Monday, April 17, 2017

Why A Princess of Mars? (Making of A Princess of Mars, WEEK 1)

Why A Princess of Mars?

Why create a uniquely designed, fully illustrated version of Edgar Rice Burroughs' famous classic? Because it has never been done before! In the 1970’s, Frank Frazetta’s masterful cover work, accompanied by a handful of small ink illustrations, brought the Martian series to life for a new generation of Bookclub readers. Many artists—before and after Frazetta—have created their own version of Burroughs' Mars, including recent comic book adaptations, but no one has created a total vision for the book, A Princess of Mars, itself. That is exactly what I am doing.
I wish I could claim that the idea came to me while standing outside at night on my terrace, looking up at the starry sky with my arms outstretched to the red planet. But in reality, I was distractedly watching a soccer game while trying to come up with a major project that would represent the standards of excellence for which Dream Tower Media stands. I had loved the Mars novels since first reading them about twenty years ago, and illustrating scenes or characters from the book had crossed my mind. But that night, three reasons inspired me to move forward. Firstly, A Princess of Mars is a fantastic fantasy adventure with a strange picturesque setting and a beautiful exotic princess, ideal subject matter for an illustrator. Secondly, the book is in public domain, which removes a number of obvious obstacles. Thirdly, Edgar Rice Burroughs authority, Ryan Harvey, had recently been a guest on my Literary Wonder & Adventure Show. Our discussion had further fanned the flame of my love for those books.
Despite the work that would be involved in such an undertaking, it was an easy decision to make. Soon after, I contacted Ryan about doing an extended introduction to the book. He was excited about the idea, and I’m very excited to read what he’ll have to say.
So what can you expect from Zoltan's Dream Tower Media edition of A Princess of Mars?
Exotic lush romance, mystery, and playful humor.
When I re-read A Princess of Mars as research for the creation of this new edition, what struck me most was how incredibly romantic it was. It was romantic, not only in a big sense of the word, Romance, as in sweeping poetic atmosphere and scope, but also romantic in the more common usage of a powerful attraction turning to devotion turning to deep love, between John Carter and Dejah Thoris. I'm not ashamed to say that I actually found myself getting choked up during a scene between the two lovers. If one can’t get choked up about true love, what can one get choked up about?
The mystery of the ancient ruins on Mars, and the wonderful strangeness of everything in John Carter's eyes also seemed an essential part of the book. Finally, I was rather surprised at the moments of humor and tenderness that I had forgotten, such as John's relationship with Woola, his unorthodox approach to thoat training, and the little misunderstandings that happen between John and Dejah. I remember no artist representing these delightful moments.
So, The Princess of Mars you will be seeing from me will emphasize the romance, the exotic setting, the wonder, the mystery, some heart-warming humor, and most of all, Dejah Thoris, the way Burroughs really described her. Dejah Thoris, not John Carter, will be the main focus of this book, because that is the book's title, A Princess of Mars. And, Dejah Thoris is also the focus of John Carter! Would John Carter want to see page after page of himself in battle scenes? Not the humble gentleman from Virginia! He would want to see his princess, and so he shall, and so you shall!
I believe the sensual style of my work lends itself especially well to A Princess of Mars. And my dislike of gratuitous violence and gore (and Burroughs never distracts the reader with unnecessary descriptions of gore, which in truth, few people would even notice while fighting for their life), whether in literature, art or cinema, matches perfectly the aesthetic, and one could say even the mission of Dream Tower Media. For I believe there is too much that is grim and nihilistic, in our culture, and specifically in our literature. I long for a renaissance of storytelling, where wonder, adventure, mystery, and romance are the focus. I long for more stories that celebrate the mystery and wonder of existence, and the joy of life, stories that may present dangerous or even dire situations, but inspire in the end. For that is what the golden age of fantasy and science fiction created. Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser saga, Jack Vance's Dying Earth series, Bester’s The Stars My Destination, Frank Herbert’s Dune, Cordwainer Smith’s tales of The Instrumentality, the work of C. L. Moore, even many of Robert E. Howard's Conan stories (which had a lust for life and a noble virtue, and which seem like PG-13 movies compared to some of what I read now) inspired with a sense of wonder and heroics that made one glad to be alive. A Princess of Mars is one of the early prototypes of that grand era.
And so, I hope when you eventually read this new edition, and enjoy the seamless blending of wonderful story, elegant design, and beautiful illustrations, you will escape to a place that is real in the heart of every human being who has the commitment and courage to make that journey. In this case, it is Burroughs' Mars. And whether you are visiting Barsoom (the Martian word for Mars) for the first time, or going back to a favorite place that will appear new and fresh to you, I hope this new edition will open for you a literary pathway to bliss. For beyond fear and despair, the ineffable mystery and joy of life is waiting for each of us. Come this December, may you find it amplified by your visit to Barsoom through Dream Tower Media and Zoltan's special edition of Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars.

Robert Zoltan
April 17, 2017

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