John Carter, Warlord of Mars is a fictional character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs – who you might know better as the creator of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, amongst other creations. His first adventure was serialized in All-Story magazine, back in 1912. By 1917, the first serial adventure of John Carter was collected as a book under the title A Princess of Mars.
The story starts off as Carter being a Captain in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. At one point, he appears to die while hiding from Apaches in a cave. Through some form of astral projection his spirit is transported to Mars, leaving his body behind on Earth. His spirit is re-embodied into a body much like his old one on Earth. Because of the lesser gravity of Mars compared to Earth, he becomes much stronger and more agile than the natives of that planet.
It should be noted, when Superman debuted in comics in 1938, that he was said to have powers superior to men of Earth, because of the lesser gravity of Earth compared to his home planet of Krypton. At the beginning of his career, Superman didn’t do much beyond “run faster than a locomotive,jump tall buildings in a single bound, was faster than a speeding bullet” – in many ways Superman was very much like the Warlord of Mars, but on Earth instead of Mars. Later on Superman became almost Godlike in power, but at the beginning him and the Warlord of Mars were not so far off in relative strength.
He ends up on Barsoom, a fictionalized version of Mars. Barsoom was Mars as a dying planet. Imagine a world full of technology far beyond our own, where savagery ruled, where many races fought over dwindling resources (making the story more relevant now then it’s ever been). It’s a world full of honor, struggle and sacrifice.
In his adventures, John Carter encounters various species and humanoids on this strange planet. He finds his true calling in life, becoming a powerful warlord, who fought to save the Martian inhabitants. He eventually wins the hand of a beautiful Martian princess, Dejah Thoris of Helium, whom he marries.
Several years pass and he appears to die again, sacrificing himself to save Barsoom. He wakes from this “second death” transported back to Earth, where he lives out the rest of his life unable to return back to Barsoom. After this apparent “third death”, he is restored to life again, back on Barsoom, where he goes back to being Warlord of Mars.
There’s several novels in the Barsoom series, the Warlord of Mars is only the main focus of some of them. Subsequent tales also focus on the children and grand-children of him and Dejah Thoris.
So who is John Carter? He’s the Warlord of Mars. John Carter will be in theatres March 9, 2012 from Disney.