Hat models hate cephalopods

By Penelope Gaylord.

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Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration is enormous

Pax asked in the comments the other day if I was scanning in the Tarzan 101 art straight from Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration or if I was getting it from Google. The answer is “yes.”

The vast majority of the images I’ve been using in these posts are in Scott Tracy Griffin’s book, but it’s way too large a volume for my scanner. He’s absolutely showing me what images to use though; I just hit the Internet to find usable copies.

Just wanted to make it clear that Griffin’s book is worth owning for the art alone. It’s a gorgeous, coffee-table sized volume that any Tarzan fan would be indescribably pleased to have and refer to often.

Tarzan 101 | Tarzan and the Foreign Legion

Celebrating Tarzan’s 101st anniversary by walking through Scott Tracy Griffin’s Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration.

Two other Tarzan novels were published after Tarzan and the Foreign Legion, but this was the last one that Burroughs wrote. It was also the only one he wrote after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Burroughs was living in Hawaii at the time and actually witnessed the bombing. His six-year marriage to young Florence Dearholt had ended earlier that year and he was already deeply depressed, but he channelled those emotions into writing morale columns for a couple of Honolulu newspapers. A year later, he was attached as a war correspondent with the U.S. Army in the South Pacific.

When he finished that tour in 1944, Burroughs got a letter suggesting he write a Tarzan story in which the ape man fought the Japanese. It had never worked out great when Burroughs had included real-world villains in his novels before, so he resisted at first, but eventually decided to do it. It was Burroughs’ first and only Tarzan story to be published as a novel without initially being serialized in a magazine. [Correction: Though intended for magazine publication, Tarzan and the Madman was also unpublished before becoming a novel]

Tarzan doesn’t join the actual French Foreign Legion in the book, but enlists in the RAF and gets attached to the U.S. Army Air Force in a recon mission over Sumatra. When the plane is shot down, Tarzan leads his diverse unit (nicknamed “The Foreign Legion” by one of its members) through the Japanese-occupied jungle in an attempt to reach the coast, build a raft, and sail for Australia. They of course have to fight Asian jungle wildlife along the way and end up discovering a lost race of pygmies.

Griffin’s supplemental chapter for this one is called “Implacable Foes” and details the various types of villains Tarzan encounters in his adventures from sentient animals to spies to slavers to holy men to treasure hunters. Griffin also lists some of the great actors who played Tarzan bad guys in the movies, including Sean Connery, John Carradine, Raymond Burr, Boris Karloff, Jack Elam, George Zucco, and a few fellas who would go on to play the ape man himself. (Sadly, he doesn’t mention one of my favorites: Neil Hamilton, who’s best known as Commissioner Gordon on the ’60s Batman TV show.)

Tarzan 101 | Tarzan the Magnificent

Celebrating Tarzan’s 101st anniversary by walking through Scott Tracy Griffin’s Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration.

Like some of the other Tarzan novels, Tarzan the Magnificent (no relation to the film of the same name) was actually two different novellas. In this case, they’d even been published in two different magazines. Argosy published Tarzan and the Magic Men” in 1936, about a couple of Amazon tribes led by powerful sorcerers who control their subjects with huge, supernatural jewels. Griffin speculates that Burroughs got the idea from the novel Trader Horn, which features a woman who uses a large ruby to control an African tribe.

In 1937, Burroughs’ sequel to this story appeared in Blue Book, titled “Tarzan and the Elephant Men.” It has Tarzan following one of the jewels back to Cathne and Athne, the cities from Tarzan and the City of Gold.

In Magnificent, Burroughs describes Tarzan’s eyes as being able to “reflect the light of a summer sea or the flashing steel of a rapier.” Griffin takes advantage of this to offer a supplemental chapter on Eyes of Gray,” a character trait that Burroughs gave all of his leading men and a lot of supporting characters as well. Tarzan had gray eyes, as did his father and son. So did La of Opar, John Carter of Mars, David Innes of Pellucidar, and Carson Napier of Venus. Griffin lists a total of 25 Burroughs characters with gray eyes, noting that Burroughs “rarely described any other color.” In fact, Carson’s started out blue in Pirates of Venus before Burroughs changed them to gray in the third novel.

Tarzan 101 | Tarzan and the Forbidden City

Celebrating Tarzan’s 101st anniversary by walking through Scott Tracy Griffin’s Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration.

I don’t know if it’s totally fair to say that Burroughs was out of ideas in 1937, but it certainly seems that way. The plot that became the unremarkably titled Tarzan and the Forbidden City was neither particularly original nor even Burroughs’ to begin with. It began life as the script to a radio serial called “Tarzan and the Diamond of Asher,” written by Rob Thompson and reworked into prose by Burroughs. It features standard Tarzan tropes: a lost treasure, greedy outsiders looking for it, a plea for Tarzan to help those outsiders, yet another Tarzan lookalike, and a hidden civilization with a couple of generic, feuding kingdoms, arena battles, and human sacrifices. At least they also manage to throw in Paul D’Arnot, a dinosaur, a sea serpent, and a shark.

When Argosy serialized the story, they had a couple of editors rewrite it, adding a prologue about a red star as a plug for Argosy‘s distributor, the Red Star News Company, and renamed it “The Red Star of Tarzan.” Burroughs restored his version for the book collection, Tarzan and the Forbidden City.

One remarkable thing about Forbidden City is that it’s the first Burroughs novel to be published in American, mass-market paperback format. Griffin talks about that in his supplemental chapter, “The Paperback Revolution,” which covers the decline of pulp magazines and the rise of cheap paperbacks. Burroughs was against the cheaper editions at first, fearing that it would cut into profits on his reprint volumes, but eventually came around and licensed Forbidden City (retitled Tarzan in the the Forbidden City) as an abridged version available in bus station and airport vending machines.