Foreword to John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood

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Following is the Foreword to the work-in-progress book John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood.  It’s a work in progress with publication date of August 1, 2012, if I can make it to the finish line by then. 


In the 1960’s, countless minds of my generation encountered the extraordinary imagination of Edgar Rice Burroughs through the Ace and Ballantine paperback reprints that were published monthly, and which eventually resulted in easy availability of more than 60 novels written by the grandmaster between 1912 and his death in 1950.  By the time he died, Edgar Rice Burroughs was the best known author on the face of our planet; his works had been published in 58 languages; his character Tarzan was the best known literary character in history;  and his Martian series featuring John Carter was considered the Rosetta Stone of modern science fiction.Already half a century old, the books felt as current as if they had been written yesterday, and we collected them all, 40 cents a copy, and read them multiple times.

Discovering Burroughs was not a lonely or isolated pursuit — the fans were legion. Gradually a long list emerged of scientists and storytellers, politicians and spiritual leaders, all of whom said that it was Burroughs who had caught their imagination and inspired them in their youth, among them Ray Bradbury, Arthur Clarke, Carl Sagan, Ronald Reagan, Jane Goodall, Billy Graham, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and James Cameron.

Burroughs’ writing was extraordinary vivid and detailed.  The planet that he created seemed so real that many of us felt almost as if we had lived there, or could live there–more than that, it induced a yearning to want be there and experience the world of our dreaming, and thus it was that for decades a movie of Barsoom played in our minds, while Hollywood attempted to create a real movie.  But Hollywood couldn’t quite pull it off — the imagination of Burroughs, for decade after decade after he wrote A Princess of Mars in the fall of 1911, continued to exceed Hollywood’s capacity to create.  Meanwhile some of our greatest film-makers made liberal use of scenes, images, and ideas from Burroughs’ Barsoom: Star Wars and Avatar in particular drew heavily upon Burroughs, mining it for creative inspiration.

But they were not the original, and we still yearned for that.

Then in 2008 Disney announced that Andrew Stanton, Director of Wall-E and Finding Nemo, would be directing a film version of A Princess of Mars and in January 2010 filming began — and with the knowledge that filming had begun, all of those who had been waiting for decades through one false alarm after another, knew that at long last this cherished source-work of imaginative fiction would finally make it to the screen.  The cinema that had lived only in our minds for all these years was now about to be realized on the screen by a film-maker who had been smitten by its unique charms in his adolescence and carried it with him through adult life in the same way that we, the fans of Burroughs, had been.  It felt like a dream come true and the thought of finally being able to share our special world with the larger universe of filmgoers thrilled us.  We owed Stanton and Disney a deep debt of gratitude for bringing a film such as this to the screen, and to the world.

But then the dream slowly, and inexorably, turned to a nightmare.

The first warning sign came when word leaked out that the film’s budget was $250 million, making it among the most expensive films ever and, because of that, raising the bar for success to an extraordinary height.  Just to break even, it seemed, the film would need to perform at the very highest level, a standout among all films in its year of release.  But we kept faith.

Then, in the months before the film hit screens worldwide, the promotional campaign kicked in.  To those who knew the underlying source material, the trailers and TV spots were sufficient to demonstrate that Andrew Stanton and his team had succeeded in creating the world of Barsoom on screen.  But there was something disturbing as well …. the trailers had a lack of coherency, a failure to evoke the characters and relationships and sense of wonder that were an undeniable component to the underlying, cherished source material.

But we kept the faith and believed it would get better.

As the release date approached, with an eye on the need for a box office “home run” in order for the expensive film to be declared a success, we waiting anxiously to see the expected merchandise arrive (this was  Disney, after all), and the cross promotional tie-ins, the creative advertising that would proclaim to the world that Disney, having made the film at the highest level of production investment, was supporting it with an equally all-out marketing campaign.

But it was not to be.

The media smelled blood, and an advance narrative of inevitable epic failure began to develop — the film wasn’t catching on with potential audiences; the budget and hence breakeven point was too high; the marketing was a mess; box office doom was imminent.

In the closing weeks as the campaign foundered,  a secondary storyline developed as fans, desperate to see Disney right the ship and do justice to the material, took to the internet using the modern tools of creation and connectivity to make their voices heard — they decried the marketing mishaps in blogs, on social media, and anywhere else they could make their voices heard.

Fans who were artists (and there were many of them, because Burroughs inspires the creativity within each of us) began to create alternate posters and banners that entertainment sites like Ain’t It Cool News and industry journals like The Hollywood Reporter claimed  far exceeded anything that the official campaign put out.

Fans who were film-makers took to their editing bays and created entirely new trailers for the film and posted them on YouTube.  One of these caught the eye of the film’s director, who began to speak about it via Twitter and in interviews, saying that it was this trailer — a fan-created one — that “captured the DNA of the film we made”.

Fueled by the director’s endorsement and coverage of the fan trailer on more than 400 outlets, during the closing weeks of the campaign the fan trailer garnered more views online than the official trailer.  A fresh wavelet of much-needed positive buzz hit the internet, but the internet is the 5% tail that wags the 95% dog that is the vastly larger audience that is only exposed through the classical medium of television, and on television, the ads never changed, and the fan-driven internet wavelet was swamped by the Tsunami of the $100m worth of ads that continued to plug the movie as a soulless CGI laden, ape-jumping thunderfest.  The fan-and-film-maker alliance pushing the “true DNA” was too little, too late.

Release day came and the film fared poorly in the US, while being embraced  overseas.  The film itself delivered all that should have been necessary for success — earning a respectable split from the critics (as such films typically do), and resonating powerfully with the audience who saw it.  But the audiences weren’t large enough for a $250m tentpole,   and word of mouth could not save it.  A worldwide box office approaching $300m was achieved, a number that for almost any film would be considered enough for it to be regarded as a hit — but in this case, because of the epic level of the production investment, an epic box office was needed and the numbers fell short.

Then on March 20, 11 days into the theatrical run, Disney in an in unprecedented statement  (unprecedented because studios typically bury such announcements in the subsequent quarterly report instead of trumpeting it as a standalone statement while the film is less than halfway through its theatrical run) announced that it would be taking a $200m writedown due to John Carter — the largest writedown in cinema history and making John Carter the biggest flop ever.

Meanwhile, the fans who had anticipated the film’s release based on their knowledge of the source material were joined by fans who only newly discovered the material based on a viewing of the movie.  The Burroughs magic, it seemed, had resonated through Stanton and the film, while not generating the kind of return on investment it needed to make, had already begun generating a passionate and committed fan base who coalesced on Facebook and blogsites dedicated to the film, and who began to agitate in favor of the film via social media.  They increased their output of art and videos; they reached out worldwide; they connected with the film-makers; and they succeeded in establishing a beachhead in the war that had as its overt objective the greenlighting of a sequel; but which found its underlying meaning in garnering a measure of respect for the movie, and in so doing rehabilitating the image of the underlying source material.  Their story is a 21st century story of the power of ideas, community, and the tools of social media.

In the aftermath, surveying the wreckage and near destruction of a 100 year old cherished piece of creative genius, the question inevitably arises: How did this happen?

What were the forces at play that caused what by any reasonable measure should have been a manageable literature-to-screen process to become a humiliating disaster to the film-makers, the fans, and the legacy of Edgar Rice Burroughs, a fertile mind that inspired much of the best creativity of the century that followed him?

Hollywood vs Mars is a serious investigation by a 25 year film industry veteran into “what really happened” in the creation of Hollywood’s greatest disaster in its history.  It is not a rant; it  has been undertaken not with the intent to prove a conspiracy theory, nor to satisfy any particular group or constituency.  It seeks not blame, but understanding, not just of how the disaster happened — but also how with the modern tools of creation and connection, the fans who are fighting back may have a fighting chance to achieve their objectives.

The fans and their fight for the legacy of the film are a legitimate part of the ongoing story about the film, and they  contributed significantly to this book.  The cover art is a piece of fan art by Bryan Bustard, and within the book itself are many examples of fan art, and links to the fan videos that demonstrate that ideas, creativity, and connections can make a difference.

The film-makers who labored for many years to bring Barsoom to life on screen have also helped by opening up privately to help the author piece together the story of what happened.   For the most part it has not been possible to officially recognize them because with few exceptions they remain under the strictures of Non-Disclosure-Agreements, and could not provide comments with attribution, although they did speak frankly and in detail with assurances that this would be used by the author for background purposes.

And finally there have been some from within the studio structure who have come forward privately to shed light on “What really happened”, and the author is particularly grateful to them, who must also remain unnamed for the same reason as the film-makers.

This has been a strange–and strangely rewarding–journey for the author.  On the one hand, the thought frequently has presented itself: It’s just a movie – get over it.  But then a counterargument presents itself: No, it’s more than that. It’s a cherished piece of Americana that has been trampled underfoot and left for dead.  Also: It’s the single biggest disaster in cinema history, a fact which by itself makes it worthy of study.  And: It’s a story of a spontaenous global community emerging in the digital age and asserting itself with digital tools, and that’s worth studying.

But beyond all of that, there is something that makes this deeply personal, and that is the connection that was forged those many decades ago between the mind of the master, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and the mind of the student who writes this.   Burroughs has shaped so many destinies that Ray Bradbury called him “the most influential writer in the history of the world”, and yet for all that he has never been fully recognized for his unique ability to not only transport readers to another world, creating “escape”, but to implant within those readers values that prepare them for the battles of life and indeed, sustain them when those battles seem overwhelming.  I felt, but had never paused to examine, that Burroughs touched us in ways that were both primal and intellectual; that he sensed things that were lacking in our lives and in our culture and supplied a deeply resonant version of these lacking things–and that this, rather than simple “escape”, was the reason for our intense connection to what he wrote.   But it never rose to the level of something that I pursued other than idly, an occasional contemplation that flicked through my consciousness.

It was only the injustice and effrontery of what happened in 2012, and the stirring defense from fans who were touched by the movie as I had been by the books,  that caused me to do what ERB himself did in the earliest days of his writing journey–find the time within the numbing grind of daily existence and write the best I know how, and tell a story that I want to tell, and would want to read.

The old grandmaster has been kicked to within an inch of his life and left bleeding by the side of the road.  This book seeks to know why, and how it happened, and to hold accountable those responsible for the beating, but it is also meant to help nurse old Ed, my grandfather in spirit if not in bloodline, back to health and in the process restore his dignity, and maybe — just maybe –contribute in some small way to helping the old master inspire a new generation of admirers for another 100 years.

Dotar Sojat

Burbank, CA


May, 2012



  • in this modern age, art is consumed with self-pity and eroticism. It is a cesspool of people expressing the worst possible emotions, emotions created by media and not experience.

    John Carter deserves recognition, because the world needs hope that a man can still do what is right, that a person can get over self pity and depression and make something of themselves . . .

    Maybe that is why the controversial changes happened in it? Because that is how people are these days, moody, and depressed, and we need to get over it!

  • As someone who is a fan via the movie and not the books – I say bravo for your investigation and the writing of this book. This movie deserves a sequel and the stars of the movie need to know they did a great job. I know I’m limited by not having read the books – but I think Collins and Kitsch did really well. I hate this negative publicity has probably tarnished them a bit – or at least scared them off of ever taking on these roles again if there is ever a chance that could happen. For those of you that have read the books – what are your thoughts on the casting and their performances?? Going to find that facebook group this week and join!!! Still shocks me that a movie that grossed 300 million worldwide and probably half that in dvd/blu-ray sales and pay-per-view/rentals could still be considered a flop.

    Thanks! —Kim, NC

  • I’ ve seen John Carter 3 times. Each time it made me weep. Im not even sure why ( I mean, I know, why. The scene with Carter & Woola vs. the Thark horde. but I’m delightfully surprised that a 100 year-old story can bring out such emotions when put in the right hands)…..This film is a piece of American art that must be protected and fought for. Im a comic book artist/geek who loves the Avengers. But John Carter made me weep. Any motion picture that make a ( mostly) grown man weep honest tears is something worth cherishing.What can I do to help?

  • The Film was excellent, as most audiences discovered, despite the virulent reviews that seemed to be more concerned about its budget than its story. Highly recommended! In five years we will all be enamored of it because the smear campaign will be long forgotten.

  • They took way too much poetic license with core material.
    When they introduced the Thurns as shapeshifting, levitating…who knows whats, It was over for me.
    I almost walked out of the theater I was so disgusted.
    They “hollywooded” it(.)

  • ________________________________________________________________
    The film itself delivered all that should have been necessary for success — earning a respectable split from the critics (as such films typically do)

    This book stinks of bias just by this statement which seeks to absolve Stanton of any responsibility for failing to deliver a better film.

    This movie got a 52% rating on rotten tomatoes, that’s a rotten rating by the way and a even worse 34% from top critics (those who write for major magazines and newspapers). I would hardly call that respectable or delivering everything needed for success and other films of this genre have gotten better reviews.

    Just for comparison with other sci-fi/action films released this year:

    Hunger Games – 85%
    Prometheus – 74%
    Avengers – 93%

    Almost everything I read in the foreword other than the budget seeks to blame Disney and the marketing for this movies failure.

    Another item in the foreword which is dubious is that the overseas audience embraced this movie better than the US/Canada. It made $210 million overseas and $73 million US which is pretty much the usual split you get for movies like this given the larger overseas market. Wrath of the Titans which opened several weeks after John Carter in March put up similar numbers $83 million domestic/$218 million foreign.

    A balanced view of what happened with this movie would have been interesting but this doesn’t sound like one.

  • I will look forward to reading the whole book when it is available. Great Foreword!

  • Great job Michael! Look forward to reading it. The passion of fans like you gives me hope in a world full of negative people who would rather destroy then create anything of value of their own or support those who have. Don’t listen to the naysayers. They are sick in the head and spew vile things. Keep up the fight. I continue to spread the word in my own small way across the internet. I’m working on my own fan art as well. See you on Facebook and the board! TAKE ME BACK TO BARSOOM! R-squared

  • I think all Stanton said about Schadenfreude was “thanks to those who ignored the schadenfreude and went to see the movie this weekend” — after the opening weekend bombed. I mean …. big budget schadenfreude is an officially recognized psychological condition, isn’t it? Titanic and Avatar got their share …then they beat the rap and the s-freudists had to just shut up and go away. But I mean …. schadenfreude happened but …. it wasn’t uniquely targeted on Stanton or Disney, it was triggered by the perception of epic foolishness in overspending on a movie that was a tough sell.

    I think the issue of fans blaming it 100% on marketing is a valid one. I don’t subscribe to that. My sense of it is that if everybody does their job — marketing and production — then the director just need come up with what amounts to a double …. but if the marketing sucks, then the director has to make up for the poor marketing by hitting a home run — and vice versa — if the director drops the ball, the marketing is forced to hit a home run. In this case Stanton was put in the position of having to hit a grand slam by the combination of a) budget too high, hence break-even too high (partly his fault), b) overall marketing scheme not creative/complete enough (merchandising, licensing), and c) lameness of the creative content of the marketing that was done.

  • I would agree with most of that. I just think all these problems go beyond bad marketing. I think fans are not being completely honest with themselves about this movie nor is Andrew Stanton when he says schadenfreude and other things like that.

  • Hey Vile,
    I think your thoughts on the “long view” are generally valid — but both the Tarzan projects were in the works long before the JC fiasco hit. I just spent four hours at ERB Inc yesterday and I can assure you that, seen from their perspective, the value of the Venus series (which they really hoped would be a hot property if JC succeeded) has taken a hit and no one is beating down their door to pick up any of the 25 properties/series they have on the shelf. The talk over there is all about becoming more proactive given the negative impact of the JC outcome. That’s just hard business facts as perceived by the people who are most affected by it. They know it’s not permanent …..but clearly if there had been a different outcome with JC, the value of those un-optioned properties would be much greater than they are now.

    But of course it’s not a permanent thing — it can/will heal. The fans have a role to play in that healing process, I don’t think you really disagree with that……you just don’t want the fans getting all full of themselves and thinking that are more important than they are. Is that a fair statement?

    One thing I definitely agree with is — somebody has to figure out how to do it for a lot less than 250m.

  • Cecilia Thoris. Who is doing an Edgar Rice Burroughs film now? Umm, Constantin Films is doing a CG animated/motion capture Tarzan movie. So they are financing that. Craig Brewer is developing a live action Tarzan movie for WB he plans on writing and directing. So uh . . . there you go. But your viewpoint makes no sense and is not based in logic. A Facebook group of about 8,000 isn’t going to show Disney or Big Hollywood that you better make a sequel or else.

    What it is simply going to take is some time and distance, that is all there is to it. The reputation of these books is well and intact, a movie that bombed doesn’t change that. These stories are still great stories regardless of a movie that bombed. If Batman can come back and survive Batman and Robin and even after a movie like Batman and Robin we can see the advent of movies like Spider-Man, X-Men, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and now Avengers, then someone maybe can revisit Barsoom and maybe come up with a way to do it for a loss less than $250 million and make something even better.

  • Everything I’ve read that Michael wrote seems pretty fair and objective. And is John Carter a great movie? Well, the rest of the world seemed to like it, is not the USA… yet. Unless the rest of the world is composed of mindless and tasteless moviegoers… And I’m inclined to say no, it isn’t, since I live in a part of this rest of the world.

    All is speculation at this point, it could go either way. But one way or the other, the only thing I can agree with The Vile One is that, ultimately, Barsoom is definitely on the map for the general audience to be aware of, perhaps in the most major way since 1912.

  • Listen Vile — thare are 8000 of us on Facebook who don’t buy your “logic” and we’re going to keep doing what we do no matter what people like you say about it. And if you think Burroughs reputation hasn’t been tarnished by this you’re just not very aware pf how things work. The value of ERB’s works has taken a hit ….who would invest in an ERB film now? The likelihood of the Venus series ever getting optioned again just went down the toilet….unless we turn it around. we know your type — we run across you all the time. You’ll sit there and make pronouncements like very word out of your mouth is a pearl of unassailable wisdom. And everything we are trying to do is futile, won’t amount to anything. We get it. Now move along.

    Oh, and you miss the main point of Dotar’s book which is to investigate what really happened. The fan part is just the thing at the end. Did you even to bother the three excellent Special Reports that he’s already put out on this blog that are part of the book? Whatever.

    I agree — don’t feed trolls. (which i just did, I guess.) Oh well. enough.

  • Dotar,
    Look at the dude’s name — “The Vile One”….dude’s trolling man, don’t feed him. Let him go crawl back into his hole. Seriously.

  • Yeah really. Because as they say the proof is in the pudding. Like you yourself said battling back in an effort to greenlight a sequel. Well that’s not happening. I think somewhere down the line some day we can expect the property to perhaps be revived and adapted over again. Look at something like Tarzan, Warner Bros. is developing that one again. Constantin Films is doing their own CG animated motion capture version of Tarzan starring Kellan Lutz. These might not be good but the point is that there is opportunity for people to take a stab at the material again.

    And also fighting to get a measure or respect for the movie like it deserves it. Well maybe the movie doesn’t deserve to have respect fought for it. Rehabilitation for respect of the books? I didn’t know the books’ image or reputation was in need of rehabilitation either. Because quite frankly the reputation of the books are not in jeopardy.

    There’s not going to be a sequel. This was one of the most costly flops of all time. Disney reported a $200 million loss on the picture to their shareholders. The failure of this movie cost people their jobs. There is not going to be a sequel.

    I think you could always hope for someone else in Hollywood trying to crack that code again and taking another stab it. David Lynch did a decent, heady albeit IMHO an extremely flawed adaptation of DUNE, my favorite sci-fi novel. There were the Sci-Fi Channel’s miniseries which were decent and more faithful to the book. My hope is that we could always see something more in the middle of the TV miniseries and Lynch’s version for a more contemporary Hollywood update and that’s almost happened a couple times. Scripts were written but those projects basically fell on the wayside, but I think due to the enduring themes and popularity of the books, it is bound to happen sooner or later and the influence among modern media and science fiction with Frank Herbert and Dune is undeniable.

    But at the end of the day, the failure of a movie hardly ruins the reputation or the integrity or the class of the books. That will always remains. But like with Lord of The Rings it might take a few stabs to get in adapting.

  • Vile one wrote:

    The title says “fan-filmmaker alliance fighting back.” Well fighting back against what exactly?

    My first thought is — it’s a title, it’s supposed to provoke you to ask questions like you’re asking.
    My second thought is — it’s a title, how much detail can it contain?
    My third thought is, the foreword says the fan movement is fighting back to achieve: ” the greenlighting of a sequel” but has found its “underlying meaning in garnering a measure of respect for the movie, and in so doing rehabilitating the image of the underlying source material.” Smurfs? Chipmunks? Really?

    Vile one wrote:

    it just seems like the basis of the book is not in any ways factual. I think the fact is, all the internet, social media and grassroots type of fan contingents in support of this movie really had little impact on it at all despite the fan edit trailers that “capture the DNA of the film we made,” etc.

    I take it the “basis of the book” your’e still referring to the fan part of it, not the “lets find out what really happened” part of it.

    Regarding that, the foreword says:
    “A fresh wave of positive buzz hit the internet, but the internet is the 5% tail that wags the 95% dog that is the vastly larger audience that is only exposed through the classical medium of television, and on television, the ads never changed, and the fan-driven internet wave was swamped by the Tsunami of the $100m worth of ads that continued to plug the movie as a soulless CGI laden, ape-jumping thunderfest. The fan-and-film-maker alliance pushing the “true DNA” was too little, too late.” Isn’t that basically your point? i.e. we agree.

  • The title says “fan-filmmaker alliance fighting back.” Well fighting back against what exactly? Disney/Big Hollywood for not properly marketing the movie? The general public for enjoying fare like The Smurfs and Alvin and The Chipmunks instead of this classic, epic literature? Andrew Stanton?

    I get the emotion and passion about for this material. I understand for the need of some catharsis after what happened with the movie, but it just seems like the basis of the book is not in any ways factual. I think the fact is, all the internet, social media and grassroots type of fan contingents in support of this movie really had little impact on it at all despite the fan edit trailers that “capture the DNA of the film we made,” etc.

    Also let’s take for instance in the tag line that gets thrown around a lot in reference to this movie, “the story that inspired Avatar and Star Wars.” This is meaningless. To the general public at the end of the day, it’s a meaningless tagline. Joe moviegoer will see that and they don’t go, “Oh wow cool, this is the original version of Star Wars before Star Wars was cool, I better go see this.” They instead just react to it and go, “OK and?” Or “Huh? So what?” I remember at a conference with Andrew Stanton he proudly gushed about how these books were “his Harry Potter.” The problem with that is, saying that and meaning that doesn’t mean jack to the millions of little kids these days who grew up reading Harry Potter or love Harry Potter. That is also why John Carter is such a terrible title. No one has any idea what it means.

    So whether the tagline of “the inspiration for Star Wars and Avatar” came in 2011 or just a month before it would’ve meant little in the long run. It’s not enough to invoke the name of some other famous franchises to show people why its important.

  • By all means consider getting review copies of your book to entertainment industry trade publications like Variety and Hollywood Reporter, and the influential showbiz journalist Nikki Finke. Then there’s popular magazines like Entertainment Weekly, genre publications like Fangoria, cinema magazines like Film Comment, Sight and Sound, and especially Video Watchdog. Also LA Weekly, since Los Angeles is an industry town. The trade publication Adweek would be interested in the marketing angle. Also, general business publications; Forbes in particular has been sympathetic to John Carter all along, and lamented the way the studio disowned it. Perhaps even touch base with Time and Newsweek. I know someone at Famous Monsters, & could push to get it featured prominently there.

  • “The Vile One” wrote:

    This sounds like a pretty biased and skewed viewpoint. I don’t want to read this story. I want to read an examination that will look at it from all sides. Maybe the director made some mistakes. For quite some time the fandom for the books also weren’t willing to accept that Disney was bombing with the campaign either.

    You might have missed this part of the foreword — or maybe you just feel that other parts swamp this part:

    Hollywood vs Mars is an investigation into “what really happened” in the creation of Hollywood’s greatest disaster in its history. It has been undertaken not with the intent to prove a conspiracy theory, nor to satisfy any particular group or constituency. It seeks not blame, but understanding, not just of how the disaster happened — but also how with the modern tools of creation and connection, the fans who are fighting back may have a fighting chance to achieve their objectives.

    As for “maybe the director made some mistakes”, that’s certainly part of what is being examined.

    The idea that “fandom for the book” weren’t willing to accept that Disney was bombing with the campaign…..could you elaborate on that? My experience was that most of them weren’t that familiar with tracking a theatrical campaign, and so they didn’t have much in the way of a frame of reference to see that it wasn’t working until everyone started writing and saying it was tracking poorly, etc. If they had been reluctant at the beginning to acknowledge it, I didn’t detect any reluctance once the narrative began to get established.

    Anyway ….hopefully you’ll have more to say as the goal is to do a book that looks fairly at the situation, extracts some meaning from it, and holds parties accountable for their actions. It’s not setting out to prove a grand conspiracy theory or any theory — it’s an objective fact, not an opinion, that the marketing campaign failed. It’s an objective fact, not an opinion, that the film itself scored in the 50’s with critics; high 70’s with fans; and that a motivated fan group quickly established itself and began trying to affect the narrative to benefit the movie. These things aren’t opinions.

    Ultimately, at the end of the analysis, I will voice what amounts to my judgment as to “what really happened” but it will be based upon the best objective examination I can do.

    Anyway, that’s the intent. Welcome your further thoughts.

  • This sounds like a pretty biased and skewed viewpoint. I don’t want to read this story. I want to read an examination that will look at it from all sides. Maybe the director made some mistakes. For quite some time the fandom for the books also weren’t willing to accept that Disney was bombing with the campaign either.

  • Oh, and I do feel that the title Hollywood vs. Mars is just flawless as it is. With all due respect to a previous poster, Of Men and Mars could be a science book. Isn’t that one of the problems we had with the film itself –the vagueness of the title? The decision to shorten the title from John Carter of Mars to just John Carter was a big nail in JC’s coffin. To most people, John Carter sounded like a movie where George Clooney plays a homeless man who goes to college, or some damn thing. (Consider last year’s Larry Crowne, a true flopperoo despite the alleged “star power” of Tom Hanks and Julie Roberts.) While the troubled history of Hollywood with Mars movies in general is not the MAIN focus of your book, it certainly played a role in the way things developed. It was the costly failure of Mars Needs Moms just a year or so ago that was key to the fatal decision to alter the title from A Princess of Mars or John Carter of Mars. The word “Hollywood” in the title of any book draws attention to it. In your specific case, “Hollywood vs. Mars” is like code for “Entertainment Industry Business Concerns versus Another World as Imagined by Visionaries.” Your title is perfect. Please don’t change it.

  • Bravo. You have my utmost respect and gratitude. Let nothing stop you in the completion of this important work. This can be BIG –not just self-published, print on demand on Amazon. Here in LA, bookstores have a section pertaining to the entertainment industry, as well as various business topics (Big-selling books of this type include Dreams and Disasters in the making of Heaven’s Gate, and The Other Guy Blinked (about the Coke vs. Pepsi “cola wars.”) Get an agent to shop this around to a mainstream publisher –finding an agent is hard, but there must be someone reading this who can help connect you with someone good. You could have a bestseller on your hands, a just reward for efforts, dedication and caring. We all stand ready to support you.(PS: I found the area to enter the CAPTCHA code hard to find. For the benefit of others, it’s BETWEEN the code itself and the heading that says “CAPTCHA Code”, not below the latter.)

  • This is going to be an incredible book that I think is going to reach much further than just the particular circumstances with John Carter! I’m so excited for this and can’t wait to read the whole thing. Fantastic forward, Michael!! Go Barsoom!!! 😀

  • Is this separate from the eBook announcement, or an evolution of the same?

    This is an incredibly valuable cultural task to perform, and I salute you. I hope you intend to include the full spectrum of responses to the film.

    I humbly submit that ‘Of Men and Mars’ was a preferable and more accurate title. One reason being that ‘Hollywood v. Mars’ is a much broader topic than this adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom. The tortured relationship between Hollywood and the planet Mars is certainly worthy of an entire book, encompassing scores of films from Thomas Edison to Total Recall through the failure of everything since, but unless I am mistaken that is not the book you are writing. That said, if you intend to fully explore that timeline (which would easily eat up several chapters), then the title becomes more appropriate.

    ‘Of Men and Mars’ felt much more in line with the romance of ERBs use of language, too.

    Finally, this is nice Fan Art, but I would also advise going in a more timeless literary direction, perhaps more agnostic, rather than this drawing-of-the-film direction.

    Just two cents from someone who certainly plans to buy it. Cheers and Godspeed.

  • Thank you Michael,
    Written lovingly “…with truth and justice for all” the filmmakers, John Carter fans, Burroughs fans, et. al forever and ever A-men!

    Been singing a lot lately (concert season) and the 2nd movement of Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms popped into my head while reading your forward. “Et immisit in os meum canticum novum, carmen Deo nostro.” Translation “And He hath put a new song in my mouth: even a thanksgiving unto our God.”

    link to actual piece…
    start it about 8:40….

  • Just clicked over from the Robert E. Howard forum at

    Your book will be a VITAL piece of documentary work, and you will have MANY sales to members of the Forum, myself included.


    (and if I ever get to meet you in person, I’ll shake your hand and get my copy inscribed)

  • Just from the foreword alone, it seems that “Hollywood vs Mars” should become part of the curriculum in film school. Really looking forward to the release of this book. Thank you, Dotar Sojat!

  • I like your opening. It’s as if a treasured tapestry was stripped from a museum wall to be used as a rug. I’ll buy the book.

  • Beautifully written…Thanks for writing this book…It means a lot….BARSOOM….

  • Wow! That is an intro! I especially love the third to last paragraph that starts with “But beyond all of that…”

    Fun to read and it makes me want to read more. Well done!

  • Great work Michael. I would like to see some mention of the difficulty of Andrew Stantons job in bringing ERB’s work to the screen (something that even the best directors had contemplated but never executed ) and what a fine job he did. All he got for his great work was inane criticism,poor marketing and humiliation.

  • Thanks again Dotar (er…Michael) for your dedication throughout this process and sharing your unparalleled insights into the entire John Carter story from 1912 to 2012 and the wonderful film, and the entire compelling, uplifting, exciting and often heartbreaking story of what went on behind the scenes. Can’t wait to get the eBook!

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