Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Future of John Carter of Mars

Consider this an "Opinion Time" piece.

With only two months left in 2012, the 100th anniversary of John Carter of Mars will be coming to a close, not with a bang but with a whimper. What was supposed to be a big year for the character was mired in the box office failure and fallout of the John Carter movie, an event that in some people's eyes has now left the Warlord of Barsoom and his incomparable Princess Dejah Thoris in a no win situation. But as Carter himself always says "I Still Live" so the question is where does the future of the character lie? What follows is some thoughts on where I feel could happen and that might rejuvenate and rehabilitate the character's image to the public. Now I don't expect anyone to agree with me, nor do I expect that anyone from ERB Inc will care what I think should be done (if they even read this blog). But this is just some ideas from a fan. So to kick off:

John Carter of Mars' film future.
Let's be blunt here. Disney is not making a sequel. That was a forgone conclusion back in March when they declared John Carter cost them a 200 million write down and with this week's announcement of them gaining the rights to Star Wars unlikely that the studio has any interest at all in a second Carter film. Also director Andrew Stanton has already jumped ship to salvage his career with Finding Nemo 2 so there is no one probably even pushing for it at Disney. So the question is where to go with Carter's film future? Here's what is known: Disney holds the rights to John Carter until 2015 at which time they either had to make a second movie or release them back to ERB Inc. I don't know if ERB Inc can get them back earlier than that but this might be a course of action, especially since Disney has already washed their hands of it. But let's say for argument's sake that ERB Inc does get them back, what direction should they go in? I've already made it clear I'm a supporter of rebooting, of starting over and ignoring Stanton's film in favor of a film that is more faithful Edgar Rice Burroughs' novels and I feel that is where they need to go. Another option is to consider producing a film based on one of the later novels that possibly doesn't feature John Carter as a lead character, The Master Mind of Mars or A Fighting Man of Mars possibly.Or maybe another route is needed.

Television and Animation.
How about going with one of those? One of the major issues that some had with the books-especially those defending Stanton's tossing out the plot of A Princess of Mars-was the episodic nature of them, with some suggesting that the only way to do it and keep it faithful would be a TV series. Well why not? Granted I doubt a major network would be appropriate but as HBO, Showtime and Starz have shown, there are networks willing to take risks with unique material that doesn't have to appeal to a mass audience. And sometimes they hit pay dirt. Just look at Game of Thrones, which not only proves they can do a fantasy series and do it straight but can get viewers. Plus the HBO format of 12 episode seasons would be good a fit for John Carter of Mars since they can do a book a season. It could also serve as a fallback until a new movie gets made. Granted I understand the drawbacks, the chief being a budget. Stanton's film alone cost 250 million to produce but there is already some corners that can be cut: the FX budget for example could be spent on the Tharks, Woola and the White Apes instead of moving cities, shape shifting Therns or Carter's absurd jumping. Also with television there won't be any reshoot happy directors which could keep costs down.

The other option I mentioned is animation which could also be explored. After all Bob Clampett's surviving test footage shows it could be done. The question is which way to go with it. Personally I would love to see a John Carter of Mars animated show done old school with traditional 2D animation, along the lines of Filmation's 1970s Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle or Flash Gordon series. I however do understand the appeal of 3D animation given the fact that most animated shows with sci-fi or fantasy elements seem to be going in this direction. There is also the question of whether or not a series or just an animated movie would work best. If anything going with a movie-probably direct to DVD-might allow fans of Stanton's film their chance to see his version of The Gods of Mars with the original actors returning to provide voices (it was done for two animated Hellboy movies a few years back) so there is that avenue to explore.

New Books and Comics
Interestingly the one place where Barsoom has not been explored much has been the printed word. ERB Inc has recently allowed authors to play with Tarzan, turning him into a young adult hero and an object of lust for Jane so why not allow an author to explore Barsoom? Earlier this year an anthology book-not endorsed by ERB-called Under the Moons of Mars was released that while it had some uneven stories, showed there was writers I'm sure would be not only interested but willing to tackle the characters and world Burroughs created. I understand that some fans might be have doubts about a new author writing a John Carter of Mars novel-after all how many shelves are there filled with sub par Conan and Sherlock Holmes pastiches-but it may help get the character back on book shelves.

As for comics, well again we have some facts to work with. We know that ERB Inc made a big deal out of their contract with Marvel last year and that they also sued Dynamite Entertainment over their Warlord of Mars comics and spin offs. But here's the truth-without Disney putting pressure on them, its unlikely Marvel will continue with any new John Carter comics, as the lack of any announcement following the end of their Gods of Mars series indicates. I don't know where the lawsuit sets at this point but maybe its time to reach some sort of agreement and just allow Dynamite to continue. Because if not and the suit is awarded to ERB Inc then what? It will be like the movie, the rights will be stuck with a company that now has no interest and the character will disappear from comic stores.

I'm now opening this up to you guys. What are your thoughts on the future of John Carter of Mars and where he should go? Is there any other places that can be explored-merchandising for example-that can help keep the character going for another 100 years? Leave your thoughts and open up the discussion. We still live.


Anonymous said...

Too many people are still fangirling over the Avengers and Spidey, so another John Carter movie might be given a black eye. I really think an honest 2D animated series and/or more comics like the ones Marvel made for JC would rework wonders on the character. Although maybe switching the focus to the seventh Barsoom book, A Fighting Man of Mars, would be better. Actually, that would be brilliant! I thought that was the best Barsoom book I'd ever read. I loved brave Tavia and her love story with Hadron. Maybe John Carter can let those two take the spotlight instead and let the bad feelings over his film die down.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree! A 2D animated feature would be the best way to go. Something a bit more edgy and done in anime to expose the character to a more open audience.