Rediscovered: ERBivores on the Prod

On Saturday the 11th I made a run up to Folsom to do a little talk for a gathering of Edgar Rice Burroughs fans, assembled for North Coast Mangani III (aka NCM3). Thomas Krabacher talked me into it, figuring I could handle the assignment. The artist guest-of-honor was Thomas Yeates — some Tarzan, Swamp Thing, currently doing Prince Valiant — the image above from a Dark Horse comics gig where Tarzan rips things up with a tommy gun. Richard A. Lupoff was the author guest-of-honor, and wouldn’t require any introduction in that crowd — he’s done ERB stuff since the 1960s, in addition to mucho science fiction, radio — a fixture for decades. 

On the drive up I was chatting with Morgan “The Morgman” Holmes and he mentioned that Burroughs wasn’t that important to him, and then spent an hour talking ERB.  In particular he said he’d like to have War Chief and Apache Devil in the 1960s Ballantines to read. ERB did saddle-up in the hunt for Geronimo, years before he turned to writing. Morgan remembered those covers and had never read them. I picked up the pair in the dealers room — I don’t think I read them back in the day, either, though must have knocked down close to fifty Burroughs books. Or more.

Yeates did a talk with slideshow on a future-history Tarzan plot he did, set in a flooded London, with descendants of Hippies one major surviving faction of humanity vs. the forces of oligarchs. Deciding to have Tarzan popping around with a Thompson proved to be bad timing, since the Aurora shootings occurred near the release date. He left to do Prince Valiant and the next guy got to illustrate a sequence about growing vegetables.

I held down the next hour of programming, talking initially about ERB and his influence on Robert E. Howard, how many Burroughs titles REH had in his personal library, that sort of thing — eventually getting off into all kinds of pulp and film stuff, even the Continental Op.

Lupoff came next, apologizing for his current rasping quiet voice against his mellifluous tones of yesteryear. His topic was surveying the multi-year gaps between the appearance in print of Tarzan clones, when you’d think there’d be dozens — and there might well be dozens, except he hasn’t found them. Lupoff mentioned his findings might see print in an upcoming issue of The Burroughs Bibliophile.

My memory — I didn’t take notes — is that it jumped from the first Tarzan in 1912 to the next thing many years later, 1923, then a jump to circa 1932, then 1936, then the 40s and then the 50s.

The adventures of Ki-Gor in the pulp Jungle Stories became the most prolific, with some 59 novellas — or “short novels” for purposes of pulp publication. I’m guessing the Ki-Gors run less than half the length of a Tarzan novel, but since you have 59 Ki-Gors against 24 Tarzans by Burroughs, I think the word count might come out close to even.

But then, you have One Man vs. the Legion.

One man: Edgar Rice Burroughs. The legion: the group of house writers churning out copy for Jungle Stories.

It’s usually observed that today the average age for bigtime ERB fans tops 70, so I am closing in. Give me a few years. I did have the thought that maybe I ought to clear other stuff  — Hammett, Machen, Starrett, Haefele, Clark Ashton Smith, The James Gang and the rest — off the shelves and go full Apeman. 

ERB can fill up a lot of shelf space.

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