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John Carter of Mars should be TV’s next Game of Thrones

Dec. 5, 2019: It has been said, “The wheels of justice turn slowly but exceedingly fine.” And Nerdvana has once again proven the truth behind that adage. It was recently reported that Disney+ is potentially planning a television series based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars novels – much like we suggested to HBO back in August 2016, below. If Disney was, in fact, listening, we have tons of additional ideas give us a ring.

John Carter of Mars - art by Frank Frazetta
John Carter of Mars – art by Frank Frazetta

The Internets have been in an uproar over the conclusion of HBO’s Game of Thrones television series, which ended after eight seasons in 2019.

Despite the potential for multiple spin-off series, fans are of course disappointed to have the adventure and drama come to an end. To be certain, it’s a bummer on the same scale as being decapitated – but wait, hold the door!

There is another literary fantasy series, with an equally amazing monarchical atmosphere of politics, drama, action and incredible beasts – with stories that are loved by thousands, including George R. R. Martin himself, and that undoubtedly inspired the GOT author to become a writer. I’m talking about, of course, John Carter of Mars!

Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen) as Dejah Thoris?
Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen)
as Dejah Thoris? We should be so lucky. (GQ)

Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoomian series would be the perfect replacement for Game of Thrones. Despite the unjustly maligned 2012 film, John Carter (of Mars, dammit), the serialized Martian stories were made for the type of adult adaptation that HBO specializes in, and they would undoubtedly appeal to the GOT audience that will be soon be suffering from sword-and-sorcery withdrawals.

Assuming that several actors from the GOT cast will be looking for work, let me also suggest Kit Harington (Jon Snow) for the role of John Carter; Rory McCann (The Hound) as Carter’s loyal Thark friend, Tars Tarkas; Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth) as Tars’ daughter, Sola; Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister) as Carter’s Martian military comrade, Kantos Kan; and Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen) as the incomparable Dejah Thoris.

By now I think most people realize that the problems surrounding the Disney adaptation of the original space-fantasy character were the result of a FUBAR marketing strategy (and/or lack thereof) and had nothing to do with what is actually a very good film (really, check it out!).

The John Carter of Mars movie rights were reclaimed by the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate almost two years ago and it is ripe for the picking. Seems like space-fantasy serendipity to me, so get on it HBO and put Burroughs’ Martian stories back on the map – you’ll be glad you did.

ADDITIONAL READING: – George R. R. Martin essay on Mars, Burroughs and John Carter

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About the author

Bob Leeper

Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.


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  • John Carter is not supposed to be a particularly attractive man, let alone a modern-day pretty boy. I do understand the potential to alienate a lot of to-day’s target audience if the main character isn’t the current pretty boy obsession but there’s more than enough supporting roles those guys could fill. John Carter is also supposed to be one of the few white-skinned people on Mars–for very specific and fleshed-out reasons. Let us not continue the Hollywood white-washing of everything by carrying over all these white actors to what could be a perfect HBO series idea (though I will acknowledge that this sentiment is the most likely to be ignored of all); it is actually a fantastic opportunity for diversification in casting–particularly if the series lasts long enough to introduce all the surviving races on Mars. I get, given the rest of your article, why you would suggest the actors you did for the project but let’s consider that also adds the risk of turning the desired new series into a GoT in space rip-off travesty. I would love to see the series done some justice (I strongly disagree with your opinion of the Disney film–I don’t think it even made sense on its own, let alone in relation to the books; there is a very long and reasoned tradition of sci-fi/fantasy authors specifically not addressing the mechanics of certain things/objects/plot devices, such as how John Carter is able to travel between worlds, and it is a tradition best left as it is, IMHO) and I really think the technology and ability are there, now, though I would very much prefer if the CGI were minimal and the dying practice of prosthetic art could be used.