"I'm a fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs' writing," states Taylor, "and I have been since I was a kid and was first introduced to his work with Tarzan of the Apes. After reading a handful of the Tarzan titles, I gave the first John Carter of Mars title, A Princess of Mars, a try and I was hooked. Burroughs' work lends itself perfectly for comic book adaptation - imaginative tales filled with wondrous vision. And what better of a place to start when adapting one of Burroughs' works than with his very first published novel?"
"Considering that Chris Ryall at IDW has seemingly dug up a trunk filled with my dusty childhood memories of books, books that instilled in me a level of creativity that turned me in the direction I now find myself, it wasn't hard to be attracted to Princess of Mars," says McKeever. "I mean, I thought working on the War of the Worlds project was enough to satisfy my childhood dream, but then he asked if I was interested in working on Princess of Mars, and I jumped at the chance."
How did the work of adapting the book begin? According to McKeever, "When I first was given the series, I immediately grabbed my copy of Princess and started reading it, visualizing the images as I read. Then Dan gave me a full script and plot to which I started to apply the original novel's pacing to my images. At first, Dan had broken down every single panel and page for the first issue, and I was cautious that I wasn't going to be able to let the story breathe visually. But the man knows his pacing, he knows how to allow an artist to explore. A rare talent indeed, and in comics even more-so."
Taylor takes adapting the book seriously, but since it is a well known book, was it difficult to keep it "new and fresh?" "I'm hoping to pull off as true of an adaptation as I possibly can," he replies. "But, going into this I knew that I couldn't include everything that Burroughs created. The Mars that he created - an alien world filled with exotic races and swashbuckling adventure - is plenty rich in imagination in which to draw from. My hope is that I captured the true essence of Burroughs' original work in order for long-time fans of the Barsoom series to get a gratifying experience from reading the adaptation, as well as hopefully steering those that might not be familiar with Burroughs' work to seek out more of his novels and stories. I also think Ted McKeever's art is definitely going to make this telling "new & fresh." I've been blown away with the art that I've seen."
Speaking of the art, there are numerous images of John Carter and Mars out there. How did McKeever approach the art for the book? "Firstly, I purposely stayed away from any visual references to what was already done," McKeever says. "I mean, I have seen tons of comics and book covers depicting the characters, but I didn't want to just make another copy of what was already out there. I am a pain in my own ass when it comes to staying true to making and creating an original concept. I'll go right to the original source, that being the novel, and base all the images and designs and characters from the core text. I did the same with the War of the Worlds book as well.
"And secondly, my style has changed in ways I had no plan to do so. The painted War of the Worlds book caused something in me to change in my black and white line art. How it will come across in the Princess series, I don't know, but I sure as hell am excited about seeing what it will be."
So did McKeever completely go off in his own direction or did he incorporate the "classic" versions of the characters? "A little of both, actually. I based the characters on the actual novel first. They are described fairly specifically, so it gave me a good base. Then I took elements and altered them to suit both my style and the tone I felt the series deserved. For instance, in the past, I remember the Tharks having these big googly eyes that looked more like those sad-puppy paintings than anything menacing. And having read the novel's description of their eyes, being they could look both in front and back without turning their heads, I immediately thought of chameleons that have those cone-shaped eyes that rotate in all directions apart from the other. So, I went with that look, and felt it gave them more of the intensity they needed."
For those who may be unfamiliar with the story, Taylor has this to say about the book. "At its core, I believe that A Princess of Mars is about a warrior without a war in which to fight who discovers a strange land where he can answer his true calling - being a warrior. John Carter is a Civil War veteran that finds himself mysteriously and unexpectedly transported to the planet Mars. He is forced to adapt to this strange and fantastic new world where he faces many dangers, including warring Martians of different species and alien beasts. It also has elements of swashbuckling romance with Carter trying to win the affections of the princess Dejah Thoris - a fellow captive of the Green Martians. Burroughs' first novel of Mars is just the beginning of a long and prolific collection of the adventures of John Carter and the Red Planet."
If this mini-series does well, will there be more John Carter in the future? "I would love to do more," says Taylor. "With all of the adventures that he wrote about Mars there is plenty of great material to explore. Burroughs' Martian tales are a wonderful "sandbox" to play in. While there have been other comic book adaptations of the John Carter series I definitely feel that there is room for more - perhaps both true adaptations and original stories based on Burroughs' tales of Mars. It would definitely be worth exploring."
Fans of Taylor's earlier work, Hero Happy Hour, also get good news this month as IDW is releasing a new Hero Happy Hour special. Taylor says "it's great to once again have Hero Happy Hour being published, and I'm glad that IDW is giving co-creator Chris Fason and I the opportunity to deliver more. I really missed hanging out with those characters at The Hideout Bar & Grill. Readers have been grilling me over the last two years on when there would be a new round of Hero Happy Hour - and now it has arrived with Super Deluxe Hero Happy Hour: The Lost Episode! Chris and I are packaging this issue with a lot of bonus material. Think along the lines of all the extras that come with special edition or deluxe DVD releases nowadays and you'll be on the right track. Yes, I'm talking about things along the lines of outtakes, interviews with the characters, and more."
For both writer and artist, this is the where their focus is at the moment. "I am doing the covers for a 5-issue Zombie series at IDW in-between breaks on Princess," McKeever says. "And there are a couple of projects I have in mind for afterwards. But I like to work on one at a time, so I can stay focused and give it the time necessary."
And Taylor says that "I'm currently concentrating on making sure that I do the A Princess of Mars adaptation justice. I'm also making sure that the return of Hero Happy Hour is truly "Super" and "Deluxe." Like any other writer I do have plenty of stories, concepts, and ideas bouncing around my gray matter, but my editorial duties are currently keeping me busy enough so they're just going to remain bouncing about.
"I'm just glad that IDW has given me the opportunity to introduce one of Edgar Rice Burroughs' classic science-fiction tales to hopefully what will become new fans of his work. A Princess of Mars is an amazing adventure - an adventure I hope that everyone enjoys as much as I do."
"I would like to say that with Dan's adapting the novel into a perfectly paced series, I knew this would be a blast," McKeever concludes, "but then to have Chris Chuckry doing the colors... actually "colors" doesn't do justice to what this man does. He brilliantly creates textures and tones that are truly amazing. After he colored my Enginehead series, I was hoping a day would come when he and I could work together again. And so, here it is."