A look at the New Tarzan Series printed by Gold Star Books and written by Barton Werper. The first two books are considered here, Tarzan and the Silver Globe and Tarzan and the Cave City (IL7-42 & 49, 40 cents ea.).


by By the Editor

Since the Burroughs boom began in 1962, not only has it brought back into print most of Burroughs's published books, it's brought to light several new, undiscovered stories by Burroughs, some still unpublished. A great deal of the renewed interest in sword and sorcery stories can be attributed to Burroughs and John Carter, and the large number of other science fiction and fantasy "classics" which have been and are being reprinted is probably due to the enthusiasm engendered by the Burroughs revival.

The latest result was prefaced by this announcement: "Today's great interest in the adventures of Tarzan and some of the many other exciting characters created by the master storyteller Edgar Rice Burroughs, has brought a demand for new, fresh Tarzen stories." So reads the blurb on page two of the new series of Tarzan books.

The announcement is true -- most of us would welcome new books about Burroughs's characters as long as they're done well. A new Tarzan series! A Burroughs fan can't help but approach such an announcement with excitement, hope -- yet certain misgivings too. Would anyone really be capable of doing as good a job with Burroughs's characters as the Master did himself? If not, they shouldn't be published. With such feelings I bought the first book in the series, Tarzan and the Silver Globe -- with excitement, hope, and yet a readiness to be disappointed.

I was, even moreso than I'd expected. The book list issued every month by Stephen's Book Service stated that Barton Werper was a pseudonym; after reading his book, I can understand why; if I were the author, I wouldn't want my real name associated with the book either.

The book was easy to read -- a hundred and twenty-six pages long (compared to Burroughs's 300 page adventures) and surely the second book could be no worse than the first. It wasn't. It was no better either.

Werper has obviously read very few books by Burroughs -- although he's probably seen several of the movies. The approach in these books is more in the movie tradition than anything else. Thus, at the beginning of The Silver Globe we're presented with such nonsense as one of the apes sensing an unhealthy feeling in the air, becoming concerned about Jane since he knows Tarzan is away (Tarzan's just left to get more gold from Opar) and sending his mate to lead Jane to Tarzan. The fact that Burroughs's apes have no fondness for men and have difficulty remembering who Tarzan even is doesn't faze Werper. He has to get Jane into the clutches of danger in some way; it doesn't matter how feeble the manner, how unapelike the ape's behavior.

Contrary to the blurb, "based on characters created by Edgar Rice Burroughs," there is nothing Burroughs-like about any of Werper's characters -- except for the names. They are all empty shells or distorted shapes of what they once were.

Werper's apes are really quite marvellous creatures. Not only are they concerned about Jane, but Jedak is able to carry on a philosophic discussion about being an almost-man; he is able (in the second book, Tarzan and the Cave City) to organize all the tribes of apes together to rescue Tarzan (some 500 apes in all); and in the first book, not only is the ape leader able to organize just the apes together to save the world and Tarzan, he can also unite all the wild animals into one group!

Werper's apes also fight differently. On pg. 74 of Silver Globe, Jedak, seeing his enemy, Tarzan, charges him immediately to fight and kill him. None of Burroughs's humorous ground-thumping, braggadocio, building up courage and anger -- the insults and egotism; nope, this is a Werper ape.

Furthermore, both Jedak and Tarzan "had been suckled at the breasts of Kala, the great she-ape, who had mothered most of the tribe." (pg. 98 -- Cave City) They'd fought continuously, Tarzan always winning, and had fought so much they were like blood brothers. These are rather amazing revelations, especially since I've just finished reading Tarzan of the Apes a second time -- where the entire book hinges on the fact that Kala's one baby was killed, which was why she adopted Tarzan. Tarzan was her only child until she was killed by Kulanga with a poisoned arrow. How she mothered a whole tribe while dead I fail to understand, but Werper undoubtedly knows how.

Afterall, death is no problem to Werper. Jedak is an avowed enemy of Tarzan in the Silver Globe -- and dies therein, his life sucked out by one of the octopus-like monsters. In book number two, the Cave City, he's back again, big as life -- rescuing Tarzan with 500 apes.

Burroughs wasn't a flawless writer. His characters were generally made of cardboard; his formula devices of rescue and near-rescue, kidnapping, amnesia, coincidence, etc. were overworked. His later books are stereotyped and formulaic -- the result of too many books in the same series. But there are rewards Burroughs offered a reader too -- high adventure in far-off places, places Burroughs detailed, peopled and made real with his imagination. Burroughs makes one feel and see the jungle in his Tarzan books, or Mars or Pellucidar in their respective series. Most important of all, Burroughs's Tarzan and other characters in this and other series are people we can admire; unrealistic, perhaps, but representing ideals to admire and imitate -- ideals of strength, honor, nobility, justice, devotion.

How about Werper? His villains -- and he shows it's possible -- are more stereotyped, more puppet-like than are Burroughs's. His rescues are at times preposterous. His machinations to get his characters rescued or captured are so obvious that one gags. Whenever he wants Tarzan caught, "for once the apeman's jungle instincts failed him," -- about three times in these books.

In the course of one page in The Silver Globe Werper: gets Tarzan captured; the malformed priests of Opar enter, putting him on the altar; La enters to kill him; some lion springs in and saves him (the Golden Lion?) -- and everything is dismissed. One page; no buildup, no suspense, just puppets being paraded in and out.

Burroughs constantly sprang rescues at just the right moment too; but when he did it, you were at least interested. At his best (as with the Golden Lion in The City of Gold or with Korak in Tarzan The Terrible) he inserts throughout the book -- showing the rescuer (revealed, perhaps, as but a nameless tracker) following, relentlessly -- building reader suspense, exciting the reader with the thrill of impending danger and battle. Werper does nothing.

Incidentally, Werper's treatment of La is nauseating. No longer is she the mysterious descendant of time-misted Atlantis, the impenetrable Feminine Eternal; she now becomes a Venusian woman left behind from the last Venusian animal-collecting expedition of 300 years ago. When Werper first presents her, all she's after is Tarzan's blood, enraged because in the past he hasn't returned her love. (Werper obviously hadn't read Tarzan the Invincible.) In the second scene she makes a feeble attempt at seduction which is disgusting; it's a fine example of Werper's cheapening of Burroughs's characters. Burroughs's La is a woman to admire, yet feel sorry for because her love couldn't be returned. She was unfathomable, unprobeable. Werper's La is a distasteful slut.

Not only does Werper cheapen La; he does the same for Tarzan, Jane, and the Waziri. Tarzan becomes a ridiculous sub-human, a little boy playing his games with the apes. Jane becomes priggish and "tolerant" towards Tarzan. The Waziri become petty, ignorant savages. Gone is the nobility of all these characters; gone any possibility for a reader to respect them.

Werper can't even build our esteem for his characters when he's being funny. Burroughs was often humorous -- generally with his tongue in his cheek. Werper tries humor at such times as when Jane is watching Tarzan fighting with an ape, making superior comments on such foolishness. Or at another time he has Tarzan say to the cowardly, complaining Prof. Norton, "Do you want your fiance or a doctor?" when he's complaining about a minor injury and his fiance has been captured. Later he's maligning the Waziri as being cowardly: "Had they been the cowards you seem to consider them, they would now be digging a grave for you," Tarzan replies. But Werper's humor lies only in snide, sarcastic remarks which do nothing to raise our esteem for their speaker. I've mentioned that Werper is inconsistent with what Burroughs has written in his books (obviously because he's read very few Burroughs books); I've shown he's not consistent from book to book (Jedak's amazing resurrection). Can Werper even be consistent inside the covers of one short 126 page book? To say he could would be giving the man too much credit.

In Cave City Tarzan says he's never been in the part of Africa where the cave city is later found. He's been close, but the territory is unexplored. Later in the story, Basuli, the Waziri chieftain tells Pembroke he was a captive of the Bamo and that Tarzan rescued him. It's an amazing Tarzan who rescues without being there!

I'll pass over the fact that half the characters can mysteriously speak the Bamo language and half can't -- with no explanation why some are able to and others aren't. I'll pass over the strange ability of Werper's villains (never previously in this territory) to strike right at the point where their intended victims are -- while these victims are hopelessly lost and need a map. Even the Waziri needed a map in this unexplored territory -- and they were trained in jungle lore (not counting the fact that Masuli was captured here once).

Perhaps I should mention Werper's vast imagination -- which ceates such delights as l.) a Venusian invader -- a human-looking critter with a tail, and 2.) the fearful octopus-like creatures. Truly this is vivid imagination!

Or perhaps I could go into book two with the cave city and the Bamo -- with a feather growing from their heads instead of hair (the feather being elevated according to their feelings at the time). At least in this there's a possibility of developing a strange people and culture. Burroughs would probably have entered these possibilities zestfully -- doing something on the level of Pal-ul-don in Tarzan the Terrible. But Werper makes them the typical Burroughs-like African tribe; same rituals, torturing and cannibalism. He even throws in the traditional lions-in-the-arena gambit for good measure.

I won't go into the vast amount of plagarism from The Jewels of Opar. Werper did his homework.

I'll just mention that these are unauthorized editons -- and that Gold Star is getting sued for their generosity of giving us more Tarzan stories -- and raking in all the money that goes with anything "Tarzan".

I could mention that the "About the Author" states that Werper has done several TV scripts -- undoubtedly part of the reason the idiot box is so idiotic.

I'll also mention the titles of the next three opuses: Tarzan and the Snake People, Tarzan and the Abominable Snowmen, and Tarzan and the Winged Invaders. I haven't seen Tarzan and the Wolfman, Tarzan and Frankenstein, or Tarzan and the Mummy yet, but Werper's probably written or imagined them already.

If Werper detested Burroughs, his writings and his creations, he's found the perfect vehicle for doing some harm; but supposedly he's trying to carry on the Tarzan and Burroughs tradition since ERB has passed away.

I realize such a job is a thankless task. Readers expect you to imitate, follow the Master's footsteps as closely as possible, and they criticize you if you stray; yet if you do a good job at this, you've done nothing new or original. You're at best -- just an imitator.

Werper, though, is wholly unoriginal, uses the lowest movie-grade material and is utterly incapable of filling the heel of Burroughs's shoe. He hasn't bothered to read many of Burroughs's books, except to cob passages and ideas from a couple. It gets so bad that with his Venusian invader in book one he completely ignores Burroughs's Venus as Burroughs imagined it.

Gold Star Books in undoubtedly trying to fulfill a demand they perceive -- a demand they know there's money in. (Tarzan movies are sure-fire money makers.) They're out for a fast buck and they hired Werper to do the hackwork -- which is what he did. He boldfacedly lifted lines from Burroughs himself, pieced these together with the names of a couple of Burroughs characters, threw in some hackneyed movie situations and called the product a Tarzan book -- not caring about coherency, duty, imagination or ethical-integrity.

Let's do have more Tarzan (and Mars, Venus and Pellucidar) stories. There's a Tarzan novel Burroughs left half written when he died; someone should finish it. But make that someone well-grounded in what Burroughs has done already. Make it someone who's at least imaginative, faithful to his trust, and ---- capable.

[pp. 6 - 14, NO-EYED MONSTER #3, Summer 1965]

Updated April 12, 2001. If you have a comment about these web pages please send a note to the Fanac Webmaster. Thank you.