Writer’s Commentary: Dan Abnett On ‘Dejah Thoris Vs. John Carter Of Mars’ #1

by Olly MacNamee

[+++ NOTE: Possible Spoilers for Dejah Thoris Vs. John Carter of Mars #1! Buy and read the book, then return here for some cosmic commentary! +++]

Writer Dan Abnett has a new series out from Dynamite Comics, Dejah Thoris Vs. John Carter of Mars. A return to the classic Edgar Rice Burroughs’ pulp hero as John Carter is reunited with his beloved Dejah Thoris. Although the title of this comic book series would suggest the reunion isn’t a loving one. Let’s read what was going through Abnett’s fervid mind as he put the debut issue together and learn more…

I had a few things that I wanted to do with this series: capture the heroic scope and escapist wonder of the Barsoom books, tell an exhilarating story of high adventure, and produce a series that was both a sequel to, and a climactic resolution of, the epic storyline in Dejah’s own series.

But first, look at the art! It’s amazing! Alessandro Miracolo has just knocked it clean out of the park. This is amazing work (and let’s give due credit to Dearbhla for colors that bring it to vivid life). There’s all the heroic scope and escapist wonder you could shake a stick at, there’s the story of high adventure, and it most certainly does justice to the legacy of the Barsoom stories.

Though this series is technically a sequel. I wanted to make it accessible for all readers, not just those who had read the previous Dejah Thoris book. If you’ve been with us since the start of Dejah’s story, then this all makes perfect sense, and shifts the high gear of her adventures into an even higher gear as she squares off against the cosmic forces threatening Barsoom. It is the climax of that epic.

But if you’re just joining us, never fear.  The key elements of what has come before are carefully established and you won’t be lost. Everything you need to know is right here.

So, you might be asking, why didn’t we just make this the next arc of the Dejah series? Well, “John Carter” is the answer to that.

John was noticeably absent in Dejah’s series. In fact, it was a key and lingering plot point. When he returns at the end of her series, it’s a big deal. One of the reasons (apart from ‘cool story’ and plot) that I didn’t include him was that the book was called “Dejah Thoris” and I wanted her to be the focus, the lead character, without risk of her being eclipsed or overshadowed by her superhuman paramour.

Now he’s back, so the story becomes a two-hander. It’s only right that both names appear on the cover… with that very telling ‘versus” between them, to establish that a lot has changed since they were last together.

Dejah is now very much established as a powerful character: a queen, a leader, a warrior, a diplomat and… most of all… as the saviour of Mars, who has brilliantly led it back to unity and peace. She did all that without John. Now there’s more work to do, the threat of the Longborn especially, and that’s her duty. 

John, for his part, isn’t sure what he is anymore, or even if he belongs on Mars or in her life. This story is going to explore whether or not they have a future, whether or not they can have a partnership — of any kind — from here on. 

At the start, she’s just getting on with things, moving with urgency, while he is recuperating (and almost finding an excuse not to get in her way). John’s beginning to believe he is — with his superhuman abilities — as much a threat to Mars as he is a saviour. Maybe it’s time he went home? Maybe she doesn’t need him anymore? 

Of course, the quest to find the maverick mastermind Rotak Gall leads Dejah into trouble, and that naturally fires John up to go and help her. But is that the right thing to do? Does she even need his help anymore?

This first issue is crammed with exotic high adventure, and some surprises. There’s a deliberately old school, ‘conventional’ feel, in as much as it seems to be a classic John Carter adventure… the princess is in peril, so it’s time for him to spring into action. But don’t be deceived. It’s going to be much more than that. Dejah is never ‘helpless’, and with John there’s such a thing as “too much help”.  With the fate of Barsoom in the balance, things could go very wrong if they don’t get in step and work together. 

Join us next month to see how epic things are going to get.  

And for more of that jaw-dropping art, of course.

Dejah Thoris Vs. John Carter of Mars #1 is out now from Dynamite Comics

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