The trick with including the legacy of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars books in the marketing of a John Carter/Barsoom reboot is to inform people about the legacy in a way that creates intrigue, without an “I told you so” attitude about ERB having been there first. If people perceive “The Original” (cue dramatic timpani drums) to be a threat to their affection for the subsequent works they’ve fallen in love with, then the legacy approach works against itself.
The key element to this angle of the marketing is WONDER, a celebration of the bolt of lightning which ignited such a rich landscape of inspiration. People need to be made curious about the uniquely brilliant work that has been largely forgotten amongst the crowd of influenced works.
What if Sherlock Holmes had been largely forgotten amongst the crowd of mysteries and thrillers that he inspired?
What if Tolkien’s work had been largely forgotten amongst the crowd of fantasy worlds and imaginative epics he inspired? (That was, actually, my frame of reference when I went to see Fellowship of the Rings. I had heard very little about Tolkien and hadn’t read anything of his, which made the film a wonderful surprise and a paradigm shift in my perceptions of the fantasy genre. A good Barsoom adaptation would do the same for 90% of film audiences and their understanding of the science fiction and imaginative adventure genres – the pleasant surprise that makes total sense.)
What if the original, and arguably the best, had been largely forgotten and was ripe to be rediscovered? Isn’t that an adventure that audiences could get excited about?
Link the romance of going to Barsoom with the subconscious allure of going to Mars, and the marketing is off and running.
CONFIDENCE should define the tone of the marketing. A treasure which provides illumination is in store. The novel is foundational to the enduring popularity of science fiction and superheroes. The spark of imagination here is the same which drove us to build ships and explore across oceans, and which now drives us to build spaceships to go to Mars. As the legacy of ERB’s Mars has proven, it is romance and imagination which inspire us to envision the impossible, solve real-world problems, and cross horizons now and forever after.