When a popular property is about to be turned into a major motion picture, you can bet that someone is going to make it into a comic book… again!
JOHN CARTER: A PRINCESS OF MARS #1
Writer: Roger Langridge
Artist: Filipe Andrade
Colorist: Sunny Cho
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover Artsti: skottie Young
Editor: Sana Amanat
Cover Price: $2.99
Previously in A Princess of Mars: Edgar Rice Burroughs created a wonderful world of adventure, mystery, and love when he introduced us to John Carter. While prospecting in the Arizona desert, the title character is ambushed, and while attempting to escape, finds himself in a cave filled with gas that knocks him out. When he awakes, he finds himself on the planet Mars.
THE TALE OF TWO CARTERS
As odd as it may seem, there are currently two versions of the John Carter: A Princess of Mars comic books currently being published. The first is from Dynamite Entertainment, who jumped on the property over a year ago. While Disney (and thus Marvel) owns the naming rights to the John Carter series, Dynamite opted to go for the Warlord of Mars moniker, which confused some, but nonetheless presented a fairly accurate take on the Burroughs tale.
Then you have Marvel’s take. While the title matches the source, the tale Roger Langridge spins is close enough to be considered an adaptation, but there are large portions of the original text that have been tweaked and modified to make the story seem jumpy and frenetic in this reading. In an adaptation, the goal is to make the transition to the new medium as smooth as possible. I think Langridge did a descent job of that as readers are introduced to all the big picture elements – the Tharks, Woola, the white ape martians, and Dejah Thoris, but the nitty-gritty specifics that many John Carter fans expect to see are completely missing. I like Langridge’s work on the Muppets, but here it feels like he is trying to give the reader the Cliff’s Notes version of the first John Carter story.
The problem with this issue seems to be one of greed. While Dynamite continues to move forward in its take on the story, and doing a very good job of it, this take comes across as the big corporation trying to harm the little guy simply because it owns the movie rights and wants to make even more money than it already has. It feels like a money grab and nothing else.
CERTAINLY NOT THE DEJAH THORIS AS DESCRIBED IN THE SOURCE MATERIAL
Dejah Thoris is certainly something that springs to mind whenever John Carter is mentioned, and in comic book form, one might expect to see curves all over the place. Again, I can’t help but compare Dynamite and Marvel in the art department as well. While neither company has gone as far as to make everyone run around naked (unless you have the Dynamite variant covers), Dynamite tends to favor its figures with more curves.
Marvel… well, the company did create some art for this book.
Filipe Andrade has a very interesting style that is pretty to look at, but one that I’m not particularly fond of in sequential art form. Everything comes off as one big storyboard, often with the art looking not completely finished, even down to the Copic Marker feel on most of the pages. If Dynamite gives everyone curves, Andrade is all about lines and corners, as all the characters come off as hard edged and sharp.
When it comes to the depiction of Thoris, I find it really interesting that the one panel we get of the Princess of Mars, has her completely clothed in a long dress. Granted the sides of the dress are cut to her waist, but it isn’t even close to the way Burroughs got the blood flowing in his original depiction.
And maybe that is the point.
While Dynamite Entertainment’s take seems to be more mature in its presentation (it still has no nudity), Marvel’s book is squarely aimed at the All Ages audience. The toning down of the violence, skin, and other graphic content from the source material is well suited for kids 6-16, and those are the minds that need to be convinced to see the movie when it arrives in theaters in March 2012.
BOTTOM LINE: NOT FOR ME
If you’ve read my various takes and thoughts on the John Carter mythos, you know I have a love for the story and the crazy out of this world sci-fi adventure Edgar Rice Burroughs cooked up way back in 1912. While this first issue touches on many of the key elements, and general plot of the source material, the overall issue falls flat. There simply isn’t enough there to keep my interest going – especially when there is another company doing the exact same thing, and doing it better in my honest opinion. The art will definitely take some getting used to, and unless you like your sci-fi classics watered down for the younger reader, John Carter: A Princess of Mars #1, gets 1 out of 5 Stars from me.
Mileage of course can vary.