That time Marvel Comics turned a John Carter story into a Star Wars tale

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Aug 6, 2015, 4:59 PM EDT

How do you change one sci-fi property into another? Comics legend Walt Simonson has revealed how it's done.

Slashfilm has posted a look back at a curious and amusing incident in the history of Marvel Comics. During the late 1970s, Marvel Comics was publishing books based on Edgar Rice Burroughs' landmark John Carter series of Mars/space adventures, as well as comics adapted from Star Wars. But when John Carter, Warlord of Mars was canceled after two years, there was still a whole issue's worth of art waiting to be published. So rather than let it go to waste, it was decided to alter that art and make it the basis of a two-issue Star Wars comic story.

Walt Simonson, the legendary comics artist and writer best known for his brilliant mid-'80s run on Thor, worked on the Star Wars comics and recently recounted the story on Facebook, while also posting his original cover art for Star Wars #53:

The basic idea was to use as many of the JC pages as possible with as few changes as possible. Some extra pages had to be done and some panels altered to a greater or lesser degree to get everything to fit together. That was my job, along with the covers.

He continued:

Chris Claremont wrote the issues and, I presume, wrote the original JC story. I’ve forgotten. I don’t know that it was the best way to make comics, but it was an interesting intellectual puzzle to try to solve in a readable fashion. And it was the second time I got to do something like that. I’d helped Steven Grant convert an issue of Tarzan into a couple of Battlestar Galacticas a little earlier. It was fun, challenging, interesting and curious to do, whatever the final outcome.

The actual John Carter art was done by Carmine Infantino, but Simonson did a solid job in imitating his style and making whatever changes were necessary to create a smooth transition. But some anomalies remained, such as the size of the Imperial stormtrooper on that cover. Why are he and other stormtroopers in the story so large? Because they were originally the enemies of John Carter, the Tharks.

You can still see the John Carter story poking through in the pages below (including John himself, under a different name), but in a way that's kind of appropriate; after all, John Carter is often cited as the granddaddy of space opera, so the fact that Simonson and Claremont and Marvel were able to take a Carter story and turn it into a Star Wars narrative doesn't seem like too much of a stretch at all, does it?

(pages via Comic Book Resources)