Sunday, February 8, 2009

Gil Kane and Dave Cockrum on John Carter, Warlord of Mars

Of all the Edgar Rice Burroughs characters, I’ve always preferred John Carter.  Apparently so did Marv Wolfman, who jumped at the chance to do a John Carter comic for Marvel in 1976!

John Carter 1

Looking at this comic, in this quality of the story and artwork, I have to believe it was a labor of love for all the creators involved.  Wolfman made an interesting choice to use first person narration for the scenes involving Carter, and third person narration for everything else.

John Carter 1 splash kane cockrum

Dave Cockrum’s inks over Gil Kane’s pencils just seem magical to me.  If you loved their cover to Giant-Size X-Men #1, imagine seeing 20 pages of their work together!  Unfortunately, Cockrum only inked this first issue, then Rudy Nebres took over.

John Carter Wolfman editorial 1

Cockrum apparently did a lot of character design work before the first issue was published, as you can see in this editorial.  He designed John Carter, Dejah Thoris, Tars Tarkus, and many other elements of Barsoom.  Of course, this being Marvel, the title of the editorial has to reference something in pop culture: Welcome Back Carter references Gabe Kaplan’s TV show, Welcome Back, Kotter!

John Carter Wolfman editorial 2

John Carter was published by Marvel from 1976 to 1979, including 28 issues and 3 annuals.  Gil Kane lasted for about 10 issues, Marv Wolfman stayed on until issue 15 and was replaced by Chris Claremont.  The series had some great artists later on: Carmine Infantino, Walt Simonson, and a young Frank Miller.

John Carter Warlord of Mars 11 Dave Cockrum

Dave Cockrum did return for issue 11, a special origin story for Dejah Thoris!  Now here’s something about Dejah Thoris’ costume.  Doesn’t it bear some resemblance to Leia’s slave girl costume in Return of the Jedi?  Cockrum designed this in 1976 or earlier; ROTJ premiered in 1983.  Don’t let this slave outfit fool you—Dejah was an accomplished swordswoman who had some incredible fight scenes during the series.

I don’t believe Marvel’s John Carter has ever been reprinted in a trade collection.  What a shame, I’d love to see this artwork re-colored.  Nuff said.

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