If your only association is, say, with that bomb-tastic 2012 film, you may not know about the other, more appealing characters and stories bits from the larger John Carter “universe.” For instance, there’s a rich canon of stories beyond that of the titular Earthman, including 1912’s A Princess of Mars, which follows the super pulp-y adventures of the royal family’s own Dejah Thoris. You can make your acquaintance (or perhaps just reintroduce yourself) when an all-new Dejah Thoris series debuts this week (March 8).
Lead up by writer Chuck Brown (Bitter Root) and artist Emiliana Pinna (Red Sonja), Dejah Thoris is the fourth volume of compelling books following the Martian princess. (Brown also wrote the more recent John Carter of Mars series with artist George Kambadais.) This time around, we follow Dejah prior to the events of A Princess of Mars, where the young hero escapes an attack by the Kaldane Martians. While hiding in the “wilds of Barsoom,” Dejah must then hatch a plan to save her very kingdom and its people. These characters and settings may be over 100 years old by now, but Brown and Pinna provide a timely update and offer up some much-needed world-building/development.
And that’s just one of the topics Brown discussed ahead of Wednesday’s issue #1 of Dejah Thoris. We also addressed his connection/interest to the “Carter-verse,” working with Pinna, and why this story matters, among several other tidbits.
AIPT: How familiar were you with the story of Dejah Thoris before this series?
Chuck Brown: I was somewhat familiar with the story of Dejah Thoris and John Carter before I started writing the comics. When I was approached for the project, I began reading the original Edgar Rice Burroughs novels. Now, I just want to dive deeper into this world and Dejah’s character.
AIPT: What, if anything, do people need to know of the larger John Carter of Mars “universe” before they read issue #1?
CB: Fans won’t need to know anything about the larger John Carter of Mars universe before they read issue #1. Our goal with this series is to make it accessible to both new and longtime fans of the franchise. That being said, fans of the original novels and the previous adaptations will definitely find Easter eggs and references that they will appreciate.
AIPT: What does this story do to expand or enhance this universe? Why were you interested in helping to tell this story?
CB: When I was writing John Carter, I found myself really gravitating toward Dejah. I was interested in telling this story because I wanted to show Dejah as a strong and capable hero in her own right, rather than just as a love interest for John Carter. She’s been around for thousands of years so the stories you can tell are endless.
AIPT: What are some of the challenges and/or opportunities when working on a character that’s already established or well known among fans?
CB: One of the challenges of working on a well-known character like Dejah Thoris is balancing the expectations of longtime fans with the need to make the character accessible to a new audience. At the same time, it’s also an opportunity to bring new life to a classic character and introduce her to a whole new generation of fans. At the end of the day, all you can do is your best and write what you would read.
AIPT: Your other books — I’m thinking Flawed and Bitter Root — have some complicated protagonists. Did writing Dejah feel similar in some way to those other “heroes”?
CB: Writing Dejah Thoris was similar to writing my other complicated protagonists in that I wanted to create a character who was flawed and complex, but also relatable and likable. I think that’s what makes characters interesting and engaging, and I wanted to bring that same level of nuance and depth to Dejah that I bring to my creator-owned projects.
AIPT: What can you tell us about working with Emiliana Pinna? What did her work do to help shape the story and the world that’s explored here?
CB: Working with Emiliana was a dream come true. Her art is stunning and really brought the world of Barsoom to life. She also brought her own unique perspective and ideas to the project, which helped shape the story and the world in new and exciting ways.
AIPT: I know it’s a sore subject for some, but I like the John Carter film that famously flopped. Do you have feelings about that film? Are you trying to maybe do what it didn’t and make this universe fully relatable to a new audience/generation?
CB: I know people have mixed feelings about the John Carter film. But I enjoyed it; I do think the story could have been more interesting if it had an R rating. Barsoom is always at war, and an R rating could have shown some real horrors of war. With our series, we’re not necessarily trying to do what the film didn’t, but I do want to make the world of Barsoom and the characters relatable to a new audience.
AIPT: Is there something about the Dejah story that feels really important to tell right now?
CB: There’s something about Dejah Thoris’ story that feels timeless and relevant no matter when it’s told. I think it speaks to the universal themes of identity, belonging, and finding one’s place in the world that seems hellbent on killing or oppressing you.
AIPT: I’ve always felt the entire John Carter series is about finding your place in the world via acts of discomfort and/or suffering. Is there something larger that speaks to you about this story and its larger relevance?
CB: I definitely agree and I think that’s a theme that runs through Dejah’s story and most of our own lives as well. People go through a lot of pain and suffering but can come out on the other side as a better person. At this point in Dejaha’s life, she’s a bit pampered yet capable of handling herself. When she’s tossed into the wild, she’s forged by fire and loss.
AIPT: Without spoiling too much, what are some of the big beats of the story? Where can we expect Dejah to go both physically and in terms of the larger narrative?
CB: Yeah, Dejah will go on a journey both physically and emotionally. She’ll deal with her own prejudices against Green Martians and the loss of her kingdom. We are also introducing a new race of Martian that I don’t believe has appeared in the comics. I think Emliliana’s designs of these creatures will blow fans away!
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