Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Barsoom Saga Revisited Part 1

A warning: This one might be a long one, with some rambling thoughts, opinions that might not be popular and some admissions that I got it wrong before.

If there was one side bonus of the movie John Carter it was my decision to reread the entire 11 book Mars series, from John Carter's first arrival on Barsoom to his going to Sassoom. It took me a lot longer than I thought it would-some brief interruptions due do work, home and reading other books. But l finally finished and it led me to rethink my position on the series and certain entries. I recently posted my change of thoughts on Swords of Mars so for the next few posts I thought I would offer my new thoughts on the series and reveal in my opinion what has held up, what has improved, dropped and how Edgar Rice Burroughs turned out an influential series. And did it without shape shifting and moving motorized cities. So to kick off let's start with the original trilogy:

A Princess of Mars, The Gods of Mars, The Warlord of Mars

I tackled Princess with one thing on my mind: To prove to myself it still held up. It seemed in the months leading up to the movie the book was getting it from everyone-from fans defending Andrew Stanton's changes to Stanton himself pointing up the book's flaws to every reporter he talked to. The major complaints: No real plot to speak of, no major antagonist for John Carter, little development for the character of Dejah Thoris, even that it was unbelievable that Carter wouldn't have had a wife since most men of the period would have. With those criticisms on my mind I sat down and started reading...and those complaints fell away. I admit A Princess of Mars is not perfect. It has flaws, suffers from long exposition and shows that it was the first novel of a novice writer. It also had imagination, an excitement that comes from it being a first work. I compare it this way: Sgt. Pepper might be the more polished record-and brilliant-but it lacks the joy, the blast of the Beatles' first record where they were discovering their possibilities. Burroughs is doing the same here. Also the criticisms began to melt away. True there might not be a "plot" in the "We have to stop the bad guys from destroying the planet" that Stanton used to confusing effect but there is forward momentum and ultimately a plot does emerge: To rescue the princess and get her home. Also John Carter has enough opponents to overcome as the book proceeds. He didn't need a Darth Vader or a Moriarty to face off with. That was never the main focus to start with. In fact one of the things I always found unique was John Carter goes off on his quest not for "fortune and glory" like Indiana Jones but for one simple thing: Love. He loves Dejah Thoris and that fuels his quest in all three of the first books. And it didn't matter if he had to tear down Zodanga, the Valley Dor or Okar to do it. The criticism about Dejah Thoris I admit is a little more valid. But she still plays the regal princess. No where in the movie does Dejah get to equal her moving plea to the Tharks to come back and work with the red men in saving Barsoom from its fate. Also she was the one who decided to marry Sab Than and save her people. No running away from the wedding. In fact most of Burroughs' characters are much stronger-Tars Tarkas, Sola, Sarkoja, Tardors Mors-than they were in the film. So in case you couldn't tell it still holds up. And for those who think it was hard to believe John Carter wouldn't have a dead wife, if you have no problem believing a man can go to Mars then yeah you can believe he wasn't some moping widower.

Moving on from there we hit the second book and the first one I began to rethink. Originally I always thought The Gods of Mars was an overcrowded book, with a lot of characters throw at us-Thuvia, Phaidor, Xodar, Thurid, Issus, Zat Arras, Carthoris-not to mention a lot of running back and forth from the Valley Dor. But rereading it I soon discovered I was wrong. Possibly it was being prepared for what Burroughs was going to throw at the reader. Maybe it was the Plant Men, one of Burroughs' creepiest creations and the opening sequence with them. Possibly it was looking at the novel's subtext-of using faith and preying on people's beliefs and twisting them into dark and disturbing ideals. Or it was just the kick-ass action sequences. Either way Gods had improved this time. The one place was the Therns and again it had to do with the movie. Burroughs's Therns use their faith and spreading of the word of Issus as a cover for their own degenerate actions. They're cannibals who defile their victims both mentally and physically. Indeed one of the most revealing sections is Thuvia's near crazed killing of Sator Thorg, showing how far the Therns had tortured those who had come looking for paradise. Compare that to Stanton's Therns. Granted they use the belief in Issus to gain control of Sab Than but basically they're generic movie villains out to conquer/or destroy Barsoom (I have to admit I'm still hazy on their goal). I don't know about you but flesh eating men doing things to someone's body is more frightening than Dr. Evil-esque bad guys spilling their big schemes to the hero.

Finally we hit the final book in this trilogy and well another change, this time a lesser one. Maybe it was changing my opinion about Gods but The Warlord of Mars seemed a little weaker. It also seemed to have the trilogy capper problem of having to tie up loose ends-even though Burroughs does a good job of giving the characters appropriate endings-and the fact that it was a basic repeat of Princess. Granted most of the books are but this one has so many similarities-from Dejah being forced into marriage and being threaten with that "fate worse than death" to the final siege-only done on a more spectacular reminded me of Return of the Jedi in that respect. That said Warlord still delivers in the action set pieces and their variety. From John's fight with Solon in Okar to the mad chase through the castle at the end this one does show it's cliffhanger pulp magazine heritage. And that's the best part of it-it's a fast paced piece, with our hero getting the girl and saving the planet. And isn't that what we want from our stories? A happy ending?

So there it is. The revised ratings: A Princess of Mars and The Gods of Mars **** out of 4; The Warlord of Mars ***1/2 out of 4. Next time the kids have their own adventures.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Comic Review: Warlord of Mars #17

We conclude this week with...YES another comic book review. This time it's betrayal, scheming and a threat of civil war that defines this issue. A note: I decided to rewrite some of this review, partially because I was able to read it in more depth plus I felt a little guilty of giving it such a short shrift.

Having just returned to Helium, John Carter is accused of blasphemy by the acting regent Zat Arras. But worse is the discovery that his beloved Dejah Thoris has went missing. After agreeing to a trial, John and company plot their next move when an injured Sola returns, informing them that Dejah was taken captive by the First Born. With his son Carthoris and friends Kantos Kan and Tars Tarkas at his side John plans to enter the Valley Dor and rescue his beloved. But not if Zat Arras has anything to say about it...

With this next to last issue in their adaptation of The Gods of Mars, writer Arvid Nelson and artist Edgar Salazar do a good job translating the novel while condensing some of the action (no long year in the pits for John) and giving Zat Arras more of a back story (he's in league with the Therns, though I doubt he'll be getting a Nintendo Power Glove like Sab Than in the movie to play with). Nelson and Salazar get the action moving and sets up the story for the final battle with ease.

That said there is some little things I caught that stick out. Some might remember in the previous issue an out of place bit of comedy where Tars Tarkas acts out Thuvia's night time mutterings about wanting John Carter to do "things to her." Well some of that pops up in a panel where, while Sola recounts meeting Thuvia after her and Dejah's capture, as we see John get nervous when Sola says that Thuvia's "affection for him is pure and sincere." We also see Xodar and Kantos Kan snickering in the background. Well some comedy to lighten up the tone is always welcomed, even though some might find it out of place. Also while escaping Zat Arras actually goes "Ha, ha, ha" like an old movie villain. I think the last time I saw a villain laughing while escaping was Mola Ram in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. But these are little issues but I thought I would give a fair warning.

Beyond that I don't have any huge complaints for this issue. Again it's a home run for fans of this series so give it a shot.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Robert Rodriguez Stil Planning "Fire and Ice"

OK. For those who don't remember here's a little refresher: Back in 2010 Robert Rodriguez announced plans to direct a live action remake of Fire and Ice, the animated fantasy co-created by Ralph Bakshi and Frank Frazetta. Then about a year later some concept artwork showed up around the time of the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con (if you want to see the other pieces go here Well in a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter's Heatvision Blog Rodriguez reconfirmed his plans to make the movie: "“We’re almost done with the script; we’ve got it pretty much 70 percent there. I’m really excited about that one.” But don't expect it soon. The film will be made after he gets done with the sequels Machete Kills and the long gestating Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. Anyone want to take any bets whether or not it gets made?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Edgar Rice Burroughs Gets Convention Tribute

Thanks to for this. This weekend. April 27-29, the 12th annual Windy City Pulp and Paper convention in Lombard, Illinois will be holding a tribute to Edgar Rice Burroughs and the 100th anniversary of the first publications of both Under the Moons of Mars and Tarzan of the Apes. The Chicago Sun-Times has an article about it you can read here

Monday, April 23, 2012

Comic Review: Lord of the Jungle #3

The last comic book review for the week-I think-finds us back in the jungle. For those playing at home, you will notice I missed issue 2 (blame the comic book store for not getting it) so I'll probably have to backtrack at some point. Just FYI.

It looks like Tarzan grew up and Jane and her father's expedition has arrived in the jungle in the previous issue and as this one opens Jane and her maid Esmeralda are about to become panther dinner. But in true Burroughs fashion are saved at the last minute by a muscle guy in a loin cloth who then promptly disappears. Over the next few days the small group-which also includes Cecil Clayton, the possible last heir of the Greystoke estate-find out that the small cabin they're staying in was the last resting place of Cecil's uncle and aunt. As they get comfortable, the peace is shattered when a gorilla packs off Jane and Tarzan must rescue her.

Having liked the first issue of the series, I was interested to see how it continued. And it looks like it's still staying pretty close to Burroughs' original novel. Arvid Nelson, following up adapting the Barsoom books for the Warlord of Mars comics, has done his homework and sticks close to the plot-even down to the "what's the odds" discovery that Jane, Cecil and company happen to be using the same shelter as Cecil's lost relatives. There are a few minor changes, the biggest being a reworking of the character of Esmeralda. In the novel she's portrayed as a stereotyped nanny/maid along the lines of Mamie from Gone with the Wind (in fact to modern readers she might be more racially offensive than the natives). Here Nelson cleverly rewrites her into an intelligent character who points out the Claytons' journals and the fact that the infant skeleton looks more ape like than human, something the Professor dismisses.

Also working in this issue is the artwork by Roberto Castro who delivers a nicely rendered take on Tarzan and company. The lord of the ape has a fierce look that most comic book versions don't, while the jungle is captured in all of its beauty and darkness. His work does have some cartoonish qualities, especially in the drawings of the Professor and almost brings to mind Disney's animated movie. Then again Jane is definitely more shapely than anything Disney did (and yes there is a brief NSFW image that well offers up a clear explanation of why Terkoz the ape and Tarzan get into it. It's nothing extreme but just giving a warning to those who demand modesty).

So while ERB Inc might not be happy with this series I still think it's doing a good job delivering a good take on the ape-man. Next time I'll make sure to get issue 4 and track down issue 2 as well.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Comic Review: John Carter-The Gods of Mars #2

And the comic train keeps chugging.

Here's the short version of this issue's plot: John Carter and Phaidor are captured, taken to Omean, receive their sentences. John escapes with Xodar (who in the only real big change is sentenced for bringing "the animal" as Issus refers to John instead of his embarrassment at John's hands in the book) and Carthoris. The issue ends with an explosion and a crash...

Having to review two series that are dealing with the same story can cause problems when trying to review one series objectively. Part of it may also be that I felt that Dynamite handled their adaptation of A Princess of Mars much better than Marvel did with their awful series. Here though it's something of a tie with both series having their strengths and minuses. For Marvel the strongest plus is the artwork by Ramon Perez. It does have a cartoony style to it that some might find off putting but I like it. It has a nice, vibrant clean quality to it that appeals to the eye. And for those who don't like their Martian babes starkers-or near starkers-the women are drawn at least in modest attire-or as modest as Barsoomian attire can get.

Writer Sam Humphries also does a nice job streamlining the plot of Burroughs novel and tones down the silly "braggart" part that made Marvel's Princess series a chore to get through. He does allow John to go "Yee-Haw!" again which I don't think any self respecting Southern Gentleman would do but that's a small complaint.

I don't know what else to really add. If you enjoyed the first issue of this series than this second one will be in the same league. If not it won't do anything to change your mind. Next time I'll wrap up the comic reviews with a return to the jungle. Have a good weekend!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Rich Ross Leaves Disney (A JCOMReader Opinion)

What can I say? I'm not the best when it comes to snappy headlines.

As most of you have probably heard by know, after only about 2 years on the job, Rich Ross has announced his resignation as Chairman at Walt Disney (or he was fired based on which source you want to believe). You can catch up with the story here Probably not much of a surprise most of the blame for his exit is being placed on the failure of John Carter at the box office. And in the last month it's been somewhat funny to see how the press portrayed Ross and his role in the film's disappointing reception. Some believe that since he did not green light the movie he had no personal stake in it and approved the studio's poor marketing campaign. Other articles meanwhile seem to paint him as being unwilling to reign in director Andrew Stanton and just allowed him to do whatever he wanted, which seem to include running the film's budget up to a point that it would have taken a miracle to break even, much less turn into the box office smash it would have to become a full blown franchise. And on the flip side of that is the portrayal of a studio chief with a film and director running out of control that he couldn't control or appease no matter what.

My opinion of the whole mess has been this: Ross should have never been appointed in the first place as head of Disney's movie division. His failure in the position is just as much on the shoulders of Disney President Robert Iger as it is on Ross. Ross' background was as president of Disney's television department which meant his biggest success was Hannan Montana. Why anyone figured he should be running a movie studio-that also included Marvel and their film division and Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks-is beyond me. The second reason he failed in relation to John Carter was this: He failed to stand up to Stanton. If-and I'm saying "if" since who knows the real truth-all of those articles are true, Ross would not even say "boo" to Stanton. If Ross had shown any backbone the budget might have not reached the level it did (and on a film level, a reduced cost might have spared us some of Stanton's more outlandish-and pointless-additions like Moving Zodanga and shape shifting Shang and his Super-Therns since less money means no CGI FX for that). That seems funny considering the reports of him cancelling The Lone Ranger until the film's budget came down, despite the fact that the film was being made by the same team behind Disney's biggest franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean. It either does confirm the theory that Ross didn't care about John Carter or was afraid of alienating Stanton and by extension Pixar. In the end it's a mess that has claimed many victims-marketing chief MT Carney already left while Stanton's reputation has taken some big hits-and now it's claimed Ross.

The second point is where does that leave the possibility for a John Carter sequel? Some of the names that have been floated as a possible replacement included Pixar head John Lassiter-who had already passed on the position in 2009 after original chairman Dick Cook was forced out-and some have wonder since his friendship and working relationship with Stanton is strong that if Lassiter gets the job he might give Stanton the go ahead to make the sequel. But that's if Lassiter gets the job and he thinks there is something to gain from a sequel. At this point John Carter's reputation as a "flop" would make anyone who takes the job think twice about making it, unless it performs huge on Blu-Ray and DVD. In the end the sequel is just as much a victim and unless Disney considers making it at a reduced cost-possibly a direct to DVD film or even an animated project-it's doubtful we'll see a second big screen Barsoom movie anytime soon.

All of this could have been avoided. Maybe this will be a lesson for Disney and other studios. I doubt it but who knows. (Tomorrow I'll return back to the comic book reviews. Until next time.)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Comic Review: Warriors of Mars #2

The second comic book review of the week-and not the last-finds us back with our hero searching for his beloved princess...

After losing Heru and being knocked unconscious, Gulliver Jones wakes up find himself floating down the River of Death-or since this is also Barsoom the River Iss when he strikes a shaky deal with a grave robber to find the Thither people. Once he does he fools them into thinking he's a spirit that will haunt them unless they release Heru. They comply and he and the princess return home. But when the Thithers find out it was all a ruse they launch an attack that almost seals Gulliver's fate...and a possible meeting with another Earthman on Mars.

Picking up after the first action packed issue, I was a little disappointed here. I guess my major issue was how fast writer Robert Napton speeds through the Gulliver of Mars storyline. I had hoped for something similar to the multi-issue adaptation that were being done in the Warlord of Mars comics but instead the entire story is wrapped up quickly. I suppose this was done to get John Carter into the story and bring him and Gulliver together but I still wouldn't have mind a longer time. That said Napton still does a good job bringing the two worlds together and keeping the plot moving forward.

I do have to give a big A+ plus though for artist Jack Jadson whose artwork is nice, vibrant and has a pleasing quality to it. The characters are established pretty well and while there isn't much action until the end his work carries the reader through.

So that's the verdict for this one. I still thought it was a fun "what if" combination but I hope at some point someone does a long-run Gulliver of Mars series. Next time we return to Mars-Marvel style!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Comic Review: Dejah Thoris & the White Apes of Mars #1

Again I got behind so I'll be catching up with some Barsoomian comic book reviews for the next few days. First up another adventure for the most beautiful woman of two worlds...and some hungry apes. Deciding to expand her son Carthoris' knowledge of Barsoom's history, Dejah Thoris decides to take him and a few other "hatchlings" on an archaeological "field trip" to examine the little known "Battle of the Face of Barsoom." Taking off with a few female friends and warriors, Dejah and company find themselves facing airship problems, forcing them to land and find shelter. When they discover a ruined building, they set up camp and wait for the hatchling ship to come to their rescue. But they are unaware of the threat that awaits them-a huge pack of hungry white apes that tear through their guard, leaving Dejah and her friends alone, unarmed and without apparent help...

Set during John Carter's "disappearance," this series kicks off with an interesting premise: teaching the young about their history and how sometimes that can rise up and take a big chunk right out of you. Also we get to see some different sides of the Princess of Barsoom. Writer Mark Rahner actually has some fun portraying the different facets of Dejah, from a loving mother, teacher, feisty princess-at one point Tardors Mors expresses concern but concedes "you will have your way, won't you?" and even a gossip girl, spending time with her female friends and talking about female things (including one who asks about John Carter's "prowess" if you know what I mean). The second part, once they hit the city, builds up suspense and some rather grisly ape action, leading to a cliff hanger that Burroughs himself might have liked.

Returning to do the art here is Lui Antonio, who did several issues of the Warlord of Mars series and he does a good job, providing some nice designs for the characters-even though those who demand modesty and/or tattoos might be disappointed as Dejah and her pals don't believe in either here. Antonio also draws the apes as vicious, savage creatures that I wouldn't want to meet.

So if you're looking for a nifty comic story set on Barsoom, Dejah Thoris and the White Apes of Mars kicks off with a great start. I just hope the next issue is just as strong.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Wayne Barlowe's Unused John Carter Designs

This might be of interest to some. A blog called Film Sketcher has posted up some unused concept artwork for John Carter by famed sci-fi and fantasy artist Wayne Barlowe as well as a brief interview According to Barlowe he only worked three weeks on the film, mostly on the Tharks, and none of his work was used on the final film. So take a peek and see what you think. Also I found this brief interview with Barlowe where he talks about his work in art and filmand yes there is a brief clip from John Carter so go figure.

Monday, April 16, 2012

"Last Trip To Barsoom" For The Fans

At least those who live in Los Angeles. A movement has sprung up to get fans to Disney's El Capitan Theater to see John Carter for the final time as it will end it's run there April 19. For those in the LA area you can get more information at and see some cool fan artwork from the "Take Me Back to Barsoom" group on Facebook.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Swords of Mars: A Second Opinion

For the past few months I've been rereading the entire Barsoom series. Partly it was to prepare myself for the movie and partly to see if my original thoughts on them have changed or stayed the same. In most cases compared to my earlier reviews they have changed-if I redo my ratings Gods of Mars would get the full four stars-but the one book that has benefited the most from this is Swords of Mars, a book that has now turned out to be one of my favorites of the series.

Part of this new thinking might be that reading them in order I realized how much I missed John Carter as the lead. While he appeared in the other books, he was mostly in bit parts but Swords puts him front and center which I really enjoyed. It was also fun to rediscover the "I Still Live" version of Carter after Andrew Stanton's mopey version. I know some people's defense of Stanton's treatment was that he was attempting to flesh out and make John Carter a more three dimensional character. Now I'm all for that but Stanton's solution-the dead wife and kid, the cynical war veteran who cares nothing for Dejah Thoris for most of the movie, just his cave of gold-got tiring about an hour in and I was suddenly wanting Burroughs' John Carter. In Swords we get that version in spades.

I also thought the character of Zanda added an interesting dimension to the story. When she reveals her hatred for John Carter and his role in the death of her parents (for those who don't remember her father died when Zodanga was sacked by the Tharks in A Princess of Mars while her mother took the final trip down the River Iss) it showed that even our hero could be seen as a cause of pain and suffering. Admittedly Burroughs doesn't go to far with this and by the end Zanda seems content to forget her vow to kill John Carter-especially after meeting Jat Or-but it still is an interesting twist for what is essentially a pulp sci-fi tale.

Now I'm not saying Swords of Mars isn't without it's problems. Fal Sivas is a poor man's Ras Thavas and once we reach Thuria Burroughs doesn't do as much with the characters. Ul Vas is the standard evil monarch who gets one look at Dejah Thoris and starts drooling, even though Burroughs also decides to give a female version with Ozara who also starts panting for John Carter. In fact one of the funniest lines in the book is Carter's attempts to understand the female mind: "I confess that I do not understand women. Some of the things that they do, their mental processes, are often inexplicable to me." Yep even the Warlord of Barsoom doesn't have an answer for everything.

So in short I rediscovered a true gem and a fun story. So revamping the original rating: **** out of 4 stars.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Taylor Kitsch: Star of Tomorrow

OK normally this is off the beaten track for this blog but...Despite the disappointing reception of John Carter and the not exactly warm early reviews that have surfaced for his next film, Battleship, Taylor Kitsch does have one group standing behind him: The National Association of Theater Owners. The group has voted Kitsch the "Male Star of Tomorrow" and will present him the honor at the annual CinemaCon Big Screen Achievement Awards in Las Vegas on April 26. For more info you can check out

Monday, April 9, 2012

Book Review: John Carter The Movie Novelization

I know this one is really late. But with the movie now out for a month I figured it would be safer to review it now without any fears of spoilers being given away. That said it could also be due to the fact that this book has none to give away.

I'll skip repeating the plot since it's the same plot as the movie. So what does this novelization have to offer the reader looking for more answers or extra scenes, tidbits, etc? Nothing. Yep for those looking for some of those extra scenes that sometimes pop up in novelizations of films-like Biggs Darklighter's visit to Luke in the Star Wars novelization-writer Stuart Moore has basically Xeroxed the script for the film and has added zero new material. In fact the only things I found out was that some of the Zodangans served Sab Than's father and that John's Earth wife actually has a name-Sarah (as for the poor kid, she didn't even get a name). Elsewhere it's just a rote replay of the events of the movie without much explanation or anything else. In short those hoping for a more in depth look into the character of John Carter or hoping to understand WTF the Therns' real goals were-outside of shape shifting and Matai Shang's Ming the Merciless act-better look elsewhere.

Is there anything to recommend? Well there's some nice pictures included of the characters. And as a bonus the book does include Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars. Yep so you can compare and contrast Burroughs' "I still live" Carter vs. Stanton's "I don't care for your princess, just my cave of gold" Carter. Personally I like the former version better.

So there it is. I guess if you're a fan looking for collectibles related to the movie you'll want to get this. For everyone else just skip it and either rewatch the movie (if it's still in a theater near you), wait for the Blu-Ray or DVD or better yet just reread Burroughs. Rating: * out of 4 stars.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Dynamite Responds to ERB Suit

How about some legal news for your Saturday? A month or so back ERB Inc filed a lawsuit claiming trademark infringement and other issues against Dynamite Comics over their Warlord of Mars and Lord of the Jungle titles. Well the site Comic Beat has posted Dynamite's legal response and according to them "Dynamite’s defense is pretty simple: the books are in the public domain, and ERB, Inc., doesn’t have a trademark to infringe." We'll see where this goes. Some have suggested that Disney possibly had a hand in the suit but with John Carter now unimportant to them you have to wonder how far this will go?

Friday, April 6, 2012

John Carter Blu-Ray Unavailable? UPDATE

That seems to be the word that several sites are reporting and indeed I just checked Amazon and it is listed as "Currently unavailable.We don't know when or if this item will be back in stock." I wonder if someone didn't jump the gun or there's been a change of plans. Stay tuned for more news... UPDATE: Well now it's back for pre-order. Will Amazon, Disney or whoever make up their minds!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Barsoom: The Search for Life

Again another offbeat treat from Youtube. In this case a segment from a 1970s TV special called Mars: The Search for Life that includes a brief segment on Edgar Rice Burroughs and John Carter of Mars as well as a brief clips from the 1953 War of the Worlds and Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars (under it's re-release title Mars Attacks the World!) If your impatient just skip ahead to the 5 minute mark for the Barsoom stuff. UPDATE: It looks like the original video was removed so I went ahead and uploaded a copy I downloaded earlier and have replaced the video. Hope that helps and sorry for anyone who clicked on it earlier.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Comic Retro View: Tarzan the Untamed

With this year also marking the 100th anniversary of Edgar Rice Burroughs' other creation I thought I would devote some time and space to a look back at the Lord of the Jungle through reviews of the original novels and various spin offs. In this case we take a look at celebrated artist Russ Manning's take on two classic tales.

Published in trade paperback format by Dark Horse Comics in 1999 (and there's still a few copies left on Amazon for decent prices-most of the rest of their books are out of print and expensive) this book collected four issues that adapted two of Burroughs' best Tarzan adventures-Tarzan the Untamed and Tarzan the Terrible that originally were released by Gold Key Comics in the 1960s.

In the first part of the book Tarzan finds himself caught up in the first World War and helping the British against the Germans on the African front. Going through his adventure he meets a female German spy named Bertha Kilcher and a British pilot, Harold Smith-Oldwick who Tarzan must rescue, first from natives looking for some sacrifices and a lost tribe of the Xujans, who worship lions. The second part finds Tarzan on the hunt for his beloved Jane, who has been taken prisoner by a German officer named Obergatz and his search leads him to the another lost land-Pal-ul-Don, which is inhabited by dinosaurs and two races of creatures that seem to be the missing link between man and ape. Once there Tarzan has to stop a cruel priest and the crazed Obergatz from killing-and doing other things-to Jane.

I have to admit that my introduction to Russ Manning came through Dark Horse's reprints of his Star Wars comics in the mid-1990s. It wasn't until a few years later that I got to see Manning's take on Tarzan when a friend showed me some of his original comics. While I'm sure many have their own personal favorite artist's take on the character, Manning gets my vote with this book. He brings a nice but simple visual design to Tarzan and the jungle worlds he discovers. His Tarzan is simply designed-no muscle bound Schwarzenegger but the Tarzan that Burroughs himself described. He also brings a nice design to the two races of Pal-Ul-Don and the creatures that inhabit it. I would also give him thumbs up for Jane except she has pig tails and looks like she should be in a Betty and Veronica comic book. Oh well, I've always been a Dejah man myself so I guess it's not that bad. She's still attractive.

I also have to give credit to writer Gaylord Dubois for his writing and remaining faithful to Burroughs' original novels, at least for the most part. Probably the most notable omission is that in the Untamed section it skips over the central part of Burroughs' novel: the "death" of Jane Clayton and Tarzan's discovery that she still lives. With that gone it leaves a big gap and for those unfamiliar with the novels a confusing intro for the second part.

That said the book is still a must have for Tarzan and Russ Manning fans. I hope at some point Dark Horse or another company reprints this as well as Manning's other Tarzan comics. Rating: **** out of 4. (Side note I used the original Gold Key comic book cover art instead of Dark Horse's. Just FYI.)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Comic Review: Dejah Thoris #11

Happy April Fool's Day! No don't worry there will be a review, no pranks.

This issue starts out a new storyline, "The Boora Witch," which finds Dejah out on an expedition to find rare materials-in this case ersite and forandus-that Helium desperately needs. Her trip leads her to the Toonalian Marshes where air scouts have reported several vast deposits. While investigating, Dejah and her team-including a Than named Kantos Kan-find several deadly beasts and the deposits. But Kantos becomes concerned, especially when Dejah wanders off at night in a daze. Before too long Dejah finds herself under the spell of a witch who craves power...and Dejah's young body! And not in some late night Cinemax way either.

With this issue, we get a change of writers with Robert Napton stepping in after writing Fall of Barsoom and the current Warriors of Mars series. So far he does a good job setting up the story and introducing Kantos Kan into the story as a young warrior whose ambition even has Dejah saying he will make a great Padwar. The idea of a witch possessing Dejah though might seem a little off to some ERB fans, though this isn't the first time in a John Carter of Mars comic book that it's been done as a three issue story arc from the 1970s Marvel series also had an evil warlock attempting to resurrect his beloved and use John and Dejah's bodies to put their spirits in so you might want to look at this as an homage. Still it moves at a fast pace and like previous writer Arvid Nelson Napton pays tribute to later Burroughs stories.

The usual comments for the Carlos Rafael artwork-nice, vibrant and eye-catching. He brings the creatures of the Marshes to life pretty well and once again a curvy Dejah at the center of it all.

I'll give this issue a recommendation. If you didn't like the previous Dejah Thoris story lines I don't know if this will change your mind or not so you might want to thumb through it before making a purchase. Otherwise if you enjoyed the previous issues than this one will be right up your alley.

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