Earth and Mars. Good and Evil. Blue and Gray.
All of these opposite forces collide in Dynamite Entertainment‘s new “John Carter: Warlord of Mars” series. The first ongoing featuring the character since the publisher teamed with the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate, the book features a story by longtime ERB fan Ron Marz and art from Abhishek Malsuni. And the writer promises that by the end of the opening arc, there will be some new ideas in play for the legendary pulp hero.
Earlier this month, the first issue of the series arrived to reveal U.S. Army Captain Joshua Clark — a new villain who’s teamed with an invading alien force to overtake Martian society. Having captured Princess Dejah Thoris, it becomes clear that Clark has a vendetta with John Carter that is about more than their fighting on opposite sides of the Civil War.
CBR News spoke with Marz about the launch of the series, how he’s keeping the feel of Burroughs alive while adding new elements to the John Carter mythology and what twists lie in store across the first villain-fueled arc. Plus, Dynamite shares an exclusive first look at interiors for December’s issue #2.
CBR News: Ron, you’ve talked a lot about being a major Edgar Rice Burroughs fan from a young age, and you’ve also been writing some web comics work for the estate the past few years. Over that time, what do you think the essential feel of an ERB-set story should be, and how will that bleed into “Warlord of Mars”?
Ron Marz: The work of Burroughs is classic adventure and classic romance. That’s the thread through all of his stuff, whether it’s John Carter or Tarzan or his Westerns or anything else. With few exceptions, the good guys are good, the bad guys are bad, and love is true. That’s not to say these stories are simple or cliche. They’re well-told, engaging tales, and you get caught up in what’s going to happen to the characters.
Of course, while this is a brand new series with a brand new #1, it’s technically coming on the heels of Dynamite’s longstanding run AND is opening up their publishing line to some material which was previously off the table. Where do you view this story as taking place within the John Carter canon, and how will you play with all those elements together in the series?
I think continuity has to be a tool the creator uses, rather than the other way around. If you’re a slave to continuity, you’re not putting character first, which is the way the best stories work. So while I’m mindful of continuity, it’s not a driving force for me. I’m not overly interested in filling in the cracks between other stories. Too often, continuity can be a barrier to new readers. If you’re just appealing to the existing audience, you’re not doing your job. We’re picking up in what I think of as the classic era of John Carter, when the adventures are about him and Dejah and Tars Tarkas and Woola. It’s like when I wrote “Star Wars” comics, I wanted to tell stories about Luke, Leia, Han and Darth Vader. I wasn’t as interested in telling the story of the third Stormtrooper to the left.
The first issue opens with a kind of recap of the players inherent in the John Carter world. How did you approach this story in terms of appealing to people with maybe less familiarity with the canon as well as JC diehards?
In all honesty, I know the hardcore John Carter fans are going to show up. Like I said, if you’re just appealing to the existing readers, you’re not doing your job as a storyteller. The first issue was designed to bring everybody up to speed with who’s who and what’s what on Mars, hopefully in a way that doesn’t read like an information dump. There’s an in-story reason for that background material to be explained. It’s really a matter of craft, coming up with a way to solve that storytelling element gracefully.
The center of this book, and the entire franchise, is the relationship between Dejah and John. You’ve separated them for the start of this story. What advantage to you gain in exploring them on their own, and what do you hope you’ll be able to do with each of them as leads of the book?
For all the swordplay and action in the John Carter tales, they’re all ultimately love stories. The desire and determination for John and Dejah to be together is the driving force. The readers have to be invested in their story, and in rooting for them to be together. So I’m just following the same path that Burroughs did. We start with John and Dejah separate, and the readers get to join them on their quest to be reunited.
I think it also allows Dejah to play more of a heroic role. I know it might not seem like that now, because she’s a prisoner in the first issue, but Dejah will get to kick some serious ass. She’s the Lois Lane to John Carter’s Superman, heroic in her own right, not a damsel in distress.
John Carter’s world is expansive and, like I said, you’re getting a chance to play with parts of it that other comic writers haven’t been able to explore yet. Is it daunting for you as a fan of the material to have the full scope of the world on hand, and what’s it like being tasked with creating something new in the ERB legend?
It’s not daunting at all. It’s an honor. I’m playing in the playground created by one of my biggest writing influences. I couldn’t be happier. But by the same token, I don’t want to be limited to only what Burroughs created. I want to bring something worthy to the mythology. Burroughs had such a vivid, expansive imagination. In a lot of ways, I think of him in the same manner that I think of Jack Kirby. They both created so much, just an endless array of wild imagination. If you follow in their footsteps on their characters, I think you kind of owe it to them to do what they did — create something new, rather than just treading water.
Speaking of new, issue #1 revealed the villain of this arc to be not only an earthling but a Union soldier to boot. How does his background being so different from John’s impact how he views the reality of aliens, and how will those differences get worked out over the course of this first arc?
Captain Joshua Clark’s background isn’t terribly different from John Carter’s, save for the color of the uniform they wore in the Civil War. Clark is meant to be a fractured reflection of Carter. John Carter fought for the Confederacy, the “wrong side,” but is a man of absolute honor. Clark was a Union officer, but has no sense of honor. He’s a scoundrel. I’ve always thought that John Carter lacked a truly worthy enemy. John is so physically superior on Mars, he has no real equals. But due to his earthly origin, Clark is every bit the warrior that John is. Issue #4 will show Clark’s “origin” and why he bears such hatred for John Carter.
As I said, you’ve done some other work with ERB Inc. on classic characters outside the John Carter world. Now that Dynamite and the estate are working in lock step on this property, what are the chances we’ll be seeing some other Burroughs characters crossing paths with John Carter over the life of this series?
You know, I’m honestly not sure. We’ve been so focused on launching this new series properly, and trying to lure in as many readers as possible, we haven’t even discussed anything beyond it. But obviously bringing other Burroughs creations into the mix is something I’d love to do. Even beyond the obvious ones like Tarzan, there’s a whole universe of characters that could be featured. It’s an almost endless array of possibilities.
“John Carter: Warlord of Mars” #1 is on sale now from Dynamite Entertainment.
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