What If John Carter Was Black?

Scott Fogg writes for Bleeding Cool about John Carter, his new project, and his parents.

My parents were weird. That's not a complaint. I'm weird too. I like being weird. And a big part of my weirdness comes directly from them. Or because of them.

We're Doing Something Weird with John Carter
Credit: Kelsi Jo Silva

Growing up, I collected a lot of action figures—First He-Man, then GI Joe. My parents had no problem with the elaborate and brutal wars I would stage in my room and backyard. However, they did have a problem with a lot of the shows and movies the action figures came from. Little toy soldiers with guns and swords and jetpacks and tanks were okay . . . but a show about them was too violent. It's never not been weird to me.

But in not knowing who these action figures were, I had to tell my own stories, create my own characters, build my own backstories. It frustrated me at the time, but it made me the storyteller I am today. Giving GI Joe's elaborate backstories led to writing short plays for my school, which led to short films, leading to film school and then theater and then comic books.

We're Doing Something Weird with John Carter
Credit: Kelsi Jo Silva

I love discovering a character, figuring out their story, and then deciding what medium would be best to tell their story, which is why I jumped at the chance to co-write a graphic novel about John Carter. I love John Carter. I love the movie; I love the books, I love the comics. I love the legacy and the stamp it put on science fiction.

To adapt to this world, which is so clearly crafted for prose, is something I've always wanted to do into a visual medium. But I never had a good angle on it. I never had something to bring to the story. Enter Leslie Foster. Leslie is one of my best friends. We went to film school together, and we've always wanted to collaborate on a project. His career and his art have taken him to LA, where he works at Disney.

We're Doing Something Weird with John Carter
Credit: Kelsi Jo Silva

He texted me earlier this summer, saying, "do you know what would have made that movie better? What if John Carter was Black? Instead of being a former Confederate soldier, what if he was a Black man who couldn't find a place to call his own until he made a place for himself on Mars?"

We're Doing Something Weird with John Carter
Credit: Kelsi Jo Silva

That was it. That was the hook my weird little brain needed. It added depth and pathos and a context to the story that — quite frankly — the original did not have. Leslie wanted me to write. "I just want to read this," he said. But I refused. "We're writing this together."

We're Doing Something Weird with John Carter
Credit: Kelsi Jo Silva

Over the summer, Leslie Foster and I would slip away from Earth 2020 and go to Mars 1866. We hung out with heroes and villains and let them tell their story to us. It turns out; the story is as relevant today as it was in 1910. It's a fight for survival that is filled with hope and optimism. It's a story of dreamers fighting for the future. It was the escape we needed, and when Kelsi Jo Silva began drawing the book, we knew it was an escape we wanted to share with everyone.

We're Doing Something Weird with John Carter
Credit: Kelsi Jo Silva

Because we live in weird times, maybe my parents knew what they were doing. Maybe you need to be a little weird. Prince of the Silent Planet is on Kickstarter now, and it could use your help.

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About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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