The Invasion of Barsoom & Plunder of Helium: Pixar rapes memory of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ hero – Bajan Reporter suggests alternatives

I grew up in the United States, child of a Bajan and a Vincentian – my own life-history rather as strange as Carthoris, son of Dotar Sojat and the Princess of Helium… In 1972, my earliest memories of comics introducing me to books were two series.

'Ill-Met in Lankhmar' is probably a modern-day Classic from Fritz Leiber

'Ill-Met in Lankhmar' is probably a modern-day Classic from Fritz Leiber

Both were adapted by DC at the time – there was Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser from Newhon. Fritz Leiber’s classic Sword & Sorcery misfits – to this day I think of them as drawn by Howard Chaykin (I later read the duo when I was 13, I also learned Chaykin and I had the same Birthday, no wonder he’s so cool).

While I thought they were so neat in robbing rich evil folk and outsmarting dumb guards and dodging Old Gods & Demons… It was the Red Planet which caught my soul, just like that old Virginian in that Arizona cave hundreds of years gone by…

The illustrations in Tarzan’s Strange Worlds by Murphy Anderson left me a bit cold however… Then I saw my father’s Doubleday hardcover of Gods Of Mars/Warlord Of Mars with the Frank Frazetta cover! I was an instant addict to Frazetta’s art and felt the emotions from his Barsoomians.

Tars Tarkas while fearsome was to be trusted and Dejah Thoris was the sexiest thang on two planets and ye olde John Carter most ancient badass around before even Duncan or Conor MacLeod, Dorian Hawkmoon or Logan/Wolverine!

But I was six and while I may have had those thoughts, I did not have the words to bring them out, and when I tried to read the books it was like trying to discern hieroglyphs without the Rosetta Stone.

Frazetta's Mars-scape for the Doubleday edition of "Gods Of Mars/Warlord Of Mars" which I read 20 times as a teen

Frazetta's Mars-scape for the Doubleday edition of "Gods Of Mars/Warlord Of Mars" which I read 20 times as a teen

Gene Roddenberry was my Rosetta Stone when I was ten going on eleven – my father played a record where the creator of Star Trek was telling conventioneers of how a sickly childhood led to adventures on Barsoom with John Carter – it was then I recalled the book I saw when I was six, I found it and started reading, when Edgar Rice Burroughs proceeded to provide a massive vernacular for me between 11 to 17 of my life that stayed with me forever – especially when excited or annoyed.

I always wanted to see Barsoom on the big screen (iMAX?) but HOW? I only felt that Ralph Bakshi who did an animated Lord Of The Rings using live action frames but animated overlays could work at retelling the ERB’s Martian canals which I sadly learned later were illusion.

I have three versions of the barsoom series simply for the art, but the collections would not exist if the storytelling was not so compelling

I have three versions of the barsoom series simply for the art, but the collections would not exist if the storytelling was not so compelling

I felt that Eddie Albert had the right rough yet tender voice for Tars Tarkas, one of three Tharks with ‘human‘ emotions – the second was his short-lived wife Gozava and third their sweet daughter Sola.

Animation was the ONLY way to convey thoats, calots, banths, airships and the ochre landscapes of dying Mars, right? Apart from the paintings of Michael Whelan which CORRECTLY portrayed that Barsoomians had NO idea of the concept of clothes!

This is a Calot? More like a Banth, but John Carter is treating it like Ka-Zar's Zabu, last of the Sabre-Teeth

This is a Calot? More like a Banth, but John Carter is treating it like Ka-Zar's Zabu, last of the Sabre-Teeth

Be careful what you want… Remember the Monkey’s Paw, folks! Huh, it seems Pixar has gotten hold of Iss, Okar, Kaol and Korus as well as the rest of the Fourth Planet according to the gospel of ERB and wrenched it into their fashion – taking a piece here and a smidgen there and crafting it this way and revising that way, unlike Peter Jackson’s devotion to Bilbo and crew in Tolkien’s worlds with the live-action version of LOTR.

Don’t get me wrong – parts are good, but if they stay along the path. The casting of Mark Strong as Matai Shang of the Therns is magnificent! A slimy villain portrayed by a dude accustomed to be dastardly! But I saw in another sf site that Strong was given the impression that Therns are like the Gods Of Olympus?

WHAT? Therns and Issus – Therns ate humans and Issus ate Therns – were NEVER Gods, they merely fed off of superstitious Martians and their beliefs! When I say fed off of, I mean that literally, as in Hannibal Lecter?

Willem Dafoe is selected as the voice of Tars Tarkas, a rightful successor to Eddie Albert, especially given his unique role in Daybreakers which almost mimics the Thark’s misplaced compassion…

But to cull Bryan Singer’s Wolverine for John Carter and Dejah Thoris? I think Pixar has been cooking their food on radium and still basking in the angstroms, baby!

Here's cruise showing fit pectorals and his face has some of the persona we have come to expect from the immortal Virginian

Here's Cruise showing fit pectorals and his face has some of the persona we have come to expect from the immortal Virginian - click for larger pic

GAMBIT as the eternal Virginian? SILVER FOX as the Princess of Helium, daughter of Mors Kajak, grandchild to the Jeddak of Helium – Tardos Mors?

Look at Frazetta’s portrayals, the closest we can get these days is, God forgive me, but yes, dammit – Tom Cruise! In Last Samurai he showed adequate fencing knowledge as that could not be stunt doubled so easily.

Daughter of Mors Kajak, grand-daughter to Jeddak of Helium, Tardos Mors

Daughter of Mors Kajak, grand-daughter to Jeddak of Helium, Tardos Mors - click on Salma for larger, um, photo!

Dejah Thoris is a sultry yet voluptuous damosel, which to my mind leads to Salma Hayak. Do you recall that snake dance she did in Quentin Tarrantino’s “Dusk ‘Til Dawn“?

My only other concern is the four armed Tharks, Warhoons, and all other Green Men. While I love Frazetta’s work, it did not bear out realistically?

Thark or Warhoon? Why so many clothes?

Thark or Warhoon? Why so many clothes?

I tend to favour Gil Kane and Dave Cockrum’s interpretation from Marvel’s edition in the late 70’s, when the mid -way limbs were drawn close to the legs – almost as if they were standby’s…

But apart from this, to set the debut movie as a mishmash of the first three books and maybe not in sequence? Well, they have two years to get their act together and impress me or prove me wrong, Kaor!

My Lord, HBO did a better job with Charlaine Harris’ “Southern Vampire” series! The only major difference I spot is the fate of Lafayette, the gay black chef.

Speaking of which, between now and February will be a review of the first two True Blood novels…

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  1. Have you watched the film before you just rage? Why not wait till the film is out!

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