First and Last – John Carter of Mars comic strip


The recent talk of man traveling to Mars and of man-made objects landing on Mars, it is easy to forget that one hundred and fifty years ago John Carter went to Mars. The Civil War veteran, after entering a cave, was mysteriously transported to the red planet. His fantastic adventures there were finally made public in 1912 when Edgar Rice Burroughs got them published. A few decades later ERB’s son John Coleman Burroughs, with considerable latitude, adapted the story into comic strip form.



According to Wikipedia the comic strip was some time in coming:

In 1932, Burroughs tried to convince United Feature Syndicate, the distributors of the Tarzan comic strip, to also make an adaptation of John Carter; however the syndicate rejected the idea. In 1933, King Features Syndicate, wanting a science fiction strip to compete with the popular Buck Rogers, discussed a John Carter adaptation with Burroughs. Burroughs and the illustrator J. Allen St. John, expressed an interest in doing such a strip for King Features. However, Burroughs and King Features were unable to reach an agreement, and the syndicate decided to use an original strip — Flash Gordon by Alex Raymond — instead.

In 1941, United Feature agreed to the creation of a John Carter strip, hoping it would become as successful as Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. The most notable John Carter comic adaptation to appear in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ lifetime, John Carter of Mars was written and illustrated by Burroughs’ son John Coleman Burroughs. This strip debuted on Sunday, December 7, 1941—the very day of the infamous Pearl Harbor Attack.


above: the first December 7, 1941 page.


The comic strip ran for 69 Sunday-only installments (16 months) with reportedly just four newspapers running the feature. The strip ended its newspaper run on March 28, 1943 in mid-story.


above: the final newspaper appearance of March 28, 1943.


But by the time the syndicate had decided to pull the plug on John Carter of Mars J. C. Burroughs had created four more pages.


above: undistributed page #73


That extra month of Sundays still left the story line hanging.

So that’s the first and last (and another last) of the John Carter of Mars comic strip.

To read the entire production, including the last four unpublished strips and all as half pages, go to the ERBzine John Carter of Mars comic strip page.

More recently the story of John Carter has been adapted by Roy Thomas and Pegaso as part of the Edgar Rice Burroughs webcomics collection.