Thursday, February 16, 2012

Barsoomian Tales

John Carter of Mars, by Frazetta

I grew up reading Edgar Rice Burroughs' pulp-fiction. The most notable series was, of course, Tarzan of the Apes. I saw one of the original handwritten manuscripts on display in a bank in Tarzana, California, back in the sixties. Apparently, Burroughs had intended to use one of his pseudonyms, "Normal Bean," as the authorial credit. 

(At least I think I saw it; it was, after all, the sixties.)

Before Tarzan was the John Carter series, in which a Confederate officer conks out and dies in a cave on Earth, pursued, I believe, by Apaches, and winds up via some kind of astral projection on Mars. Same body, but since he's terran, he is much stronger, due to the lesser gravity Mars (Barsoom, to the locals.)

These books first came out serialized in magazines, starting in 1912, when the Civil War was only fifty years past, and when nobody knew there wasn't a civilization on Mars. 

Lot easier to write science fiction a hundred years ago, when we didn't know stuff. Maybe there were people on Mars or Venus, who knew? 

Burroughs, who was, as I recall, dealing in pencil sharpeners when he began selling his stories, created an array of different characters all over the local solar system, with series set on Mars, Venus, Pellucidar (Hollow Earth), and let's not forget The Land That Time Forgot and a bunch of westerns.

He was nothing if not prolific, and his writing was active, if beset with the pulp-sensibilities of the day. He had sixty-some novels published, and spawned a host of movies, radio programs, comics, toys, games, television shows, yadda, yadda. Tarzan is one of those universally-known characters, like Superman and Mickey Mouse. 

Some of the books have aged surprisingly-well; Burroughs knew how to keep a story moving.

All of which is to point out that the Disney flick is due in theaters March 12, 2012, in, of course 3D. I dunno how good it will be, but from the images and promo vids, it should be visually impressive.

Speaking of visually-impressive, check out Frazetta's painting, "Tarzan Meets La of Opar."

In it, for those of you at work where erotica might not be good, Tarzan, being held by two amazonian nudes, faces a very naked La, Queen of Opar. What is more fun, is that in the original painting, Tarzan was mightily aroused at the sight of the Queen's charms, with one of the guard girls looking down at his major wood as it lifted his loin cloth. Alex Acevedo, the owner of a NYC art gallery, wanted the painting, but due to the pornographic nature of it, Frazetta wouldn't sell it to him, it was a visual joke he'd done to amuse himself. This was in 1944, and Acevedo was willing to pay $45,000 for the painting, which was a goodly sum back then. (How goodly? Inflation would make that somewhere around half a million in today's dollars.)

Frazetta would only sell it if Acevedo agree to alterations, and he reluctantly did agree. Frazetta whipped out some paint, scraped the willie off, and touched up the loin cloth and the guard's eyes, and sold it. 

Acevedo thought it was criminal, but Frazetta allowed that he could always paint another one. Apparently, he never did, unless it's in a private collection somewhere ...

Read about it here: The Day Frazetta Took Away Tarzan's Erection ...

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