ERB: In Focus

ERB in Focus

Robert Zeuschner


THE BIG LITTLE BOOKS by Edgar Rice Burroughs

This article is an early draft of Big Little Books information eventually published in Bob Zeuschner's invaluable bibliographic book with the Long Name.

The information below is accurate, but not as complete as found in his book, which is still available from the author.

Contact Mr. Zeuschner for ordering information at rbzeuschner at roadrunner.com

Many of the stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs were abridged and pictorialized in a small size using cardboard covers and very cheap paper. These were the 1930s equivalent of comic books, the so-called "Better Little Books" or "Big Little Books" published by Whitman and the Dell "Fast Action Books." Most of the early ones were merely adaptations of the Rex Maxon daily Tarzan comic strips which began to be published in 1929 (the color Sunday Tarzan comic strip started in 1931). Although many of the "Big Little Book" stories were based on Burroughs's original plots, most were not. The books were inexpensively made, cheaply printed and fall apart easily.

In addition to the "Better Little Books," there were six related items which were free "give-aways," generally based on the Whitman and Dell books; these are listed below. Whitman used several different series numbers, and often titles with earlier numbers were printed after titles with higher numbers. The reason behind this remains unclear. My profound thanks to Robert R. Barrett who provided most of the details in the following list.

ERBmania! Editor's Note: The images included with this article are all examples of the Big Little Books or Big Better Books. The images are NOT assocated with any of the list descriptions below.

The "700" Series, 1932-1936 (Big Little Books)

Whitman 744
TARZAN OF THE APES, 1933,
(the cover art of this Big Little Book, and 307 interior illustrations are by Juanita Bennett)

Whitman
TARZAN OF THE APES.
This same title was reprinted in 1935 (no number) with the Juanita Bennett cover and 23 illustrations reprinted from the Big Little Book; it is 3" x 5 " and just 48 pages, and was a free give-away.

Whitman 769
TARZAN THE FEARLESS, 1934
(cover has colored stills from the Buster Crabbe film, with 50 more stills from the movie)

Whitman 778
TARZAN OF THE SCREEN, 1934
(cover and 111 stills from the Johnny Weismuller films, 52 from "Tarzan the Ape Man" and 59 from "Tarzan and His Mate")

Whitman 770
THE TARZAN TWINS, 1934
(the cover art on this Big Little Book is by Hal Arbo, with 189 interior illustrations by Juanita Bennett, and is a condensed version of the book described on page 138 with some rewriting). There is a 2nd edition of this title with a copyright date of 1935.

Whitman
THE TARZAN TWINS, 1935
(variant of #770 above [no number] with the cover a reprint of the illustration on p. 409 and the back cover reprinting the illustration from p. 83; same 189 interior illustrations by Juanita Bennett)

Whitman
THE TARZAN TWINS, 1935
(this is a third version of this title, but this one has a cover by Juanita Bennett, 23 interior illustrations by Bennett reprinted from the Big Little Book, but is only 48 pages. This was an unusual size, 3" x 5" and was another of the free give-aways).

First "1100" Series, 1934-1936 (Big Little Books)

Whitman 1180
NEW ADVENTURES OF TARZAN, 1935
(cover is colored scenes from the Herman Brix film, with interior art of 66 more scenes from the movie)

Whitman 1182
TARZAN ESCAPES, 1936
(cover is a colored still from the Weismuller movie, illustrated with 76 scenes from the movie, which follows the original script titled "The Capture of Tarzan")

Second "1100" Series, 1936-1937 (Big Little Books)

Whitman 1102
RETURN OF TARZAN, 1936
(cover by Hugh Hutton; 209 interior illustrations by Rex Maxon, adapted from his 1929 newspaper daily Tarzan comic strips).

Tarzan Ice Cream Cup Give-Aways

Whitman
TARZAN, 1936
(cover by Juanita Bennett and 36 interior 3 3/4 x 4" illustrations by Bennett. This TARZAN CUP ice-cream give-away is a 144-page abridgement of the first half of the TARZAN OF THE APES Big-Little-Book).

Whitman
TARZAN AND HIS JUNGLE FRIENDS, 1936
(cover artist unknown but 62 interior illustrations by Juanita Bennett; this TARZAN CUP ice-cream give-away is a 128-page abridgement of the last half of the TARZAN OF THE APES Big-Little-Book, and was a free give-away book in the unusual size of 3"x 3").

First "1400" Series, 1937-1938 (Big Little Books)

Whitman 1410
BEASTS OF TARZAN, 1937
(the cover art of this Big Little Book is by Hal Arbo, with 218 interior illustrations by Rex Maxon from the 1929 daily comic strip)

Whitman 1488
TARZAN'S REVENGE, 1938
(cover art by Robert Weisman; 207 interior illustrations by Juanita Bennett; this is a 430-page adaptation of the 1938 Tarzan film of the same title starring Glenn Morris and Elanor Holm. This has a black circle on the front cover with white lettering stating: "The Big Little Book.")

Whitman 1488
TARZAN'S REVENGE, 1938
(this is a variant of the book described above. It is the same 430-page adaptation of the 1938 Tarzan film of the same title starring Glenn Morris and Elanor Holm. There is only one small difference. Unlike the above title, the black circle on the front cover is solid; it omits the "The Big Little Book" inside the circle.)

Pan-Am Oil Give-Aways

Whitman Premium
TARZAN AND A DARING RESCUE, 1938
(the front cover is by Juanita Bennett, while the back cover is a reproduction of the Tarzan billboard ad for Pan-Am Oil Co. Inside covers are also reprints of Pan-Am ads. There are 31 illustrations by Rex Maxon from his 1929 newspaper strip "Return of Tarzan," although this comprises only one incident and the names and places have been changed. It was a free give-away)

Whitman Premium
TARZAN IN THE GOLDEN CITY, 1938
(A Whitman Premium Book; this 64 page booklet was given away as a free premium; the front cover is a copy of a Hogarth panel, and the back cover and inside covers are reprints of Pan-Am Oil Co. ads. There are 31 interior illustrations by Rex Maxon from the 1929 newspaper strip of "The Return of Tarzan," although the story is rewritten)

Third "1400" Series, 1939-1941 (Better Little Books)

Whitman 1477
SON OF TARZAN, 1939
(cover art by Henry Vallely, 209 interior illustrations by Rex Maxon adapted from the 1929-1930 daily comic strip; this was referred to as a "Better Little Book")

Whitman 1495
TARZAN AND THE JEWELS OF OPAR, 1940
(cover by Robert Weisman, 214 interior illustrations by Rex Maxon adapted from the 1930 daily newspaper comic strip; this is a "Better Little Book")

Whitman 1402
JOHN CARTER OF MARS, 1940
(the cover of this "Better Little Book" and 209 interior illustrations are by John Coleman Burroughs; the story is a shorter version of the first 7 chapters of "John Carter & the Giant of Mars" described on page 44, while the last 15 pages are original material not in the Amazing Stories printing)

Whitman 1452
TARZAN THE UNTAMED, 1941
(John Coleman Burroughs cover, 209 interior illustrations adapted from the 1932-33 daily comic strip by Rex Maxon; this is a "Better Little Book"; this has a flip-cartoon by John Coleman Burroughs)

Fourth "1400" Series, 1941-1943 (Better Little Books)

Whitman 1453
TARZAN THE TERRIBLE, 1942
(John Coleman Burroughs cover, 209 interior illustrations adapted from the 1931-1932 Rex Maxon daily Tarzan comic strip. This "Better Little Book" also has a flip-cartoon by John Coleman Burroughs)

Whitman 1448
TARZAN AND THE GOLDEN LION, 1943
(this "Better Little Book" has a John Coleman Burroughs cover, and 209 interior illustrations adapted from the 1930-1931 Rex Maxon comic strip; Robert R. Barrett notes that the first five illustrations of this title were not from the comic strip but were new to this book)

Fifth "1400" Series, 1943-1946 (Better Little Books)

Whitman 1444
TARZAN AND THE ANT MEN, 1945
(this "Better Little Book" has a John Coleman Burroughs cover, and 171 interior illustrations adapted from the 1932 Rex Maxon newspaper comic strip)

Sixth "1400" Series, 1946-1949 (Better Little Books)

Whitman 1407
TARZAN, LORD OF THE JUNGLE, 1946
(cover by an unknown artist who is copying Rex Maxon, and interior art by Rex Maxon, containing 173 illustrations from the 1931 newspaper strip; this is a "Better Little Book")

Whitman 1442
TARZAN AND THE LOST EMPIRE, 1948
(the cover of this "Better Little Book" is a copy of a panel by Jesse Marsh from the Dell one-shot #134, "Tarzan and the Devil Ogre," with 141 illustrations by Rex Maxon from the 1930 newspaper strip)

Whitman 1467
TARZAN AND THE LAND OF THE GIANT APES, 1949
(cover and interior by Jesse Marsh, 140 illustrations from the 1947 Dell one-shot #134, "Tarzan and the Devil Ogre")

The "700-10" Series, 1949-1950 (New Better Little Books)

Whitman 709-10
TARZAN AND THE JOURNEY OF TERROR, 1949/50
(cover and interior by Jesse Marsh, including 186 illustrations from the Dell Tarzan Comic #7, Jan-Feb 1949, "Tarzan In the Valley of Monsters")

The "2000" Series, 1967-1969 (A Big Little Book)

Whitman 2005
TARZAN: THE MARK OF THE RED HYENA, 1967
(written by George S. Elrick; cover and 122 interior illustrations by Jerry Pellini, of which many are close copies of Russ Manning's Tarzan comic work; 256 pages)

Dell Fast Action Books

Dell
TARZAN AND THE TARZAN TWINS IN THE JUNGLE, 1938
(A Dell Fast Action Book, which is a condensation of the Whitman #770 Tarzan Twins with 95 illustrations; Doc and Dick become Bob and Don)

Dell
TARZAN THE AVENGER, 1939
(this Dell Fast-Action Book has a cover by Dick Moores, with 95 interior illustrations by Rex Maxon reprinted from his 1929-1930 "Son of Tarzan" newspaper comic strip, but rewritten - Korak becomes Tarzan, and Meriem becomes Amine)

Dell
JOHN CARTER OF MARS, 1940
(A Dell Fast-Action Book, with its cover copied from a Flash Gordon drawing by Alex Raymond and 95 interior illustrations reprinted from Dell's The Funnies and story adapted from the first 19 chapters of ERB's "A Princess of Mars." 48 illustrations by Jim Gary and 47 illustrations by John Coleman Burroughs)


NOTE: If you want a truly complete collection of these, you will have to look at foreign versions. Many of these Whitman titles were reprinted in Spanish translations. For example, you can find Tarzan y los Hombres Hormigas published by Editorial Abril in Buenos Aires in 1946 (a year after the original Tarzan and the Ant Men was published as Whitman 1444).