John Carter Warlord of Mars

©Roman Schwachöfer


John Carter is a character from literature that has been transferred to an occasional comic book hero. Thus his comic book origin is usually in line with the original origin as written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. He is however no ordinary man, not knowing when or where he was born, and being, as far as he can remember always a man around 30 years of age, as he says about the little personal history that he gives about his life on Earth before Barsoom, "I am a very old man; how old I do not know. Possibly I am a hundred, possibly more, but I cannot tell because I have never aged as do other men, nor do I remember my childhood. So far as I can recollect I have always been a man, a man of about thirty. I appear today as I did forty years ago or more." He does however know he has always been a warrior and his combat experience, which would later be put to the test on Mars, was developed in various militaries around the world, as he served as an officer for various countries on five different continents.


After leaving to fight in the American Civil War he did not see his own family for quite some time, including his nephew, a character named Edgar Rice Burroughs (who shares his name with the author.) As a member of the Confederate Army he loses everything after the South loses the war (though in some interpretations he is a member of the Union, whose family was killed in collateral damage.) As a gold miner in 1866 he discover a large deposit of gold along with his colleague Captain James K. Powell. Powell was ambushed by Native Americans and Carter was forced into a cave where noxious fumes immobilized him where he was left to die by his pursuers. He eventually forced himself awake but discovered soon after that he was in fact on Mars (which the locals call Barsoom) and no longer on Earth.CreationAs a literary character, John Carter’s first appearance was not in comics but rather in a pulp magazine in 1912. His first comic book appearance was in the Funnies #30 in 1939. Character Evolution. Regardless of which iteration of the character is being described there are some constants for the character.


First of all is that he is man that often regrets his past and for whom the chance at a second life on Mars offers a chance at redemption. This redemption is generally found in his Martian wife Dejah Thoris. As a public domain character, John Carter has gone through many different versions and interpretations as does the depiction of Barsoom. In some the characters are portrayed in a more chivalric manner, in other more savage with a classical look. This can also be seen to follow along some trends in comics as for instance his portrayal in the 1970s when barbarian style worlds were more popular in fiction also reflected this look.

Marjor Story Arcs:
The first group of individuals that John Carter identifies on Mars are known as the Tharks and are led by Tars Tarkas. He initially has difficulty communicating with the Tharks, but he manages to find ways to communicate with them. He soon after also discovers that he has the equivalent of super powers on Mars do its different planetary characteristics. The Tharks are a fairly savage group and define many problems with violence to which John Carter is no exception. He is soon after put in the care of a female Thark known as Sola. He also soon meets his animal companion Woola, a dog like creature.

John soon realizes the great threats to Mars as he for the first time witnesses an attack on flying vehicles by the Tharks. He soon saves Dejah’s life for the first time and earns the name Dotar Sojat. John also draws the ire of another Thark named Sarkoja. This leads to numerous confrontations, all of which John is the victor in, yet Sarkoja remains an enemy.

Due to the fact that both he and Tarzan were created by the same writer, the two of them have appeared from time to time in the same comics, though Burroughs never specifically intended that they exist in the same continuities.

Powers and Abilities:

Though only a regular person by human standards, he gains a degree of super strength on Mars as the planet’s gravity and pressure are less (though this is quite exaggerated.) As a veteran of numerous wars he has a great understanding of tactics and his mental and physical endurance also reflect the hardships he has been through. Equally he is an expert with numerous weapons and specifically with swordsmanship.

Other Media:

Despite being one of Burroughs' two most famous created characters he is represented in film much less than Tarzan. There have been a few treatments of his story, most notably the 2012 Disney version titles John Carter, which was designed to come out 100 years after the year of his first appearance.

Martian Family of John Carter

New grafic Fiction adaptations:

Marvel Entertainment, in collaboration with the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate, is proud to announce all new graphic fiction adaptations of the legendary John Carter novels, beginning with JOHN CARTER: A PRINCESS OF MARS #1 in September 2011. By working closely with the ERB estate, all John Carter comics produced with Marvel Entertainment will be considered part of the official canon, adding new layers to the rich mythos created by Burroughs.

Transported to the dying planet of Mars, Captain John Carter must now fight for his life against creatures unlike any ever seen by mankind. But as he finds himself enveloped by an alien civil war, he meets the proud and beautiful Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium, who will change his life forever!

“With our new partnership with Marvel Entertainment, we believe we have found the best creative force to revive the thrills and adventures in the 21st Century of the legendary John Carter of Mars. We are looking forward to introducing this original interplanetary adventurer to a new generation of fans and await the first issue with great anticipation,” said James Sullos, President of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.

Re-envisioned by acclaimed scribe Roger Langridge and fan-favorite artist Filipe Andrade, with covers by Eisner winner Skottie Young, JOHN CARTER: A PRINCESS OF MARS brings you the story you love like you’ve never seen it before.

“Edgar Rice Burroughs created one of the great action heroes in John Carter and we’re excited to bring his novels to comics for a new generation,” said Axel Alonso, Marvel Editor-In-Chief. “Roger and Filipe are going to blow everyone away with their take on the John Carter novels, keeping fans new and old on the edge of their seats.”

This September, one of the greatest action stories of all time comes to life in JOHN CARTER: A PRINCESS OF MARS #1!

John Carter film:

IT LOOKS like the Edgar Rice Burroughs book series John Carter of Mars is finally going to be turned into a movie following more than seven decades of aborted missions.

Taylor Kitsch, who played Gambit in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and Lynn Collins, who starred alongside him as Kayla Silverfox, have now signed on for the lead roles in the Disney film adaptation.

Kitsch will play the title character, beating off competition from other names including Jon Hamm and Josh Duhamel, while Collins has been cast as Martian princess Dejah Thoris.

The casting was announced by The Hollywood Reporter and, in addition, Thomas Haden Church (who played Sandman in Spider-Man 3) has told Reel Talk he is in talks for a part in the movie.The movie will be directed by Andrew Stanton, who wrote the script with Mark Andrews. In April, American author Michael Chabon was hired to rework the screenplay, which is based on Burroughs' first novel, A Princess of Mars.

Stanton's impressive credits in animation include writing both Toy Story movies; writing and executive-producing Monsters Inc; executive-producing Ratatouille and Up; and writing and directing the Oscar-winning hits Finding Nemo and WALL-E. This would be his first live-action film project.

Production is due to start in November, according to KSL, with the film set for release in 2012.

But how will they bring this early sci-fi fantasy classic to the big screen?

Edgar Rice Burroughs, best known as the creator of Tarzan, created John Carter back in 1911. The first novel was published in 1917 and, over the decades, the character has appeared in various comic books and comic strips, most recently popping up in Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novels.

Carter is a fictional character from Virginia, USA, who is a captain in the American Civil War. While hiding in a cave from Apaches, he is mysteriously transported to Mars by astral projection where he finds himself in a new and much stronger body.

He discovers Mars to be an exotic planet with an advanced humanoid culture who call the world Barsoom, as well as many fantastical creatures and other peoples. Carter rescues princess Dejah Thoris from the Green Martians and then helps to save the planet from destruction.

The planet has various kinds of Martians (red, green, yellow, white and black) as well as artificially-created people, kangaroo men and other bizarre inhabitants.

Burroughs is likely to have based his ideas on the thinking of American astronomer Percival Lowell (1855-1916) who proposed that so-called 'canals' on the planet's surface must be the result of an advanced civilisation on the increasingly arid world who were forced to construct an irrigation system to channel water from its polar ice caps.

The initial belief in canals on the surface was the result of a mistranslation of canali (channels), the geological features observed in 1878 by Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli.

Of course, today we know that Mars is nothing like the world in John Carter's stories. So the film will have to overcome that obstacle in suspending the audience's disbelief. Will we thus have to see a Mars of the distant past (prior to its barren, lifeless state today), or the future, or an alternative reality?

There have been many attempts to bring John Carter of Mars to the big screen. An animated movie had been proposed in 1931 but test footage elicited a negative reaction, while stop-motion effects expert Ray Harryhausen was interested in making a John Carter film in the 1950s but it never happened.

A movie adaptation starring Tom Cruise and directed by John McTiernan was being developed in the 80s but the project was abandoned because visual effects were not advanced enough to bring Burroughs' creations to the screen.

In 2003, Robert Rodriguez, followed by Kerry Conran and then Jon Favreau were each attached to further attempts to make a movie before the rights lapsed. Andrew Stanton became involved when Disney once more acquired the rights in January, 2007.

The plus points for this project are that it is from classic, highly-regarded source material and, better still, it has not been seen before on the big screen. For once, this is an original film project, not a prequel, sequel, remake or reimagining. One of the challenges must be that the original stories are the fantasy constructs of a bygone era although it's been said that the film will look very different from the early artwork, which now seems very dated. Another hurdle is that the stories are very much in line with the astronomical beliefs of the time - beliefs which no longer stand up today. Thanks to modern observations and landings, Mars is no longer such a mystery.


But the influence of Burroughs' stories is vast, from Buck Rogers to Flash Gordon and Star Wars. James Cameron has said the stories were a primary inspiration for his Avatar movie, and the character John Carter was referenced in Babylon 5.

So, it is probably about time we saw such inspirational material brought to the big screen. Cameron's Avatar proves we still have a sense of wonder for the possibility of weird and wonderful alien worlds out there and (judging from the Avatar images revealed so far) we now have the digital wizardry to bring them realistically to life.

Characters / Friends:
Tars Tarkas
Deja Thoris
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