If not for John Carter, pop culture would not have Superman, “Star Wars” or “Avatar.”
The release Friday of Disney’s “John Carter” is a movie event 100 years in the making. In 1912 the source novel, “A Princess of Mars” by Edgar Rice Burroughs, appeared in a pulp magazine, and protagonist John Carter became the Harry Potter of his day.
An oviparous, copper-skinned princess … four-armed green men 15 feet tall … a Martian hound with 10 legs and three rows of sharp tusks. Swordsman Carter of Virginia encountered them all as he fought his way across a dying planet and inspired generations of authors, filmmakers and scientists.
I wouldn’t be a writer today if not for my early love of Burroughs. His “Tarzan of the Apes” hooked me at age 10, and within two years I was racing in imagination across the dead sea bottoms of Mars. Eventually I collected all of Burroughs’ works, including a signed first edition.
I’m not the only person with Midland connections who has waited decades to see Carter on the silver screen.
“Of all the Burroughs series, John Carter was the one that captivated my imagination,” said Burbank, Calif. filmmaker Michael D. Sellers, who lived in Midland in 2006. “Burroughs … conditioned me to think big and seek out adventure.”
Sellers, who discovered the books at age 11, told me his current quest is to encourage 12-to-18-year-olds to read “A Princess of Mars” through a program he helped to develop. Guidelines for the John Carter Reading Project are at thejohncarterfiles.com.
“The best thing that could come out of the John Carter movie would be to re-introduce Edgar Rice Burroughs to an entire new generation of readers — and by doing that, to stimulate reading at a time when reading books is not exactly second nature for most kids,” said Sellers.
Even science fiction icons such as Ray Bradbury speak of Burroughs with awe.
“Burroughs is probably the most influential writer in the entire history of the world,” Bradbury said in the book “Listen to the Echoes.” “By giving romance and adventure to a whole generation of boys, Burroughs caused them to go out and decide to become special.”
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