15. "THE EARTHMAN'S
PLIGHT" -- Mar. 15, '42
P1: Even as the Earthman watched, the
vision of the girl and ape seemed to fade away in the misty vapors.
P2: Was this an apparition, or had
they in truth been turned to stone by the strange mist?
P3: Then he realized that the ape at
least was alive, and he raced around the geyser to intercept it.
P4: The earthman saw what he had feared
-- the girl's skin was already turning gray! Across the plaza of petrified
dead, Carter's earthly muscles carried him in great, leaping strides as
he gained on the brute.
P5: Realizing escape was impossible,
Grombo placed his foot ont he girl and turned to meed Carter. "She is mine!"
he growled fiercely. "Me kill!"
P6: With sword drawn, the Earthman
advanced toward the giant brute. "Me kill!" it shrieked again.
P7: Carter did not reckon on Grombo's
uncanny speed. In a flash the ape's club had smashed the sword form Carter's
1. In strip #15
the ape is given a name ("Grombo") and shown wearing some minimal shreds
of clothing. Grombo is able to converse with Carter is a rudimentary sort
of way. These depictions do not fit well with ERB's depictions of the Barsoomian
white apes. In the noveliation, some explanation needs to be provided for
Grombo's advanced state of evolution, as well as for his attraction to
the human female. The "name" might be explained in the novelization as
being the same as the male ape's mating call, which is unique to each individual.
His clothing might be worn haphazardly, in immitation of the calcified
humans and the green men he occasionally saw passing through the region.
His speech might be best explained as being Carter's telepathic understanding
of the ape's thoughts.
2. In panel 5
of strip #15, Dejah Thoris is shown as being awake and evidently aware
of her situation. The story at this point in the novelization can be told
mostly from her viewpoint.
"THE EARTHMAN'S PLIGHT"
Novelization of the JCB strip by Dale R. Broadhurst
The Earthman skirted the spot where
the two white apes were frozen into statuesque poses. The purple vapors
had greatly subsided, but he knew they could return without warning. He
guessed that was how the many fossilized human inhabitants had met their
end so many ages ago -- in one vast and deadly purple cloud. Probably they
then had been covered with the same protective oil he now wore on his own
body, but it did not save them. At any moment a similar potent concentration
might erupt from under his feet. But Captain Carter did not linger to consider
these thoughts. He had seen his love's skin moments before, and even from
many yards away he could tell she wore no protective oil!
The ape could not be far away, he knew
that. The creature had stood where he now stood, less than two minutes
before. It had traveled a great distance on foot, with a heavy burden and
little chance to rest. The bronzed swordsman presumed the creature could
not move with any great speed through the ghostly city of Go-La-Ra.
"It must be very close," he thought.
Then he saw the anthropoid giant, not
a hundred paces away, just past the evil looking geyser. John Carter raced
around the geyser to intercept it, but the creature was more accustomed
to the crusty uneven ground than he, and it still managed to elude him.
From the distance of a stone's throw the ugly beast roared at him and the
Earthman could discern its thoughts,
"Grombo kill! Grombo kill!"
A cold dread swept over the swordsman
-- not a fear of the ape, but a fear of something else, something entirely
beyond his power to subdue!
Dejah Thoris awakened from her dreadful
swooning to find her body pressed, face down upon the pavement by a very
heavy weight. She struggled to lift her head, spitting from her mouth dozens
of the tiny insect fossils that filled the streets of the dead city. She
caught a passing glimpse of a man's legs -- yellowish legs. It took her
a moment to realize it was John Carter than that his skin was smeared with
the same lemon hued substance she had seen in her vision. She tried to
cry out but her lungs were half crushed by the weight of a huge white foot
upon her back. And, as if that were not enough, she could now barely move
her tongue, open her lips, or blink her eyes. A terrible transformation
was slowly overcoming her and she knew exactly how it would end!
The Earthman saw what he had so feared.
Beneath the confining weight of the monster's foot the maid of Mars was
moving her arms and legs in that same labored, mechanical way that he had
seen among the slow-moving, half calcified little animals. The girl's skin
was already turning gray!
To one side of the geyser the avenue
opened into a large plaza. Here again were many examples of the stony,
standing dead -- perhaps an extension of the same crowd he had inspected
before. The swordsman made his way quickly into the plaza, then in one
fast jump, Carter's earthly muscles carried him within striking distance
of the brute.
"Grombo kill! Grombo kill!" came the
unvarying mental messages.
The Virginia swordsman's plan was a
simple one. He would leap upward, plant his blade deep within the creature's
heart and then pull the princess away from Grombo's death struggles. If
the ape did not expire almost at once, then the swordsman would finish
the necessary butchery with his short sword. None of this planning stole
any time from his assault; he had sized up the situation and made up his
mind in that regard before closing in on the monster. With a powerful spring
John Carter went flying at Grombo, long-sword extended.
However, the Earthman had not counted
upon two things. First of all, the ape was a little tired from the long
run across the dead sea bottom, but he was by no means exhausted. John
Carter could not have anticipated Grombo's unwavering stamina and uncanny
speed. The second thing that had escaped the Jasoomian's attention was
that the ape concealed a massive hunk of sompus root in the one hand not
out in open view. The wicked club had the size and mass of a railroad cross-tie.
In a flash, before the blade was at his breast, the ape's club had smashed
the sword form Carter's grasp!
The surprised swordsman was knocked
so badly off balance by the impact upon his blade that he landed a dozen
feet away, smashing to the paving stones two overburdened stone porters
who had stood under their petrified loads for untold centuries. Captain
Carter was deft enough at Martian leaping to land upon his hands and knees
without injury, but now the ape had the upper hand in the fight. From out
of nowhere, it seemed, the great wooden club came flying down at him so
quickly he could not hope to dodge its deadly blow.
Dejah Thoris stumbled to her feet.
It was the first time she had stood, free of the ape's grasp, since her
temporary respite on the sea bottom when Grombo had stopped to eat the
lizard. The girl wavered, unable move her legs without floundering. She
instinctively held out a hand to grasp the nearest possible support and
in so doing knocked into the ape's leg. The slight impact had no effect
upon the huge creature, of course, except to make him flinch a muscle unexpectedly.
It was just enough of a flinch that his murderous aim was deflected a little
to one side. Grombo's ponderous club smashed into the stonework and broke
in two a hair's breadth from John Carter's skull.
Grombo hesitated for a heartbeat, unsure
whether he should push the broken club handle into the fallen little man's
face or reach out and grasp the tottering female. During that fleeting
interval the Earthman's short sword slashed out and Grombo dropped the
stub of a cudgel.
The Martian princess felt as though
she were wading neck-deep across one of Helium's great waterways, a few
short stretches of which yet remain as free flowing liquid, open to the
air. Once, long ago, she had that extraordinary experience, but even moving
a long distance through deep water had been easier than the little excursion
Princess Dejah Thoris now set out to accomplish. Moving through the plaza
in Go-La-Ra, she painfully covered but a few dozen paces in the time she
might have run a haad [.4 mile] before the onset of her new paralyzing
affliction. Her only intention now was to get out of her chieftain's way,
so he could prevail against the great white beast. She sought shelter in
the shadows, as far away from the menacing geyser as her stiff legs could
take her. Then she rested, weary beyond all measure.
Then it seemed as though the very shadows
themselves were closing in upon the battered, defenseless girl, viciously
clawing her immobile body! What this shadowy peril might be, she no longer
cared. She only hoped her end would come quickly.