John Carter, Warlord of Mars #27 (1979)

1978 and 1979 were rotten years for comics. In ’78, DC cancelled about 40% of their line in one fell swoop, ending almost every comic that was interesting or innovative. Meanwhile, Marvel muddled along, with one classic creator after the next steadily leaving the company. The independent comics movement was still to come; the small publishers just slipped toes into the water but hadn’t jumped in with a full line of comics. Comics seemed stuck in their 17-page length, and prices actually seemed high at 40¢. Yeah, things have changed in the last 25 years.
I didn’t expect very much from this comic. Chris Claremont, who was a long way from being the legendary Chris Claremont, Marvel Legend that he would become, wrote this comic. It’s surprising how fresh and interesting the book is. The writing uses captions, which feels like a rare novelty these days, and Claremont channels the writings of Robert E. Howard, who created Carter and Tarzan. Howard’s Carter books were told as first-person narratives, and this comic is true to the sources. Through Carter’s mumblings, we get a nice feel for the passion and energy of Carter.
John Carter was a Virginia farmer who somehow managed to find his way to Mars, where he had incredible strength and stamina. When he got there, he found a planet at war, and also met a beautiful alien chickee named Dejah Thoris. Dejah and John fell in love and were married – I guess the girls around Richmond are nothing compared with skimpily dressed alien princesses.
In this issue Dejah is kidnapped by Martian terrorists, and John has to run across the Martian desert to rescue her. John wants desperately to save the woman he loves, so he’s gotta do it. We feel his tension and passion in his monologues, and his loss and fear are pretty well done. Certainly in the context of the florid overwriting of the ’70s, it seems fitting.
My favorite part is the scene in the page on the right below. Dejah is pregnant with John’s baby, but it turns out that Martian women don’t have live births; instead, they lay eggs. Eggs. Damn, this is cool stuff.
Go in with low expectations and you’ll love John Carter.

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