Celebrating Tarzan’s 101st anniversary by walking through Scott Tracy Griffin’s Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration.
After Tarzan and John Carter, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ most recognizable series has to be the Pellucidar saga. He started it in 1913 with At the Earth’s Core, which he wrote for the pulp mags after the Tarzan and Carter sequels, The Return of Tarzan and The Gods of Mars. Griffin includes a relatively long chapter on Pellucidar in Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration, tracking the series as well as the whole Hollow Earth concept made popular by the guy who discovered Halley’s Comet and of course Jules Verne.
In At the Earth’s Core, wealthy mining industrialist David Innes funds a drilling machine invented by a crackpot named Abner Perry. On the machine’s first run, the two men wind up stranded in the underground world of Pellucidar, a place populated by prehistoric-like people and creatures including cavefolk, lizard-men, and telepathic pterosaurs. Innes escapes at the end, but is forced to leave behind Perry as well as the beautiful princess Dian he met during his adventures. In the sequel, Pellucidar, Innes returns to the world to rescue his friends.
After Tarzan and the Lost Empire, Burroughs wanted to tie Tarzan into the world of Pellucidar, but before he wrote Tarzan at the Earth’s Core, he wrote another Pellucidar novel, Tanar of Pellucidar to get the setting ready for the ape-man’s arrival. In Tanar, an inventor named Jason Gridley discovers a new radio frequency that’s hosting Abner Perry’s distress calls from Pellucidar. Gridley doesn’t make it to the Earth’s core until he teams up with Tarzan, so the bulk of Tanar is about what Gridley learns from the broadcast: that through a series of adventures Innes and his caveman friend Tanar had been captured by pirates, but that Tanar escaped to let Perry know what was going on.
In Tarzan at the Earth’s Core, Gridley recruits Tarzan to help him rescue Innes. Because Burroughs had been told by a bookstore employee that books with aircraft on the covers were popular sellers, the author had Gridley and Tarzan take a zeppelin to Pellucidar. Burroughs was mostly foiled in his plan though by cover artist J. Allen St. John, who rightly preferred a cover scene of Tarzan fighting some gorilla-men. But St. John did put a monoplane on the back cover (seen at the top of this post), so hopefully they got a few extra sales out of that.
Griffin covers the rest of the Pellucidar series, which includes seven Burroughs novels and one, authorized sequel from the ’70s, Mahars of Pellucidar by John Eric Holmes. And because Tarzan takes a group of Waziri warriors with him on the rescue mission, Griffin also takes the opportunity to include a chapter on Tarzan’s history with the fictional tribe and the use of natives in general in the Tarzan stories.