Writer Commentary – Mark Rahner on Dejah Of Mars #1
We saw the release of a new Dejah Of Mars series for Dynamite from writer Mark Rahner. Now Rahner goes page by page through the new issue in this writer's commentary.
The premise of DEJAH OF MARS is simple: John Carter has saved the Princess many times, and now it's her turn to save him.
A little less simple: My story in the WARLORD OF MARS 100 special, "Stay," was a prologue to DOM. That story was nearly wordless and fairly enigmatic. But all the questions get answered in this four-issue series. It also ties into my little realm of Martian continuity with direct links to DEJAH THORIS AND THE GREEN MEN OF MARS.
Dejah Thoris is posing as a servant in rich guy Tu Rell's house. His line about her changing her hair is a reference to the final four issues of GREEN MEN where I had her whack all of her hair off – partly as a way of acting out post-trauma, but also to go under cover as a slave to Tharks. You'd be surprised at what strong feelings people have about her hair.
This fight between Dejah and Tu Rell is indicative of what's to come – nasty and not superheroic. She's not messing around and she doesn't care who this one-percenter is.
Flashback. Woola, who was arguably the central figure of the WARLORD 100 stories, leads Dejah back to the spot in the Barsoomian desert where Carter parlayed with the mysterious, old red man who wound up taking him away after a savage beating. In that story, Woola had to go against his strongest instinct – to protect Carter – and obey Carter's command to do nothing. I'm not sure Woola will ever fully understand why, but the reason will become clear to you soon.
Dejah visits the scene of another crime: the museum where Carter dropped several guards and stole a sacred Helium relic. It doesn't add up for her. Why would he do it? Why did he only knock the guards unconscious? Her grandfather the jeddak doesn't' care. Carter broke the law.
Carthoris is a little petulant in this story. He's at that age, and he's dying to do something, fight someone. When his mother tells him to do something harder than fighting – not fighting – it mirrors what Carter told Woola earlier. A recurring theme in my Dejah Thoris stories is her awareness that you can't punch or stab your way out of every problem. Lots of them, sure.
At the end of GREEN MEN, she tells Carter that someday she'll explain to him everything she's been through. Now it's several years later, she's told him, and that's the adventure Carter was chronicling when he was interrupted in WOM 100. He was writing "Dejah Thoris and the Green Men of Mars." She's holding up his handwritten pages. Through some sort of error, Carter's writing doesn't show up on the page in this comic. I'm told it's fixed in the digital version and will be there in the eventual trade paperback.
The glamour shot! Carter has saved Dejah countless times. Now the shoe, or sandal, or whatever, is on the other foot!
I've said elsewhere that my goal in any Dejah Thoris story is to show why Carter thinks she's incomparable. Here she's out of options, her husband's missing, their boy is a little irritating, and the family dog is no more help. The pressure is awful and the trail's cold. When she says, "We make a new trail," neither Steve McQueen nor Batman could be any cooler. I especially like Jethro Morales' depiction of her here.
Here's where my background as a journalist kicks in. I like a little procedural action. They have to pound the pavement. Leave out some bait. Wait. And it sucks.
Our first glimpse of Carter and his captor, the old red man from WOM 100 who calls himself the Red Reaper. Their dialogue gets into aspects of Carter that Burroughs touched on and I always wanted to explore. The opening of A PRINCESS OF MARS strongly implies that Carter's immortal. And yet he never really reflects on it much. He's also a giant contradiction – nearly Christlike in his kindness, yet such an invincible warrior that the Reaper wouldn't even try fighting him. That explains some of the body language between them in "Stay."
Back to the present and Dejah's fight with Tu Rell. Here's where the stakes for her become more clear. She's pulling out all the stops to find her husband, and you pity the fool who gets in her way. But she's kicking a hornet's nest. She's disrupting people with money – much more than the Helium royal family. This isn't an overtly political comic, but it mirrors the familiar. As the United States moves toward oligarchy, the rich and the corporations have the true power. Always, always follow the money.
The Princess is now in way over her head, and it's only going to get worse. Carter's a fugitive who's incurred the death penalty, and she's forbidden to search for him or help him. She's alone. Everything's closing in on her. And she doesn't give a damn.
For more on Dejah Of Mars #1, click here.