Friday, October 22, 2010

Deja Thoris!

Dynamite Comics has published the first issue of their John Carter comic, Warlord of Mars. This is Dynamite, so decompression is the rule of the day. Half the comic is spent with John Carter on Earth getting in a bar battle and the second half is on Mars giving us background on Tars Tarkas. So, it may take it until issue 4 that she appears somewhere other than the cover. While the Alex Ross cover looked pretty cool and more dynamic than he usually displays, the Joe Jusko version reminded me of the first time I first came across the world of Barsoom with John Carter, Deja Thoris and Tars Tarkas.

Our first look at Deja Thoris is in the story "Under the Moons of Mars" serialized in the February 1912 issue of All-Story pulp magazine and she is introduced to us by Edgar Rice Burroughs thusly:
And the sight which met my eyes was that of a slender, girlish figure, similar in every detail to the earthly women of my past life....Her face was oval and beautiful in the extreme, her every feature was finely chiseled and exquisite, her eyes large and lustrous and her head surmounted by a mass of coal black, waving hair, caught loosely into a strange yet becoming coiffure. Her skin was of a light reddish copper color, against which the crimson glow of her cheeks and the ruby of her beautifully molded lips shone with a strangely enhancing effect.
She was as destitute of clothes as the green Martians who accompanied her; indeed, save for her highly wrought ornaments she was entirely naked, nor could any apparel have enhanced the beauty of her perfect and symmetrical figure.

Obviously most covers and comic versions show her with just a touch more clothing. In 1914, the serial was collected in book form as A Princess of Mars. Over the years she featured prominently on the paperback covers by Boris, Frazetta, and Joe Jusko among others. When John Carter made it into comics, she was not far behind. And, any excuse to show off wonderful cover art by Gil Kane... Discovering Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom as a teen-ager, Deja Thoris was the epitome of exotic beauty and name. Sadly though, Burroughs' novels are of his time and Romances, which means that no matter how capable the woman, they primarily exist to vex the men with their seemingly arbitrary ways but ultimately just wanting a strong and brave man to rescue them from harm and to win their hearts. Regardless of the novel, his women tend to fall under just a couple of categories: the haughty spoiled princess needing a little humbling and taming, the mysterious beauty who is faithful and true, and the femme fatale that really just needs the love of a good man. While of all of Burroughs' beauties, Deja Thoris may prove to be the most popular to capture on canvas, she doesn't step up to the plate of hero. It's one of the reasons I believe Princess Leia so strongly captured the imagination and hearts of movie-goers. She was undeniably pretty, but she was also spunky, firing a blaster alongside her would be rescuers, holding her own in effecting her rescue and quickly becoming an equally contributing member of the triumvirate of heroes. Despite the shortcoming of Deja never becoming a modern enough heroine to hold books, comics or adventures of her own, the adventures of her man have never been out of print very long and has proven to be one of the more enduring fictional characters of all time. And, wherever John Carter is, Deja Thoris is sure to be close behind in minimalist outfits. In the interest of fairness, Carter himself ran about with little more than a loincloth himself.

In addition to the new series by Dynamite Comics, in the works is a Warlord of Mars big budget movie. Special effects have finally developed to the the point that a quality live-action movie is feasible. Though this does not stop from bad ones also being rushed to being done (as some, not all, of the Burroughs books have made it to Public Domain status). There was also the embarrassingly bad low budget movie that is unwatchable by almost all standards with a middle aged Tracie Lords trying to pull off being Deja Thoris. Avoid it at all costs unless you have a ton of beer and nothing else on television to watch and someone has stolen all of your books and dvds.


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