Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Fanholes Side Story: A Fighting Man of Mars part 1

On March 9th the film John Carter will be released. Many people may not be aware of the fact that the title character has been around for one hundred years now. In the February 1912 issue of All-Story Magazine the story Under the Moons of Mars was published. This would mark the first appearance of John Carter, his lovely princess Dejah Thoris, and the fearsome green Martian Tars Tarkas.

Written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of Tarzan, his story was published under the pen name Norman Bean because he was afraid such an outlandish story would not be well received. Not only was it well received but Burroughs would go on to write a total of eleven books in what is called the Barsoom series. Barsoom being the native term for the planet Mars. These stories would show up in pulps for years. During the 60s and 70s the works of Burroughs were reprinted in paperback form with beautiful covers by Frank Frazetta.

While watching the trailer for John Carter if you felt it was similar to Avatar you would be correct. Many filmmakers and authors were inspired by the Barsoom novels. Among then, James Cameron, George Lucas, Ray Bradbury, and Carl Sagan just to name a few. My first exposure was to the Marvel John Carter, Warlord of Mars comic series.

A film version has been in the works since 1931, which must be a record. In 2009 there was a direct to dvd version released by The Asylum staring Traci Lords...and being an Asylum production I avoided it like the plague. Despite just now becoming a motion picture the Barsoom stories have lived on in one form or another over the years in comic books. There was even a crossover with Tarzan several years ago.

These days you can find the adventures of John Carter in one of various Dynamite comics. There is also an officially licensed comic line from Marvel. Confused? Several of the Barsoom novels are public domain, meaning anyone can adapt them. The Marvel series is officially endorsed and licensed by the Burroughs Estate. In the next installment we will take a look at several of these comics.

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