Monday, January 31, 2011

Andrew Stanton on John Carter of Mars


I'll just cut to the chase. MTV has posted up this video interview with director Andrew Stanton on John Carter of Mars http://moviesblog.mtv.com/2011/01/31/john-carter-of-mars-andrew-staton/. Very little was revealed plot wise but he did reveal some info: the film is not in post-production but rather "digital principal photography" and that the film will be a "very historically accurate Martian film if that makes sense." He also confirmed the 3D upgrade and praised his leading man Taylor Kitsch-"Hopefully he'll be another great face on the big screen, and hopefully he'll be John Carter to people and nobody else if we've done it right."

Book Review: John Carter of Mars-Weird Worlds



We've looked at Dell, Marvel and Dynamite's comic book takes on John and the incomparable Dejah Thoris, now let's have a look at how DC handled Barsoom.

A brief history lesson though-in 1972 DC Comics had acquired the rights to Tarzan from previous comic publisher Gold Key Comics, even keeping the numbering so the first DC issue was numbered 207. DC also got the rights to several other Edgar Rice Burroughs characters but except for Korak, Son of Tarzan, most of them were used only as back-up features in the two books. John Carter of Mars made his first appearance for DC in Tarzan #207 as an eight-page story written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by artist Murphy Anderson (the latter best remembered for his work on Superman with Curt Swan. Anderson also had a brief run on the Buck Rogers comic strip and even worked on DC's own outer space traveler Adam Strange.) After making three appearances in Tarzan, DC launched Weird Worlds, an anthology comic book that picked up John Carter's story as well as a series based on the Pellucidar books. It ran for 10 issues, but the Burroughs' characters only appeared in the first seven issues.

As far as the story goes, the 10 stories-each running around 8 to 12 pages-is a combination of the plots of A Princess of Mars and The Gods of Mars with certain elements left out-no Zodanga, Atmosphere Factory, return to Earth or Carthoris. In this respect the storyline is somewhat choppy and episodic and there is some strange plot twists introduced-at one point John is captured in the country of Ghasta and has to confront a walking Thark skeleton and Malada "the White Queen of Barsoom." Some of this unevenness is explained in a new text piece by Wolfman, in which DC was constantly telling him the book was cancelled, then telling him it wasn't. The ending is also rather abrupt even though at least complete. That being said Wolfman's writing is pretty good here, on a par with his best work in the Marvel John Carter, Warlord of Mars series.

The artwork on the other hand is a little more uneven. Just to get this out-Anderson's work is great! He captures Barsoom probably better than most of the other comic artists I've seen. His drawings of the Tharks is spot on while his drawings of John and Dejah is good-Dejah in particular is stunningly beautiful (and surprisingly for a comic book in the 1970s scantly clad.) But Anderson departed after the first six stories and artist Sal Amendola took over and well to be blunt I didn't like his work as much. It wasn't bad but compared to Anderson it definitely lacked the polished appearance. Also and I don't know if this was how the series was originally published or something in Dark Horse's remastering of the material but there is also some strange color choices in these later issues, especially the Black Pirates of Omean. In several issues they're blue-I'm talking Avatar blue. Then in one issue Xodar is black and then in the last one they're white, with Issus herself looking like the Crypt Keeper from the old Tales From the Crypt comic books.

Dark Horse's book itself is nicely designed with the introduction from Wolfman (actually written while he was living in Tarzana, California-a humorous coincidence that he does comment on) and it's pretty reasonable price-wise (15 bucks and I'm sure you could find it for less.) In the end for those who don't have the original comics it's a good purchase. Rating: *** out of 4.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Warlord of Mars B&W Preview


A little early morning news. The site Comic Book Resources has posted up some preview pages from Dark Horse's upcoming John Carter of Mars: Warlord of Mars collection-which reprints the entire Marvel Comics series-and as previously reported it is in black and white. The art still looks good but I do miss the color. You can judge for yourself at http://robot6.comicbookresources.com/2011/01/head-back-to-barsoom-in-dark-horses-john-carter-of-mars-collection/

Monday, January 24, 2011

Comic Review: John Carter, Warlord of Mars Annual 1-3


I know, still no Weird Worlds review yet but I hope to have it soon. For now we'll continue with my haphazard look back at Marvel's version of Barsoom. In this case the three annuals (or KING-SIZE ANNUAL as the first two issues say).

The first one, "When Walk the Ancient Dead" finds John Carter out for a ride in his flier when he discovers the abandoned city of Horz and a lone man being attacked by several green warriors. Going in to help John fights off the green men and meets Pan Dan Chee..and if you're a die hard ERB fan you'll realize it's the opening story from Llana of Gathol. Or so you thought as the story progresses. John and Pan Dan Chee find themselves in the pits of Horz, reawaken the original inhabitants from their suspended animation and Chee falls for the beautiful Princess...S'Lara. Before too long though John finds himself accused of sorcery and fighting for his life and an interesting twist ending.

The second annual, "The Headmen of Mars" opens with John, Dejah Thoris and Tars Tarkas out on an inspection of a new Heliumite ship when they find themselves in the middle of a violent storm. When a crewman is knocked overboard, John leaps to his rescue and saves him only to fall to his death. But thanks to his eqilibrimotor (which was introduced in The Master Mind of Mars) John survives and finds himself in the country of Bantoom with the Kaldanes, their Rykors and a talking white ape named Tal Tarog. A brief flashback reveals that none other than Ras Thavas-who is drawn with the same type of head as the Kaldanes-was responsible for switching Tal's brain with another humanoid creature living in Bantoom. Eventually John agrees to help out and a fight brings out the truth and the dreaded Taak, leader of the Kaldanes (I guess before Luud).

The final annual, "Amazons of Mars" finds our Warlord out helping an excavation team to extract natural resources for Helium. When a gas pocket causes an explosion and delays work, John flies back home only to once again notice a lone figure being attacked, this time a woman named Klys. After he drives off her attackers, John agrees to fly her home, a kingdom called Paradise. Once there John discovers that the whole kingdom is inhabited only by women who immediately turn on the charm-or in this case some magic lipstick and perfume-and our hero forgets his wife, home, etc. Of course it isn't too long before he finally discovers their true intentions-he will be sacrificed to the Amazons' fire goddess. Lucky for him Dejah Thoris and Tars Tarkas arrive to save the day. Oh yeah there is also bat creatures. And dancing amazons. And Dejah in fight mode.

As you can tell these three annuals were one-off stories with no connection to the ongoing John Carter, Warlord of Mars series (except for some brief mentions in annual 3) and boy do they vary in quality. The first one gets my vote for the best-a largely faithful adaptation until the last third when a new ending is tacked on. I guess I can understand that since the main series was set several years/decades before Llana of Gathol. The artwork by Sal Buscema and Ernie Chan is also top notch, with Princess S'Lara being one of the most attractive women in the entire Marvel run.

The second issue on the other hand was a hodgepodge of elements from The Chessmen of Mars and Master Mind that doesn't hold up. First it contradicts what was already established by Edgar Rice Burroughs himself in Chessmen-nobody in Helium knows of the existence of the Kaldanes or Bantoom. Also why was Ras Thavas drawn to resemble a Kaldane? Again I can understand that they were trying to pull in ideas from Burroughs' novels but this was a mess. Good artwork by Chan solo though.

The final annual though is the real knee slapper. In fact I'll say it probably is one of the funniest comics I've ever read, even though I don't think that was the intention of writer Chris Claremont (yes Chris "X-Men" Claremont!). Granted some of it is the artwork-one panel shows John trying to push a boulder with what looks like his head while the Amazons are drawn wearing masks and outfits that makes it appear they escaped from another Marvel series. We then have the plot itself-the standard "sacrifice to our god/goddess" plot you'd see in old Italian sword and sandal flicks. Also getting laughs is John Carter himself. First up after showing the amazing ability to resist the feminine charms of other hot Barsoomian babes in the novels, all it takes for Klys is some lipstick and perfume to make our hero a drooling horndog (of course being written under the Comics Code of the time the most we see is John sitting around shirtless while women just rub his legs-yep that's sexy!) And Klys gets one of the most overripe lines of dialogue ever-"Kiss me my Jasoomian Chieftain. Love me as you have loved no other woman since the dawn of time." ERB meets Danielle Steel! John also proves utterly useless in the second part-chained up waiting for his doom (so much for those muscles) while Dejah goes Errol Flynn on the Amazons. At least she isn't blitzing Zodangans.

In the end these 3 annuals represent both the best and worst of Marvel's run on Barsoom. Individual ratings: Annual 1 ***1/2 out of 4; Annual 2 ** out of 4; Annual 3 * 1/2 (or a full 4 if you're looking for a good laugh.)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Arvid Nelson on Dejah Thoris Series


Probably lost in yesterday's news of the release date shuffle of the movie, MTV's Geek site posted an interview with writer Arvid Nelson about the upcoming Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris series http://geek-news.mtv.com/2011/01/19/talking-warlord-of-mars-dejah-thoris-with-writer-arvid-nelson/ The most interesting news is that Nelson is-in his own words-"writing an original two-issue story arc to bridge the first novel, A Princess of Mars, with the second, Gods of Mars. I serve at Dynamite’s pleasure, of course, but I hope I get the opportunity to write some more original stories, because the world of Barsoom means a lot to me. I have so many ideas I want to share with the world."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

John Carter of Mars Shifts Release Date


According to Deadline Hollywood Disney has moved up the release date of John Carter of Mars from June 8, 2012 to March 9. Originally that date was occupied by the studio's Frankenweenie which has moved to October. You can read more at http://www.deadline.com/2011/01/disney-shifts-release-dates-on-john-carter-of-mars-and-frankenweenie/ This sudden change though makes me wonder. Why is Disney suddenly moving one of their big tentpoles into the wasteland month of March? Possibly the fact that Pixar had their big film Brave set for release a week later? And how about the fact that Fox has set Ridley Scott's sci-fi epic Prometheus for the same date? I wonder how long before one of them blinks and changes dates again.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Original Steranko Cover


Talk about stealing from the best. Pointed out in the comments in the post "Barsoom Rocks!" whoever designed the cover decided to "borrow" certain elements, namely the cover of issue 21 of Creatures on the Loose!, a Marvel Comics series from the 1970s, drawn by the legendary Jim Steranko. So here's the original cover art for comparison. One funny note-this issue was the last in a six-issue adaptation "Gullivar Jones, Warrior of Mars!" I guess they didn't find a John Carter cover they liked. A brief update: A friend of mine also pointed out that the girl on the album cover was taken from another Creatures cover, this time issue 19 by Gil Kane. You can see that one here http://media.comicvine.com/uploads/0/4/11257-2512-12478-1-creatures-on-the-loo_super.jpg

Barsoom Rocks!


The things you find on Youtube. In 2005 a Russian heavy metal band called Barsoom released their own album, Under the Moons of Mars and someone has posted three tracks from it on Youtube for your listening pleasure. The tracks are "Halls of Helium" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNt7m7kywrw; "Tharks" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C1o04ytA4og and "The Falling of Issas" (I know it's Issus but that's how it was spelled) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tVBuTjgwa The band also issued an EP called The Mastermind of Mars as well. You can find some more info on the band at http://www.metalkingdom.net/album/24850_barsoom_under_the_moons_of_mars

Monday, January 10, 2011

Warlord of Mars Comics Preview


I probably just lost my PG-13 rating didn't I? With John Carter movie news non-existent we'll be spending more time on the current Barsoom comic invasion with Dark Horse's John Carter of Mars: Weird Worlds collection hitting this month (I'll try to have a review up either this week or next) and the ongoing Warlord of Mars series, so here's previews and covers for this month's issue 4 and the next two issues as well as a look at the previous issues http://www.dynamiteentertainment.com/htmlfiles/viewProduct.html?CAT=DF-Warlord_of_Mars Just click on the little red arrow below to look at each issue. UPDATE Jan 14: The covers for issue 7 and issue 2 of the Dejah Thoris series are up at http://www.bleedingcool.com/2011/01/14/a-quick-peek-at-the-boys-53-oh-go-on-and-some-warlord-of-marsdejah-thoris-cover-too/

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Spider-Man The Cannon Film!


Yep what could have been. With recent news about the trouble plagued Broadway musical someone has dug up this little seen teaser trailer for Cannon Films' planned Spider-Man movie and you can see it below. At least it couldn't have been any worse than Cannon's eventual Captain America or the Roger Corman Fantastic Four films.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Flash Gordon Gets Dynamite Treatment


I am beginning to think I'm going to be spending this month playing catch up with all the news I missed. First new Tarzan books and now this. Earlier today I had read an interview on Aint It Cool News with writer Matt Brady about the upcoming Buck Rogers Annual http://www.aintitcool.com/node/47934 when it was mentioned that Dynamite Comics had also gotten the rights to Flash Gordon. And sure enough back in May 2010: http://www.dynamiteentertainment.com/htmlfiles/pressrelshow.html?display=PR05241037332 they got Flash along with fellow comic strip characters The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician. No word on when the new Flash series will hit stores but I'm sure we'll find out soon.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Tarzan Swings Again?


Happy New Year! Now that we got that out of the way here's a piece of news that somehow flew under my radar. A new series of Tarzan books have been commissioned by the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate, starting with Tarzan The Greystoke Legacy written by British author Andy Briggs, whose work includes a young adult series called Hero.Com and the graphic novel Kong: King of Skull Island. The book is set to be published sometime this year leading to the character's 100th anniversary in 2012. I'm always a little leery of these attempts since they never equal the originals but I guess we'll see how it goes. You can read the press release announcing the book at http://www.andybriggs.co.uk/andybriggs.co.uk/Home/Entries/2010/4/8_TARZAN_SWINGS_AGAIN!.html