A Short History of "Warrior Princess Dejah Thoris" by Eric Holland

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Editor’s note:  JCF is pleased to welcome a new contributor, Eric Holland.  Eric has created in depth online databases at www.barsoom.wikia.com and johncarter.wikia.com, and has also contributed to recovering the old John Carter comics printed in “the funnies” anthologies.  In this article he traces the history of the depiction of Dejah Thoris as a “warrior-like” princess–doing so at a time when there is considerable debate about the depiction of Dejah Thoris as a “Warrior Princess” in Disney’s John Carter, with Lynn Collins as Dejah Thoris, directed by Andrew Stanton.

Dejah Thoris – The Warrior?

by Eric Holland

Here I have collected a timeline of the various depictions of Dejah Thoris as a warrior!

February 1912: A princess of mars first sees the light of day, while Dejah Thoris is not depicted as a warrior, she is depicted as a strong willed woman willing to stand up for what she believes. And it is important to note, that this book goes out of its way to explain that all martian women carry at least a dagger!

August 1940: The funnies Issue #46 contains a story adapting a princess of mars, Dejah Thoris defends herself during her wedding by pulling out a gun and shooting someone! (a gun not provided by anyone, but she brought herself. Keep in mind this series was drawn and likely written by John Coleman Burroughs, and thus was likely approved by Edgar Rice burroughs

September 1940: The funnies issue #47, Dejah Thoris pulls out a gun and saves John Carters life!

December 1975: DC comics Tarzan family issue #60 depicts the world of barsoom and its people in the most inaccurate way imaginable. This comic depicts Thorjah, the daughter of Mars Kujak as a woman fighting for the right to be a warrior. Although a poor adaption it is clear who these people are meant to be!

July 1978: Marvels John Carter: Warlord of Mars, Issue #14 is released. It is important to know that this series is one of the most beloved and well-remembered things associated with Burroughs barsoom. In this issue Dejah Thoris fights skeletons with a sword

September 1978: Dejah Thoris fights an assassin woman in Issue #16 teenage boys are enthralled by this fight, John Carter is thought to be dead and Dejah Thoris goes off to avenge this death! (He isn’t dead btw)

Early (unknown) 1979: Warlord of Mars Annual #3 is published by marvel, lots of Dejah Thoris butt kicking to be found!

April 1979: issue #23 of marvels series, Dejah Thoris disguised as a member of the guild of assassins beats up john carter, and later in another fight a bunch of other warrior women!

May 1979: issue #24, dejah thoris fights tars tarkas and a bunch of other guys

August 1979: Issue #26 Dejah Thoris shoots a lot of guys, throws sword at one guy, stabs some more

April 1996: Dejah Thoris points a gun at tarzans head in Tarzans/John Carter warlords of mars 2

May 1996:Dejah Thoris still pointing gun at tarzans head in the next issue

June 1996:Dejah Thoris beats up the master assassin of zodanga, as depicted by the awesome cover art

2009: Asylums “A Princess of Mars” she stabs a bug, all fans of the books who have watched this movie enter a catatonic state for three weeks

March 2011: Dynamite Comics begins an ongoing series with Dejah Thoris as the protagonist, showing her with warrior characteristics almost every issue

October 2011: The movie prequel comic is released, Dejah Thoris is depicted as a warrior and a scientist, but her warrior aspects are not over the top and she only manages to kill a few calots throughout the entire series!

March 9 2012: Fans are outraged at the Disney film portraying Dejah Thoris as having warrior characteristics (how dare she defend herself at her wedding), because she has literally never been portrayed as a warrior before!


  • Tavia, in Fighting Man of Mars was not exactly a warrior woman. She had been trained to use a sword and pilot a flyer in early childhood, but was a slave girl up until the time Hador found her. Yes she did help to defend them fighting side by side with him, but when they were on the verge of being overrun she capitulated to being killed by Hador to keep her from being devoured alive. One of my favorite stories in the series, and I don’t mind at all the depiction of a martian women being able to defend herself. I just don’t want to see Xena on mars. And, Tavia was most certainly an exception to ERB’s formula.

  • I think they might have changed that in the reshoots, in the comic she is shown mostly defending herself!

    And we only have seen her fighting during her wedding in the footage, a scene that I feel mirrors the issue of the funnies . . .

    OR, stantons making of women warriors can be a misinterpretation of the fact that green martian women act as a reserve force of warriors and are in fact trained to fight a bit

  • Yes, this is a nice chronology and Mr. Holland is to be thanked for it. However, self-defense (or the defense of others) does not make one a “warrior.” The word is directly related to “war,” and except when used metaphorically means “a person engaged or experienced in warfare; soldier.” — Dictionary.com

    As noted, Barsoomian women carry daggers for self defense, not swords, and were not trained for war. If Lynn Collins’ character is merely trying to help John Carter or save herself, she isn’t out of character. Early press releases indicated that Martian women were trained as soldiers and that Dejah would be portrayed as such a woman. (See the news articles about casting calls in England.)

  • Our John Carter in THE FUNNIES comics project is progressing nicely.
    Over the last few months ERBzine.com has featured issues nos. 30-49 from 1939-1940 with most of the art by ERB’s son John Coleman Burroughs:

    Bill Hillman

  • Hahaha! Nice way to wrap up that timeline! Well I admit I’m one of the people that really really wanted Dejah to be depicted as the epitome of feminine beauty. I feel that’s the way to go because who wouldn’t – boy and girl alike – enjoy admiring that kind of eye candy honestly! But this kinda helped me to come to grips with the warriorlike outfits they got her wearing in the movie. Not thrilled by it though but i guess we shall see how she pulls it off.

  • Cry me a river okay, it has been done before and successfully!

    if burroughs had been born today, he would have written her as a warrior at the very least!

  • We’re not saying it’s something Burroughs wouldn’t do. We’re saying it’s something he DIDN’T do. Not with Dejah Thoris at least. All those comics don’t count because they were not writen by burroughs they were adaptions and very poor ones by the sound of it.

    Now, personally I have no problem with Dejah Thoris defending herself or even being some what of a badass but Burroughs makes it clear that women are not trained as warriors. Yes there are one or two exeptions which means basically that while it is possible for a Barsoomian woman to BE a very skilled fighter and maybe even equal a man in battle in general they are not rained to go into combat the way Barsoomian men are.

    And Dejah Thoris certainly was NOT.

  • I feel like I should have brought up a fighting man of mars

    alot of people attacking the warrior princess thing are attacking it calling it unburroughs like, or something burroughs wouldnt do . . . when in fact he has made a warrior woman in one of his mars books . . . it is something he has done

  • Thanks for this one, Eric……hope there are plenty more where this came from. 😉

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