Friday, November 4

Warlord of Mars #10 and Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris #7 (Dynamite 2011)

“Heretic of Mars, 1 of 3”

Issue #13 is going to take up with Dynamite's adaptation of the second John Carter novel, The Gods of Mars. But that story takes place ten years after the end of A Princess of Mars. These three issues are going to tell a story that takes place at some point within that span – presumably early, but that's ambiguous – and set up themes and characters that will appear in Gods of Mars.

Briefly, an assassin tries to kill Dejah Thoris in her bedchamber. Hers and John Carter's son Carthoris leaps to her defense, but the dastard is driven off by Tars Tarkas. Then it transpires that a slave has found an amulet missing from the corpse of the slain Caretaker of the Atmosphere Factory among the personal effects of John Carter – making John Carter the prime suspect in that murder that precipitated the end of the previous issue and John Carter's own disappearance from Barsoom, even though he was the man who had saved the red planet from a suffocating death. For her safety, Dejah Thoris is placed in the safekeeping of the Holy Therns, priests of Issus – which it transpires is what the high priest Matai Shang wanted because he has designs on her, as does the oily Jeddak of Zodanga who is at present in Helium, Zat Arras. Meanwhile, Carthoris, although he is far too young yet eager to prove his father innocent, departs with Tars Tarkas to reinspect the scene of the crime. Flying across the barren landscape, they fly over a party of Warhoons, enemies of Tars Tarkas' Tharks – and are fired upon. To be continued.

Interestingly, Dejah Thoris seems to sleep in far more clothing than she typically wears around in public. I don't remember Burroughs ever specifying, but perhaps it stands to reason since he did make mention of the cold nights of Barsoom. But that first sight of her on page one provides quite the incongruity in the context of the more typical artistic rendition that prevails in Dynamite's series.

When exactly does this story take place? If I recall correctly, the Atmosphere Factory goes offline and Barsoom begins to suffocate when Carthoris is still unhatched. Appearance-wise, he looks like a young teenager in this issue, but we have pretty much no evidence (if any at all) for what apparent age red Martians hatch at. I think that the recap on the inside front cover, purporting to be by “E. R. B.” sums up what little we know (maybe going even a bit beyond canon). There it is stated that Carthoris

... [burst] his shell mere days after his father's disappearance.

Aside froom incubating in eggs, Red Martians are like Earthlings in every anatomical detail. They emerge from their shells able to walk, with their psychic abilities fully developed. It is not uncommon for a Barsoomian child to be capable of speech a mere fortnight after the hatching.

Carthoris developed at [a] rapid pace, even by Martian standards, a fact attributed to his Earthly heritage.

Given that when John Carter encounters his son in The Gods of Mars he is described as a young man, possibly appearance-wise a late teenager who has already developed into a skillful warrior thanks to the tutelage of Tars Tarkas – somewhere near twenty years since Dejah Thoris laid his egg (! – man, that looks so odd when it's written like that!), about ten years since John Carter disappeared, I guess we can assume that red Martians hatch with an apparent age of about ten (assuming they then grow to maturity at roughly the same rate as “Jasoomians” – Earthlings; upon reaching maturity they then stop aging, more or less, having life-spans of nigh on a thousand years, but that's a separate issue). He looks a little older than that here, although he is still undeveloped as a warrior (for all that he has his father's fighting spirit) and the attacker calls him a “hatchling.” My guess would be that he would be at least “two” or “three” (apparent twelve or thirteen), here. And enough time has passed for an imposing new statue of “John Carter / Beloved of Helium / Savior of Barsoom” to be erected in a plaza in Greater Helium. Okay so far … but the impression given by the messenger rushing into the bedchamber with news of the discovery of the Caretaker's amulet among John Carter's personal effects is that this is much sooner than two or three years after the murder and the Earthman's disappearance. There's a definite sense of urgency … which might have to do with the nature of the news he brings – regarding an unsolved murder that almost took all Barsoom with it, and which remains unsolved (never to be solved by Burroughs himself, I believe), as well as the shocking incrimination of the man who had saved Barsoom – but what was a slave fouillet'ing in John Carter's personal effects for if it were not very soon after his disappearance? Sounds odd to me.

Oh, and I assume the egg itself must grow between laying and hatching … surely Dejah Thoris didn't lay an egg big enough to accommodate a ten-year-old. Which brings up the question, how big was it? I've always assumed (yeah, I've given this some thought over the years. Really, who upon reading these stories hasn't...?) it was after what would seem a normal pregnancy, just instead of birthing a child the mother lays an egg. If so, if it were a hard-shelled ovoid big enough to accommodate a newborn that would be bad enough! Ayiyi! If it does grow, where does the increase in mass come from? Obviously we're not meant to think about these things, but....

I will say, in any case, Dejah Thoris has kept her figure very well for a woman who has laid an egg....

All right, I'll leave it off …

Oh.  This issue gives us our first extensive looks at the Helium script for the Barsoomian language (I think.  At least it's the first I've noticed).  One quirk as described by Burroughs is that all the intelligent species of Barsoom speak the same language ... which is represented by thousands of different forms of writing.  Each culture, each city-state, each empire has its own unrelated script. So the one we see can hold only for Helium.  It's described in the original novels as being "hieroglyphic."  What we have here is what looks like a simple symbol-substitution code for English.  I haven't sat down and wrestled with the various snatches we get, but the inscription below the statue of John Carter mentioned above is conveniently translated in a note.

“Pirate Queen of Mars, Part 2 of 5: Past Masters”

Not a whole lot to comment on here. I still don't really like the depiction of the Black Pirates, even though Phondari does look mighty fine. It just departs from Burroughs' description too far. Basically, Dejah Thoris and her captor end up captured together by Phondari's former master/former slave (in that order) Xen Brega. Who intends to have them for dinner. Not as guests. For dinner.

One thing I want to comment on as well, not particularly from this issue, but from all the Dynamite issues so far. If I remember correctly, Burroughs always adhered to a practice of using his characters' full names rather than treating them as our custom of treating one as a personal name to be used in situations of familiarity. For instance, I don't remember John Carter ever calling Dejah Thoris simply “Dejah.” Her “names” are not personal name and family name. “Dejah Thoris” is her name. And if I recall correctly, vice versa – he was always “John Carter,” never “John” nor simply “Carter.” It's a minor annoyance, but kind of grates on me every time it occurs – as it does frequently in all of Dynamite's Warlord of Mars series.

Not that little things like that interfere too much with my enjoyment of these series. Kaor! and thanks for reading!

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