Saturday, April 15, 2017

Once More To The Earth's Core!


Edgar Rice Burroughs' Pellucidar At The Earth's Core from Dark Horse (sporting an eye-catching Mark Schultz cover) finally puts back into print some of those luscious little stories which appeared in the back pages of DC comics way back in the early 70's.


The stories adapt the ERB novel At The Earth's Core which begins the saga of David Innes and his trip to the weird world inside the planet where he encounters a prehistoric world full of different kind of people and infamous creatures called the Mahars.


When DC Comics first picked up the Tarzan license from Gold Key there was a considerable push to maximize the opportunity and impressive efforts were made to bring to the stands not only the high profile Tarzan property but other lesser characters such as Korak, John Carter of Mars, Carson of Venus and David Innes. When the John Carter movie was being made Dark Horse published the John Carter stories from those days, (I discussed those here some years ago.) And the Tarzan material has long been in print from the company. Sadly other stuff has not been available until now.


The Pellucidar stories began as back ups in the pages of Korak Son of Tarzan because when the comic first debuted DC was still experimenting with its twenty-five cent format. But quickly the format went away and the material produced both for Tarzan and Korak needed a new home.


And so was born Weird Worlds, specifically designed to showcase John Carter and David Innes who alternated cover appearances in the tried and true tradition once used by Marvel for its split-books of the previous decade. The original Pellucidar stories adapt the first novel by ERB and offer up some neat scripting by Denny O'Neil and some handsome artwork by Alan Weiss. But sadly for this reprint that great artwork is ill served by an indifferent reproduction which appears to be simply scans of the original pages. Given the quality of the work, one could hope for more in this regard.


The story is pretty good, and it's good to have this adaptation complete in one volume. Several of the chapters are inked by the famous "Crusty Bunkers", the gang of talented young artists who worked in the studio of Neal Adams and Dick Giordano and would become Continuity Associates.


The story told is vintage Burroughs -- David Innes and scientist Abner Perry use their mechanical drilling machine to head through the Earth's crust and end up in Pellcidar, a vast territory which exists in perpetual light and is filled with people, apelike creatures called Sagoths who serve weird dinosaur-like creatures called Mahars.


The story is a twisting yarn and has the heroic Innes fall immediately in love with the resident beauty who calls herself without an inkling of self-awareness "Dian the Beautiful".  But unaware of Pelucidar's customs he manages to insult her and then they are separated.



Innes spends much of the rest of the series trying to surive Pellucidar's deadly environs and trying to find Dian and also Perry who he loses track of. 


Eventually the series closes its adaptation of the debut ERB novel. But not before the creative team of Len Wein and Alan Weiss are replaced by Denny O'Neil and Mike Kaluta and later Dan Green. It is this creative team which tells the story of how David Innes returns to the Earth's surface and because of circumstances works diligently to return soon thereafter to save Dian and Abner.


The series comes to a close a bit abruptly. But we do get a sense of closure and certainly the door is left open for further adventures in the future. Those never come as the ERB license moves on to Marvel and later to other ports of call. Pellucidar is rarely a regular part of that alas.

Now it's important to caution anyone seeking to buy this collection, a very reasonably priced item, but one nearly overcome by shoddy reproduction. It's really rather distressing how bad some of the pages look. Alan Weiss is a great artist and he deserved better here, as do Kaluta and Green. Dark Horse unfortunately has a history with this sort of thing, but this is maybe the worst example I've come across. So buyer beware.

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4 comments:

  1. I got my copy Wednesday and just finished it last night. The cover is beautiful, but doesn't capture anything about the story within. The printing is horrible in most places (as you said--just shot from poor scans), and Wein's insistence on the main characters calling each other by name in every single panel got on my nerves. Other than that, though...the art (in spite of the bad printing) is stunning. I loved Dan Green's sort of Barry (Windsor-) Smith-light style on the ending chapters. The story moves at a rapid clip (with a lot going on between panels and between chapters), but that's the nature of the beast when you're dealing with the short/back-up style format. It's a book ERB fans will want, for sure. I enjoyed it a lot in spite of the annoyances, and I'm just really glad that so much of the Bronze Age is in print. They tryin' to put my blog outta business? ;D

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    1. I'm so very glad to have this material, I just wish they'd taken the time to do an even marginally better job. The art deserved better.

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  2. So glad you posted about these series, Rip. I had read a few Gold Key Tarzan stories (mostly in the digest format that they used to have), so I was fully into comics when DC took over the ERB franchise. Although, I already knew about Tarzan and Korak, the back-up series were a surprise to me and I was hooked immediately. I remember being worried when DC went to the smaller 20 cent format about whether I would get to keep reading about the, so I was so happy to see Weird Worlds hit the racks a few weeks later.

    I loved the Pellucidar series. The art was fantastic and the heroes were, too. I was a bit disappointed when Weiss left the series, but I adjusted to Dan Green's art pretty quickly (he also illustrated several episodes of the short-lived Beyond The Farthest Star ERB series that appeared in Tarzan). It was pretty fast-paced, as Groove indicated, and very exciting. Seems like when Korak shifted to Tarzan Family that maybe a few stand-alone stories were done, but I can't remember right now.

    I remember being very disappointed that the creative teams changed mid-stream for Pellucidar and John Carter, especially John Carter because I didn't think it ever recovered completely.....I was a big Murphy Anderson fan. I never thought about the BWS comparison until Groove pointed it out, and now I can't believe I missed it.

    Another great series was Carson of Venus and unfortunately, it was left as a cliff-hanger. The MW Kaluta art on it was great (He also illustrated one episode of Pellucidar in WW, I'm pretty sure). I would have loved to have seen it continue until it's conclusion.

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    1. The ERB explosion which erupted when Tarzan and the gang shifted to DC was a true moment of excitement. Kubert's Tarzan has been rivalled (Buscema at Marvel) but never bettered. Murphy Anderson's John Carter was ideal. So much promise with the young talent doing these untapped characters, but it all fell apart rather swiftly. The twenty-five cent era of DC might have stalled the company but it gave us some damn fine comics.

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