The Mars series (usually called the Barsoom series, after the name Burroughs' characters called Mars) was created by sci-fi/fantasy author Edgar Rice Burroughs in the early 1900s. The first book, A Princess of Mars began as a series of stories, serialized in 1912. Burroughs went on to write enough Mars stories to be published in 11 books. Not all the books featured John Carter, but Carter is by far the most well-known character.
There are countless essays and information on both Burroughs and his Mars series online, written by better and more knowledgeable people than me. I would suggest going to the wikipedia entiries for Burroughs, John Carter, and Barsoom, for a good background on the series.
This is the section where I bore you with stories of my youth. Please feel free to click on the above link, instead, to get right to the content. Otherwise, enjoy the history and context of this project.
I first started reading the Mars books in Junior High... which for me would have been when the Michael Whelan covered Del Ray versions first came out. In fact, I had to wait for the last few to be published, checking back at my local bookstore every couple weeks. I liked the stories and loved searching for Whelan's carved initials somewhere in the wrap around cover. Inspired to draw crazy four-armed fantasy heroes, there is still a box somewhere with a pile of high school drawings. Some were actually the characters in the novel, Carter, Dejah Thoris, and Tars Tarkas. Most were just taking the concepts Burroughs had introduced me to and applying them to my own characters.
That was a long time ago.
A few years ago, I went back to school, to formalize my graphic design skills into a degree. The school I went to included drawing classes as part of the course and as we were assigned a project that included sequential storytelling, John Carter was the first thing I thought of. For the class, I simply storyboarded an action sequence from [i]A Princess of Mars[/i], but there was more to come.
As a second year student, one of our first assignments was to design, typeset, supply illustrations, and bind a hardback book. With Carter back fresh in my mind, [i]A Princess of Mars[/i] again provided the source material. During the course of that project I completed 13 drawings and the painting you see on the background of this website.
As I typeset, I reread the story that had captivated me so long ago. While the pacing was problematic and it was deeply rooted in the sci-fi/fantasy norms of the time, there were still very modern underpinnings in the story. The most interesting ideas, the ideas that are usually ignored or apologized for in modern times, was the heavy racial allegories. While some might see Carter or the work as racist (or at best, reflecting the racism of the times), I saw a hero overcoming prejudice... a story of a man embroiled in a Civil War, helping to reunite a planet of splintered tribes of literal color. Other things were more apparent to me as an adult, too, but I'll let you discover those through the concept material.
Over the next year I adapted the first novel of the Mars series as a comic script. It's a first draft, but it allowed me to start visualizing the characters and world. Those visuals are what you'll find on these pages.