Scratching Itches, and Making Dreams Come True
When it was finally revealed last month that I would be writing a new "John Carter: Warlord of Mars" series for Dynamite, it was the fulfillment of a dream I've had since I was 12 years-old or so. And I mean that literally.
I was just the right age when I discovered the Mars stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs, open to wonder and forgiving of any shortcomings in the pulp narratives. I loved those stories and those characters, and I still do. I would lay in bed at night, especially during what seemed like endless summers, and think of stories set upon that fantastic red world
Sprawled in a cave, John Carter essentially wished himself to Barsoom. I did the same thing. It just took me thirty years get there.
I've written before about the danger of working on something you cherish. My run on "Thor," one of my favorite series as a fan, was... well, hopefully we can stop short of deeming it an unmitigated disaster, but it certainly wasn't what I'd hoped. Sometimes you get to work on the thing you've always wanted to work on, and it can't help but be a letdown.
Other times, though, it's everything you wanted, and more. Every creator I know has a wish list of characters or franchises they'd love to get their hands on, whether it's comics or other sources. Doctor Strange and Kamandi are near the top of a lot of lists (including mine). Doctor Fate is right up there for me as well.
I've been incredibly fortunate to scratch a lot of my personal itches in this business. I've gotten to write most of the Marvel and DC heroes at one time or another, whether in their own titles, guest appearances or in crossovers like "Marvel vs. DC." I wrote a Daredevil story that I love, thanks to the Brian Stelfreeze art. I got to write exactly the Superman story I wanted to write in "Adventures of Superman" #15, with Doc Shaner and Matt Wilson bringing it to life. I might even have a Batman story, with a great artist attached, that's not quite ready to be revealed.
Beyond those universes, I've checked off a lot of boxes on my wish list. I love Tarzan as much as I love John Carter, and I was able to the write the Lord of the Jungle in the "Batman-Tarzan" crossover. It wasn't enough, of course. Writing the "Korak the Killer" strip for the Edgar Rice Burroughs website, with Rick Leonardi and Neeraj Menon on art, is a start. But one of my great, unfulfilled ambitions is to pen a "Tarzan" monthly, and follow in the footsteps of people like Joe Kubert, Russ Manning, John Buscema, Roy Thomas and Burne Hogarth.
For a child of the 1970s like me, "Star Wars" is a holy grail. Dark Horse gave me the opportunity to play in that sandbox, and I'm forever grateful, especially for the Darth Vader and Darth Maul stories I did with Claudio Castellini, Rick Leonardi and Jan Duursema. Putting words in a Sith Lord's mouth is just as cool as you think it is.
I wanted to write The Phantom, so I helped put together the first "Phantom Annual" at Moonstone, with my pal Ruben Procopio drawing my contribution. When "Hellboy: Weird Tales" was announced, Mike Mignola and Scott Allie were kind enough to let me and Jim Starlin come and play. I finally got to write Conan, and bring along Bart Sears.
I slipped the Three Musketeers into "Samurai: Heaven and Earth." The original mix of characters I was given for Dynamite's "Prophecy" crossover didn't include Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. But I figured a time travel story with Red Sonja, Vampirella and Ash from "Army of Darkness" totally needed the world's greatest consulting detective, so I added him. Turned out that Holmes provided the key to the story's denouement, which was nothing I had planned. I have great affection for pulp avenger The Shadow as well as H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos, so I put them together in the one-shot "The Shadow Over Innsmouth."
There are still itches left for me to scratch. I'd like to take a run at Michael Moorcock's "Elric," which has a new adaptation coming out from Titan next week. I grew up on Marvel's black-and-white "Planet of the Apes" magazines, as well as the films. I'd love to get my stinking paws on an "Apes" project.
Luke Ross and I pitched an "Indiana Jones" project when Dark Horse held the license, but new material wasn't in the plans. Indy still eludes me, as does "The Rocketeer," which I adore just as much as Indy. There's always something to pursue, something on the list.
But my list gets a little shorter next year. On March 25th, to be exact. That's when "Robert E. Howard's Savage Sword" #10 is scheduled to come out, containing a Solomon Kane story by me and artist Richard Clark. Kane is my favorite of the Howard heroes, just as much as Conan, perhaps even a little more than Conan. Finding the "Solomon Kane" film -- which I was dying to see, but refused to download illegally -- on television during my trip to New Zealand was like Christmas for me.
Rich and I are in fine company for the issue: John Ostrander and Andy Kuhn doing a Conan story; Alex de Campi and Marc Laming teaming for a "The Gods of Bal-Sagoth" adaptation; and a re-colored version of "Demon in a Silvered Glass" by Doug Moench and John Bolton.
Hopefully our Kane story captures the Puritan avenger's character, and gives an appropriate literary nod while doing it. Rich is painting the entire story, a lush presentation befitting a character who has been depicted by the likes of Jeffrey Jones and Gary Gianni. I'm pretty sure Rich's watercolor pitch pieces, shown here, got us the gig.
The adage "Do what you love, and you never work a day in your life" might not always be true...
...but it's pretty close. Certainly there are days when what I do feels like work. But they're far outnumbered by days of satisfaction and even joy. I get to write John Carter now. How cool is that?
It's cool when pages by Abhishek Malsuni hit my inbox, breathing life into John Carter and Dejah Thoris and Tars Tarkas. It's cool seeing all the variant covers Dynamite has lined up for the launch, including images by J. Scott Campbell, Bart Sears, J.G. Jones, Ed Benes, Abhishek and a bunch more. It's cool that I can repay some of the vast debt my imagination owes Edgar Rice Burroughs.
I really am doing what I love.
Ron Marz has been writing comics for two decades, and thinks it's pretty much the best job ever. His current work includes "Witchblade" and the graphic novel series "Ravine" for Top Cow, "The Protectors" for Athlitacomics, his creator-owned title, "Shinku," for Image, and Sunday-style strips "The Mucker" and "Korak" for Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. Follow him on Twitter (@ronmarz) and his website, www.ronmarz.com.