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Nexus Graphica
by Rick Klaw

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Other Nexus Graphica Columns
For more information, you can try the following:
John Carter in comics
John Carter in The Funnies
John Coleman Burroughs Sunday strips (complete with annotations)
John Carter by Jesse Marsh
Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars: The Jesse Marsh Years
The Martian
Weird Worlds
Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars: Weird Worlds
Tarzan Family 62
Tarzan Family 63
Tarzan Family 64
John Carter, Warlord of Mars
Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars: Warlord of Mars
John Carter, Warlord of Mars Omnibus
Gray Morrow Sunday strips
Dynamite Entertainment
John Carter: Worlds of Mars
Action! Mystery! Thrills! Comic Book Covers of the Golden Age 1933-1945
Inner Sanctum
Silent Partner
Recent Books of Interest
Action! Mystery! Thrills! Comic Book Covers of the Golden Age 1933-1945 Edited by Greg Sadowski (Fantagraphics)
Action! Mystery! Thrills! Comic Book Covers of the Golden Age 1933-1945 Editor/designer Greg Sadowski returns to his tireless exploration of the comic book with this magnificent collection of 176 full color covers, dating from the Golden Age. As in his previous volumes (Supermen!, Four Color Fear, Setting the Standard), Sadowski supplies copious end notes and annotations. Though this time, the information additionally reads as an entertaining history of early comics. Perhaps the book's only flaws rest in the lack of an index and that the annotations might better serve the subject if printed alongside the images. Sadowski once again delivers an essential book for anyone with an interest in comics history.

Inner Sanctum by Ernie Colón (NBM)
Inner Sanctum Under-appreciated by mainstream comic fans, Ernie Colón rarely worked on super-hero titles and is probably best remembered as the co-creator of Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld and artist on titles such as Arak, Son of Thunder and Marvel's Conan. Colón demonstrates his considerable talents in seven tales adapted from the classic radio show Inner Sanctum Mystery. "Death of a Doll," "Alive in the Grave," "The Horla," and "Lived OnceóBuried Twice" offer sufficient chills to interest even the most jaded horror comics fan. The only negative to these largely excellent stories is the missing historical data on the original episodes and the show itself. Essentially, Inner Sanctum serves as a showcase for the extraordinary Colón.

Silent Partner by Jonathan Kellerman Adapted by Ande Parks Art by Michael Gaydos (Villard)
Silent Partner The first graphic adaptation derived from best-selling author Jonathan Kellerman's works, the compelling Silent Partner (based on the novel of the same name) follows renowned child psychologist Alex Delaware as he delves into the mystery surrounding the suicide of a former lover. His travails lead him through a harrowing array of mind games and duplicity. Though beautiful, the Gaydos art at times muddies the meandering, dense story. The lettering appears misplaced in several scenes causing some momentary confusion. Even with these flaws, Kellerman, Parks, and Gaydos manage to deliver a taut, psychological and ultimately satisfying drama.

Four-Color Skies Over Barsoom: John Carter in Comics

The Funnies
John Carter of Mars: The Jesse Marsh Years
Weird Worlds
John Carter, Warlord of Mars
Nearly one hundred years ago, Edgar Rice Burroughs, under the nom de plume of Norman Bean, created the seminal planetary romance. "Under the Moons of Mars" from the February, 1912 All Story Magazine featured former Confederate Captain John Carter. Fleeing Apaches, Carter hides in a cave where he is overcome by fumes. He awakens on Mars, Barsoom to the natives. In the lighter gravity of the smaller planet, Carter achieves nearly superhuman accomplishments. He can leap extraordinary distances, his strength increases dramatically, and he develops telepathic abilities. Shortly after his arrival, he encounters the Tharks, a fierce race of large six-limbed, green-skinned warriors. After demonstrating his mettle in combat, Carter earns the respect and eventual friendship Tars Tarkas, one of the Thark chiefs. The Tharks capture the Princess of Helium, Dejah Thoris, a member of the humanoid red Martian race. Carter falls in love with the comely woman and becomes embroiled in the complex political realities of the Red Planet.

While less famous than his literary brother Tarzan of the Apes, the John Carter of Mars series showcased Edgar Rice Burroughs at his best and most creative. But unlike Tarzan, Carter's adventures have rarely appeared on film (the forthcoming John Carter marks only the second movie featuring the character) and even though he displays obvious super-heroic attributes, remarkably few comics have been devoted to his adventures

Some 28 years after the initial tale, the earliest graphic adventures first appeared in comics format. Largely illustrated and adapted by Burroughs's talented son John Coleman, the series appeared in The Funnies (Dell) No. 30, May 1939 through No. 56, June, 1941. Like most of the following attempts, this outing recounts large portions of the first two Martian novels A Princess of Mars and The Gods of Mars. Using many of the same concepts, John Coleman then produced a Sundays-only strip, 1941-1942. Sadly, none of these attractive, intelligent stories have ever been collected in book form.

John Carter returned to comics in 1952 in Dell's Four Color 375, 437, and 488. Best remembered for producing the first original Tarzan comic books, Jesse Marsh's vision (with scripts by the prolific Paul S. Newman) offers occasional attractive images but overall the stories, again derived from Princess and Gods, lack any sparkle, presenting the usually dynamic Barsoom as a flat, dull world. Unlike the John Coleman attempts, these tales were aimed squarely at children. They lack the maturity and insights of the previous series and the original source material. This didn't prevent Gold Key from reprinting the stories in 1964 as John Carter of Mars No. 1-3. Dark Horse recently collected all the issues in the hardback Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars: The Jesse Marsh Years.

Largely forgotten, D.R. Morton & Robert Forest adapted Princess as The Martian for the British paper Sun Weekly. The handsome strip ran for 31 weeks in 1958-1959.

John Carter disappeared from the sequential landscape until 1972 when DC included the hero as back ups in Tarzan. Written by John Carter fan Marv Wolfman with art by Murphy Anderson, Gray Morrow, Sal Amendola, Joe Orlando, and an uncredited Howard Chaykin, the stories appeared first in Tarzan No. 207-209 and then in the anthology Weird Worlds No. 1-7. The attractive tales, the best since John Coleman Burroughs' efforts, primarily rehashed material from Princess and Gods. Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars: Weird Worlds (Dark Horse) collects all these stories.

In 1976, DC took another final brief stab. Original five-page John Carter stories by writer Robert Kanigher and artists Noly Zamora, and Vic Catan, Jr. graced the pages of Tarzan Family No. 62-64. Strangely, Dark Horse did not include these interesting, beautiful comics within the Weird Worlds collection.

Perhaps the finest sequential visions emerged from Marvel begining in 1977. John Carter, Warlord of Mars ran for 28 issues and three annuals, all original stories mainly scripted by Wolfman and Chris Claremont. Wolfman, in particular, understood the complexities of the Barsoomian landscape. His initial 10 chapter sequence "The Air-Pirates of Mars" reads like a lost Burroughs novel. The series featured some of the finest late-career Gil Kane art, usually abetted by the elegant Ruby Nebres. Other contributing artists Frank Miller, Walt Simonson, Ernie Colón (his first Marvel work), Dave Cockrum, Mike Vosburg, and Carmine Infantino. The entire series was collected in a black & white omnibus edition by Dark Horse under the clunky title of Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars: Warlord of Mars and recently by Marvel in a full color hardcover.

After the 1979 demise of the Marvel book, John Carter pickings become slim. Gray Morrow returned to helm a short-lived Sunday strip (October, 1994-August, 1995). Dark Horse produced a 1996 four issue crossover of Burroughs's two most famous creations. Sadly, Tarzan/John Carter: Warlords of Mars has never been collected. John Carter plays a pivotal role in the first issue (1999) of Alan Moore and Pat O'Neill's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume II.

The announcement of Disney's big budget, live action John Carter spurred a whole new generation of Mars comics. Dynamite Entertainment currently publishes several titles exploring not just John Carter and Dejah Thoris but different aspects of the Barsoomian culture and history. Marvel, now owned by Disney, supplied John Carter: Worlds of Mars, the official prequel to the movie. Additionally, they produced a new adaptation of Princess and plan a Gods one as well.

Thanks to Austin Books for their help with this column.


Copyright © 2012 Rick Klaw

Professional reviewer, geek maven, and optimistic curmudgeon, Rick Klaw has supplied countless reviews, essays, and fiction for a variety of publications including The Austin Chronicle, The San Antonio Current, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Moving Pictures, RevolutionSF, Conversations With Texas Writers, Electric Velocipede, Cross Plains Universe, Steampunk, and The Steampunk Bible. Coming in March 2013 from Tachyon, he is editing The Apes of Wrath, a survey of apes in literature with contributions from Edgar Allan Poe, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Franz Kafka, Gustave Flaubert, Joe R. Lansdale, Pat Murphy, Leigh Kennedy, James P. Blaylock, Clark Ashton Smith, Karen Joy Fowler, Philip José Farmer, Robert E. Howard and others. Klaw can often be found pontificating on Twitter and over at The Geek Curmudgeon.


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