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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Comments (5)

Posted by: Dunks For Women | Friday September 2, 2011 at 12:55 AM

I hadn't even noticed those Doctor Spektor collections. I've never read the comic, but it sounds like exactly the sort of thing I'm likely to enjoy.

Posted by: Philip Reed | Sunday March 6, 2011 at 3:44 AM

Chabon also penned the script for the new John Carter of Mars film, along with Andrew Stanton. I couldn't be more excited for it.

Posted by: kevinng | Monday February 28, 2011 at 12:32 PM

Great story, David. Marv Wolfman was a creative machine.

Posted by: Alex Carr | Monday February 28, 2011 at 8:54 AM

Years ago, in the back pages of some random comic, I read a short story about John Carter of Mars and his rescue of the beauteous Dejah Thoris from the clutches of multi-armed Martians. I just found that story again in the new trade paperback "John Carter of Mars: Weird Worlds," and for the first time I was able to read the whole arc. I didn't know at the time that the story's script was by Marv Wolfman and the art by Murphy Anderson, but the creative team changed over the run, and as a whole it's uneven. Still good reading, though, and it's nice to rediscover and supplement something that I read long ago and have kept in the back of my mind.

Posted by: David Horiuchi | Sunday February 27, 2011 at 1:21 AM

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