Four-Color Skies Over Barsoom: John Carter in Comics
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
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
John Carter: Worlds of Mars
Action! Mystery! Thrills! Comic Book Covers of the Golden Age 1933-1945
Recent Books of Interest
Action! Mystery! Thrills! Comic Book Covers of the Golden Age 1933-1945 Edited by Greg Sadowski (Fantagraphics)
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)
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)
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.
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.