Well, while many of us are aware that the interplanetary swashbuckler known as John Carter of Mars — like his more famous literary sibling, Tarzan, first appeared in the pulps, many may not be aware that John Carter also had a very lengthy run in comics as well. In the 1970s both DC and then later Marvel Comics each published the on-going stories of John Carter of Mars. For a handful of issues (first in the back of its Tarzan magazine, then later on in a split Weird Worlds title, then fledgling writer Marv Wolfman penned a number of adaptations of John Carter novels. According to Wolfman, he was given the opportunity to edit/proofread the issues of Tarzan that were being illustrated by Joe Kubert and then allowed to actually write the John Carter back-up.
These stories were our own first real introduction to the character of John Carter, and truthfully, we loved the concept of traveling to an alien world, meeting a beautiful princess, and and swordfighting with four-armed green men. That was totally awesome. In this collected volume of the DC stories, John Carter is (as always), an ex-Confederate soldier who has become a prospector in the Old West. When he is chased by Indians, he takes shelter in a cave where he is mysteriously transported to Mars (or Barsoom as it is known to its natives). There he first becomes a a prisoner, then when his Earth strength is demonstrated to be much greater on Mars (due to its smaller size and density) he is elevated to champion, as well as a warlord or sorts (or Jeddak). He also meets the beautiful Dejah Thoris, they fall madly in love, and he dedicates his life to protecting his new home and newly found love.
The series collects the stories which originally appeared in Tarzan #207--#209 and Weird Worlds #1--#7, and features the work of Marv Wolfman, Murphy Anderson, Gray Morrow, Sal Amendola, Joe Orlando, and Howard Chaykin! The collection is well-done, square-bound and makes a nice companion piece to Dark Horse’s other trade paperback editions of John Carter’s comicbook adventures (the Jesse Marsh collection, as well as the one from Marvel Comics.) Unfortunately, due to the short, episodic nature of the original stories, the collected tales have something of a choppy nature (requiring Wolfman to summarize the story thus far every few pages), Still, the book serves as a great bookshelf edition for those of us who have long-since sold off the original comics. So, if you are a completest fan of John Carter, and are looking to fill in your collection with some very cool Carter stories, we highly recommend acquiring the Dark Horse stories, as well as the Dark Horse John Carter/Tarzan cross-over.
Still, given how thrilling these stories are we can’t help wonder why Disney sandbagged its own film John Carter film which successfully, beautifully, and faithfully translated Edgar Rice Burroughs‘ extra-planetary swashbuckling hero Captain John Carter from print to screen, for the first time in the 100 years of his literary existence.
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing comicbooks for some 30 years. During that time, his reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web. Subscribe to receive regular comicbook articles and reviews.Top of Form