Dynamite Entertainment has been publishing comics chronicling Edgar Rice Burroughs' adventures of John Carter of Mars for a few years now. With the recent Dejah Thoris comic ending, this November they are relaunching a new John Carter series (with the name John Carter and Warlord of Mars both being allowed in the title now, thanks to some new contracts), simply called John Carter: Warlord of Mars. Dynamite also recruited a writer, Ron Marz, lifelong fan and who has already been working with Burroughs estate on webcomics with artist Lee Moder on less-familiar characters.
Newsarama recently spoke to Marz about fulfilling a childhood dream on working in this universe, the basis on the direction his series will go, as well as some about the upcoming artist Abhishe Malsuni that is handling the artistic duties.
Newsarama: Ron, you're unabashed and pretty vocal about being a John Carter fan, so what's it like to finally be able to leave a footprint in this universe?
Ron Marz: Pretty surreal, actually, especially if I get some perspective and think about twelve-year-old me falling in love with the novels. I mean, I wanted to grow up and be Edgar Rice Burroughs. Getting to tread this ground he created is just amazing for me. It's not something you expect in your wildest dreams.
Nrama: With Dynamite is wrapping up its current Dejah Thoris title, will your John Carter series be a tie-in to that, or are you starting fresh?
Marz: I'm starting fresh in that this series isn't dependent upon any of the material that's come before. You don't need to have read any of the previous titles, or frankly even the original novels, in order to jump into this series. The first issue is designed to introduce readers to everything they need to know. The goal is to do classic John Carter adventures that appeal to dedicated fans and newcomers alike.
Nrama: Can you tell us a little about your artist for the series, Abhishek Malsuni?
Marz: You mean in addition to him being great? Abhishek is an Indian artist I actually edited on a project for an Indian publisher called Rovolt. When that project came to an end, I was hoping that Abhishek and I would have an opportunity to work together at some point. He decided to go freelance, I showed his work to Dynamite, and they agreed to let him take the series. He's done a little bit of work in the U.S. market here and there, but mostly pinups and covers. So these are really his first interiors over here. And I have to say that I think he's doing an incredible job, especially considering the complexity of the world we're depicting. Abhishek wasn't as steeped in the John Carter mythos as a Western artist might be, but he's thrown himself into it wholeheartedly. He started out really good, and he's getting better every issue.
Nrama: You managed to score eleven variants for the first issue with them ranging from J. Scott Campbell to J. G. Jones and others. Why do you feel like it was important to get so many for this debut?
Marz: I think there are actually more than eleven variants at this point, and I'm honestly glad we have so many. One of the ways a publisher signals its belief in a launch is to invest in producing a number of variant covers. The market responds to variants, and it's absolutely a sales tool that works. I personally have no problem with variant covers as a concept. They're there if you want them, and if they're not your thing, you can just pick the cover you like. Having artists like J. Scott Campbell, Bart Sears, J.G. Jones and Ed Benes on our first issue is a treat, and I know we have more great images lined up for future issues.
Nrama: Changing gears here for a minute, the John Carter movie seems to have garnered this maligned reputation over the years, but you, and a lot of the ERB community praise it. How would you have marketed it?
Marz: I sure as hell would've had "of Mars" in the title! It kind of breaks my heart that what I thought was a great, heartfelt adventure movie, which did so much right, was basically buried by the studio through either ineptitude or a desire to doom the previous regime's projects. Probably a combination of both. I think Andrew Stanton is a terrific filmmaker and pulled off a pretty amazing task in bringing Mars to life and making you believe in everything, especially the Tharks.
I actually just had a really great chat at the Baltimore Comic Con with Alan Davis, who's a longtime John Carter fan as well. We were both equal parts hugely enthusiastic about the film, and bitterly disappointed that there won't be sequels. I really feel like if people had given the movie a chance on its own merits, rather than buying into the pre-determined narrative peddled by the entertainment media, it might have survived. The movie apparently did pretty well at the box office overseas, where its fate wasn't already written before it ever opened. It seems like the marketing ran away from John Carter being the inspiration for Star Wars and Avatar and so much more that modern audiences embrace. That makes no sense to me.
Nrama: So your series is more of John Carter adventures and being set of an unspecified time in John's career on Mars, but would you be interested in adapting any storyline from the novels down the line?
Marz: Sure, especially the later novels in the series, because they haven't really been adapted for comics. Honestly, having a separate series of definitive adaptations of all the original stories would be great. But I do think there's an allure to telling all-new stories, because there's an audience that wants that. Certainly when I was a kid, and had finished all the novels, I wanted new stories more than anything else.
Nrama: Did you put any pressure on yourself to make sure you gave something that lifelong fans of this world, especially ones like yourself. would appreciate?
Marz: No more pressure than I put on myself for anything that I write. That's the job every day, to do the best job you can do on whatever story is in front of you. I'm a hardcore fan of this material, and I'm telling stories that appeal to me, so I'm pretty sure we'll satisfy the John Carter faithful. If there's any added pressure with John Carter, it's to make sure that we appeal to readers in addition to the hardcore fans. Obviously I want this series to continue for years, so we need to have a pretty wide readership.
Nrama: Are you approaching this world differently than we haven't seen before or are you strictly sticking to ERB's roots?
Marz: Certainly what Burroughs created is the basis for everything, that's the blueprint. But I'll certainly be creating things to add to that blueprint. I honestly approach it with the same mentality as I would approaching something like Fantastic Four. Stan and Jack created so much amazing stuff -- characters, concepts, settings -- in the first hundred issues of FF, that you could simply mine that territory forever. But the truest way to honor their wild creativity is to do what they did, to create even more, rather than just treading water. It's the same with Burroughs.
Nrama: In ten words or less, could you tell us who is John Carter to you and why should readers pick this up?
Marz: I don't think I can do it in ten words or less, so I'm going to break your rules. But to me, John Carter and these stories are the basis for so much of what followed. You like "Star Wars"? Its roots go back to John Carter. You like Superman? John Carter was Superman before there was a Superman. Were you swept away seeing by "Avatar"? "Avatar" is John Carter. This is the original.