So today is the day I never thought would actually happen. “John Carter” hits theaters, and introduces Edgar Rice Burroughs’ classic series to the general public — leaving everyone who grew up with the books to nervously wonder how it will be received.
As one of the aforementioned people who grew up on the books, the original announcement of a “John Carter” movie had me feeling a little worried, as Burroughs’ novels were deeply rooted in the sci-fi and fantasy genres, and I wasn’t sure how well they’d fare in a Walt Disney Pictures production made for the modern audience. Director Andrew Stanton did a fine job, however, and now my main concern is whether enough people will see “John Carter” to give Stanton a chance to return to Barsoom (the name the Martians call their planet, just in case you don’t speak Martian).
You can read my review of “John Carter” over at Digital Trends, and for those who might not be familiar with Burroughs’ series, I put together a “John Carter 101” of sorts for IFC. Here’s hoping you’re inspired to head to the theaters this weekend to see the film, as it really is a fun, all-ages adventure that does a great job adapting the source material.
All of this talk of John Carter got me thinking about my own history with the novels, though, and I managed to track down two of the books that first introduced me to the world Burroughs’ created for the series.
My mother had always been a big fan of sci-fi/fantasy novels, and at one point we owned the full collection of Barsoom stories, published in hardcover editions that included multiple stories from the series. They were beautiful editions of the books, and featured cover and interior art by Frank Frazetta, Richard Corben, and a number of other well-known artists. To be honest, it was the art that first attracted me to the series, as I was fascinated by the images of a sword-swinging barbarian fighting hordes of four-armed alien creatures. (The barely-dressed women on many of the covers didn’t hurt, either.)
Sadly, many of the books were destroyed due to the annual flooding our house was subjected to, as well as the various other issues that result from living in an old home in the country constructed at a time when many building codes were more of a guideline than a rule.
I did manage to save two of the books, however. The first volume collects The Gods of Mars and The Warlord of Mars (the second and third stories in the series), and was published in 1971. I really love this edition, as it has an amazing wraparound cover and interior art by the great Frank Frazetta.
The second volume was published in 1977 and includes three stories: Llana of Gathol, John Carter of Mars, and Skeleton Men of Jupiter. These are the final three stories in the series, and the book is illustrated by Richard Corben, another great artist who provided both the wraparound cover and the interior illustrations.
I took some photos of the books and their interior art, so you can see why I’m such a big fan of these editions — and why they caught my eye when I was 10 or 11 years old and discovered them on the bookshelf.
You can look through the full gallery of photos over on Flickr, but here are some of the highlights:
I love the epic feel of this wraparound cover by Frank Frazetta, and especially the way he illustrated Tars Tarkas on the cover. I like that John Carter looks even more savage than the Green Martian, and he’s just diving into this massive crowd of four-armed White Apes.
This piece of interior art by Frazetta really sums up the tone of Burroughs’ series: Don’t mess with John Carter.
Did I mention the barely-dressed women in these stories? Well, there you go.
This wraparound cover by Richard Corben was another glorious piece of sword-swinging, barbarian action that had me hooked from the moment I laid eyes on it.
And here’s one of the interior illustrations by Corben, featuring a slightly different take on John Carter that also happens to be pretty amazing. Skeleton Men are no match for John Carter.
Now go see “John Carter,” people!