John Carter of Mars

Pulp Fiction


In the Early 20th century, pulp ruled the literary world. People, growing tired of the daily realities of the mundane nature, craved for adventure. High literature was the luxury of the learned and the upper class. While people did aspire to read large, classical tomes that unfurled stories of literary merit, they also craved for the quick fix of broad adventure. Where men were men and women wore little!

At first it was the pulp crime/mystery novels with their alluring paperback covers. Then there were gritty cowboy stories of the wild frontier. But a new genre was rearing its head, where authors aspired beyond the mere confines of the earthly delights. They wanted more, they wanted space. The glorious science fiction and fantasy opened new horizons: broad open spaces, alien landscapes, super powers, rocket ships of grandeur, extraterrestrial villains and much more. The sky used to be the limit for the imagination of an author. But now, they could travel a million galaxies the very edges of the universe (if there was an edge).

It is in this milieu that a new hero was born in February 1912.

The hero is John Carter of Mars. And his creator was the formidable Mr. Edgar Rice Burroughs.

John Carter of Mars
John Carter of Mars
Edgar Rice Burroughs (September 1, 1875 - March 19, 1950)
Edgar Rice Burroughs (September 1, 1875 - March 19, 1950)
Tarzan of the Apes
Tarzan of the Apes

Edgar Rice Burroughs


Born in Chicago on September 1st , 1875, Burroughs was a child of a civil war veteran, Major George Tyler Burroughs. With an unremarkable education, a short stint in the army (discharged due to a minor heart condition) and eventually finding work as a pencil sharpener wholesaler, Burroughs led an ordinary and strangely unfulfilling life plagued with meagre wages - with his wife and three children. In his free time he read a lot of pulp magazines. He later recalled feeling that if people were getting paid to write such rot, he could do no worse. He felt he could entertain and astound readers with equally ‘rotten’ stories but perhaps could do better.

His first story was called ‘Under the Moons of Mars’ which he sold to All-Story Magazine and was serialised between February and July 1912. A hefty 400 dollars (at today’s rate around 8000 dollars) was paid to Burroughs. He originally wrote under the pseudonym ' Norman Bean'.

Realising that his imagination and writing merited a much better wage that he has ever earned before, Burroughs took to full time writing. In October 1912 he created a more famous and enduring series in Tarzan of the apes. This went on to massive success and made his name. The first book version was published in 1914, consisting of the collected stories serialised in the All-Story magazine. The rest, as they say, is history.

But we are not here to talk about the ape man in a loincloth. We are here to talk about our Mars- Man.



Barsoom
Barsoom
 John Carter: Marvel Comic Art
John Carter: Marvel Comic Art

Our Hero


Standing 6 foot 2 inches with a formidable frame ( Jack Reacher, eat your heart out), close cropped hair and steel grey eyes and perpetually 30 years old, Carter can remember no childhood. Described as an immortal, this Virginian served as a Captain in the Confederate army during the American Civil war. At the beginning of the first book ( published in 1917 as a Princess of Mars) Carter’s effects are handed over to his nephew ( Burroughs) who finds a manuscript that describes the strange adventures of ‘Uncle Jack’ who never seems to age. His lifeless, yet ageless body is confined to a tomb whose ornate door can only be opened from inside.


After being decommissioned from the Civil War, Carter goes prospecting in Arizona for gold along with a fellow army friend, Powell. After an ambush by Apaches, he crawls into a cave to hide only to leave his earthly body behind and ‘astrally’ transported to the red planet, Mars.


Here begins his glorious adventures. Armed with a physique that is used to earthly gravity, Carter finds himself a superhero in the planet of Mars, known locally to its occupants as ‘Barsoom’. Strange civilisations, warring factions, bizarre aliens and beautiful maidens populate Barsoom.Carter has many adventures in Mars and links up with princess Dejah Thoris, His many travels to Barsoom form the bulk of the adventures written by ERB.


Map of Barsoom
Map of Barsoom

Barsoom


Burroughs' vision of Mars is very much inspired by the works of astronomers of his time. Mars was viewed as formerly Earthlike by astronomers such as Sir Percival Lowell who speculated fading civilisations and lost glory in his works.


At the same time the Italian astronomer Schiaparelli found channels ( canaliculi) in Martian terrain. Mistakenly translated as canals, speculation became rife that these were dried of canals were water once flowed in Mars.

These thoughts sparked ERB's view of the world. Once a lush planet, Barsoom is now a fading terrain with dwindling resources. Populated by various races ( Red, Green, Yellow, White, Black etc.) who are all warring against each other to stake claim for what remains, Barsoom is very much a land in turmoil.

John Carter in action
John Carter in action

Inspiration to Many

One only has to look at the concepts, the imagination and the art of John Carter to see how this would’ve inspired countless future writers and film makers. The likes of Conan, Star Wars, Flash Gordon seem all to carry shades of this original creation. The vast interplanetary adventures are stirring and highly entertaining. Though written in early 20th century the books carry a lean pace, tight plots and high adventure.


Many science fiction authors of the Golden Age- Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clarke have all quoted ERB's John Carter as a childhood inspiration that spurred their imagination. Scientist and writer Carl Sagan said that his search for extra terrestrial intelligence was inspired by childhood readings of these stories.

The Barsoom Series

Title
Magazine Publication Date
Book Publication Date
A Princess of Mars
February -July 1912 - All-Story
1917 (A.C. McClurg)
The Gods of Mars
January -May 1913 - All-Story
1918 (A.C. McClurg)
Warlord of Mars
December 1913- March 1914 - All-Story
1919 (A.C. McClurg)
Thuvia, Maid of Mars
April 8,15,22 1916 -All-Story Weekly
1920 (A.C. McClurg)
The Chessmen of Mars
February- March 1922 -Argosy All-story weekly
1922 (A.C. McClurg)
The Master Mind of Mars
July 15, 1927- Amazing Stories Annual
1928 (A.C. McClurg)
A Fighting Man of Mars
April - September 1930 - Blue Book Magazine
1931 ( Metropolitan)
Swords of Mars
November 1934- April 1935 - Blue Book Magazine
1936 ( Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc.)
Synthetic Men of Mars
1939 -Argosy Weekly
1940 ( Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc.)
Llana of Gathol
1941 -Amazing Stories
1948 ( Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc.)
John Carter of Mars
1941, 1943 - Amazing Stories
1964 ( Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc.)
The very first story in All-Story Mag.
The very first story in All-Story Mag.
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A Princess of MarsA Princess of Mars
A Princess of Mars
A Princess of Mars
A Princess of Mars
A Princess of Mars

A Princess of Mars


On a cold night in Arizona, after an ambush by a horde of Apaches, ex-confederate army captain and current gold prospector John Carter encounters a mysterious cave where hides. He is then lured by the glow of the red planet in the sky and leaves his earthly body behind only to wake up in Mars ( known as Barsoom to the locals). He falls in with a nomadic tribe of Green skinned Martians knows as Tharks. Due to his extraordianry physical agility and strength he soon rises to a high position in the Thark army. Many adventures ensue.The Tharks capture the delectable Princess Dejah Thoris of the Red Martian race from the kingdom of Helium.

John Carter falls for the charms of Princess Dejah ( and she to his) and he rescue her to return her to her people eventually becoming the Prince of Helium and settling down to a life of bliss with his beloved. An accident in the air factory ( that maintains the planet's atmosphere) makes John sacrifice his life for the good of the planet... he awakens back in the Arizona cave wondering whether he will ever go back to Barsoom.

John Carter with Dejah Thoris
John Carter with Dejah Thoris
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The Gods of MarsThe Gods of Mars
The Gods of Mars
The Gods of Mars
The Gods of Mars
The Gods of Mars

The Gods of Mars

Ten years after the events that transpire in A Princess of Mars, John Carter is once again lured back to Barsoom. He has spent the last years pining for his wife and unborn child. On arrival to Barsoom he realises he has been transported to the Valley of Dor, the mystical localtion of Martian afterlife where it is prohibited ot travel except of pilgrimages from which no one returns.


He realises the mystical race of Therns who live there have been plying on the superstitions of the Red and Green Martians and have murdered and pillaged the pilgrims for eons. The Valley of Dor is populated by ferociuos beats and duplicitous Therns. Re-united with his old friend Tars Tharkas, John Carter incites a rebellion to let the rest of Mars know of the secrets of the Valley of Dor. He meets a youth from Helium called Carthoris who he later realises is his own offspring. After many adventures involving seductive hand maidens, murderous beasts, sly villains, evil plant men and breathtaking twists and events that stretch across the vast landscapes of Barsoom, John eventually is restored to his family and his position.

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Warlord of MarsWarlord of Mars
Warlord of Mars
Warlord of Mars
Warlord of Mars
Warlord of Mars

Warlord of Mars


There is a secret of the Temple of the Sun that only a first born knows. John Carter faces the yellow peril in this book, a race of yellow skinned, supposedly extinct Martians who inhabit secret domes in the polar regions. They capture innocent civilians by using giant magnetic devices that send the fliers off course.


Dejah Thoris and Princess Thuvia (inctorduced in Gods of Mars) are imprisoned in a secret prison that opens only once a year. John goes on a rescue mission filled with perils of the northern regions. Ably assisted once again by his green skinned friend, Thars Tarkas, John triumphs over much adversity and peril and is soon proclaimed the 'Warlord of Mars' by his allies.



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Thuvia, Maid of MarsThuvia, Maid of Mars
Thuvia, Maid of Mars
Thuvia, Maid of Mars
Thuvia, Maid of Mars
Thuvia, Maid of Mars

Thuvia, Maid of Mars


This story features John Carter's son Carthoris and Thuvia , the Princess of Ptarth ( both appearing in the last two books). As per Burroughs plot machinations Carthoris is madly in love with Thuvia who is betrothed to another nobleman. In MArtian society such betrothal is only broken by death.


As is now a familiar fate for many of Burrough's heroines, Thuvia gets kidnapped by a mysterious race in the south. The kidnapping incident is set up to frame Carthoris thus igniting feud between the Red Martians and those of Ptarth. Carthoris and his love Thuvia find themselves in ancient city of Lothar where a pale skinned race of supposedly extinct Martians survive on pure thought and telepathy. They are able to conjure up phantasms to fight their invaders and these phantoms are so real they can kill the believers.


Carthoris needs to pick a few leaves of his father book. he not only has to escape with his lover but has to arrive in time to stop the intra-planetary war between the rival factions.

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The Chessmen of MarsThe Chessmen of Mars
The Chessmen of Mars
The Chessmen of Mars
The Chessmen of Mars
The Chessmen of Mars

The Chessmen of Mars


This time featuring a tortured romance between Tara, princess of Helium ( John Carter's daughter) and Gahan of Gathol, a flamboyant playboy prince who is initially hated by Tara. As is now standard for Burrough's women, Tara loses orientation when flying into a storm and lands in the mysterious land of Bantoom. This features the fierce race of Kaldanes who have evolved into 'pure brain'. These crablike species are just a head and they have cultivated a race of headless humanoids called Rykors whom they ride like a horse in a weird symbiosis.


Gahan also falls overboard while attempting to rescue a crewmember in the same storm and arrives in Bantoom pretending to be a mercenary soldier called Turan. Together they escape the Kaldanes with the help of a local called Ghek who has taken a liking for Tara and loathes the bodyless existence.


The highlight is when they land in an isolated city of Manator. Here the captives are forced to play the game of Jetan a real-life chess game on a giant chequered board. ERB was a keen chess player and Jetan was inspired by his many games with his assistant. The protagonists are forced ot fight a duel unto death in the fierce game of Jetan.


The Master Mind of Mars




Although set in Barsoom, the story focuses on a completely different protagonist, one Mr Ulysses Paxton. He, like John Carter before him, gets transported to Mars where he meets the eponymous master-mind of the tale, a scientist Ras Thavas.



Ras has perfected the science of brain transplants and provides rich and aging Martians with fresh young bodies. Although Ulysses is initially trains to be his assistant he soon falls for young victim, Valla Dia and pleads her case.



Valla's body is transplanted to a rich Martian dignitary while the former suffers in an aging host. Ulysses sets about on a quest to rescue Valla and restore some ethical stand in the brain transplant industry. Many adventures ensue.





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A Fighting Man of MarsA Fighting Man of Mars
A Fighting Man of Mars
A Fighting Man of Mars
A Fighting Man of Mars
A Fighting Man of Mars

A Fighting Man of Mars


Narrated by Ulysses Paxton ( the protagonist of the previous novel) this story is a high adventure and a tall romance between a low ranking officer (padwar) called Tan Hadron and the haughty, spoilt daughter of a nobleman, Sanoma Tora.


His love is unrequited. Not unsurprisingly she gets kidnapped and Hadron goes in search of Sanoma in an adventurous pursuit to the city of Jahar.


En route to the City of Jahar where Sanoma is likely to be imprisoned, he rescues slave-maiden Tavia. The latter is a resourceful, intelligent, beautiful and brave companion and proves as the journey unfurls to be more worthy of Hadron's affections than the shallow Sanoma.


Aided by a disaffected Jaharian soldier Nur-an and another escaped slave Phao, Hadron's grand quest is a thrill a minute quest across Barsoom, encountering familiar beasts and strange new creatures to equal measure like the gruesome cannibals of U-Gor.



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Swords of MarsSwords of Mars
Swords of Mars
Swords of Mars
Swords of Mars
Swords of Mars

Swords of Mars


Swords of Mars features the triumphant return of John Carter. Here he narrates the war against a guild of assassins led by Ur-Jan. Carter goes undercover to the heart of the guild itself, to the city of Zadonga ( the city was sacked by the Armies of Helium and by the Tharkas in the first book).

Passing himself off as an assassin for hire, Carter becomes embroiled in an interplanetary rivalry between two scientists. The action zips off to Thuria ( Phobos) as the Guild kidnaps Dejah ( she must be the most kidnapped princess in the history of literature) in an attempt to subdue Carter.


In a madcap race to Phobos, the protagonist and his antagonists encounter a strange translucent white skinned blue haired sun-worshippers called Tarids who have advanced telepathic powers and who subdue all the adventurers.


After much mayhem Carter and Dejah return to their home planet.

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Synthetic Men of MarsSynthetic Men of Mars
Synthetic Men of Mars
Synthetic Men of Mars
Synthetic Men of Mars
Synthetic Men of Mars

Synthetic Men of Mars



Narrated by Vor Daj, one of John Carter's personal guard, the synthetic Men of Mars features the evil scientist Ras Thavas ( from the Master Mind of Mars).This time, Ras has moved from brain transplants to creating artificial humanoid creatures. In an experiment gone wrong, the mutated creatures which are a seething mass of flesh, hold him captive.


John Carter must face these synthetic men of Mars in an attempt to rescue the evil scientist Well before its time, the novel explores the dangers of genetic manipulation and cloning.



With echoes of The island of Dr Moreau and Frankenstein, the story is patchy yet full of colourful ideas from the ERB stable.



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Llana of GatholLlana of Gathol
Llana of Gathol
Llana of Gathol
Llana of Gathol
Llana of Gathol

Llana of Gathol


This book is an anthology of four previous John Carter stories, all published originally in a magazine format.



The various stories show ERB's vivid imagination and the ability to draw the reader into preposterous yet highly entertaining plots and storylines. There is more than a fair share of humour in these nuggets compared to his previous efforts.


The stories contained within include:


'The Ancient Dead', originally 'The City of Mummies'


'The Black Pirates of Barsoom'


'Escape on Mars', originally 'Yellow Men of Mars'


'Invisible Men of Mars'

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John Carter of MarsJohn Carter of Mars
John Carter of Mars
John Carter of Mars
John Carter of Mars
John Carter of Mars

John Carter of Mars



This posthumous publication collects two stories. The book version arrived 14 years after ERB's death.


First story is John Carter and the Giant of Mars, a juvenile story written by Edgar Rice Burroughs son, John Coleman Burroughs. ERB claimed to have revised the text for magazine publication and it initially was published in Whitman's Big little book and then in amazing Stories. In this tale, John Carter encounters Joog, a giant of Mars when searching for Dejah Thoris. Several adventures ensue including the city of rats, chamber of horrors and a flying Terror before order is restored and the princess duly rescued.


The second story is called the Skeleton men of Jupiter, which was intended to be a series of Novelettes that were never completed due to ERB's death. Captured by mysterious skeleton men and transported in a sinister space ship to Sassoom ( Jupiter), John must face several perils including strange beasts and scintillating sword fights in what is by now a well worn formula.

Image Courtesy of ERBzine
Image Courtesy of ERBzine

The Film: John Carter of Mars


After so many years and several failed attempts, Disney are finally bringing the grand space adventure in all IMAX and 3D glory. Directed by Andrew Stanton who formerly directed animation at Pixar ( Finding Nemo) The omens bode well after fellow Pixarian Brad Bird's success with Mission Impossible: Ghost protocol.


No expense has been spared to bring Barsoom to life. The look of the film is a cross between Lord of the rings, Star Wars and there is huge potential to become a new franchise. It features several new and well known international actors in lead roles:

Taylor Kitsch ( Gambit in wolverine) plays John Carter

Lynn Collins ( Kayla in wolverine) plays Dejah Thoris

Willem Dafoe will voice the CGI Tars Tharkas

Bryan Cranston ( Drive, Malcolm in the Middle, Breaking Bad) plays Powell

Mark Strong ( Sherlock Holmes, Kick Ass) plays Matai Shang

Polly Walker ( Clash of Titans, Rome) plays Sarkoja

It also stars Dominic West ( The Wire) , Ciaran Hinds ( , Samantha Morton ( Minority Report) and Thomas Haden Church ( Spiderman 3, Sideways).


Cast, Concept Art and Stills

Click thumbnail to view full-size
John CarterDejah ThorisMatai ShangCast of JCM: ( clockwise) Willem Dafoe, Thomas Haden Church, Dominic West, Mark Strong, Samantha Morton, Polly Walker , Lynn collins, Taylor Kitsch, James Purefoyinternational Poster
John Carter
John Carter
Dejah Thoris
Dejah Thoris
Matai Shang
Matai Shang
Cast of JCM: ( clockwise) Willem Dafoe, Thomas Haden Church, Dominic West, Mark Strong, Samantha Morton, Polly Walker , Lynn collins, Taylor Kitsch, James Purefoy
Cast of JCM: ( clockwise) Willem Dafoe, Thomas Haden Church, Dominic West, Mark Strong, Samantha Morton, Polly Walker , Lynn collins, Taylor Kitsch, James Purefoy
international Poster
international Poster

Trailer

JCM by Franz Franzetta
JCM by Franz Franzetta

© 2012 Mohan Kumar

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Comments 11 comments

always exploring profile image

always exploring 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

I am really impressed with your layout and research. This is all new to me but very interesting. Thank you Docmo. Enjoyed reading the history of John Carter of Mars.


epigramman profile image

epigramman 4 years ago

...actually I have no idea who this guy is but you always put together the most lovely hub presentations on such a world class level so I must preach to the Facebook choir with a posting on my Facebook page and a direct link back here - I sincerely hope all is well with you my friend - sending warm wishes from lake erie time ontario canada 7:09pm


drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida

Thank YOU, Mohan, for the time and loving research you put into this enchanting hub. John Carter is a brand new fictional hero to me so I will read more about him in Edgar's books. Thanks for the introduction. Also because you mentioned Lee Child's fictional hero, Jack Reacher. Both are my heroes.

I enjoy reading all that you write, my friend, because you put so much of yourself and your time into your writing. It shows. Thank you. And voted way Up.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 4 years ago from Canada

It's nice to see the Edgar Rice Burroughs tales becoming popular again. Though they were well before my time, my grandfather had a set, so I knew the stories well.

Wow - I see you're one of the Top Hubbers of 2011 - way to go!

http://hubpages.com/community/Top-New-Hubbers-Of-2...

Well done!


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ

I have all of Edgar Rice Burroughs novels on my Kindle. I read the Tarzan series when I was in my early teens and loved them. They were my mom's. She also had the John Carter books but I was not interested in sci-fi at the time. Now I am reading them and they are wonderful. I had not heard that they were making a movie and I have already shared with a friend, who was a fan of these.


Docmo profile image

Docmo 4 years ago from UK Author

@Ruby- thank you very much Ruby. Its good to be back.

@Epiman - thanks for the share dear friend.

@drbj, when you welcome me back like this, why would I ever want to leave. I hope I have a teensy weensy place somewhere between John Carter and Jack Reacher in your heart!

@RedElf- much appreciated. and thanks for letting me know about being one of the honorable mentions for hubber of the year. A rare honour indeed.

@Becky- I too, was enchanted by ERB when little and devoured all the Tarzan novels. John Carter I came to late but loved him equally for the interstellar canvas that must have influenced very many space operas since.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England

Excellent work Docmo, plenty of facts and info in your article. I love all the images too. I wrote a hub on Burroughs last year. I read many of these books when I was young and I'm looking forward to the film.

I like the way you have provided links to download the stories, good stuff. Voted Up and Useful.


ChristyWrites profile image

ChristyWrites 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

What an amazing hub, both for its amount of research, its layout, and the wealth of information! I am new to the world of fantasy yet I still enjoyed the hub.


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

Dave is a John Carter fan. He just watched the movie recently and enjoyed it. The critics gave it poor reviews, but what do they know. They are clueless. Fabulous hub and photos!!


cclitgirl profile image

cclitgirl 4 years ago from Western NC

What a comprehensive hub you have here! I loved when you were talking about Burroughs with regard to reading pulp magazines and thinking he could do no worse. I feel the same way, lol. I mean if Danielle Steele and Nora Roberts can get away with making money, I don't think I could do any worse when I attempt a novel. Hehehe. Voted up, tweeted and shared.


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 4 years ago from Virginia

Having just seen John Carter on DVD....I can safely say that your review of the work by Burroughs and the world of John Carter is considerably better than the movie. Tons of information to be gained by reading your work. I wish I had read this hub before seeing the movie....maybe I would not be so sore on the movie. Voted up and useful and interesting.

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    Docmo profile image

    Mohan Kumar (Docmo)951 Followers
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    Mohan is a family physician, film and TV aficionado, a keen bibliophile and an eclectic scribbler.



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