VENUS AND BEYOND
Michael Wm Kulata
Copyright © 2004
Michael Wm Kaluta
Born: August 25th, 1947 in Guatemala, Central America (of U.S. Citizens);
New York City 1969-1973 - Begin working in comic books.
First ERB Comics: Carson of Venus, Pellucidar.
1995 Dark Horse: 6 pics for Tarzan, The Lost Adventure.
1997 Dark Horse: Tarzan covers.
1998: 24 illustrations for Minidoka.
Learn more at kaluta.com
Editor's Note: This article was started in 2004 via an email exchange between Tangor and Kaluta. A number of messages were sent, some agreement on presentation was accomplised, and Michael supplied some text that was then worked up by the editor into the page you are looking at right now.
HOWEVER, real life got in the way, and neither the editor or the author returned to the project, thus this incomplete, yet fascinating, article regarding Edgar Rice Burroughs in Comic Books lay gathering dust on the editor's hard drive all these years.
During the erblist.com revamp in 2017, I found this article once again and, well, it is presented here, incomplete as it might be, because there is some "good stuff" to be shared. Any "conversation" that is in italic (unless it is a title to a story or magazine) is part of the email exchanges where the editor provided commentary or suggestions of what the reader might like to know. Most of those have been removed!
NON-ITALIC IN MAIN BODY TEXT IS YOUR EMAIL TO ERBLIST. Tangor...
My answer to Joe Orlando at DC (just after he said "We snagged the rights to Tarzan, and that means we can do comics of all his (Edgar Rice Burroughs') work, * which one would you like to do?") was, of course: "John Carter and the Barsoom Stories!!!" He said "Murphy Anderson has wanted to do those stories since he was a kid... so..." I bowed as gracefully as I could and said, "well then, how about the Venus stories with Carson Napier?"
"Who?", was Joe's reaction.
Though he'd read Tarzan and the Barsoom books, he'd not read any of the other ERB series or singles at the time.
I explained as best I could and brought him a copy of the first book in paperback (Pirates of Venus). Soon after, I got the nod. The first several issues (7-page back-up stories in Korak, Son of Tarzan) were adapted by Len Wein. When Len went off to write Swamp Thing for Berni Wrightson, I got the writing chores by default, and the feature was reduced to 5 page installments (I think).
Two problems arose. I was as true as I could be to the stories and Joe Orlando went along with it. THEN the books were handed over to Joe Kubert, another who'd read and loved Tarzan but had no Idea of the world Carson inhabited. So, on one story he edited over my art, putting moustaches and beards on the faces of the Venusian warriors being held captive on one of the pirate ships (to give them "Character" he said)... I freaked (mildly: Joe Kubert is a Big man and quick to temper) and explained that there was no facial hair on Venus, that it was actually a Plot Point... he backed down from that, but, after I indulged myself in the Golf and Prometheus story, He commanded me: "Okay for this Issue, Kaluta, but NEXT Issue I want to see some ACTION, or else!"
The next, and only other, place I look back on with regret on that series is where I actually SKIPPED the famous Basto/Tharban fight in my haste to get to Havatoo... What WAS I thinking??? (I know: I was thinking: When Carson gets to Havatoo, he becomes the real character: the Aviator, different in the main from any of the other adventurers.)
Alas: Neither Carson nor I got to Havatoo. I was in the process of laying out "Into the Nooboolian Valley" when I got a call from DC: They'd decided to give both Tarzan and Korak to the "new" artists from the Philippines, who would do an entire page, pencil, ink and lettering, for 26 dollars per. I couldn't match that, though I tried.
Something I meant to add to that wall of text about Carson and Me: The reason behind giving the ERB material (and no, they didn't bother carrying on with Carson) to the Philippine Artists was Monetary:
ERB, Inc. reportedly took so much money for the license DC Comics felt they had to cut corners somewhere. I was pulling in 75 bucks an inked page and, I think, 20 dollars a page for the "writing". Add those together with whatever DC paid the Letterer, then subtract the 26 bucks the Philippine Artists got per page and you can see DC Comics' thinking. And I have to assume I was Low Man on the Totem Pole as far as Page Rates went at the time.
I was asked to do the David Innes feature for Weird Worlds #4 (1973). Denny O'Neil wrote the script which covered David, Abner, and Ghak's escape from the Mahars to David finding Dian in the clutches of Jubal the Ugly One.
One of the real GIFTS that Carson got over at DC was the coloring by Tatanya Wood (Wally Wood's ex-wife and colorist from the EC Comics days) She was in lock-step with me on the colors of Venus, and our little back up GLOWED off the pages of an otherwise Grey and Purple book. (there are some Giant Size Tarzan Family reprints where Venus becomes Earth: the NEW Colorist ignored our Venusian Color Rules and went for what Trees, Grass and Sky Look Like)
DC produced the expected Tarzan and Korak issues, the bread and butter, then John Carter of Mars. Carson of Venus and Pellucidar were back up stories. DC made a start on Beyond the Farthest Star, which never went anywhere.