Jul 5, 2017

J. Allen St. John: The Beefcake and Phallic Images of Tarzan

In spite of his aristocratic name, J. Allen St. John was born in Chicago in 1872, when it was still a small town, and lived there throughout his life, except for studying in New York and Paris.

But his imagination went far afield beginning in 1916, when he was offered the cover and interior illustrations for Edgar Rice Burroughs' Beasts of Tarzan

An opportunity to draw muscular, half-naked men?  He had found his dream job!

One that lasted for the next thirty years, through dozens of Tarzan books, plus some of the Venus and Mars series.

St. John's extremely-muscular, mostly-naked men and blatant phallic imagery also enlivened the covers of Weird Tales, The Blue Book, and Amazing Stories.

He influenced a generation of beefcake science fiction and fantasy artists, such as Frank Franzetta.

He only wrote one novel of his own, The Face in the Pool: A Faerie Tale (1905).  It's a standard Medieval "boy meets girl" fantasy: "He came to the tower where the Princess Astrella's golden head at the window served as a gleaming beacon to those who would rescue here."

So her head revolves, or what?

Better stick to illustrations.

St. John always tried to get his male figures as naked as possible, negotiating as many phallic images as possible.  Is this a giant snake or a penis come to life?

But not his female figures.  Here the titular Cave Girl, fully clothed, rescues her semi-naked boyfriend from a semi-naked Neanderthal.

St. John was hired to do the cover art for Weird Tales, but fired after a few issues when he refused to provide enough female t. and a. to titilate the straight male audience.  Who wanted to look at naked men?

This is a cover of Mystic Magazine, November 1953, probably to illustrate the article "The Secret Kingdom: Secret Rules of Earth and the Coming Armageddon!"  Armageddon is presaged by a naked redhead with a scythe, his penis cleverly hidden by Father Time's head.

But that didn't stop him from including THREE phallic images

St. John was married to a woman named Ellen from 1904 to his death in 1957, but his interest in the male physique and the penis is obvious.  I'd be surprised if he wasn't gay.

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