[[wysiwyg_imageupload:5219:]]The red planet Mars has always been a great locale for science fiction adventure, even before the spotting of flying saucers carrying little green men to Earth.
In that vain, we turn our attention to the latest interpretation of the fine John Carter characters of Edgar Rice Burroughs as seen through the eyes of writer Mark Rahner in Dynamite Entertainment’s four-issue limited series, Dejah Thoris and the Green Men of Mars.
Cosmic Book News Managing Editor Byron Brewer sat down exclusively with the scribe to discuss his latest work.
CBN: Mark, for those not familiar with Burroughs' John Carter character, tell a little bit about what is happening here and against what type of sci-fi background.
Mark Rahner: The story takes place after events of “A Princess of Mars,” and the Heliumites and Tharks are at peace. But they haven’t been allies long, and there’s a bit of residual racism and hatred. Dejah Thoris finds herself ruminating on her abuse by Tharks from the beginning of that story. She has to explain to John Carter that it’s a little like expecting everyone to be completely over everything after his Civil War. So she’s planned a big red-and-green celebration in Helium. On its eve she’s kidnapped by a rogue group of Tharks who trigger everything she’s trying to repress, and more. These Tharks cater to other green men who never lost their taste for the red meat of Heliumite women.
[[wysiwyg_imageupload:5223:]]CBN: Is this an adaptation of a novel or rather taking the existing characters (like Roy Thomas with Conan) into new situations? What is different here than in other treatments of Dejah Thoris?
Mark Rahner: It takes existing characters into new and nastier territory. I always thought there was room for all different types of stories on Barsoom in addition to the swashbuckling romances. This one is more like Burroughs by way of, say, I Spit on Your Grave, Hostel, The Descent, and maybe even a little Zero Dark Thirty.
CBN: Who is the big-bad in your limited series and what effect does he have on our heroine?
Mark Rahner: He’s a Thark named Voro. Big, ugly one, even for Tharks. While Dejah Thoris is struggling to suppress what she feels about Tharks, she opts to trust him. And Voro is also acting in the name of an even bigger baddie, the late Hok, whom Tars Tarkas dispatched in an exhausting battle just before he first met Carter (in Warlord of Mars Annual #1). Hok was a bigger, meaner Thark whom some of them thought should have become jeddak instead of Tars. He’s become a symbol for the ones who don’t want to be pals with the Heliumites, because it’s against their nature.
CBN: What would you like readers to walk away with after the completion of the series?
Mark Rahner: A feeling of intense unease, followed by a little relief. And also the sense that there’s something beneath the surface of Dejah Thoris. She’s a woman with complexities and flaws, not a superhero. She’s tough and clever, but it’s not effortless.
[[wysiwyg_imageupload:5222:]]CBN: There is a maturity about this property. Toward what age range is this story aimed?
Mark Rahner: It’s for more mature readers, and I won’t be responsible for the therapy bills of anyone younger. The story deals with abuse-survivors’ post-traumatic stress disorder, racism, a bit of terrorism, and includes all sorts of intense violence and gore. Actually, what was I thinking? It’s perfect for families to share during holidays.
CBN: [Laughs] Right! By the way, how has it been working with artist Lui Antonio? Why was he right for this story and how did he handle the demands of such a horrific sci-fi piece?
Mark Rahner: I’m sorry to say I don’t have direct contact with Lui, but he’s well suited for my assorted writer’s pathologies. It’s always a treat to see how he brings my sick descriptions to life, and there are some good money shots in this tale.
CBN: Any new projects coming up you’d like to discuss?
Mark Rahner: Hopefully, I’ll keep the flow of filth coming from Dynamite. And I’m determined to relaunch my creator-owned zombie-western comic, Rotten, before I die. Also, I’ll be at the Emerald City Comicon March 1-3.
Cosmic Book News would like to thank Mark Rahner for participating in this interview and also Dynamite CEO Nick Barrucci and Dynamite Senior Editor Joseph Rybandt who helped make this interview possible.
"Dejah Thoris and the Green Men of Mars" #1 (of 4) hits shelves February 20. For mature readers.