By now, you've likely heard about Disney's $250 million film John Carter, directed by Pixar's Andrew Stanton and starring two people from X-Men: Origins: Wolverine with no name recognition (no offense to Taylor Kitsch and Lynn Collins), due out march 9. While it's visually interesting from what we've seen, there's also some serious concern that it's going to bomb because nobody knows who John Carter is these days. Here's a hint – he's an Edgar Rice Burroughs character who has all sorts of adventures on Mars. While 'John Carter of Mars' is a colloquial name and not the actual title of any book, it likely would've made a slightly more interesting movie title. However, it is getting some good critical buzz.
You may have also been perusing the racks of your local comic shop and seen Dynamite Entertainment publishing books called Warlord of Mars, featuring the very same Burroughs characters.
If we're honest, it's more than likely covers like this that caught your eye. To be fair, this is actually how Burroughs described Dejah Thoris in the book. The cheesecakey pose, though? Feel free to beef with.
So what's the deal with that? Well, in America, Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter stories (and his Tarzan stories, for that matter) are public domain, so Dynamite technically has a right to publish these books as much as Disney has the right to make the movie. However, there's a difference between public domain stories and registered trademarks, so Dynamite can't use the name 'John Carter' in the titles (nor can they use Tarzan). This is why the book is called Warlord of Mars (and their Tarzan book is called Lord of the Jungle). Despite all that, Dynamite is now being sued for trademark infringement. Is this another hyperactive Disney-lawyer thing like the crap they're pulling on Ghost Rider creator Gary Friedrich? Nope. This is the Burroughs estate making with the lawsuit. Seems Dejah Thoris is trademarked as well, not to mention the titles they're using are just truncations of John Carter: Warlord of Mars and Tarzan: Lord of the Jungle. Murky legal waters there.
This is why two different publishing companies are going to be putting out 'John Carter of Mars' books. Only one of them gets to use the precious name of the protagonist, though, and that's Disney's comic book arm Marvel. They're touting their actual cooperation with the Burroughs estate, and the fact that their new books will be considered official canon and everything.
Here are new preview pages from John Carter: The Gods of Mars #1, a Sam Humphries adaptation with art from Ramon Perez and a cover by Julian Totino Tedesco, due in stores on March 21.