. It was his stories and imagination that infused them with the will to pursue their pursuits."

Which brings us to George Lucas. The "Star Wars" creator loved the Flash Gordon comic books written by Alex Raymond, watched the Flash Gordon movie serials as a kid growing up in California and tried to buy the rights from King Features to make his own Flash Gordon movie but couldn't afford the fee. "I realized that I could make up a character as easily as Alex Raymond, who took his character from Edgar Rice Burroughs. It's your basic superhero in space. I realized that what I really wanted to do was a contemporary action fantasy," Lucas said in an April 1977 article in American Film magazine.

Lucas read a lot of science fiction, preferring fantasy writers over the technical, science-driven books of Isaac Asimov. He was quick to point out that "Star Wars" is not based on science or anything real. Shortly before "Star Wars" was released, in the interview with American Film magazine Lucas described his new movie: "It's very surreal and bizarre and has nothing to do with science. I wanted it to be an adventure in space, like John Carter of Mars. That was before science fiction took over, and everything got very serious and science oriented."

So, if Lucas said "Star Wars" was like John Carter of Mars, and John Carter is likely based on Milwaukee-born Civil War hero Howard Cushing, then the argument can be made that Cushing could be the distant inspiration for Luke Skywalker.

And there's one more twist.
Howard Cushing's body was initially buried where he was slain but later moved a few times as forts and military cemeteries closed. His remains were reburied for the final time in 1891 in the Presidio in San Francisco. Lucas' visual effects company Industrial Light & Magic is also located in the Presidio, just a few blocks from Cushing's grave site.

Related Reference Links in ERBzine:

Unofficial poster

The Legend of Tarzan Official Teaser Trailer #1 (2016)
Alexander Skarsgård, Margot Robbie
‘The Legend Of Tarzan’ Update: 
What Can We Expect From The Movie?
Movie News Guide ~ December 15, 2015
A new picture of stars Alexander Skarsgard and Margot Robbie of “The Legend of Tarzan” has been recently released depicting the two in an all-new avatar. The Warner Bros. film has already been in the making for a year and is expected to be not so good.

The stars in the picture, even after being somewhat mudded up, look stunning. It has been revealed that the movie is going to put a major focus on the later years of life of Tarzan. To be depicted as a more civilized lifestyle, there exists a wild man who wants to escape from within. 

The film is expected to get released in July 2016. However, new promotional material is not expected to appear online soon. With Margo Robbie, as one of the cast members, has been phenomenal when her casting in “Suicide Squad” is considered. She has also been crowned as one of the biggest stars of the years as per IMDB reports. Her pairing with Alexander Skarsgard, who has been associated with HBO for a longer term, is all set to cause a storm in the world of blockbusters.

Skargard’s looks alone are surely going to gather a huge fan following soon. One of the major drawbacks that is depicted from “The Legend Of Tarzan’s” first picture is the lack of depiction of the much adventurous area of the film. Talking about the traditional structure of the film, the duo’s romance is a major attraction of the film’s story-line.

There will be a good amount of vine swinging and tree climbing that makes Tarzan a true spectacle to watch in the summer. It appears that still much work is to be done related to the marketing of the movie, as the last big budgeted adaptation of Edgar Rice has been a failure in terms of its commercial success.

Legend of Tarzan Reboots the Debate:
Was Edgar Rice Burroughs a Racist?
December 13, 2015  Dotar SojatOther Stuff
Michael Sellers has done an excellent job of monitoring the buzz around the release of the new Tarzan Trailer for the upcoming 2016 film --
The trailer has well over 10 million views on YouTube.
One of Michael's many responses to the flurry of comments:

With Legend of Tarzan generating buzz courtesy of its well-received teaser trailer, the long-debated issue of whether Tarzan creator  Edgar Rice Burroughs was a racist has come alive on discussion boards and comment threads.  For example, the following comment by “Maximillian B. Prager” — a freshman at Harvard –appeared soon after the Legend of Tarzan trailer was released, has attracted 463 Likes as was the top comment on the thread (out of 7,000 comments) for a long time, and now is the third most popular:

    This trailer looks great. One thing that bugs me about the original novel (and should bug everybody if they’ve actually read it) is all the White Supremacist propaganda. Burroughs lived and wrote during the United States’ Age of Imperialism, a time when we colonized other less-developed cultures around the world and sought justification for it through Social Darwinism, the perversion of Charles Darwin’s teachings that gave a cloak of scientific legitimacy to racism. Burroughs was a well recognized Social Darwinist, and as such, the book is full of some racism and sexism that’s impossible to ignore, like Tarzan’s self description as “Tarzan, killer of many black men” (you’ll find that gem on page 162). That being said, this trailer looks great, and I can already tell that the plot line was fudged enough to leave out the questionable parts. This should be a good movie, and as such, we should honor the makers for their reinvention of the character of Tarzan, but not Burroughs for his construction of a piece of racist Pro-Imperialist propaganda.
There were other comments in the thread — many of them — some citing Kipling’s The White Man’s Burden as the driving force behind ERB’s views as they were expressed in his writing.  I offered the following comment in response:
If you’re going to cite Kipling’s The White Man’s Burden …. you should also be aware that Burroughs wrote The Black Man’s Burden, a parody of Kipling’s poem that shows that Burroughs had a very “contrarian” view of imperialism. I would suggest that when evaluating Burroughs’ you take this into consideration; also the fact that he created the Waziri, a black tribe of great prowess and honor; that in his Mars series he had John Carter, a southerner, fall in love with and marry a “red woman” (and alien for that matter); that on Barsoom the blacks were considered the “purist” race. This doesn’t complete offset the racial stereotypes in Tarzan of the Apes, but are a big part of the overall picture that gets ignored in these discussions

See a photo copy of the original appearance of ERB's poem
in a collection of his poetry that we collated back in 1996 in ERBzine:
See the Kipling and ERB poems side by side in an ERBzine feature from 2000.

The Feedback after the release of the new Tarzan Trailer
has been overwhelmingly positive. 
But there are always a few uneducated "expert critics" who have never read the books . . .
The letters in response are interesting, though.

Full of action, the new 'Legend of Tarzan' trailer still disappoints
Cnet ~ Dec 10, 2015 
Warner Bros. dropped its first trailer for "The Legend of Tarzan" on Wednesday. Despite the epic soundtrack, gorgeous scenery, wild swings through the jungle, strange white frozen people and an impressive cast including Samuel L. Jackson, an intense Margot Robbie and an ostensibly ripped Alexander Skarsgård -- who's certainly filled out a bit from his days as lean vampire Eric on HBO's "True Blood" -- the two-minute-long clip didn't exactly leave me beating my chest in approval.

I think my main issue with it is that it looks to me like the producers are trying to turn Tarzan into a Marvel-like superhero instead of letting him just be a guy raised by apes in the jungle. The idea of the film -- that Tarzan has to return to the jungle years after living the good life as Lord Greystoke -- is a good one, but there's a decent chance that mining the emotional aspects of such a return, or the relationship between Tarzan and his wife Jane, are going to get blasted off the screen by CGI bluster.

I also think -- in as much as you can analyze these things from a two-minute clip -- that the movie seems like a mash-up of other films. We see Skarsgaard flying through the jungle a bit like Batman swinging through Gotham in "The Dark Knight Trilogy," there are simian battles a la "Planet of the Apes," and the jungle scenes with requisite natives evoke 2005's "King Kong." There's even a moment where an ape gets in Jackson's face, evoking the alien threatening Ripley in 1979's "Alien."

I think it would have been much more refreshing to have seen a grittier take on Tarzan -- taking a page more from Marvel's "Daredevil" and "Jessica Jones" series on Netflix than from their Avengers mega-CGI extravaganza films. But blockbuster is the operative word here, and being that this film is slated for release in summer 2016, the producers no doubt thought it necessary to impress with spectacle rather than substance.

There is though, a compelling piece of prose accompanying the trailer. "The jungle consumes everything," says the opening voiceover. "It preys on the old, the sick, the wounded. It preys on the weak, but never the strong." That's followed by Jane's take on her hubbie: "He is no normal man. He was thought to be an evil spirit, a ghost in the trees. No man ever started with less."

Evocative dialogue like that, plus the all-star cast and director David Yates at the helm -- who directed the last four Harry Potter films as well as the forthcoming Potter spin-off, "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," -- could just make for a film that proves me wrong. And if I'm not, an "Avengers in the jungle" film might not be a bad way to spend a hot summer afternoon anyway.

"The Legend of Tarzan is scheduled for release on July 1 in both 2D and, naturally, 3D.

Michael, have you read any of the books? As envisaged by Burroughs, Tarzan was more than just "a guy raised by apes." I wouldn't call him a superhero (he preceded the comics by decades), but he was clearly a forerunner. And saying the apes in the trailer make the movie look like a mashup of "Planet of the Apes" is ridiculous. That's like saying a new western is a mashup of all previous westerns because it has horses in it.
As you mention in your conclusion, there is indeed some nice narration and dialogue in the trailer -- which I'll point out is evidence against what you said at the top of your review -- that it could just end up being "Avengers in the jungle."

Finally, you say you wanted it to be grittier. Well, the story has a historical setting in the Belgian Congo during a period when human atrocities were being committed on a scale never seen before. Sounds pretty gritty to me. 

It looks to me like the first Tarzan movie where they actually read a couple of the Tarzan books before starting... Outsized adventure, crazy lost civilizations, the mysterious white ghost of the jungle and the ubiquitous kidnapping of Jane... That is Tarzan.
Have you ever read the books? Especially the original trilogy and the one that contains short stories of Tarzan's being raised in the Jungle? When's the last time you saw a weak ape?

In the books the natives are absolutely terrified of him. He talks to animals. He moves through the trees at a pace a runner on the ground can't keep up with. Not urban joggers, but those guys who train on the Serengeti and run in the Olympics. He kills apex predators with his bare hands or with only a knife. He's a bad dude.

Not any of the movies made about him have ever really captured the character created by Burroughs. He's hoping this one does.

Tarzan and the lost city came out in '98 not '88. 

From our archives
Baltimore Reporter Makes "Amazing Discovery!"
Gasp! This will surely shake up ERB fandon :)
Tarzan's lady was no Englishwoman

In Edgar Rice Burroughs' "Tarzan" stories,
the woman who captures the Ape-man's heart hails from Baltimore!
Baltimore Sun ~ August 28, 1999 ~ Frederick N. Rasmussen

When Disney's animated film "Tarzan" opened earlier this summer, it was Fred B. Shoken, a sharp-eyed collector of obscure and arcane Baltimore ephemera both historical and literary, who noted that Jane Porter, the heroine of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan stories, hailed from Baltimore and not England. "This interest has led me to accumulate a great deal of rather useless information on Baltimore, including that a fictional character, Jane Porter, was written as a Baltimore native in the original book but was changed to a native of England when Hollywood adapted the book into a movie," Shoken said the other day.

"Alas, this version has stuck, while the original Baltimore connection has been largely forgotten," said the longtime Charles Village resident, who is a safety supervisor with the city Department of Public Works and Bureau of Transportation. He suggests that perhaps England had a more appealing sophistication than the Queen City of the Patapsco River Drainage Basin, and that's the reason filmmakers switched the location.

On the matter of Burroughs setting Jane and her father's home in Baltimore in the first place, Shoken suggests that the city has "always had a reputation for beautiful women such as Betsy Patterson, who was briefly wed to Jerome Bonaparte, Napoleon's brother." Shoken points out, though, that while Baltimore appears eight times in Burroughs' original story, not much is made of Jane Porter's life here.

Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote his first Tarzan story in 1909 sic and in 1914 published "Tarzan of the Apes," the first of 25 books dealing with the adventures of the son of Lord and Lady Greystoke, who were shipwrecked on the coast of East Africa and later killed. Their son, who was an infant, was then taken into the jungle and subsequently reared by simians.

Tarzan is, of course, credited with uttering one of the great opening lines of all times when he lays eyes on the beautiful Jane Porter: "Me Tarzan; you Jane." In the recent animated incarnation of the jungle love tale, the voice of Jane is that of actress Minnie Driver, who sounds veddy English with nary a trace of a Bawlmer accent.

Since "Tarzan of the Apes" was first made into a silent film starring Elmo Lincoln in 1918, more than a dozen other actors have portrayed the tree-swinging ape, including Johnny Weissmuller, perhaps the most popular, whose mate, Jane, was played by Maureen O'Sullivan.

A 1966 article in The Evening Sun said, "Jane was, moreover (perhaps still is) as contemptuous as a collegiate demonstrator of her dear old dad. He was absent-minded Professor Archimedes Q. Porter, also of Baltimore (Mr. Burroughs forgot to mention which Baltimore academy he graced). In the book Jane speaks of him as a fool, although he wants to plunge into the forest and die with his daughter after she has been kidnapped by a bull ape." Though Tarzan saves her from an uncertain fate, the newspaper observed: "The ape would have been preferable to another alternative that faced her -- marriage to a rich and stuffy Baltimorean."

Shoken points to Philip Jose Farmer's 1972 book, "Tarzan Alive: A Definitive Biography of Lord Greystoke," which created mini-biographies of the book's characters. According to Farmer, Archimedes Q. Porter, who was called "Ark" by his close friends, was "a history and theology teacher in the Women's College of Baltimore, Maryland, established by the Methodist Church in 1885 and now known as Goucher College. He came of ancient English stock. Thus, his earliest American ancestor was a New Englander who left to settle near Baltimore." The professor was in his late 40s when he married Jane Carter Lee of Richmond, Va. (whose father was a cousin of Gen. Robert E. Lee and descended from Light-Horse Harry Lee). She died shortly after the Jan. 1, 1890, birth of their daughter Jane Porter. Farmer also says that the Porters were related to Cecil Calvert, second Baron of Baltimore, "who founded the colony of Maryland," and though the "relationship was somewhat thinned by time and distance," they kept in communication with their aristocratic antecedents.

He describes Jane as a "tomboy" who had traveled on her father's previous scientific expeditions and therefore was "tough and strong-minded." After arriving in Africa, Farmer writes of Jane: "The 19-year-old girl who stepped off the boat was Jane Porter. She was strikingly beautiful, had long yellow hair, which fell to her waist when unpinned (in contrast to brunette Maureen O'Sullivan); had bluish-grey eyes, and was left-handed. She wore a white pith helmet and a white ladies' waist of taffeta silk with a high standing collar and the front tucked over. This with the swelling-posterior skirt, gave her whole figure a peculiar broken appearance. Her white Melton-cloth walking skirt was ankle-length and flared out at the bottom with a graduated flounce."

The effect on Tarzan was intoxicating, writes Farmer. "Tarzan could not keep his eyes off her. He had seen pictures of white women in the books, but the reality was the difference between the promise of the kingdom of heaven and its actual coming. He thought her clothes were ridiculous, but they did make her body a mystery and hence even more exciting."

"Some readers in California inferred in 1961 that Jane and Tarzan were never properly married in Africa or anywhere -- which implied that their half-Baltimorean, half-Englishman son named Boy, is illegal," said The Evening Sun.

"Such is Jane Porter, Baltimorean and heroine of the most widely distributed fiction ever written. Their aging fans are entitled to imagine her and Tarzan -- now in his early eighties -- sitting on the porch of their tree house, contending with the bureaucrats of some emerging African nation and complaining because Boy never comes to visit. Mr. Burroughs, who never visited Africa (nor Baltimore one suspects) imagined the whole Tarzan shooting match," observed the newspaper.

 Is there still any point collecting books?  ~  13 December 2015
A lifetime of collecting books has left the writer Howard Jacobson with back injuries, a lack of living space and a sense of sheer pointlessness. But he'd do it all over again.

I could replaster the walls and hang paintings.

Yet I am unable to. The truth is, their presence alone remains vital to me. Books breathe as trees breathe. When all the books have gone our mental climate will have changed. It's a question whether we'll survive. Technology cannot replace a book. No matter that I can quickly find a digital version of a novel I'm looking for, I still fly into a rage when I discover I no longer have it, and remember who borrowed and didn't return it, five, 10, 20 years ago. For it is irreplaceable. It has my scribblings in it. The marginal expletives. The turned-down pages. The bus ticket or taxi receipt or even billet doux employed as a bookmark - not just the marginalia of an intellectual life but the detritus of the heart. And that you don't get on a Kindle, or a free e-book courtesy of Project Gutenberg. What you can't bend or throw or write on isn't, in the end, literature.

My books stank the house out years ago, and have been a nuisance to me ever since, but I did the right thing buying them. Funny how much a boy of eight or nine knows.

Read the full article HERE

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