2012 marked, for me, a milestone: a movie I had dreamed of and wanted to see for 41 years was finally made and released.
The movie was titled, simply, John Carter.
A Princess of Mars, the book upon which John Carter was based, and I have a long history that began in 1971. I had just joined the late, great Science Fiction Book Club and received my three books for 10 cents introductory offer. Every month they sent out the selected book of the month and their catalog of other new or reissued books; and in one of the first catalogs I received, I saw this cover by the great Frank Frazetta . . . and I knew I had to read this book!
I had never been so thrilled by such a story; and although I had watched many movies based on the author’s most popular hero, Tarzan, I had never heard of the Tarzan books, or his Martian series, or his Venus series, until the SFBC offered Barsoom Book #1. (Barsoom is the name the inhabitants of Mars call the Red Planet.)
The next few years were a whirlwind of collecting and book buying from print catalogs, through the mail, in Richmond department stores such as Thalhimer’s and Miller and Rhoads, and at science fiction conventions in a pre-Internet, analog world—and they were some of the most joyful years of my life.
2102’s John Carter was supposed to be titled John Carter of Mars, but Disney marketing execs killed that idea after the failure of a previous movie with Mars in the title, Mars Needs Moms. Even so, there is a book called John Carter of Mars, which is the 11th book in Burroughs’ Martian series, and contains ERB’s final John Carter story, “Skeleton Men of Jupiter,” which was originally published in 1943 in Amazing Stories. “Skeleton Men” was the first story in an intended four-story collection of connected tales that, unfortunately, Burroughs never completed. He went to Hawaii and became the US’s oldest war correspondent, returned to the States, then died in 1950.
It has been 73 years since an original, authorized, and in canon John Carter story has appeared, and it just arrived on my porch today.
I’m going to finish Stephen King’s new novel, Billy Summers, later tonight. I think there’s a twist at the end that I spotted way beforehand, and I hope that King is going to surprise me.
But my first literary love was Dejah Thoris, and my favorite hero even today is an immortal Virginian gentleman who became a king on Mars. I’ll start John Carter of Mars: Gods of the Forgotten as soon as Mr. King lets go of my throat with his literary hands, and then I’ll once again be transported through the cold ether to a planet where life is led at the sharp edge of a longsword.
You can order John Carter of Mars: Gods of the Forgotten here. The other books in Burroughs’ Mars series are:
- A Princess of Mars
- The Gods of Mars
- The Warlord of Mars
- Thuvia, Maid of Mars
- Chessmen of Mars
- The Master Mind of Mars
- A Fighting Man of Mars
- Swords of Mars
- Synthetic Men of Mars
- Llana of Gathol
- John Carter of Mars