Anti-Climax Boss: All major antagonists are this, one way or another. None of them provide a serious challenge to Carter in a straight up fight (that is when they are not being disposed by someone else), given they are mostly schemers, way past their former glory or just can't keep up with a Invincible Hero. The closest thing to provide a serious battle to Carter was an Yellow Martian old man, and there was no one there to witness their duel.
Complete Monster: The majority of the villains in the Barsoom series are implacably evil as they are rulers or despots of major empires, but some do stand out.
Ensemble Darkhorse: Dejah Thoris, despite her decreased focus in succeeding books, is one of the most recognizable characters in the Barsoom series. She has been heavily depicted in John Carter's fan arts, popular pin-up subject among artists like Frank Frazetta and is given expanded roles in Dynamite Entertainment's comic adaptation, even starring her own regular series and original miniseries as Dejah of Mars and Dejah Thoris and the Green Men of Mars.
The novels are surprisingly progressive for their time. In particular, the Barsoomian races aren't portrayed as weaker or pathetic compared with each other and the white human protagonist. Far from it in fact, as the black Martians are invariably described as honorable and very attractive, despite most of them being sky pirates. What's more, Red Martians are the result of interbreeding every race together for survival and adaptability, and are typically thought of as the most sympathetic.
The cannibalistic White Martians are even nastier than the Black Martians. Clearly inferior morally to the Red Martians, intellectually to the Black Martians and technologically to the Yellow Martians, the White Martians are easily the most unpleasant of the Barsoomian races. Those hybrid Red Martians (and many of the "monstrous" Green Martians) are good guys and clearly very intelligent, adapting very quickly once not oppressed by the others. The original trilogy even ends with John Carter becoming the eponymous warlord and uniting all the varying races of Barsoom as equals — and this is clearly shown to be a good thing. The portrayal of women has been compared favorably in some respects to even some modern works.
It is also stated that the cross-breeding that resulted in the Red Martians was intentional. An attempt to breed a race that could adapt better to the changing environment.
In the first book at least, John Carter is disgusted at the Green Barsoomians for their warlike ways and violent tendencies, but it is taken for granted that his killing of dozens of generally innocent people is perfectly justifiable because he is doing it to rescue his One True Love. The closest he comes to acknowledging that maybe murder isn't the best way to solve all his problems is when he reflects that the guards were Worthy Opponents and fighting men like him. An Alternate Character Interpretation might be that since the story is told in the first person, the reason John is portrayed as chaotic good despite his somewhat chaotic neutral method of interacting with obstacles is because he's actually a narcissistic sociopath who doesn't see anything wrong with sacrificing other people's lives if they get in the way of his personal happiness and that of those he cares about.
John is a former confederate soldier. note At the time, the Confederacy was often seen as the more romantic side of the Civil War; as attitudes shifted, particularly about race, they became seen as a much more villainous side. Where once a Confederate hero might be expected, to modern readers it carries a whole bucket of Unfortunate Implications. The Film of the Book largely gets around the Unfortunate Implications by making it plain Carter was extremely disillusioned by the Civil War and felt little loyalty towards the Confederate cause
This is actually lampshaded in The Gods of Mars when Carter meets Black Martians for the first time; the narration says he finds them admirable fighters and that their skin tone only makes them more handsome, adding that the reader may find this odd for a Virginian to say.
Fanon Discontinuity: John Carter and the Giant of Mars tends to fall victim to this. One notable example: in the book "A Guide to Barsoom" writer John Flint Roy clearly states he does not consider this story to be a true Barsoom story, and thus didn't include any information about this story and the characters apearing in it in his guide.
Harsher in Hindsight: Two decades before the Nazis rose to power, this series was giving us white, blonde-haired, blue-eyed people who considered themselves superior to all others.
Les Yay: In Gods of Mars and Warlord of Mars, there are suggestions of this between Dejah Thoris of Helium and Thuvia of Ptarth, who are imprisoned together with the villanous Phaidor in the Temple of the Sun. When Dejah Thoris is reunited with her beloved John Carter at the end of Warlord, she recounts how Thuvia's "tender love" kept her sane through the months of their imprisonment.
John Carter admires Xodar and calls him handsome an beautiful at certain points.
This runs in the family, as Tara of Helium and her devoted slave girlkiss in one scene - after the two get into a passionate argument about Tara's safety that includes them declaring their love for each other. While a certain amount of Values Dissonance applies to the interpretation, damn.
John Carter was preceded by an obscure book titled Lieutenant Gullivar Jones: His Vacation, which was about an Earthman transported to Mars through mystical means, fights aliens with his superhuman strength and falls in love with an alien princess. The book was published a decade before Burroughs wrote A Princess of Mars. Interestingly, both works crossed over in comic book format in Dynamite's Warriors of Mars.
Its not hard to imagine the First Born as drow, with them being a very attractive dark-skinned, long-lived race that lives underground, regularly enslaves outsiders and worship an evil, female deity. The obvious difference is that the First Born turn on a new leaf and redeem their evil ways.
Valley Dor. At first, it appears to be the closest thing to a paradise on Mars as lush and fertile land in contrast to the arid wastelands in the planet. The valley is also inhabited by white apes and plant men, some of the most fierce predators in Barsoom. If you managed to survive them, you will be enslaved to the White Martians if not devoured by them. While horrific, its said those that die are the lucky ones. Thuvia, Princess of Ptarth, was their slave for 15 years.
The Carrion Caves in Warlord of Mars. A putrid graveyard riddled with the corpses of Green men and apts, its deemed a cursed place by the Barsoomians and no one dares cross it. Its how the Yellow Martians have kept themselves hidden for so long, since that is the only possible entrance to their domain on foot, while their advanced technology keeps any flying ships of getting too close.
The First Born have been this to the Holy Therns for centuries, using them as playthings, frequently assaulting their kingdom and abducting their women for an unknown purpose, none of which are never seen again. Because they never capture any males, the implication is considered a A Fate Worse Than Death by the Therns, who are forced to leave these women to their fate, since they do not dare strike back or rescue them out of fear of retribution. The female Therns selected to service Issus live for one year and then are sacrificed in her honor.
Older Than They Think: Some fans of a little James Cameron film saw the trailer for the Disney adaptation and declared it a rip-off. Unknown to them, not only is this series older, but James Cameron himself has cited it as direct inspiration for his film.
One-Scene Wonder: Solan. The guy appears very briefly, but he gives Carter a better fight than anyone else in the series.
Seasonal Rot: John Carter and the Giant of Mars is widely considered by fans to be the weakest of the Barsoom stories, and is generally considered something of an afterthought rather than a true John Carter novel. The fact that it wasn't written by Edgar Rice Burroughs himself but rather by his son John "Jack" Coleman Burroughs doesn't help either.
Seinfeld Is Unfunny: Probably at the core of a lot of the criticism the film version is receiving.
Values Dissonance: Burroughs was writing at a time when scientific racialism was in vogue, and it shows; the Red Martians, the most populous (and least advanced technologically) of the humanoid Martians, are said to have originated out of miscegenation between the White, Yellow, and Black Martians, who have been forced into polar enclaves by dysgenic pressure. The fact that the Black Martians are cannibalistic raiders is questionable in modern eyes.