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A Particularly Graphic Graphic Interpretation
March 9, 2012 8:32 AM   Subscribe

James Killian Spratt is a sculptor and Edgar Rice Burroughs fan who, in addition to sculpting pieces for the Barsoomian board game Jetan, has created an illustrated adaptation of the first book in the Barsoom series, A Princess of Mars: "The characters are highly underclad, yet oblivious to it; it's their normal way, and they don't see much naughty or titillating about it. The men are men and the women are women and blood is red and scary. I set out to be honest with the nudity and violence, and the devil take Pollyanna, she needs to grow up anyway." The on-going graphic interpretation, begun in 2000, is presently on chapter 21 of the 28 chapter book.

Another comic adaptation, John Carter of Mars, ran in the Sunday papers in the early 1940s and was illustrated by ERB's son and collaborator, John Coleman Burroughs.
posted by Alvy Ampersand (36 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ummm. I think the description might have better read:

"Staggeringly bad illustrations with comically exaggerated genitals, including additional characters/species/whatevers not found in the books but which Spratt included to indulge his fetishes."

I don't recall hermaphrodite horsegirls fighting alongside John Carter in the arena. Nor do I recall Deja Thoris being described as having breasts more than three times the size of her head.

Interesting find, and it'd be nice if there was an adaptation that dealt with the nudity in a neutral fashion, but I don't think Spratt has accomplished that.
posted by sotonohito at 8:54 AM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


If Edgar Rice Burroughs was alive today he'd be a conservative wacko like Newt Gingrich, writing fantasy books that support his racist and misogynist world view. It's only surprising Burroughs has such a following today. Hopefully Michael Chabon's screen adaption fixes the novel.
posted by stbalbach at 8:59 AM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Holy crap, I did not need to see that.

A personal fave: John Carter shooting up a zillion approaching Martians, his ballsack both red as a baboon's ass and the point towards which the layout draws the eye. How did his scrote turn that shade of red? Wait, no, say nothing, for I DO NOT WISH TO KNOW.

Imagine Robert Crumb, after a debilitating stroke, adapting the story, and you're kind of close.
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 9:07 AM on March 9, 2012 [10 favorites]


The characters are highly underclad, yet oblivious to it; it's their normal way, and they don't see much naughty or titillating about it.

I doubt he could have used "I" in that sentence.
posted by straight at 9:08 AM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think it's probably better to look at this in the context of "folk art" or "outsider art" than to compare it to the work of professional cartoonists and illustrators.
posted by yoink at 9:08 AM on March 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


Meh, the whole "half-naked barbarians with mighty thews" thing is done to death. It would have impressed me more if he had taken the source material more at face value.

The same goes for Disney, for that matter.

Hint: Mars, as imagined by Burroughs, is nothing like Hyboria. This includes the weather as much as it does the dress and custom.

Though, admittedly, the typical Frazetta-inspired barbarians would be better dressed for a Burroughs Mars than a Howard Hyboria.
posted by clvrmnky at 9:09 AM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


The artist, perhaps unsurprisingly given the Heinlein-esque interpretation, has a disturbing resemblance to RON PAUL.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:11 AM on March 9, 2012


I think it's probably better to look at this in the context of "folk art" or "outsider art" and "atrocious web design".
posted by humboldt32 at 9:12 AM on March 9, 2012


I think it's probably better to look at this in the context of "folk art" or "outsider art" than to compare it to the work of professional cartoonists and illustrators.

Yeah, I agree - I actually saw the pictures earlier without really reading the context and figured these were the work of some giggling, purple-nosed eccentric in a tiny house in 1960s New Jersey, or something.

I think they're pretty cool, though! I mean, I think this sort of brings out the ribaldry and lewdness that, I imagine/project, would have been picked up by implication by Burroughs's audience - by the standards of the day, the book is pretty suggestive stuff, if not borderline porn.

And I kinda like the idea that story "actually" involved giant tits and dongs and hermaphrodites and sex, and Burroughs just neglected to mention anything about it but a few details.
posted by Drexen at 9:15 AM on March 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


*that the story^
posted by Drexen at 9:16 AM on March 9, 2012


Also, this is exactly how the story would have gone if it was written by Bill S. instead of Edgar R. !
posted by Drexen at 9:17 AM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Imagine Robert Crumb, after a debilitating stroke, adapting the story, and you're kind of close.

His Dejah Thoris looks more like the work of Vaughn Bodē than Robert Crumb to me.

The overall look, though, is 'sketches on the inside cover of a school binder, c. 1972'.
 
posted by Herodios at 9:18 AM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Imagine Robert Crumb, after a debilitating stroke, adapting the story, and you're kind of close.

It reminds me of Richard Corben. So maybe we're both right!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:19 AM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't recall hermaphrodite horsegirls fighting alongside John Carter in the arena. Nor do I recall Deja Thoris being described as having breasts more than three times the size of her head.

I was all ready to snark, and then I clicked the link.

Wow, that was bad. I'll stick to the originals, thanks. (The copyright has expired!)
posted by zarq at 9:20 AM on March 9, 2012


Neat find, though. Even if it's not my thing. Thanks, Alvy!
posted by zarq at 9:21 AM on March 9, 2012


Meh, the whole "half-naked barbarians with mighty thews" thing is done to death. It would have impressed me more if he had taken the source material more at face value.

Yeah, but then he couldn't have fapped to it.
posted by The Bellman at 9:23 AM on March 9, 2012


This might be a good place to drop this. I was thinking of an FPP, but it's too thin on it's own and I don't have time to research further:

Bob Clampett 1936 test footage for proposed Barsoom animated film series

About two minutes of animated film here. There are several version of this out there; I'm not sure I've linked to the one with the clearest images.

Wiccuhpeedia sez:
In 1931 Looney Tunes director Bob Clampett approached Edgar Rice Burroughs with the idea of adapting A Princess of Mars into a feature-length animated film. Burroughs responded enthusiastically, recognizing that a regular live-action feature would face various limitations to adapt accurately. . .

Working with Burroughs' son John, 1935 Clampett used rotoscope and other hand-drawn techniques to capture the action, tracing over the motions of an athlete who performed John Carter's powerful movements in the reduced Martian gravity.

Clampett designed Tharks, the Green, multi-armed Martians of Barsoom, giving them a believable appearance. He then produced footage of them riding their eight-legged Thoats at a gallop, which had all of their eight legs moving in coordinated motion. . .

The test footage, produced by 1936, received negative reactions from film exhibitors across the U. S.. . . The series was not given the go-ahead, and Clampett was instead encouraged to produce an animated Tarzan series, an offer which he later declined.

The footage that Clampett produced was believed lost for many years, until Burroughs' grandson, Danton Burroughs, in the early 1970s found some of the film tests in the Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. archives.

Had A Princess of Mars been released, it may have preceded Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to become the first American feature-length animated film.
 
posted by Herodios at 9:33 AM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


This might be a good place to drop this. I was thinking of an FPP, but it's too thin on it's own and I don't have time to research further

Here's one we prepared earlier.
posted by zamboni at 9:53 AM on March 9, 2012


Here's one we prepared earlier.

Missed that (obviously). Thanks.
 
posted by Herodios at 9:56 AM on March 9, 2012


If Edgar Rice Burroughs was alive today he'd be a conservative wacko like Newt Gingrich, writing fantasy books that support his racist and misogynist world view.

Uh...is there anything particularly racist and misogynist about his world view other than what's in the books? I agree that by today's standards, there are definitely some problematic things about his novels, but I wasn't aware that they were any worse in that aspect than...well...pretty much all of the pulps.
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:11 AM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


ow, that was bad. I'll stick to the originals, thanks. (The copyright has expired!)

Hey doesn't this bode poorly for the studio now trying to "own" this property? What's to stop me right now making and selling action figures, shirts, etc., so long as they are not directly pulling from the graphics of the current film?

Come to think of it, what's stopping me from making my own "Princess of Mars" film right now?
posted by Meatbomb at 10:19 AM on March 9, 2012


Meh, the whole "half-naked barbarians with mighty thews" thing is done to death

What the hell is a thew, anyway?
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:30 AM on March 9, 2012


What the hell is a thew, anyway?

$20, same as in town.
posted by jquinby at 10:37 AM on March 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


I like that someone is this enthusiastic. I really don't like the product of said enthusiasm. I suppose that's the same as, I don't agree with what you say, but I agree on your right to say it? Maybe he just needed a good editor type person. For example, "Maybe you shouldn't make Carter's scrotum cherry red and blasting the viewer?"
posted by Atreides at 10:49 AM on March 9, 2012


A Thoat from the plains of Barsoom
Took a Romulan up to his room.
They got into a fight
And argued all night
Who'd do what, and with what, and to whom.
posted by ocschwar at 10:50 AM on March 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think it's probably better to look at this in the context of "folk art" or "outsider art"...

I think it's probably better to look at this in the context of scribbles on the walls in toilet stalls.

Say what you will about big budget CG SF dramas (and the review of "John Carter" by AO Scott of the NYTimes said "A bad movie should not look this good," at least the big budget allows for extensive character design and CG modeling that produces convincing characters that move realistically and have a substantial physical presence. They have to, all that design has to be worked out before the animation even starts.

So with apologies to AO Scott, I will merely say about these awful comics, "Even a bad pulp novel shouldn't look this bad."
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:51 AM on March 9, 2012


Come to think of it, what's stopping me from making my own "Princess of Mars" film right now?

Absolutely nothing, as this direct to DVD name-association cash-in from '09 can attest.

spoilers that movie is fucking awful
posted by FatherDagon at 11:15 AM on March 9, 2012


Hey doesn't this bode poorly for the studio now trying to "own" this property?

I know. Wasn't Disney taught a lesson when the Grimm family sued them over the rights to Snow White?
posted by dhartung at 11:49 AM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Meh, the whole "half-naked barbarians with mighty thews" thing is done to death.

There is nothing "half" about their naked. They are fully, completely, ball-swingingly, giant-nippledly nekkid.
posted by louche mustachio at 11:52 AM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


If Edgar Rice Burroughs was alive today he'd be a conservative wacko like Newt Gingrich

Not sure what evidence you have to back that up, but anyway...

An interesting thing about Barsoom is that its entire known history is driven by the fact that it has been used up. Even the evolutionary splits between the humanoid species have been driven by the scrabbling over the few remaining resources, and with the exception of the Yellow race of the North the entire planet is limping along on a three day buffer of air supply from a single atmosphere plant.

In fact the film could easily be Mad Max with an environmentalist theme.

Whatever ERB might have chosen to write today, an environmental film featuring humanoid evolution is not something that Newt and his ilk would be likely to embrace...
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:54 AM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


If Edgar Rice Burroughs was alive today he'd be a conservative wacko like Newt Gingrich
Not sure what evidence you have to back that up
The rest of that comment was
. . . writing fantasy books that support his racist and misogynist world view.


And while I don't see much value in these sort of angry dismissals of long-dead artists based on contemporary standards, you must admit that on Barsoom -- as on Middle Earth -- race is destiny. It doesn't map onto the Earthy racial situation at all, but on Barsoom:

All greenies are barbaric
All reddies are noble
All whities are decadent
All yellowies are devious
all blackies are piratical
And scarecrow's brain!

with occasional exceptions for story telling purposes.

And while Deja Thoris et al are either strong female characters or 'strong female characters', their function in the stories is to be chivalry objects and/or game 'achievements' for the male characters. Not exactly misogyny, nor remotely a gender-equality paradise.

For what it's worth, it was my grandmother, born c 1890 who turned me on to ERB. She liked a good racy story. The only other book she left me was Marie Corelli's Wormwood.

It's only surprising Burroughs has such a following today.

Perhaps others see something else there besides racism and misogyny.

Hopefully Michael Chabon's screen adaption fixes the novel.

The novel doesn't need fixed, and by all accounts the film needs some fixing itself.
 
posted by Herodios at 12:48 PM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


an environmentalist theme

The only real "environmentalist theme" that existed at the turn of the century was Malthusian. Malthusian ideas continue to this day mainstream but hidden, so whatever Malthusian ideas are in the book may seem up to date but remain loathsome, Malthus has never been proven right and has been appropriated as an ideological excuse for repression and conquest. But really ERB was making a statement about racial degeneration and racial "types" that are unable to improve change, like how people thought Africans could never be cultural equals of Europeans (limited intelligence due to cranial capacity/shape and so on) and thus it was the white man's job (burden) to help them rise above naturally animal primitive ways. Without the white man the Africans were doomed to barbarism, just as without the intelligent race to run the atmospheric equipment the other races were doomed. And without John Carter bringing the races to work together, the entire planet is doomed to barbaric warfare.
posted by stbalbach at 1:06 PM on March 9, 2012


Still doesn't sound significantly less progressive than any of the other pulp fiction of the day, not to mention a lot of genre fiction since (with Tolkien being one of the favorite go-to examples and things like Avatar, with its glorification of the "noble savage" and the need for a white savior, being a more recent one).

What I was asking, and that I really haven't seen answered yet, is whether or not there are any examples of Burroughs' apparent racism and misogyny that sets him apart from his contemporaries of the day?
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:13 PM on March 9, 2012


And while I don't see much value in these sort of angry dismissals of long-dead artists based on contemporary standards, you must admit that on Barsoom -- as on Middle Earth -- race is destiny.

Well certainly there are many ignoble red men presented (as well as variety among the humans of Middle Earth), but other than that I agree.

But this situation also applies to Dungeons & Dragons and I have trouble remembering Gary Gygax as "a conservative wacko like Newt Gingrich". He certainly had some conservative aspects, but I don't think you can necessarily draw strong conclusions about someone from the fantasy world they create.

Well, except for the subject of this post who I am quite happy to draw strong conclusions about. :-)
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 2:18 PM on March 9, 2012


Huh, there's a really neat quality to this work that I can't put my finger on. It's laughably bad and yeah, some personal fetishes are on display, but it seems like the page layouts and light treatment are cribbed from other comic books. My gut is telling me from the varying quality of the figures that there might be some tracing going on, or at least some eyeballing. I'm not well versed enough in fantasy art or comics to say for sure though. There really is an teenage quality to the whole thing - especially the way the nipples on the females just get bigger and bigger as the series progresses.
posted by Calzephyr at 7:12 AM on March 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


How closely do the comics follow the books? I actually haven't gotten all the way back to ERB, currently working my way through Lovecraft, Howard and Lin Carter (Who was much later, I know, but was so heavily inspired by Burroughs with Callisto it is hilarious). I'd probably starting reading those links right now if I didn't have a hardcopy Lin Carter right here asking to be read. (Shame it is in such an ugly typeface though...soft, curvey serifs and pulp should not be mixed)
posted by Canageek at 6:50 PM on March 10, 2012


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