Edgar Rice Burroughs and the Great War

May 9, 2018 by

At this year’s convention, PulpFest 2018 will honor the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended the First World War. Our programming will focus on the so-called “war pulps” of the early twentieth century and the depiction of war in popular culture.

One of the most popular and widely known authors to emerge from the pulps was Edgar Rice Burroughs. When World War I broke out in 1914, Burroughs was 39 years old. “Under the Moons of Mars” and “Tarzan of the Apes” had been published by Munsey in 1912. His writing career was reaching full stride. The war years would see the introduction of the worlds of Pellucidar in “At the Earth’s Core” and Caspak in “The Land that Time Forgot.” Such Burroughs classics as “The Mucker,” “Beyond Thirty,” and “Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar” would also appear during The Great War.

Like most Americans of his day, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ feelings about the war evolved over time. In “Barney Custer of Beatrice” — published in 1915 — Burroughs’ protagonist witnesses Austria-Hungary’s invasion of Serbia. February 1916 saw the initial publication of “Beyond Thirty” in ALL AROUND MAGAZINE. Later entitled “The Lost Continent,” Burroughs’ novel imagines a future world where the western hemisphere isolates itself from the war. While the Americas prosper, Europe reverts to wilderness and savagery.

In August of 1918, the first novella in the three-part Caspak trilogy — “The Land That Time Forgot” — would appear in THE BLUE BOOK MAGAZINE. Inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s THE LOST WORLD and Jules Verne’s THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND and A JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH, the story concerns an American headed to Europe to serve in the American Volunteer Motor Ambulance Corps. The vessel on which he is traveling is sunk by a German U-boat. Following a series of adventures, the survivors take control of the submarine and discover the lost world of Caspak.

Burroughs’ TARZAN THE UNTAMED — originally published as two separate stories in 1919 and 1920 — is the novel tied most directly to The Great War. As reported on ERBzine:

“While John Clayton, Lord Greystoke (Tarzan), is away from his plantation home in British East Africa, it is destroyed by invading German troops from Tanganyika. On his return he discovers among many burned bodies one that appears to be the corpse of his wife, Jane Porter Clayton. Another fatality is the Waziri warrior Wasimbu, left crucified by the Germans. . . . Maddened, the ape-man seeks revenge not only on the perpetrators of the tragedy but all Germans, and sets out for the battle front of the war in east Africa.”

Join PulpFest 2018 on Thursday, July 26, at 9:20 PM as Henry G. Franke, III discusses Edgar Rice Burroughs’ personal and professional life during The First World War. Henry will explore the impact that the war had on Burroughs’ fiction, including his tales of Tarzan. It’s all at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry. You can join PulpFest by clicking the Register for 2018 button on our home page. And don’t forget to book a room at the DoubleTree. They’re going fast!

(One of the most popular writers to emerge from the pulps, Edgar Rice Burroughs often landed the front cover for the start of one of his serials. “Tarzan and the Valley of Luna” is one of two stories that formed the basis for TARZAN THE UNTAMED, first published in book format by A. C. McClurg in 1920. The story originally ran in the March 20 through April 17 issues of Munsey’s ALL-STORY WEEKLY. The initial segment of the story featured front cover art by P. J. Monahan.

Henry G. Franke III is the Editor of The Burroughs Bibliophiles, the non-profit literary society devoted to the life and works of Edgar Rice Burroughs. The Bibliophiles publish THE BURROUGHS BULLETIN journal and THE GRIDLEY WAVE newsletter.  Henry is only the third editor of THE BURROUGHS BULLETIN since its debut in 1947. He was the Contributing Editor and penned the introductions for IDW Publishing’s Library of American Comics archival series reprinting Russ Manning’s Tarzan daily and Sunday newspaper comic strips. The first volume won the 2014 Eisner Award for Best Archival Collection – Strips. He has written articles and other book introductions on Tarzan comic books and strips for TwoMorrows Publishing, Titan Books, and IDW’s Library of American Comics. Henry was the Official Editor of the Edgar Rice Burroughs Amateur Press Association (ERBapa) in 1994-1996 and 2004. He served in the U. S. Army from 1977 to 2009 and is now a government civilian employee of the Army.

For a look at our entire programming schedule, please click the Programming button below the PulpFest banner on our home page.)