With two issues of Dynamite's adaptation of the Edgar Rice Burroughs classic, Warlord of Mars, out, the table has been set and we're about ready to see John Carter's adventures on Mars start in earnest.Newsarama ran the full issue of #1 on Tuesday, and today we check in with writer Arvid Nelson (Rex Mundi), who's helming the title with artist Stephen Sadowski. In our Q&A, Nelson talks about Dynamite's decision to release the first issue for a dollar, pacing the comic book version of the legenday sci-fi novel and hints of things to come. Newsarama: Arvid, with two issues out for Warlord of Mars, let’s take a look back at the first one, which came out back in October for only $1. From your end, in this era where comic book cover prices are hotly debated, what kind of impact did it have for the title to ship with that introductory price?
Arvid Nelson: It only goes to show how much Dynamite believes in Mars. I mean, why not pick up Issue One? At the very worse, it’s inexpensive packing material. I wish we could sell every issue at $1, but it’s not sustainable. Dynamite really put their money where their mouth is, and I’m doing my best to make sure their faith is justified. I hope readers will be on board for the entire series, because we have so many great things planned.
Nrama: And with two issues out, have you monitored fan reaction at all to the title? If so, has it mostly matched up with your expectations?
Nelson: Hah! If I didn’t care about reader reactions, I’d be on a morphine drip. The most heartbreaking thing for me is when something comes out and there’s nothing but chirping crickets and the buzz of fluorescent lights. The response to Warlord of Mars has been very positive. People who’ve read the originals really seem to get what we’re doing. So do people who are new to it all. Couldn’t ask for anything more.
Nrama: So has the title maybe reached out beyond the usual comic fans? Have you been able to perceive if the comic has reached out to more general fans of the novels?
Nelson: I very much hope fans of the original novels will like our adaptation, and that seems to be the case. I’m sure there’s a lot of crossover in terms of readership.
Nrama: Pacing-wise, I think it’s fair to say the first two issues have been very deliberate in setting things up, which might surprise some people — we haven’t seen John Carter on Mars yet, for instance. How important is it to you to take time in establishing events as the comic begins?
Nelson: I hope the amount of action in the first two issues, combined with the price for Issue 1, means the pacing is where it should be. It was a wonderful opportunity to write a short Western, and I feel like it was something Burroughs himself would have written. Starting in Issue 3, it’s all Mars for the rest of the series!
Nrama: Aside from being a classic sci-fi tale, the early part of Warlord of Mars has also been a period piece — is the post-Civil War era one you’re especially interested in? Did it involve some research?
Nelson: Well, I’m nuts about Westerns, everything from John Ford to Sergio Leone. So I guess I’ve been doing the research my entire life! If you look closely, the general store/saloon in the first issue, where Carter has his showdown, is taken from Shane, one of the great Westerns of the 1950s.
Nrama: Issue #1 and #2 both follow roughly the same pattern — first half firmly on Earth, second half set on Mars. Why’d you choose to separate the narratives that way?
Nelson: Joe, my editor at Dynamite, approached me with this idea. I thought it was terrific. Carter is sort of a messianic figure. With these prequels you get a keyhole view of the characters in their “life before” he arrives on Mars.
Nrama: Like the source material, the comic is told as the memoirs of John Carter. That seems like it might be a challenge in the comic medium, where it could make things feel less immediate. Was it difficult to translate that framing device into comics?
Nelson: Keeping the story as a memoir was definitely a risk. I’ve never tried it before, but Dynamite was very supportive. And without risk, there’s no reward. I’ll let readers decide for themselves whether or not I was successful.
Nrama: The back-ups, letters from Edgar Rice Burroughs, are notable — how did those come about?
Nelson: There’s so much material in the novels we’re just not going to have space for. The bonus pages at the end of each issue are a way for use to include some of it without slogging down the story, the exact problem you alluded to above. Plus, it’s a great way to add value to the comic. You really get your money’s worth with this title.
Nrama: I know this is an ongoing, but it’s also an adaptation of finite material — at this point, do you have a rough idea of how many issues it’ll take to tell the story?
Nelson: We’ll be wrapping up the first novel, A Princess of Mars, around Issue 9. After that we’ve got some original stories planned. I’m very excited for it, but if I talked prematurely I’d be fed to starving Banths in the Great Arena of Warhoon. I hope we’ll be making an announcement soon.
Nrama: Leave us with a little bit of a tease, if you could — what’s in store for issue #3 and beyond?
Nelson: One of the comments I’ve read online is that we haven’t yet seen Dejah Thoris, the Martian princess. Well, she’s coming, and real soon. The drawings of her are just incredible, especially her very first page. The wait is going to be worth it, I promise!Have you checked out WARLORD OF MARS?