Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars: The Jesse Marsh Years

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by Robert Sodaro for The Examiner

Just about a year ago Disney released, and then inexplicably disowned, the film John Carter, which successfully, beautifully, and faithfully translated Edgar Rice Burroughs‘ extra-planetary swashbuckling hero Captain John Carter from print to screen, for the first time in the 100 years of his literary existence. Well, while many of us know that John Carter, like his more famous literary sibling, Tarzan began in pulps, John Carter also had a lengthy run in comics. In the 1970s both Dc and then later Marvel Comics each published on-going stories featuring John Carter. What many folks may not know is that Dell/Gold Key also published John Carter comics in the 1950.

In ‘47, Jesse Marsh won the esteem of millions of readers with his four-color vision of ERB’s beloved character Tarzan. Much to the delight of his readers, Marsh illustratedTarzan comics for some 19 years. Still, Marsh’s passion for Burroughs’ creations wasn’t just limited to the legendary writer’s jungle lord. In the early 1950s he teamed up with prolific comic writer Paul S. Newman to breathe life into the courageous adventurer John Carter of Mars for Dell Comics. Dell released three issues of John Carter of Marsunder its Four Color Comics banner. Issue #s 375, 437, and 488, and were released between 1952 and 1953. Some years later, in 1964, Gold Key Comics reprinted all three issues (numbering them 1–3), but inadvertently did so out of order. Finally (in anticipation of the then up-coming Disney filmDark Horse Comics reprinted them in a hard back archive edition in 2010.

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  • I bought the hardback edition. Compressing the storyline of all three novels in three issues in no small feat, but there are casualties in the process, for example there’s no Carthoris. Otherwise, fine work!

  • I well remember the Gold Key editions. The Martians were fully clothed. The Black Pirates didn’t have black skin. And in Gods of Mars when John Carter arrive back on Barsoom and saw his buddy Tars Tarkas fighting for his life against the plantmen, he exclaimed, “Take heart mighty Thark! The long sword of John Carter is at your disposal”. Two lines of atrocious dialog that will forever be burned into my brain cells. But on the whole they were pretty good.

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