Tarzan Never Dies: the bid for Edgar Rice Burroughs’ legacy

An interesting piece of art has recently come up for sale. Gouache and pencil on 18″ x 13″ paper, Circe is a piece by J. Allen St. John, the famous pulp artist best known for his work for Edgar Rice Burroughs tales as well as Weird Tales. It was used as the front cover art for November 1955 issue of Other Worlds Science Stories. This is the same issue of the pulp magazine wherein Raymond A. Palmer, former editor of Amazing Stories magazine, made his infamous bid for the legacy of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Raymond A. Palmer is a double-edged sword that many Science Fiction purists would like to forget. On the one hand he was one of two men who created the very first fanzine in 1930, The Comet. As an editor, he provided magazine space for writers who did not want to kowtow to John W. Campbell and his idea of Science Fiction. Palmer was the editor who brought Edgar Rice Burroughs back to Fantastic Adventures in 1940. Most of ERB’s later collections/novels first appeared in a Palmer magazine. Palmer is remembered by First Fandomers as a quirky, enthusiastic and giving member of SF.

But there is the other side of Palmer too. The Shaver Mysteries, weird ideas about creatures dwelling under the earth and influencing humanity, written by Richard S. Shaver and presented as fact. Using the Shaver Mystery to drive sales, Palmer brought Amazing Stories to its height. If that weren’t enough, Palmer left Ziff-Davis in 1949 and started his own magazines with little success. One of these was Other Worlds, which ended up as Flying Saucers From Other Worlds by 1958, and ran as a non-fiction Ufology mag until 1976. Palmer has been called “The Man Who Created UFOs” for all his promotion of the idea after 1947.

Ray Palmer was an Edgar Rice Burroughs fan. What could be more appealing to the four-foot tall man with the humpback? To imagine himself as the apex of masculine health that is Tarzan. And in 1955 he got a big idea. A really BIG idea. Ray Palmer wanted to appoint the successor to the mantle of the author of Tarzan, John Carter of Mars and so many other famous characters. He declared this is the November 1955 issue of Other World in a piece called “Tarzan Never Dies”

I hereby propose that the Edgar Rice Burroughs interests nominate a successor to Edgar Rice Burroughs to continue the adventures of all of his famous characters. I further propose they nominate a man who has proved he can continue in the high standard and tradition of Edgar Rice Burroughs, as based on 100,000 words already written. I propose that Tarzan and all of his friends be allowed to live again, and walk once more through the pages of the books of the land, for the enjoyment of millions of fans everywhere.

In “Tarzan Never Dies” Palmer is vague as to who the successor to Burroughs’ crown is and what this 100,000 word novel is called. He did reveal that the novel featured both Tarzan and John Carter as well as La of Opar and Kar Kormak. In the June 1956 issue, Palmer published a one pager where he lists some big name allies in Ray Bradbury, Forrest J. Ackermann and Everett E. Evans, and announces that the writer is John Bloodstone (pseudonym of Stuart J. Byrne), and the novel was called Tarzan on Mars.

How this gambit played out is a fascinating history that leads to some unexpected places, including the creation of a Saturday morning animated television series. G. W. Thomas presents the full story in his article Dimes for Tarzan: The Bid for Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Crown

You can read the entire article by G. W. Thomas in the debut issue of DARK WORLDS