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Dejah Thoris: Amy Chu resurrects the Princess of Mars in new Dynamite series

Contributed by
Feb 6, 2018

Edgar Rice Burroughs' masterful sci-fi novels of Barsoom, A Princess of Mars, The Gods of Mars, and The Warlord of Mars, are titans in the annals of speculative fiction and have influenced countless films, TV shows, comics, novels, video games, and short stories since first published in the early part of the 20th century.

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As one of the pioneers of the genre, Burroughs first serialized these Martian stories in 1912 with Under the Moons of Mars, which later became the debut novelĀ A Princess of Mars in 1917. For over 100 years, science fiction and fantasy enthusiasts have daydreamed of our mysterious Red Planet neighbor and all of its otherworldly sights, fantastic flora and fauna, and monstrous perils.

This week, Dynamite is blasting back to Barsoom with a brand new Dejah Thoris series infused with a pulpy style and spectacular artwork.

Written by Amy Chu (Poison Ivy, Red Sonja, KISS) with arresting art by Pasquale Qualano (Grimm Fairy Tales), this prequel story of the Princess of Mars and future wife of John Carter is steeped in the rich history of the seminal book series. The sleek alien princess often depicted wearing skimpy bikini armor has been a mainstay in comics since being first introduced back in 1952.

"Amy has spearheaded two of our best-selling series with Red Sonja and KISS," stated Dynamite CEO/Publisher Nick Barrucci in a press release. "Dejah Thoris has been one of our strongest characters who has headlined her own series. Bringing Amy's voice to Dejah was a natural choice. I cannot wait until fans see our new ongoing adventures of the Princess of Mars."

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This new solo series was pre-launched in January with a special 25-cent Issue #0 to ensure the largest audience possible can sample and introductory taste and to encourage retailers to stock up with minimal risk attached.

"We're extremely happy to see Dejah Thoris gain a new audience among contemporary readers," added Jim Sullos, President of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. "Mr. Burroughs created a timeless heroine that has enthralled and inspired generations of readers for more than a century."

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Here's the official solicitation synopsis:

The untold story of the Red Martian princess! After learning of the legendary Gardens of Mars from her grandfather, Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium, sets off on a dangerous scientific expedition to save her dying planet. But things don't go the way she planned when she encounters a mysterious Green Martian prisoner... A prequel to Edgar Rice Burroughs' beloved book A Princess of Mars.

While Dejah initially appeared as the love interest of John Carter, the strong and talented royal always stood on her own, and never on the sidelines, often venturing into danger or battle -- and thus serving as a template for later strong, independent science fiction heroines such as Princess Leia of Star Wars and Neytiri of James Cameron's Avatar. Since her comic book debut in 2010, she has constantly served as an adventurous mainstay at Dynamite.

SYFY WIRE chatted with Amy Chu about this exotic blast back to Barsoom to find out what drew her to Burroughs' timeless material, learn the complexities of the stunning Princess of Mars, and find out what readers can expect from Dejah Thoris in this background tale as she searches for the lost promised land of Ephysium.

Dynamite's Dejah Thoris #1 arrives in comic shops on February 7.

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How did you get involved with this engaging Dejah Thoris project with Dynamite?

Amy Chu: Actually, it was a bit of a surprise. They approached me back in the spring of last year and after a nanosecond, I was like hell, YEAH. To say Edgar Rice Burroughs' Princess of Mars is classic and influential sci-fi is an understatement. It's shaped a lot of my childhood sci-fi Ray Bradbury, Heinlein, everything.

Can you take us on a quick tour of the new series' plot?

Sure, first of all this is a prequel, so don't expect John Carter to suddenly burst onto the scene, sorry! When I was reading through the source material, I noticed that after her ship is shot down by the Tharks, Dejah Thoris talks about her mission as, and I quote, "a purely scientific research party" but that is never really explained. Dejah Thoris is obsessed with finding the lost city of Ephysium, the legendary Gardens of Mars that reputedly has the technology for creating water, something that Barsoom desperately needs. She teams up with a crusty old warrior Sajad, and some young scientists, but once outside the security of her home city Helium, things go horribly wrong...

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What was it about the alluring alien character that you felt drawn to?

Aside from being gorgeous, she's clearly smart and on a mission. ERB (I call him ERB in my head) was ahead of his time -- all martians are trained from the time they hatch to fight, regardless of whether they are male or female. This makes for some exciting stories, I think.

Had you been familiar with the Edgar Rice Burroughs character or his sci-fi writings and what sort of research did you do within the source material ?

I read quite a bit, but such a long time ago I had to revisit it. I was a big sci-fi reader in junior high and high school. I also think some of my first comics were Tarzan. Fortunately everything is public domain now and available on gutenberg.org. But for this series we have the blessing of the ERB estate.

What were some of the joys and challenges of bringing the Princess of Mars to life?

It's such a great franchise to work with. One of the challenges, of course, is making it accessible to a wider audience. I'm still surprised how many people don't know the series. Of course I would like to change that.

What abilities, virtues. or flaws did you want to imbue her with after portraying complex female characters like Wonder Woman, Red Sonja, and Poison Ivy?

These are all important, well known existing characters, so for me it's really about teasing out the core attributes of the character. Dejah Thoris has been Red Martian royalty since birth so she may be book smart, but at this stage in her life she is also sheltered and used to a life of privilege. The movie John Carter is actually quite close to the book. It's really worth a watch.

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How was it working with artist Pasquale Qualano and colorist Valentina Pinto and how did the creative relationship form?

It's funny - my husband had some artwork from Pasquale hanging in our dining room; I just didn't put two and two together until I took a look at his portfolio. I am very lucky Pasquale and the colorist Valentina Pinto are friends so it's a really great partnership. They are so easy to work with. I do try to make it fun, but it's not hard because the world of Barsoom is so cool and rich with imagery. Pasquale's linework is beautiful, but there's no Barsoom without color, so props to Valentina for rendering it so beautifully!

Since her first appearance in comics in 1952, Dejah Thoris is often depicted as a sexy action heroine wearing skimpy outfits. How did you approach her well-endowed femininity to make her more multi-faceted?

I approach her like I approach all my characters, as a distinct person (or martian...). If characters, whether they be heroes or villains, are just props, well ultimately that's just not very interesting to write or read in the long run, I would think.

What can readers expect and anticipate as this series progresses into 2018?

Like Red Sonja, this is a bit of a travelogue but in the world of Barsoom. Old fans will see a lot of familiar flora and fauna and some Martian history. Okay, maybe that sounds boring. Think Indiana Jones on another planet, how about that?

As an aspiring force for women in comics, what advice would you lend to female writers and artists struggling for a voice in the industry?

I say what I always say, don't take no for an answer. It's so easy to get discouraged in this business. Keep honing your craft and expanding your network. If one path isn't working, try another. Build your support network, because there will always be someone who knowingly or unknowingly tears you down. Persistence pays off.

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