January 03, 2011

Review of WARLORD OF MARS #1

Dynamite Entertainment is reviving John Carter of Mars in a new comic book. I decided to get the first issue because:

  • I've read all of Edgar Rice Burroughs's John Carter novels.

  • I recently wrote about Barsoom = Indian Territory and Stereotypes in A Princess of Mars

  • The story covered Carter's pre-Mars days and I wanted to see how Dynamite would handle it.

  • It cost only $1.00.

  • The main story invents a scene not in A Princess of Mars. Carter and his partner Powell are in an Arizona saloon when some ex-Union soldiers enter. They call the Confederates and their leaders cowards, but Carter ignores them. But when the Yankees insult Carter's beloved Virginia, he shoots them dead.

    Rob's reactions

    That was a great bit when I saw it in The Trouble with Tribbles 33 years ago. But it's a little unoriginal now.

    Carter is supposed to be a dignified, aristocratic gentleman. He's one of the last people who would fight his inferiors over an insult. And he wouldn't start shooting them when they hadn't shot first.

    The artist is drawing Carter to look much like Wolverine without the tufts of hair. His personality is Wolverine-like too. This Carter apparently will go into a berserker rage whenever he's provoked.

    Unfortunately, that's a total misreading of John Carter. It would be like portraying Sir Lancelot, James Bond, or Jean-Luc Picard as a barroom brawler. It has nothing to do with the original character except the name.

    The Indian aspects

    Alas, the Apache don't make an appearance in this issue. The Yankees call them "redskins" at the beginning so readers will know these white men are crude and rude. Near the end, Carter and Powell discover Indian scalps on the soldiers' horses. White men bad! Indians (possibly) good! That's different from the approach in the original novel, at least.

    Carter concludes by saying, "We'll have to be careful now. Apaches aren't going to be too pleased to see any more white faces." Yeah, because Carter and Powell plan to trespass on their land and take their mineral resources without permission. Who would be pleased at that?

    So some things haven't changed. John Carter still has a ridiculously inflated sense of white privilege and entitlement. Like a 2-year-old, he thinks that whatever he can find and see is his. He doesn't recognize the concept that other people have possessions and rights just like him.

    In that sense, he's a typical American. In the clash between sovereign Indian nations and selfish American greed, the latter wins.

    Anyway, I'd say WARLORD OF MARS #1 isn't even worth a dollar. You can safely skip this comic.

    For more on the subject, see America's Cult of Self and Capitalism Killed the Indians.

    1 comment:

    Anonymous said...

    I've noticed that a lot. I mean, look at Frazetta's Conan vs. Howard's. Every artist has their own image.

    Of course, we have the difficulty of the storyline. It's important to acknowledge not only the real history, but the politically correct history (i.e., Indians as aggressors) so popular during Burroughs' day. Without that, you can't really do justice to history.

    Sadly, when remaking works, it's difficult to recognize both. Sometimes it's made easier; the Bible is rife with pretty much all the negative aspects of the Proud Warrior Race mentality. (e.g., if they surrender, kill them all anyway)