Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Gods of Mars: 100 Years Later

I hope you're having a great New Year's Day. While we bid farewell to 2012, let's begin by paying tribute to one of the best.

This month marks the 100th anniversary of The Gods of Mars and its first appearance in All-Story magazine. I've already written about this book before and I'll admit that my opinions about it have changed. Before I thought it was a little overcrowded but the last time I read it just before John Carter came out I realized I was wrong. In fact I'll say now it's probably my favorite of the entire series, thanks to a combination of great action sequences and a smart and unique look at the way societies build up false prophets that speaks volumes about the time Burroughs wrote it and even now. Plus it had John Carter doing what he does best: showing his chivalry and his leadership skills (even if he does forget how many days are in a Barsoomain year). Throw in some of Burroughs' creepiest creations in the Plant Men, a hot seductive femme fatale in Phaidor and a cliffhanging ending that makes you want to read the next chapter immediately and you got a classic tale. To celebrate here's some trivia on the history of the book courtesy of ERBZine and yes even Wikipedia so if I get something wrong let me know. Otherwise he's some info on The Gods of Mars.
  • According to Irwin Porges' exhaustive biography, All-Story editor Thomas Metcalf suggested to Burroughs a sequel to be set in the Valley Dor at the end of the River Iss that was hinted at in Under the Moons of Mars.
  • Burroughs began writing his new tale on July 14, 1912 and delivered it a month before All-Story published Tarzan of the Apes.
  • One suggestion that Burroughs didn't use from Metcalf was to kill off Dejah Thoris. Burroughs admitted he couldn't bring himself to do it.
  • Despite having huge sales with Under the Moons of Mars and Tarzan of the Apes, All-Story did not place The Gods of Mars on the covers of the five issues that it appeared in.
  • The completed tale was finally published in book form five years later with cover art by Frank Schoonover.
  • Burroughs was paid $750 for the story rights, almost twice what he was paid for his first story.
  • Elric of Melnibone creator and sci-fi legend Michael Moorcock has stated that The Gods of Mars was one of three books that inspired him to become a writer.
  • The first comic book adaptation appeared in 1952 as part of the Four Color Comics series, written by Paul S. Newman and drawn by Jesse Marsh. Later comic book versions were DC's Weird Worlds adaptation and recently Dynamite's Warlord of Mars series and Marvel's limited John Carter: The Gods of Mars series.
  • To check out more artwork inspired by Gods of Mars check out http://www.erbzine.com/mag4/0423.html

1 comment:

pascalahad said...

After reading A Princess of Mars I had no choice but to devour Gods of Mars. I enjoyed the change of scenery of the Valley of Dor, was surprised to see Carter reunited that fast with Tars (my personal rationale is that both times, in Princess and Gods, the spiritual trip of Carter brought him to the same kin spirit), and was thoroughly thrilled by the whole journey. Thuvia is a great character, as is Phaidor. The political factions and their order in the command chain were awesome. Some wonderful and breathtaking sequences stay in my mind, as the raid of the Black Pirates on the Therns, or the escape of Carter and friends from the underground sea, and the final assault in the Black Pirates hideout. And Issus, what a reveal! The goddess everyone on Barsoom dreaded was just a semi-mummified inoffensive crazy, cackling old woman! And what an ending! I remember I had to wait a full year to read the follow-up, the wait was unbearable.

Two questions popped in my mind the last time I read Gods, related to the fight between John Carter and Tars Tarkas on one side, and the banths the Therns send through secret doors on the other.

1) Did Burroughs forget that he created the Tharks so they could see in every direction at once if necessary? I was surprised that Tars Tarkas was not the one who discovered the secret-door trick.

2) When Carter fights the Thern he is disarmed, falls and grabs a gun to kill the sword-wielding Thern. Isn’t that a breach in the fighting code of honor of barsoomian fighters? Or was the Thern supposed to let him retrieve his sword before continuing the combat?