MARZ on Mars: Keeping the JOHN CARTER Flame Alive

Ron Marz and Abhishek Malsuni discuss John Carter: Warlord of Mars. Issue #5 is out 4/15 from Dynamite!

I admire any modern project that delves into the pulps for its source material and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter is about as pulpy as it gets.

Ron Marz is a Burroughs pulp master and he and Indian artist Abhishek Malsuni have been bringing readers the scantily clad adventures of our heroes via Dynamite.

Here we talk about the book in a double MIGHTY Q&A — including pages from this week’s new issue!

Ed Benes' main cover

Ed Benes’ main cover

First up, RON MARZ

Dan Greenfield: How did you get involved with John Carter?

Ron Marz: Well, my initial introduction was discovering the novels at that magic age of 11 or 12 years old, and I’ve been an ardent fan of the material ever since. As far as the current series, Nick Barrucci of Dynamite has known about my affection for the material ever since they started publishing Warlord of Mars a few years ago. When Dynamite decided to relaunch the series, officially approved by Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc., they asked if I wanted to write it, and I accepted in about three seconds flat. This is quite literally a job I’ve always wanted to do.

So what is it about the character that makes him particularly interesting?

It’s the character, it’s the world, it’s everything. John Carter is an archetypal hero, very much in the classic heroic mode. He’s a man of honor, and true of heart. There’s still something attractive about that, even in our post-modern, anti-hero age.

Bart Sears variant

Bart Sears variant

With the exception of maybe Tarzan, the ERB catalog seems to fade with every generation. Explain why it’s important to keep it alive — and explain why it’s still so accessible.

This is our heritage. This is what inspired so much of our adventure and fantastic storytelling. Obviously Avatar is the highest-grossing movie in history, and it’s essentially John Carter dressed up in different clothes. Star Wars owes much of its DNA to John Carter and to Edgar Rice Burroughs. But beyond all that, beyond everything that Burroughs has inspired, these are still great stories. They’re wholly entertaining, and the imagination on display is second to none.

Tell me all of the ERB properties you’ve worked on — or would like to.

Besides the John Carter monthly comic, I’m writing a couple of Sunday-style strips for the Edgar Rice Burroughs website. I’m doing The Mucker, with art by Lee Moder, and Korak the Killer, with art by Rick Leonardi, both colored by Neeraj Menon. There are a lot of great strips at the Burroughs site, both adaptations of his novels, as well as original stories with his characters and concepts.

But the one thing I haven’t done, and would dearly love to, is a Tarzan monthly comic. There’s such an amazing, rich tradition of Tarzan in comics, by everybody from Hal Foster, Burne Hogarth, Joe Kubert, Russ Manning and John Buscema. I would love to be included in that group, even just a little bit.

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And now, ABHISHEK MALSUNI

Dan Greenfield: How did you get involved with John Carter?

Abhishek Malsuni: Before working on John Carter with Dynamite, I was working on a comic book series for an Indian publisher, Rovolt. Ron Marz was editor for the series. He liked my work on it. After completion of that project, I sent my portfolio to Ron as I wanted to focus on American comics. After some time, Ron was in talks with Dynamite for the John Carter series and he sent my work to them. My project with Rovolt was a sci-fi, fantasy series based on another planet, so Ron thought that I would be suitable for sci-fi adventure like John Carter. He wanted me to draw this series and he even campaigned for me to get this series. Dynamite also liked my work and I was on board. It was a dream come true to work with a big writer like Ron and secondly, to work on a 100-plus-years-old property. This was first time when I got to work on a regular series in the U.S. So John Carter happened only because of Ron Marz.

Malsuni's variant for #1

Malsuni’s variant for #1

Are you a longtime fan?

This is something that developed gradually over time. It started since my arts college days. In 2003-04, Gotham Comics released a few Tarzan issues in India so I got to know about Edgar Rice Burroughs. It took me to John Carter when I started exploring about ERB on web. It opened the incredible art and legacy related to the  John Carter and Barsoom series over the years. I was turned into a fan and in 2011, when Disney announced a live-action movie, I was over the moon. It was a dream to work on John Carter and I am fortunate enough that I got the break to work on it.

What is it about the character that makes him special?

The legacy behind this character, that makes it larger. Without John Carter, a whole genre of sci-fi, fantasy wouldn’t exist. It inspired names like Superman, Avatar, Flash Gordon, Star Wars and many many more. If we talk about John Carter in particular, unlike characters inspired from him, he is more a true warrior rather than a larger-than-life character. Carter was a former Confederate soldier, a veteran of the American Civil War so a fighter with irresistible enchantment and a master swordsman, a normal human being in an alien world, fighting for them, fighting for what is right so I relate with him better as compared to other characters partially or fully inspired from him.

Variant by Yonami

Variant by Yonami

What kind of creative freedom do you have when working on a character like this?

I have been a bit lucky on this. Both Ron Marz and Dynamite have given me full creative freedom for storytelling, designs and presentation. There are few elements that I had to follow to stay true to the novels, but since it’s a spin-off series with original new stories partially based on the novel series, there was plenty of scope for me to add my own elements to it. I came up with new designs and presentation but didn’t make it too different from the original source or previous versions. I’ll keep putting in my elements gradually, issue by issue, both in terms of designs and drawing style.

I would also like to mention my inker Zsolt H. Garisa and colorist Nanjan J., who work even harder to make the final result far better than the original pencils. They inspire me to perform better.

John Carter: Warlord of Mars #5 is out 4/15 from Dynamite.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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