“John Carter,” the film, arrives on March 9, but that’s only one way to visit the red ridges and valleys of Barsoom. On March 21, Marvel Comics will release the first issue of “John Carter: The Gods of Mars,” written by Sam Humphries (“Sacrifice”) with art by Ramon Perez (“Jim Henson’s Tale of Sand”) and created in collaboration with the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate. This adaptation is considered part of canon — a fact that is not lost on Humphries, who was interviewed recently by Hero Complex lead writer Geoff Boucher.
GB: Writing for canon is exciting but also intimidating. What was your starting-point philosophy as far as expressing your own ideas but also matching the spirit of the Edgar Rice Burroughs bookshelf?
SH: The characters were my north star. There’s so many awesome ideas and kick-ass, stand-up-and-cheer moments in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ books. But all of that falls apart if you lose sight of these noble, courageous, reckless and beautiful characters who make up the beating heart of Barsoom. These are characters with epic emotions as grand and breathtaking as the alien environment that surrounds them. Also, getting out of the way of artist Ramon Perez, so he could work his magic. Ramon just came off the amazing “Tale of Sand” graphic novel and we were so lucky to snatch him up. His John Carter pages with colorist Jordie Bellaire are stunning. Mars never looked so good.
GB: “John Carter” is reaching a whole new audience with the Disney film and many of them don’t know the heritage. When you explain the history and stature of the Barsoom works, what do you say?
SH: I tell them the John Carter epic is literally a hundred years old. The first novel was published in 1911. It puts it all into perspective, because the Barsoom novels inform every sci-fi, fantasy and action genre franchise that has come since. Before “Star Wars,” before “Lord of the Rings,” before “The Matrix” — Edgar Rice Burroughs did it first. John Carter is the foundation of the culture that rules our imaginations today.
GB: Tell us a scene or sequence for your series that was a particular challenge or one that you’re especially proud of and explain a bit about why.
SH: There’s a prison break in Issue 2. John Carter must escape from the Gods of Mars to make it back to his true love, Princess Dejah Thoris. In the original novel, it takes place over 50 or so pages. In the comic, we were far more limited. But we were able to create a bad ass sequence full of false exits, reversals of fortune, close calls and tons of action. Ramon really knocked it out of the park. Please consult with your doctor before reading this scene if you have a history of heart problems.
GB: When did you first read Edgar Rice Burroughs? Give us a sense of the time and place and how you felt as you wandered the landscape of his Mars.
SH: I actually remained in a state of ignorance about John Carter until Marvel contacted me about the book. When I picked up the original novel, I felt like a stranger in a strange land — much like the hero of my book “Sacrifice,” who finds himself transported to the Aztec Empire. As any world traveler can tell you, dropping into a foreign land is an exhilarating experience — you’re flooded with a constant sense of awe and discovery, your eyes and ears go wide like dinner plates, you don’t know where you’re going but you’re thrilled to take the journey. That’s what it feels like to go to Barsoom with John Carter for the first time. That’s what we’re bringing to life in the comic. And you don’t have to pay extra to check your luggage.
– Geoff Boucher
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