We had a chat with modern Pulp writer Will Murray about his announcement of a forthcoming crossover between Tarzan of the Apes and John Carter of Mars -- both seminal characters created by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Q: How strong was the demand for a Tarzan/John Carter of Mars crossover?
A: Fans have been dreaming of a crossover between Edgar Rice Burroughs' top characters since probably the first decade of their existence. So we're talking a century ago! A writer took a shot at it in the 1950s, but the Burroughs family did not authorize publication of the ill-fated Tarzan on Mars.
A few years ago, Buddy Saunders wrote and published The Martian Legion, a monumental, lavishly-illustrated novel in which Tarzan, John Carter, along with virtually every other Burroughs hero, as well as Doc Savage, The Shadow and sundry others all teamed up in an epic struggle on Barsoom.
I spoke with both Buddy and Jim Sullos, president of Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc., and suggested that a simpler, standalone story focusing on only Tarzan and John Carter was warranted. Buddy's novel was set in a sort of alternate universe, which allowed for non-Burroughs characters to coexist. Buddy had no issue with it, and Jim agreed. So I pitched my plot. Happily, it was accepted.
Q: Is this based off of unpublished material by Edgar Rice Burroughs? Does such material actually exist?
A: No, this is my concept. Burroughs wanted to team up Tarzan and John Carter in answer to reader demand, but could never figure out the storyline that would support both superheroes. So he gave up. Fans of his never gave up! And I am one of them. Hence the present project, Tarzan, Conqueror of Mars.
Q: You have written a lot of crossover material. Will King Kong or Doc Savage wind up on Mars?
A: I doubt that we could plausibly transport King Kong to Barsoom.
There are plenty of giants apes there anyway. Doc Savage has already visited Mars, thanks to Buddy Saunders. So that's been done. But I wonder if John Carter might return to Earth to aid Tarzan some day….
Q: Is this material considered canonical?
A: That's a good question. Since Tarzan, Conqueror of Mars is authorized by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., they would be the one to make that determination. Fans, however, have their own opinions. Some view only Burroughs work as canonical. Others are more selective. If one of the new Tarzan novels fits into the original ERB continuity without contradicting anything, it's often accepted. But if it deviates, some readers consider it to be semi-authentic, or just pastiche.
I'm trying to write my story with a purely Burroughs mindset and hope that readers will see it as worthy of inclusion into the original classic series. It's a great honor to be able to pen this long-dreamed-of book. Fifty years ago this Fall I read my first ERB book, The Gods of Mars. I was 15. I'm rereading it now, as a matter of fact. It started me on my path to reading pulp fiction, and my later life as a writer. Still, I would happily tear up my contract if ERB could come back to life and write a Tarzan on Mars novel that I could read.
Q: Do you have any original characters coming that may get their own series?
A: I don't have any original characters in the pipeline at the moment. I did create Squirrel Girl for Marvel Comics. She's fast rising to the summit of the Marvel Universe, but presently I don't write her adventures.
I did just launch the Wild Adventures of the Spider, and the first entry, The Doom Legion, is a crossover involving G-8 and James Christopher, otherwise known as Operator 5. I seem to do very well with other people's characters. One day I may surprise everyone with something new and original.