Exclusive: Arvid Nelson discusses adapting the Martian world of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter



One of the happier successes of interpretation and adaptation of literary materials and fan satisfaction in science fiction has been Dynamite’s Warlord of Mars and its spin-off books.

Blasting off to find the secret behind the success of John Carter, Cosmic Book News Managing Editor Byron Brewer booked the first rocket ship to the Red Planet and talked exclusively with writer Arvid Nelson.

Cosmic Book News: Arvid, you have a real affinity for this kind of sci-fi. Tell us about your love of John Carter and his Martian adventures.

Arvid Nelson: I shamefully admit to complete ignorance before Dynamite approached me for the Warlord of Mars series. But I was hooked the minute I started reading the first of Burroughs’s Mars novels.  Burroughs has a genius for stringing the reader along, and he’s unrivaled in creative genius and imagination. I honestly think he was making up the Mars novels as he went along, which is pretty incredible.

CBN: For the uninitiated, tell us who John Carter is and a little about his complex world.

Arvid Nelson: Carter was a rebel captain during the American Civil War. After Appomattox, he went west looking for gold, and he was, as the saying goes, “mysteriously transported to Mars”, a dying planet where only the strong survive and savage tribes hunt in the ruins of ancient necropolises.

CBN: Do you prefer adapting the existing John Carter stories or using his characters and situations for original stories?

Arvid Nelson: I prefer writing my own stories, although it’s a little bit scary. Original stories have to feel genuine, true to the spirit of the classic material. No easy task!

CBN: Dejah Thoris seems a favorite of fans and creators alike. Tell us about this complex woman and the role she plays in John Carter’s life.

Arvid Nelson: In the books, Dejah Thoris is noble and brave, but she’s also a little helpless. We tried to make her more lively, more active, without straying too far from the original character. Of all our accomplishments with Warlord of Mars, it’s one of the things I’m most proud of.

CBN: I love how we explore Mars and its diverse peoples through Carter’s adventures. Are there any more secret peoples or hidden communities left to discover?

Arvid Nelson: The possibilities are endless! But there’s still so much original material left to explore that it’s the last thing we’re thinking about, for the foreseeable future.

CBN: Arvid, I am enjoying the “Savages of Mars” arc ongoing. Any hints as to who or what may be behind the savagery of the Green Martians?

Arvid Nelson: I’m afraid you’ll just have to read the story – a magician never reveals his secrets!

CBN: So, any new big-bads in John Carter’s future?

Arvid Nelson: Again, that would be telling! Carter upset thousands of years of tradition and social order when he arrived on Mars. There’s no shortage of people (and things) who’d like to see him roasting on a spit.

CBN: May we see some off-world sci-fi adventures for Carter? Or some non-Martian or non-Terran aliens here?

Arvid Nelson: My only concern is that we keep the series feeling authentic. If we stray too far from the source material, we risk losing focus on the appeal of Warlord of Mars. That said, anything’s possible!

CBN: Talk about the artists with whom you have worked. Who captures the quintessential John Carter?

Arvid Nelson: It’s impossible for me to pick any one artist, because I’ve been blessed with so many talented co-conspirators. But Joe Jusko’s covers are just fantastic. He is a true master, and the explosion of original Mars art from him makes Warlord of Mars a worthwhile endeavor by itself.

CBN: Arvid, any projects current or future you would care to discuss?

Arvid Nelson: Lords of Mars, Dynamite’s John Carter/Tarzan crossover debuted earlier this month, and I’m really excited for readers to see where this story is going. We have lots of great adventures in store for the two greatest heroes of pulp fiction, and I hope we get to tell them all!

Cosmic Book News would like to thank Arvid Nelson for taking time from his busy schedule of adventures on Mars to answer our questions. We would also like to thank Dynamite’s own Nick Barrucci and Keith Davidsen who helped make this interview possible.