John Carter last edited by LSROTJ on 10/05/21 12:29PM View full history


John Carter is a character from literature that has been transferred to an occasional comic book hero. Thus his comic book origin is usually in line with the original origin as written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. He is however no ordinary man, not knowing when or where he was born, and being, as far as he can remember always a man around 30 years of age, as he says about the little personal history that he gives about his life on Earth before Barsoom, "I am a very old man; how old I do not know. Possibly I am a hundred, possibly more, but I cannot tell because I have never aged as do other men, nor do I remember my childhood. So far as I can recollect I have always been a man, a man of about thirty. I appear today as I did forty years ago or more."

He does however know he has always been a warrior and his combat experience, which would later be put to the test on Mars, was developed in various militarizes around the world, as he served as an officer for various countries on five different continents. After leaving to fight in the American Civil War he did not see his own family for quite some time, including his nephew, a character named Edgar Rice Burroughs (who shares his name with the author.) As a member of the Confederate Army he loses everything after the South loses the war (though in some interpretations he is a member of the Union, whose family was killed in collateral damage.)

As a gold miner in 1866 he discover a large deposit of gold along with his colleague Captain James K. Powell. Powell was ambushed by Native Americans and Carter was forced into a cave where noxious fumes immobilized him where he was left to die by his pursuers. He eventually forced himself awake but discovered soon after that he was in fact on Mars (which the locals call Barsoom) and no longer on Earth.


As a literary character, John Carter’s first appearance was not in comics but rather in a pulp magazine in 1912. His first comic book appearance was in The Funnies #30 in 1939.

Character Evolution

Regardless of which iteration of the character is being described there are some constants for the character. First of all is that he is man that often regrets his past and for whom the chance at a second life on Mars offers a chance at redemption. This redemption is generally found in his Martian wife Dejah Thoris. As a public domain character, John Carter has gone through many different versions and interpretations as does the depiction of Barsoom.

In some the characters are portrayed in a more chivalric manner, in other more savage with a classical look. This can also be seen to follow along some trends in comics as for instance his portrayal in the 1970s when barbarian style worlds were more popular in fiction also reflected this look.

Major Story Arcs

The first group of individuals that John Carter identifies on Mars are known as the Tharks and are led by Tars Tarkas. He initially has difficulty communicating with the Tharks, but he manages to find ways to communicate with them. He soon after also discovers that he has the equivalent of super powers on Mars do its different planetary characteristics. The Tharks are a fairly savage group and define many problems with violence to which John Carter is no exception. He is soon after put in the care of a female Thark known as Sola. He also soon meets his animal companion Woola, a dog like creature.

John soon realizes the great threats to Mars as he for the first time witnesses an attack on flying vehicles by the Tharks. He soon saves Dejah’s life for the first time and earns the name Dotar Sojat. John also draws the ire of another Thark named Sarkoja. This leads to numerous confrontations, all of which John is the victor in, yet Sarkoja remains an enemy.

Due to the fact that both he and Tarzan were created by the same writer, the two of them have appeared from time to time in the same comics, though Burroughs never specifically intended that they exist in the same continuities.

Powers and Abilities

Though only a regular person by human standards, he gains a degree of super strength on Mars as the planet’s gravity and pressure are less (though this is quite exaggerated.) As a veteran of numerous wars he has a great understanding of tactics and his mental and physical endurance also reflect the hardships he has been through. Equally he is an expert with numerous weapons and specifically with swordsmanship.

Other Media

Despite being one of Burroughs' two most famous created characters he is represented in film much less than Tarzan. There have been a few treatments of his story, most notably the 2012 Disney version titles John Carter, which was designed to come out 100 years after the year of his first appearance.


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