Under the Moons of Mar-vel   Leave a comment

I’d like to know what’s going on.  Suddenly (within the last year) not one, but two companies are publishing John Carter of Barsoom comics.  The movie doesn’t come out  until next summer, and 99% of America has no clue who JC is, nor do they care. 

The essence of Barsoom in one picture–swordsmen, naked women, and monsters in an exotic setting.
Dynamite Comics has been doing a lot of licensed properties lately.  They got Red Sonja away from Marvel and have been running the swordswoman through all sorts of fantastic adventures with onlyt the  sketchiest connection to Howard’s Hyborean realms.   They picked up Vampirella, and Zorro, and the Lone Ranger, and the Green Hornet, and I didn’t really care about any of these titles.  I followed Sonja for a while because I’m a raving Robert E. Howard fan, but Dynamite’s Sonja was so different from Marvel’s Sonja (and neither was much like Howard’s Sonja who never met Conan at all) that I eventually let it go.  But then they announced that they were doing a John Carter of Mars adaptation, and my heart sang, and I vowed to get them all.  The only science fiction/fantasy author I like as much as Robert E. Howard is Edgar Rice Burroughs. (Heh!  I guess middle names were important in the first half of the twentieth century when these writers flourished.)
The Dynamite books feature cover art by Joe Jusko.  I talked to Joe for a few minutes at ComiCon in Phoenix last year (2010), and told him I admired his art, and had collected his trading cards featuring Tarzan, and expressed the wish that he would be the interior artist for John Carter.  Joe said “no way” to that.  He would get bored if he had to draw sequential art, which is often basically the same picture seen from a different angle–the same character again and again and again.  Joe likes the splashy stuff like the picture aboev, and I don’t blame him.
The Dynamite series about John Carter seems to have done well enough.  They just released issued #9 which ends the storyline for A PRINCESS OF MARS–the first book in the series.  The previews in the back say there will be a #10, but featuring Dejah Thoris in a murder mystery–who killed the guardian of the Atmosphere Factory?  Tfhey are also doing two other series.  One features Dejah Thoris, and the other is a mini-series about the destruction of the old white Orovar Martian race and the creation of said Atmosphere Factory.

Dejah Thoris just lounging around.

Even though it means I’m spending more money, I’m really happy that Dynamite is doing multiple Barsoomian titles.  Barsoom is by far my favorite location for Sword and Planet fantasy adventure.  Then, a couple of months ago, I see an announcement that Marvel is going to do a John Carter comic.  What the  . . . (I  avoid gratuitous profanity, but  you know what I mean.)  Dynamite is doing a fine job with John Carter.  Why is Marvel horning in on the act?
Marvel had a John Carter comic once before.  (So did D.C. and Dell even earlier.)  Back in the seventies Gil Kane and Dave Corcorum created an outstanding comic that lasted for some 28 issues–not nearly long enough, with original story lines that really expanded the scope of Barsoomian adventure.  It looked like this:

You can see that Gil Kane and Joe Jusko were on the same wavelength. Swordsmen, naked women, and big green monsters--the combination for happiness.

Now Marvel has gone back to Mars/Barsoom.  I bought the first issue of the Princess of Mars 5-issued limited series yesterday.  I’ve forgotten who the scripter/adaptor is, but he takes extreme liberties with Burroughs’ story.  Dynamite didn’t follow it letter for letter, but was a lot closer to the original.  They have brought in some new artist name Filipe Andrade to do the art.  I won’t say it’s bad–apparently Andrade is gaining a good reputation for his work on Captain America and Onslaught Unleashed.  But the art is nowhere near the quality of material currently appearing in Dynamite or previously appearing back in the 70s when Marvel did it before.  Instead it is twisted and distorted–gives the impression that the whole adventure is a drug-induced hallucination.  Tars Tarkas comes out as an 8 foot pickle for andrade.  Dejah Thoris is malnourished and rather pitiful–hardly the indomitable figure that Jusko portrays.

Marvel's latest version looks like this. I prefer the Gil Kane version.

I have done a little digging for info on the internet.  I don’t think I’ve gotten to the bottom of the story yet, but this is what I’ve learned.  Dynamite decided to do John Carter when they found ou t the original novels were in the public domain.  So did IDW comics, but they didn’t get nearly so good a start.  ERB Inc. had a licensing deal with Marvel in the past, but they pulled it, and killed the 70s comic.  They weren’t happy that independents were making money off the John Carter property–I’m sure Disney has paid ERB Inc. handsomely for the rights to do the movie next year.  If there is going to be a John Carter comic, ERB Inc. wants a part of it.  So they went back to their old pal Marvel and licensed it to them again.  Marvel knows that the movie is coming, and they love to capitalize on such events–so they agreed to the deal.  However, Marvel is overtaxed with producing the huge line of comics they are printing already.  John Carter is a rush job for them.  They signed up a production team that’s ok, but doesn’t really have many credits–big opportunity for the unknowns doing the production of John Carter, but small loss to Marvel if the series flops.  A story that took Dynamite 9 issues to tell is being crammed into 5 issues for Marvel.  The art is not very realistic, and so can be rushed to get it all done before next summer’s movie release.  Marvel also got the license to do the movie version of the comic–that starts next month in October.  This one they care a little more about, so they got Peter David to do the adaptation.  There is not a better script writer in all of comics than Peter David.  It will look like this.

What's wrong with this picture? The sky of Mars should be pinkish-red, not blue.

The art on this one will be better (imho), but that’s because the artist is going to try and make it look like the actors in the film.  Based on the trailers, the John Carter movie won’t be any closer to Burroughs’ John Carter than the Conan movie was to Howard’s Conan.  Still, i will buy it.  It could still be a good movie and a good comic.  With Peter David scripting, I’m sure it will be a good comic.
While I was gathering material to do this blog, I saved several pictures.  John Carter is the nominal hero of this series, but it is Dejah Thoris that we’re all in love with.  It is Dejah who haunts our dreams, and it is Dejah that we pay to see.  At least that’s who the heterosexual guys in the audience like.  Like Tarzan, there is a strong homo-erotic undercurrent to the Barsoomian tales of naked swordmen running around, male bonding, and carving their way from one side of the planet to the other.  John Carter and Kantos Kan were imprisoned together in Zodanga for months and became great friends–read whatever you want into that.  Carter spent a lot of his time naked on Barsoom, and though our politically correct artists always draw him with his loins covered, that isn’t what Burroughs wrote.  Burroughs was apparently an equal opportunity erotic dreamer–the nudity and sex appeal is there for both men and women.  So, let me close with some pictures of Dejah Thoris for those of us who like women to dream on.

Dejah Thoris in chains. Nudity, bondage, swordplay. Kinky.


Where did all those clouds come from on Mars? Dejah Thoris with sword and pistol. The chains are part of her clothing, but the suggestion of bondage is still there. Very big breasts on that lady and in royal purple. Still kinky.


Andrade's Dejah Thoris. Malnourished, sad (and who could blame her--the Tharks just killed all her friends and imprisoned her) and still in chains. Still kinky.


Ted McKeever did some Barsoomian art for IDW before that series got cancelled. His Dejah Thoris is totally raping that green warrior. Is he in agony or ecstasy? That pistol in his hand is about to go off. It's a combat scene, but it is also an amazing eroitic image. Kinky.

Ah, well, no matter what ciriticisms or observations I may casually hurl in this blog, I am very happy to see John Carter and Dejah Thoris appearing in comics once more.  If  you like this kind of stuff, you should not miss out on the John Carter comics–I don’t think they will last more than a year or two.

Posted September 15, 2011 by atroll in Barsoom, Dejah Thoris, John Carter of Mars, Uncategorized

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