Five Sci-Fi Characters Influenced By John Carter

You may know that the new movie “John Carter” is based on some very old stories – Edgar Rice Burroughs’ title character first appeared in print a century ago. But you may not fully appreciate the influence that Burroughs’ creation has had on the sci-fi genre and pop culture in general.

So, with a little help from editor and Burroughs enthusiast Bryan Young, I give you the top five characters influenced by John Carter:

1. Flash Gordon

John Carter was a direct ancestor of this early sci-fi hero, as well as Buck Rogers. With the Carter stories, Burroughs “created that breathless, serialized style fifteen years before it was popularized in those ‘30’s serials,” says Young. “He was writing movie serials before movie serials existed.”

2. Han Solo & Friends

George Lucas has credited the aforementioned Flash and Buck as inspirations for "Star Wars." “It’s almost the grandchild of John Carter,” says Young.

And in a more direct way, one can see the parallels between two iconic couples: “John Carter and Dejah Thoris, their relationship is very Han Solo and Princess Leia,” Young points out. “They can be very snippy towards each other but they’re both really strong-willed characters, and the movie actually plays that up even more than the books.”

3. Superman

“John Carter’s powers on Mars are derived exactly as Superman’s are on Earth, where his body is affected by the geography differently,” says Young. Because he’s accustomed to Earth’s gravity, when Carter goes to Mars he suddenly has extraordinary physical powers compared to those around him.

“And John Carter has to go there and find a reason to fight for these people that he should have no vested interest in, except that some of them look like him,” says Young. “And Superman has to do the same thing here.”

4. Malcolm Reynolds

John Carter is a Civil War veteran who fought for the losing side – quite similar to a certain "Firefly" captain. “Mal Reynolds is a guy who lost his battle in the war, and he thought he was fighting for the right,” Young says. “He has a lot of really deep personal issues about how that conflict went, and that’s very much how John Carter is too.”

And there’s also the genre parallel: “‘Firefly’ is very much a Western in space,” says Young, “and that’s exactly what ‘John Carter’ has always been, since 1912.”

5. Indiana Jones

“If you go back and read those [‘John Carter’] books and the way they’re set up, there’s a cliffhanger at the end of every chapter,” says Young. The adventures and predicaments that Carter finds himself in are clear precursors to those of Dr. Jones, a B-movie hero in a polished, blockbuster film franchise.

“One of the things that people love about Steven Spielberg is that he takes those B movies and adds a layer of craft into them so it elevates them into classic movies that are cross-generational,” Young says. “You don’t have to just be a B movie lover to love ‘Raiders Of The Lost Ark.’ It’s just a well-made movie, and it’s in that same mold as ‘John Carter.’”

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