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John Carter 101: A Primer on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Warlord of Mars

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John Carter” leaps into theaters this week, and his arrival will likely be many moviegoers’ first introduction to the Civil War soldier who became the red planet’s greatest hero.

First appearing in a 1912 pulp magazine, John Carter is the creation of author Edgar Rice Burroughs, who also gave the world the vine-swinging king of the jungle, Tarzan. Now, 100 years later, Walt Disney Pictures is hoping to create a new generation of John Carter fans with this weekend’s big-screen adventure featuring Taylor Kitsch as the title character.

Still, if you’re not familiar with Burroughs’ series, there’s no need to worry. Not only does the film do a great job of introducing the character, but we’ve got you covered with a short overview of the series, its characters, and the worlds they inhabit.

Read on for everything you need to know about “John Carter” before you buy your ticket.

The Books

The character of John Carter made his debut in a serialized story published in the pulp magazine The All-Story and titled “Under the Moons of Mars.” This story was later collected in what would become the first of 11 novels, A Princess of Mars.

Collectively known as the “Barsoom series” (the name given to the planet by Mars’ native inhabitants), Burroughs’ stories encompass several generations of characters, including John Carter, his children, and various other Martian and Earth-born characters. The final book in the series, John Carter of Mars: Skeleton Men of Jupiter was published in 1943.

John Carter’s first adventure in the series – and the inspiration for the “John Carter” movie – is set during the year 1866, and is written as if Burroughs’ received a first-hand account of the story from Carter himself. Burroughs is a recurring character in the series, as he often finds himself charged with watching over Carter’s inanimate body each time the adventurer’s consciousness is summoned to Mars.

The Premise

Throughout the series, whenever John Carter travels to Mars, he leaves behind a physical body on Earth that appears lifeless – necessitating that someone like Burroughs keep watch over it until he returns. The mysterious mode of transport reconstitutes his form on Mars, but due to the planet’s gravity and atmosphere, he’s able to leap great distances and has strength far beyond that of the planet’s native inhabitants.

From the very first installment of the series, John becomes embroiled in a civil war on Barsoom that’s not unlike America’s own Civil War. The various races of Mars are constantly battling for the planet’s limited resources, and John’s experience in battle – combined with his powerful abilities – help him become one of the planet’s greatest warriors.

The Characters

There are a number of different species of Martians represented in the Barsoom series, though the first volume – and the film – introduce the two primary inhabitants of Mars: Red Martians and Green Martians.

The Red Martians look like humans and are the dominant race on Barsoom. They live in cities and use an advanced form of technology that allows them to live in huge cities on the surface of the planet. Competition for the planet’s resources has pushed many of the cities to fight a constant war for control of valuable territory.

The Green Martians are distinctly less humanoid, with four arms and tall bodies that tower over humans and Red Martians alike. They’re a primitive, savage culture governed by tribal leaders who rule by force. They have no concept of family or love, and live to fight with rival tribes and the rest of the planet’s inhabitants.

Among the other Martian races appearing in the early stories and the film are the white apes (seen above) – immense beasts that resemble Earth’s gorillas, but have four arms. The film also features a mysterious race of powerful, shape-shifters called the Therns who are attempting to secretly influence events on the planet.

The Cast and Crew

Along with Kitsch as John Carter, Lynn Collins plays Dejah Thoris, a Red Martian and princess of one of the great cities of Mars. Willem Dafoe voices Tars Tarkas, a Green Martian who becomes Carter’s ally, and Mark Strong plays Matai Shang, one of the Thern.

“John Carter” is directed by “Finding Nemo” and “Wall-E” filmmaker Andrew Stanton, who is making his live-action directorial debut with the film.

And there you have it, folks – a brief guide that takes you from Earth to Mars, courtesy of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ imagination and Disney’s upcoming film “John Carter.” The movie hits theaters this Friday, March 9.

Are you looking forward to seeing “John Carter” in theaters? Chime in below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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