This woman stole my heart when I was 12.
The allure of Vampirella, I think, needs no explanation. The only explanation necessary about Dejah Thoris, the Incomparable Princess of Mars (besides the obvious), is that she and her one true love, Capt. John Carter, gentleman of Virginia, were the unforgettable protagonists of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ first novel — and, I believe his best.
But his third novel is the one which truly captured the imagination of America in the year 1912. Tarzan of the Apes touched something in the American psyche, especially the psyches of American males.
By the time I started reading the Tarzan series in the early ’70s, the character was slightly out of date. John Carter of Mars has a timeless quality about him; I’m not sure Tarzan does. If he does, I’m immune to the charm. I like Tarzan, but I’ve never identified with him like the public has for 97 years.
However, my gut feeling about the character has nothing to do with anybody else’s feelings. This essay is short, but telling, about the influence of a noble savage upon the adolescent mind. I, on the other hand, preferred the tales of a savage noble on Mars.
To each his own. Tarzan lives. John Carter lives. There are immortals, and they live not only in upon the landscapes of fiction, but upon the landscapes of our own hearts.