Graphic Novel Friday: Swords, Sorcerers, and Spaceships

I’ve been in a 1970s mood lately, fleshing out my tiny vinyl collection and catching up on classic comics. I’ve trumpeted Dark Horse’s Creepy and Eerie Archives, but lately the publisher has been hard at work feeding my nostalgia with great reprints of lost gems from the 70s.

When an advance copy of John Carter of Mars: Warlord of Mars crossed my desk, I could not stop obsessing over it. I am a sucker for “complete” collections, and this 630-plus page tome boasts “all twenty-eight issues of John Carter: Warlord of Mars, plus all three annuals, collected for the very first time!” Sold! Underneath that: “Featuring a foreword by Michael Chabon.” Sold! Chabon edited McSweeney’s Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales and contributed a short story entitled “The Martian Agent, A Planetary Romance,” and its influence was clear: Edgar Rice Burroughs. To have Chabon now introduce Burroughs’ John Carter comics is perfect casting. After I finished the foreword, I looked at the table of contents and marveled at the names associated with the stories contained therein: Chris Claremont, Marv Wolfman, Gil Kane, Frank Miller, Walt Simonson, Carmine Infantino, George Perez, and more. You do not have to keep selling this collection to me, Dark Horse--but sold!

I first flipped to the chapter penciled by Frank Miller and it’s a stunner. John Carter’s love interest, the incomparable Dejah Thoris, lies captive, and Miller’s depiction of her is far removed from his jagged, splotchy portrayals of femme fatales in Sin City. The chapter also features a wild sword battle between multi-armed aliens, resulting in a tangled flurry of limbs, blades, fangs, and action lines. Dark Horse has reprinted these stories in crisp, sharp, black and white pages, drawing attention to the very fine details in expressions--both human and alien, costumes, weaponry, and otherworldly landscapes. These late-70s stories are alive with ideas, strange spaceships, and exclamation marks. The trade paperback comes with sturdy front and back covers, preventing the hefty collection from buckling or warping with all the loving attention that’s sure to come.

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