Showing posts sorted by relevance for query barsoom. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query barsoom. Sort by date Show all posts

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Signal Watch Reads: Warlord of Mars

Well, I have now completed the first three Barsoom novels, just finishing Warlord of Mars.

I will say, of the three, Warlord is, perhaps, the silliest of three fairly ridiculous novels.  Now, when I say the books are ridiculous, these novels are hyperbolic, escapist adventure fantasy.  Its the predecessor to Flash Gordon and Conan by several years, each, and helped launch both genres.  While interesting themes and ideas present themselves in the three books, you'd be hard pressed to say that Edgar Rice Burroughs was pushing an agenda beneath the layers of the Barsoom novels, or that he was seeking to impart a subversive message or pat himself on the back for writing a very important book.  But that doesn't mean they aren't pretty wild fun, and don't work surprisingly well in the context of the modern action enthusiast.

But it can get silly.  Warlord features at least two instance where our hero goes undercover in iffy disguises, knocks himself out more than once, and routinely has to explain that maybe he isn't much of a thinker as he apologizes to the reader for not having a particularly good reason why he has once again pitched himself into a fight that maybe didn't need to happen (while suggesting he thinks to think too hard about these things is sort of for jerks, anyway).  In some ways, John Carter is the Jack Burton of his time and place.  He's a reasonable man caught up in unreasonable circumstances.

Hail to the king, baby

Friday, June 7, 2024

Mars Read: Thuvia, Maid of Mars (1916)



kitty..?


So, I'm back on my Mars thing.  

I'm picking up here with the 4th book in the John Carter of Mars cycle, Thuvia, Maid of Mars.  

I also just found out that there are not 9 books, there's 11.  That's okay.  I can do this.

One does not come to these books for complex characters and deep introspection.  We are here to kick ass on Mars.  We're going to wear BDSM gear and use swords and, when someone crosses our path, we are either going to fight to the death or swear a blood oath of eternal friendship.  And, on Barsoom, all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.  Or would be, if they didn't hatch from an egg in their teens.*

It had been a while since I last read a Barsoom novel (the good people of what we call Mars call their planet Barsoom).  And I'm always kinda sorta embarrassed to read them.  They're the nutrional equivalent of slamming a 2-Liter of Coke while gnawing on Lik-M-Aid and Pixie Sticks.  

But, boy howdy, once you've finished that first bottle and have a face smeared in Lik-M-Aid, you're going to reach for the Pixie Sticks and pop open another bottle  (ie:  I am immediately going into the next book).

Thursday, June 21, 2012

TL; DR: On Willing Suspension of Disbelief, John Carter of Mars, Superheroes and Sci-Fi

I was reading a post at The Onion AV Club offering a reconsideration of this spring's commercial disaster, John Carter, and a single statement stuck out at me.
On the run, Kitsch ends up encountering a Thern in a cave and is teleported to Mars. (I’m sorry, I mean Barsoom).
And with that, I had to re-evaluate everything else in the article.


Rightfully, elsewhere in the article the reviewer points to the pulp roots of the movie, that it was a film that perhaps reflected a different era not just of writing sci-fi (or, as it was called, "Planetary Romance" before "scientifiction" had been coined, which, of course, became "science fiction") but of film making.  Sure, I'm onboard with "not the right place on teh spacetime continuum for this movie, and not the right marketing"


But what struck me was the curiously quasi-anglo-centric/ xenophobic/ concrete thinking that belies so much of why sci-fi, fantasy, superheroes, etc... have such a hard time with an adult audience.  In short, I'm guessing this same author wouldn't have phrased it as "Kitsch end up encountering a Man in a cave and is teleported to Japan. (I'm sorry, I mean Nippon)." 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Signal Watch Reads: Gods of Mars

I've now re-read Princess of Mars and finished Gods of Mars.  I am now heading into Warlord of Mars.  Because, you know:  Mars.

I am also going to spoil the end of the book because its not a spoiler.  Its so that you know something I wish I'd known - the book ends on an amazing cliffhanger.  DO NOT EXPECT NARRATIVE CLOSURE.  The last forty pages of the book, I just kept thinking "wow, this is really not seeming like its wrapping up here.  The first book had that whole epilogue sort of ending.  Not this one."  Nope.  It ends with a very Two Towers sort of insistence that you will read/buy book 3, and you will like it.

And I will.  Well, I have a collection with the first three books in it, so...

its pretty much this for over 200 pages

Nobody is going to accuse Edgar Rice Burroughs of writing deep literature with the Barsoom novels.  His character, John Carter, is not here to give lit majors reasons to write papers.  Sure, you could spend a lot of time exploring ideas of religion, class, race, masculinity and femininity in his work, and it might not be wrong to do so as you grapple with 20th Century genre-fiction's long and shaky history with all of these issues.  But these are books for crazy, escapist high adventure and if you find something else in there, well, there you are.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Jungle Watch: The Legend of Tarzan (2016)



In some ways it's a goddamn crime that the version of Tarzan that Millennials grew up with was saddled with Phil Collins music and Rosie O'Donnell's voice blasting like an air-horn throughout.  I recently tried to re-watch the Disney version of Tarzan, and for all the technical achievements of the film, that "let's do things tied entirely to what's popular in the moment", upon reconsideration, makes the film a grating mess.

I guess Gen X may have been the last generation to be given Tarzan to enjoy in steady doses.  I remember watching black and white Tarzan on TV as a kid, and I have to assume it was Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan with Cheeta.  It's also possible we were watching later movies, the 1960's TV series...   Who knows? Tarzan has known a lot of incarnations in film and television, including maybe the version that really informed me most about Tarzan, the 1970's-era cartoon show.

Before the release of 1984's Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, Marvel put out a Tarzan magazine comic which covered the first half of the first Tarzan novel.


And this was really what informed me as to the more detailed version of Tarzan's origin.

Like a lot of kids, we played "Tarzan", even if I can't really recall what that meant other than climbing whatever we could get a grip on around the yard and imagining we'd made friends and foes of the 10 or so jungle animals we could name.  But being able to talk to monkeys and lions seemed like a pretty good deal to us.  The 70's and 80's were still safely within the 20th Century, and the notion of High Adventure was still very much a marketable commodity at the time, across nearly all genres, and Tarzan was right at the center of that.

I finally watched the original Johnny Weissmuller movie and read the actual Edgar Rice Burroughs novel of Tarzan of the Apes just last year.  The book is a book of its time, as is the movie, and both have their place in history.  While the prose of the novel may be purple and many ideas in the book would now seem dated, the story still holds as an adventure and romance.  And if we're looking for our own cultural DNA, both Tarzan and ERB's John Carter are vital to understanding what was to come with superheroes and superhumans in fiction and popular culture, and - of course - that's now escalated to culture writ large with fifth generation offspring of Burroughs' creations throwing shields in billion dollar movies.

All that to say, I was a bit pre-disposed to want to see a new Tarzan movie, and, yet, I've seen very, very few of them to date.  Not even Greystoke, which I am told again and again is not worth seeing.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

No Post Thursday - what I've been doing (class, books, end of the yearly cycle)

This evening I went to the gym, watched an episode of Mad Men Season 5, did some pre-ordering of comics, and got pretty far along with the first unit of the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) I've started through Canvas.

When I get through the first week, I'll post some personal and professional observations as someone who (a) has read comics for a long, long time - including a good chunk of the assigned reading, (b) who actually does care about gender representations in media - but maybe not in a particularly prescribed way, and (c) who worked in distance education for a decade before moving on to digital libraries.  As bonus featurea (d) I already went through five years of undergraduate education in narrative media studies, and (d) I sort of have my opinions regarding scholarly writing when it comes to social criticism, so...  it's turning out to be an interesting experience already.

It's going to be a long post, and only, likely, I will care about it, so...  look for THAT.

Speaking of gender in comics and pop-culture, yesterdays post on why it's okay for Power Girl to have a "boob window" got a fair number of hits.  By that, I mean, we were around 95 last I checked, which is, like, HUGE for this site.  I never know what's going to get traffic.  I fully expected upwards of 18 clicks.

I am making a commitment to just admit I am going to just read all the Richard Stark novels and nothing else that is not a comic until I finish the Parker and Grofield series.  And then I have, literally, ten books to get through.


  • I'm about a quarter way through the Larry Tye Superman book Nathan gave me, so that might get read while I work through the Stark novels.
  • Dark City Dames by Eddie Muller - a book with bios of a handful of noir sirens, including sections on Audrey Totter and Marie Windsor
  • Altered Carbon - as recommended by Steven
  • the next three Barsoom novels starting with Thuvia, Maid of Mars
  • Doc Savage, Man of Bronze - personally recommended by no less than Chris Roberson
  • The Big Screen  - a non-fiction book on the history of cinema
  • The Killer Inside Me and After Dark, My Sweet, that I've been putting off for, literally, almost twenty years
  • the new Glenn Wheldon Superman book  
  • a Dashiell Hammett collection


As I said on the Facebooks today, I need more time to read.

So, no recommendations for a bit.  My plate is full.

Jamie's birthday is passed, and mine is next Friday, so if you're around and want a cocktail, email me.  We may be doing something about drinks on the 13th.

We have a yearly cycle that starts at Halloween and ends with my birthday.  Really, from Halloween, it's something every few weeks, including Valentine's Day, then March - the months of birthdays, etc...  And, of course, Easter and Mother's Day take us into May.  At this point I'm used to it, but it does seem like it compresses time into the various observances.  Summer has become my holiday from holidays, except for July 4th, which includes explosions and hamburgers and is thus becoming one of my favorite holidays.

My folks are headed back to Kenya for missionary work/ putting eyeglasses on Kenyans.  Always proud of them in their volunteer efforts.

Mad Men Season 6 starts Sunday night, so, leave a brother alone while he does his thing.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Signal Reads: 2001 - A Space Odyssey

Because as a kid I liked SPACE, the old man took me to whatever movies were out that featured people slipping free of the bonds of Earth's gravity.  And so it came to pass that he said "We can go see 2010, but I don't think you'll like it.  I've seen the first movie, and this isn't going to be The Last Starfighter."

"Ok," I said.  "I still want to go."

And so it passed that I saw 2010 in the theater and had to have The Admiral explain 2001 to me on the way home.  No, it did not have the visceral thrill of the sci-fi adventures I adored, but I had already seen Star Trek: The Motion Picture, so slow moving sci-fi epics were not outside my scope.  



Perhaps tellingly, very few kids in my grade saw 2010, but all of us in the special nerd math class I was in during 4th grade had seen it and thought it keen.  We also all agreed that Star Trek wasn't properly appreciated, so, you know, there was precedent.  In short - kid nerds of the 1980's.

About two years after 2010, The Admiral and Jason rented 2001 and watched it while I was out of the house.  A bit peeved I'd been left out, I sat down the next day and watched the first half of 2001 by myself until Jason wandered back into the house and finished watching it with me.  

So, yeah, its been a long time in coming that I finally decided to get a bit more of my nerd bonafides and purchased the audiobook of Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey.  

According to Clarke's forward to the audiobook, done in 2000 as we neared the actual year 2001, the book was written basically for Stanley Kubrick so he'd have something to use when he made a sci-fi movie that wasn't, in the filmmaker's estimation, a whole lot of hoo-ha.  And it is interesting to compare and contrast Kubrick's film with the novel, which is written in the very literal terms of mid-20th Century Sci-Fi, and does not contain the ethereal feel or the explanation-by-implication that can leave some viewers feeling stranded in the film's last 20-30 minutes.  



Despite the fact that script and novel were co-developed, there are some differences, including Discovery's destination (Saturn in the novel) and an explicit explanation of HAL's malfunctioning.  

Frankly, I very much enjoyed the book and I'm glad I "read" it after all this time.   The themes of the novel and film reflect very much upon how I personally consider what it means for human beings to continue to look at space as a possibility, which is either because of Kubrick's influence or because I watched too much Trek as a kid.  



The audiobook, by the way, is extremely brief, running under 7 hours.  There's something to how long something like Stranger in a Strange Land runs, and how much information was shared, or how much story was necessary (that audiobook ran about 22 hours, I think), and the impact possible on the reader.  

In comparison to the Barsoom novels I'm also currently reading, well, its more or less two different ends of the spectrum from this genre we call "science fiction".  And with Clarke's scientific high mindedness, even the mystery of the cosmos that Kubrick puts forth gets a near unlimited omniscient narrator's explanation we'd never get from just the visuals of the film, draining away some of the mystery (or confirming what you thought Kubrick was suggesting).  

Its a wonderful novel, and if you can deal with some of the dated concepts and the deadpan characterization of David Bowman, Heywood Floyd and Frank Poole, there's a lot to like if you've never read the book.  Particularly HAL's characterization.  

I should mention, the HAL-related stuff is far less important to the book than the movie, and acts more as a fulcrum toward making a point about men, machines and the perils of both (especially a billion miles from home).

Anyone else read the book?  Thoughts?


Saturday, July 11, 2015

Signal Watch Reads: Tarzan of the Apes (1912) - audiobook

I have no idea if kids today even know the name Tarzan, and I suspect that if they do, its as one of the lesser Disney animated features.  As a product of the 70's and 80's, I was exposed to televised reruns of Johnny Weismuller films, comics, cartoons, and a general presence of Tarzan as a still-kinda-relevant pop-culture figure.  Swinging from a rope meant you had to give the Weismuller yell, climbing a tree might lead to visions of swinging from branch to branch, and being a bit rambunctious could lead to your mother calling you "Tarzan".

I also had this comic magazine, Marvel Super Special #29.


It turns out, this was a pretty much direct adaptation of the original novel, including captions from the book, but only the first 1/2- 1/3rd of the book, choosing a solid ending point when Tarzan asserts himself as King of the Apes.  Mark Evanier is listed as the writer, but he mostly reframed the original novel into a graphic novel form, and that cover seemed absolutely amazing to me when I was a kid.  It also meant that, as the book went along, I had more or less already read the first 1/3rd.

I haven't read much in the way of Edgar Rice Burroughs, just the first three John Carter-Barsoom novels, but I certainly grew up knowing Burroughs' name.  I just...  I dunno, I never read the book or books (there are about 20 of them, I think).  But, we're in a reading pattern right now that's about making up for old sins and checking in on some of these old-school favorites, and I'd put off reading Tarzan for long enough.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Signal Watch Reads: The Return of Tarzan (by ERB, 1913)



What's most surprising about reading a 1913 Tarzan novel is, really, in many ways how modern it feels.  Whether ERB was reflective of a particular brand of cliff-hanger storytelling or whether he shaped a lot of what I think of as a feature of modern adventure entertainment - it's pretty amazing how much you can see of how the adventures of Tarzan work, structurally, in comics and adventure television of all stripes (and probably books, but I don't read that much of this sort of thing).

Tarzan's origin is detailed in the first half of the first book, most of the rest of the book providing the set-up for the ensuing adventures (or, more of the origin, I guess).  This second book picks up shortly after the conclusion of the first as Jane takes off with not-Tarzan, aka: William Clayton (but Tarzan's cousin, who is Lord Greystoke as far as the world is concerned).

It's important to point out that ERB's Tarzan is not the "me Tarzan, you Jane" of the Johnny Weissmuller films.  He's a hyper-intelligent super human who picks up languages the way I pick up unnecessary action figures.  You kind of have to dump everything you've ever read about actual feral-children, maybe one of the saddest things you're likely to read about, and buy into the premise that Tarzan is a really well-adjusted guy in many ways for someone who eats raw flesh and speaks gorilla.

That said - the arc of this second novel is about Tarzan deciding who and what he will be.  And, putting up with a shady Russian who keeps turning up like a bad penny.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Signal Watch Watches: John Carter (of Mars)

Disney won't call the movie by a decent title, so I will.  Let us call it John Carter of Mars, shall we?

As pointed out recently by The Alamo Drafthouse, the Summer of 1982 was an absolutely stunning summer for movies and culturally defining watershed for Gen X.  To celebrate this fact, Summer of 2012, they're having a Summer of 1982 celebration showing a movie per week from that year.

Not all of the movies were a smash at the time (see the final show of the summer, Blade Runner), but this was also the generation of the VCR and HBO.  I didn't see Blade Runner until 1988 or so, but I know when it was released (and you can bet I'll be fighting tooth and nail to be at the screening at the Alamo this summer).

So I'm going to start using Summer of 1982 as a sort of yardmarker for a movie I think could hold a certain distinction.

1.  The movie isn't being loved by critics who are failing to understand it at the time
2.  It likely won't be understood by the mainstream audience at the time
3.  The movie tries to be something grand, really swings for the fences
4.  The movie has the potential to endure in a way that surpasses just the nichey fans you can find anywhere on the internet, but becomes part of the sci-fi geek zeitgeist

Straight up, I @#$%ing loved John Carter (2012).  I believe that it is Summer of 1982 worthy.

You know, this is kind of a terrible poster

The movie is based not just upon the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel, A Princess of Mars (1917), but on what I'd guess are a few of the Barsoom/ John Carter novels sort of pulped into a single volume.  That the movie was not just the first book is all right.  The story works well enough and moves at a better pace for the kids that were packed in all around us in the audience at the Alamo.

The movie of John Carter follows Carter (played more than ably by Friday Night Lights alum Taylor Kitsch) as a Virginia gentleman who, more than a decade after the Civil War, makes a hasty call for his nephew, Edgar Rice Burroughs, to come to him.  By the time Burrows arrives, Carter is dead, sealed in a tomb which can only be opened... from the inside.

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Mars Watch (Revisited): John Carter (2012)



Watched:  06/08/2024
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  I've lost track.  5th?
Director:  Andrew Stanton
Selection:  Joint household

You can see prior posts on John Carter books and movies here.


Back in 2012 when this movie came out, I'd read the novel A Princess of Mars at least twice.  It's a breezy, fun read, the first of Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars/ Barsoom novels.  If you can get past some very not-21st Century politics and concepts, they're an interesting read, and I recommend.

Those books were almost 100 years old when the movie was released, so, suffice to say, folks have enjoyed them for a while.  And there's something to be said for any novels that last a century, and double that appreciation when it comes to any genre material that manages to last beyond a few decades.  There's something there.   So it came as a bit of a surprise to me at the time that this movie got the critical lambasting it received, currently residing at a 51 on Metacritic.   And most of the folks who saw it at the time told me "oh, I hated that."  

Look, your faithful blogger has just enough ego to assume it's everyone else who is wrong sometimes, but this was a case where I said "ah, well, it's working for me.  I dunno." and moved on with my life.

But, to be truthful, it's been quite some time since I re-watched this movie or read that first novel, and with some separation, I now more or less get why this movie got the reaction it did.  And TheWrap put out a fascinating history of the film, that I consider good reading.    

To be blunt, I was familiar enough with the book that the movie was just seeing portions of the book come to life, and knowing there were many more books, I thought they were just moving things forward in order to make a more seamless narrative.  

Nope.

There's essentially two large problems with the movie in my mind at this point -

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Signal Watch Re-Watches: John Carter (2012)

I will be brief.

But, I am documenting every time I watch a movie this year.  And it would seem unfair to not tell you.  Yeah, before it left the theater (I assume first run theaters will be dropping the movie from their screens this week), I wanted to see it again.

And, you know, I liked it just as much a second time, if not more after reading the first three Barsoom books.  Lots of little bits that are throw-aways from the book, or book-accurate bits like the hand-on-shoulder greeting among allies, radium shells from the Thark rifles, what a royal @#$%* Sarkoja can be...

Anyway, it would have been nice to see where they wanted to go with the sequels, especially as they took such an incredible number of liberties with the source material.  At least I would have been kept guessing.  At its core, the movie remains true to each character they represent, even if there's no appearance of Phaidor while we see Matai Shang, etc...  and so its not that hard for me to reconcile the differences.

I'll shut up about John Carter for a bit.