Wednesday, March 05, 2008

John Carter Warlord of Mars and Reading to Your Children

On occasion I have purchased runs of old comic series and then re-read them and mail them off to one to the people who I share my floppy comics with. Almost one year ago I picked up a run of John Carter Warlord of Mars from Marvel. It was published in the late seventies and I believe I have from issue #1 to around #24.

My sole intent was to send this off to Gwen after re-reading it, but I did not tell her I had gotten it as I wanted it to be a surprise. The reason why this would be a cool surprise is Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs is one of her all time favorite books and the hero is John Carter.

In reading the actual comic, I had forgotten how word heavy some writers were back in that time frame. Marv Wolfman over wrote the crap out of this comic and it makes the book plod along so slowly, that you just start to skim read the thing and follow the pictures. In fairness I believe that was the style of the day and Stan Lee probably pushed people into writing a lot of purple prose. Also I think a young writer is probably anxious to add his words to everything and forgot that a picture is worth a thousand words.

The art was an odd mixture of Gil Kane and Rudy Nebres. Gil is a light line and highly dynamic artist and Rudy brought a heavy line and shadowing that calmed down Gil’s pencils. It reminded me a lot of the way Murphy Anderson would ink Carmine Infantino, the layouts and pictures were all Carmine, but you could swear Murphy did the drawings.

This is all almost parenthetical to the point I’m trying to make about reading to your children. As my kids were growing up I would read to them as many nights as I could. I remember the Dr. Seuss books and a book titled “But No Elephants” and many others. I would also do made up stories using stuffed animals. One had a dolphin called “Eeky”, Stilts the Giraffe and DB the bunny rabbit. As they got older we added comic books into the mix and having to remember 14 voices was taxing at times. I wanted to write a letter to Marv Wolfman (hey him again) and plead to not add any more new characters to the Titans.

Then I decided that we needed to move to just pure prose books and I choose one of my favorite and relatively easy reads, Princess of Mars. Edgar Rice Burroughs is known for Tarzan, but for me John Carter is his best hero. The adventures on Mars the beautiful Dejah Thoris (the aforementioned Princess), Tars Tarkus the giant six four armed comrade of John were just great characters. The Frank Frazetta covers on the science fiction book club editions were fantastic. We read the entire book chapter by chapter over the nights and both girls really enjoyed it. That is why to this day Princess of Mars is one of Gwen’s favorite books.

The end of this story is that today both of my daughters are avid readers and are more literate and well read then I will ever be, as they have read almost everything under the sun. They have read Herman Melville to Barrack Obama from Blue Beetle to All Star Archives and anything in-between.

I wonder if schools still frown on kids reading comics. It is one of the main things that got me reading and I never stopped and believe it or not I still read stuff besides comics.

So read to your kids if you have them and pick up Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs for a great book to read.


  1. Okay, I got my copy out. I'll try to start reading it to one of my kids this week.

    Try "Bridge of Birds" by Barry Hughart. It's awesome.

  2. Matthew - I added it to my Amazon wish list - Thanks! Looks like it should be great.

  3. Soooo on the mark, Jim. There's no greater long-term gift you can give your kids than reading to them.

    Y'know, I remember years ago being at a used bookstore that also sold new comics (it's where I bought most of mine in those days). A lady came in with a little boy, and while she looked at Harlequin romances, he wandered over to the comics. Within seconds, his mom pulled him away and said "Get away from those. They'll rot your brain!"

    Aghast as I was, I kept my cool and tried to very cordially explain to the lady that while no one in my family had ever made it past high school (my mom and dad both dropped out of school in the eighth grade to support their families), I was working on my Master's, and the difference was entirely due to my picking up some comics when I was three. I desperately wanted to know what the characters were saying, and so I learned to read even before I started school. It really set the standard for the rest of my life.

    As you might expect, her reaction was basically a dirty look and a "harumph" before returning to the romance novels.

    I just hope someday I can write a comic that'll make some kid somewhere want to read.

    With my own son, I read to him even before he could walk, and kept it up throughout childhood. Heck, he's eighteen now, and ol' Dad's eyes aren't what they used to be...maybe he should start returning the favor...

  4. In her defense I think my brain has rotted, probably due ot other things beyond comics.

    Good idea with your kids, I'llm ake mine read to me now.