I’d like to begin this blog post with a brief, but simple, rant. Many film critics do not understand the pulps. They do not know the origins of the material which they so casually lampoon. If they did understand pulp sci-fi stories like Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess Of Mars, then they would understand what a faithful, accurate, and inspired take on the stories Disney’s John Carter actually is. Instead a meme has now formed that the film is a “bomb” and that it is not worth seeing. Rubbish. If you like the Sword and Planet genre, or even just adventure stories, then you need to see this movie.
Seeing the movie myself this past Friday night got me to thinking about a lot of the great books it was built on. Here’s a short list:
A Princess Of Mars / Edgar Rice Burroughs — Published way back in 1912, this is the tale that started it all. Virginia gentleman and Civil War veteran John Carter finds himself transported to a planet Mars brimming with aliens, strange cultures, and unfettered action!
The Gods Of Mars: A Tale Of Barsoom / Edgar Rice Burroughs — The second book in Burroughs’ Barsoom cycle, this tale kicks the series into high gear, and further expands the lore and cultures of Mars.
Almuric / Robert E. Howard — One of the many amazing talents inspired by Burroughs work was Robert E. Howard, and his Almuric tales are just one example of the great titles you can find in the awesome Planet Stories Library series CLP has been acquiring the last couple of years.
These sorts of pulp tales are not for everyone, and not without their faults. A touch of racial insensitivity, lack of strong female protagonists, and over-reliance on coincidence and chance to move the story will raise some eyebrows, but the overall energy, innocence, and power of these tales will win through if given the chance. Like 1980’s Flash Gordon feature film, John Carter is not a perfect movie, but it’s darn good fun, and seems destined to become an under-appreciated torch bearer for the Sword and Planet genre.