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YMMV / John Carter of Mars

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  • 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 only time Carter found himself outmatched in sheer skill was old Solan. Carter even laments that that phenomenal duel had no witnesses.
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  • Complete Monster: In The Gods of Mars, the Big Bad, Issus, ancient ruler of the First Born Black Martians, has manipulated the Martian religion into a cult surrounding her. Making the First Born into a violent force that routinely kill and enslave others, Issus lures victims to her domain in the Valley of Dor where they are killed or made into her slaves. Many are forced to fight in the arenas to die for her entertainment while the women are made into her handmaidens who only last a year before she kills and eats them. Throwing John Carter and friends into the arena, Issus has a slave revolt massacred when John gets them to rise up against her. Out of spite, Issus later locks John's beloved princess Dejah Thoris and two other women who love him into a chamber that will seal off, leaving them nothing to eat but one another. With no care for her own people, Issus stands as among the worst Barsoom has to offer.
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  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: While Barsoom's a dying world in the twilight of its civilization with its hordes of barbarians sacking any remaining cities they come across, the presence of Fantastic Racism among the different Martian subspecies, the Red Martians being the only real remnant of culture confined to a few hundred remaining cities with resources getting more scarce, cannibalistic priests and sky pirates, and constant bloodshed, Mars is an awesome place to live. With all kinds of futuristic airships and inventions to use, gorgeous landscapes and plantlife, attractive men and women going completely naked, everyone living in a World of Badass where fighting is awesome and injuries can be healed easily, and everyone getting long lifespans up to a thousand years, who wouldn't want to go?
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  • Evil Is Sexy: Phaidor. A Thern princess wearing nothing more than jewelry. Many illustrators depict her just like Dejah Thoris with blonde hair and white skin, but with a god complex and taste for cannibalism. Even the hero notes she is very beautiful, despite turning down her advances.
  • Fair for Its Day:
    • 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 even some 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.
    • John is a former Confederate soldier. note 
    • 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.
  • Ho 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 villainous 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 and beautiful at certain points.
    • This runs in the family, as Tara of Helium and her devoted slave girl kiss 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.
    • In Master Mind of Mars, Ras Thavas' servant Yamdor is a man who had his brain switched with that of a woman who apparently loves Ras. Apparently, Ras Thavas had no use for the female body. After Ras Thavas gives himself a new, younger body, he complains that he is possessed by an uncomfortable desire for companionship... and thus he and Ulysses Paxton end up going on frequent walks together. He also gets very jealous when Ulysses starts spending more time with Valla Dia.
  • Moe: Sola of the Green Martians. She's kind, comforts Dejah when she's captured, cares for her father, and suffers a tragic backstory.
  • Newer Than They Think:
    • 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 (as well as the famously All Myths Are True comic series, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.)
    • It's not hard to imagine the First Born as drow - they're a very attractive, dark-skinned, long-lived race that lives underground, regularly enslaves outsiders, and worship an evil, female deity. (The inventor of the drow, Gary Gygax, has cited the John Carter books as one of the many sources that inspired the lore of Dungeons & Dragons.) The obvious difference is that the First Born shake off their evil ways once their Church Of Evil is destroyed.
    • Green Martians were orcs before it was cool. Hell, they even embodied aspects of both Tolkien and Blizzard orcs, being depicted as vicious and warlike in general, but some of their members were honorable to a fault - before these tropes were established.
    • The White Martians resemble the Nazis as supremacists with Aryan features such as blonde hair, fair skin and blue eyes, yet they predated the Nazis rise of power by decades.
  • 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 Old Master. 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.
  • Tear Jerker:
    • A Princess of Mars ends with John Carter being abruptly sent back to Earth just after re-activating the atmospheric plant. He spends the rest of his natural life stuck on Earth, never knowing whether or not he managed to save his wife and child, while those around him regard him as a bitter, crazy old war veteran.
    • The end of The Gods of Mars - Dejah Thoris and Thuvia are imprisoned in the Temple of the Sun with an Ax-Crazy Phaidor, and John has no idea if they will survive.
    • While the end of The Warlord of Mars is upbeat compared to the first two books, it still has a sad moment, as Phaidor sees John Carter reunited with Dejah Thoris and realizes that he will never love her like that... and then she takes a very long jump. It's hard to decide which is sadder - the thought that she is still so deluded that she doesn't realize the fall will kill her, or the thought that she does know and no longer cares.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • Burroughs was writing at a time when scientific racialism was in vogue, and it shows; the Red Martians, the most populous 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.
    • John being a Confederate veteran is a lot harder to swallow in the modern day, as the romantic ideal of the Confederacy has faded and their uglier aspects, particularly support of slavery, have been focused on. Modern adaptations tend to get around this by portraying him as having become disillusioned with the Confederacy, and showing his service as Desperately Seeking A Purpose In Life which he fills on Mars. It helps that the series at least tries to have a Prejudice Aesop on the reg, making it easy to retroject a character arc of John Carter abandoning any lingering white supremacist ideals onto the framework of the original stories.
  • The Woobie: Dejah Thoris. Her husband disappears mysteriously one night during a mission to save all of Barsoom, their child is born on the same day and she is forced to see him grow without their father. Then, her child goes missing, followed by her father and grandfather who go looking for him, leaving her completely alone. When she tries looking for them, she is captured and enslaved by the First Born. She manages to reunite with her husband after 10 years for a few moments before being thrown inside a dungeon with a murderous White Martian that is jealous of her and tries to kill her - and when that fails, she is forced to spend several months locked with her attempted murderer. When she is finally freed from the Temple, its not Carter who came to save her, but his enemies who want to exact retribution on him through his wife and take her prisoner. She spends every moment being thrown around as a hostage with the threat of being horribly defiled and tortured by them just to spite Carter, and is even faced with the prospect of being forcibly married to a Evil Overlord who has taken a shine on her. It's truly a wonder how she did not break by the end of the whole ordeal.