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Volume 1698

An Artist Journal
"A Princess of Mars"
By David Burton

This Week's Entry
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Part 1:

When I was first given the opportunity to illustrate, Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars, I was dubious due to the fact that so many famous people had lent their talents to it since it was first published in 1912. I had at first tried to think of how I was going to illustrate what had been done countless times before me. I then began laying out the ground work and soon realized what I wanted was a sense of realism that hadn't been done before.

I had tried to think of some way that would make them different. I had been trying this and getting nowhere. One day, I was out feeding the llamas that are owned by my housemates. One of them, Juniper, was very pregnant and while I was watching her, I noticed how she reached up behind her head with her back leg to scratch. When I saw this, I realized that all animals had to function like real animals. I had been trying to do what others had done. And I then realized that I had something. I just didn't know what.

Then I had this thought, what on this planet had more than four legs?

THEN, it came to me. . .

Dave Burton and his portfolio of Barsoomian art


End of Part 1

Part 2:

I then returned to my drawing table and set aside all of the work that I had been doing (see Journal entry # 1) and discovered what I needed to do. In order for these creatures to work, to make them real I had to make their bodies work like any animal found on this planet.

I found what I was looking for and everything fell into place. The anatomy of spiders and ants were my models for Baths, Calots, Thoats and the rest. I had done what my dear friend and fellow illustrator, Gary Gianni had stressed: I had made my own way and in doing so, made Burroughs Mars mine.

For the Tharks... Now that was a different problem.

For the Tharks, I went to everything that I knew of human anatomy. I had to make them like Burroughs described them and I had to make them look like they would function. I had to make them look like they were real. I designed them so that they would have everything that Burroughs had described. They can walk on their “forelegs” or lower set of arms and they can function. I gave them larger joints and larger feet with the heel extending further back so that they could hold a fifteen-foot-tall body upright. I made the spine larger at the bottom and the lower torso's back muscles larger so that it could hold everything upright. The upper torso has a wider frame so that the upper set of arms doesn't slap into the lower set of arms. I gave the male a different look around the head than the female. For making that troublesome area in the middle work, I made it a neck. That's how the lower body connects to the upper body.

Ok, now that I had the design of the creatures and people that populated ERB's Mars, I had to dress them and deal with that whole “naked” issue...


Side View of Thark Torso

Front View
Design and Art Copyright 2002 ~ David Burton

End of Part 2

Part 3

There's this view of the Mars series that I don't understand. I've read them. And as far as A Princess of Mars goes, I've read that book about dozen times. Now, I can see how people get the idea that Mr. Burroughs meant that everyone on Mars is running around with no clothing, or at best, a few bits of leather. But I don't think that these people have read the book.

Now, for example, Mr. Burroughs states that when John Carter sees Dejah Thoris for the first time, she's, "as destitute of clothes...," and, "... she was entirely naked." Now after this references to how she and anyone else is dressed it is stated that they are naked, but not so in this fashion. He wants us to know that this story is being told to us by a man who is from 1866. A man who is from the South and is nothing but a gentleman. Now I went to lengths to try to see how he would see things. I know that he states how he is not a scientist and how he has no knowledge of what most of the beings on Mars are, so he relates them to what he does know. Briefly; he sees a Thoat for the first time. He relates it to a horse as that it is being ridden. Had he seen it grazing the yellow moss with no rider, he may have related it to a deer and we'd have a whole different idea of what they look like. He goes on to say how cites are dead, ruined and occupied. I found this interesting and took it to mean that a dead city was like those that the Tharks lived in and that a ruined city was just that: ruined.

As for the nudity. I had this interesting conversation with my friend, Gary Gianni. He was telling me how I should look at this. Which was that he had read Robinson Crusoe, and how in this one chapter, he had gone out to the wreck of the ship. He doing so, he states how he swam out to the wreck, naked. At the wreck, he then proceeded to fill his pockets. Now, if he's naked just what does he have for pockets? I was then told how Gary mentioned this to a friend of his who is English and stated how that in England, to this very day men are considered naked when they remove just their shirts! Now, going back to the 1960s, Cher was considered naked because she had her navel exposed. I recall, "The Sonny and Cher" show and don't ever remember Cher being naked. I was also watching MTV when Britteny Spears removed what appeared to be most of her clothing. Now she was covered, and nothing was seen. But within a day or so of this, I was hearing people remarking at how she stripped naked on national television. No I'm not ignorant. I know what a naked person looks like and neither of these ladies was ever naked. And if you go back and look at our own history, people were always referring to the native Americans are being naked even though, they were wearing clothes!

So I tried to see everything through John Carter's eyes. I didn't see the people of Mars as naked. I saw them wearing clothing that might be revealing and also different, but none of them as being naked. I'm having a hard time understanding any of the people who want to draw or paint them naked. And it doesn't make sense to be nude on Mars even if you're a native. You've got those rocks and then there's the heat of the day and cold of the night. And those cloaks aren't going to cut it, sorry. And then there's combat. There have been warriors who went into battle with nothing more than their weapons. They were also charging in and were feared due to their obvious insanity of wearing nothing at all into battle. Now think of this, Tharks are scaring. But when you're fifteen feet tall and you're fighting a six-foot-tall man, are you sure you want to be naked? Those Red Martians have this advantage of hitting you where you do not want to be hit. So I gave it a lot of thought and gave everyone clothes.

I had a blast with this! I went all over the world and throughout history putting this necklace with those wrist ornaments and that top with that belt and those boots. I made some clothing up and designed it to fit with Mr. Burroughs descriptions, such as their insignias.

I saw how their clothing would be different. For example; I went with a Tabetan influence for the Red Martians and then mixed that with some Mayan and some of my own design. I had it in me and felt that was how Mr. Burroughs meant them to be. If you look up what a harness is, you'll find that there are a lot more designs than those "X" types that everyone's so found of. There are SO many and I felt that if I were to make this series mine, I had to break away from what had been done before. So I did.



Next, weapons and how those long swords can be used by both Red Martians and Green...

End of Part 3

An Artists Journal # 4
A Princess of Mars: Weapons
By David Burton

    While reading A Princess of Mars I found that Mr. Burroughs did not really go into detail when it came to how the weapons were carried. Neither did he state if the Tharks had different weapons than the other people of Mars. If so, then it would be difficult for someone to just pick a Thark long sword and use it. It would have to be about eight feet long in order for it to be a long sword for a Thark and an average Martian being about six feet tall wouldn't be able to use it. The same would go with a Thark pistol. So I played with designs and found that I could create a series of weapons that could be used by everyone as that is what is implied by Mr. Burroughs.

   Tharks have large hands and so I took the pistols and based them on a blunderbuss. This allowed for a large enough handle that both Thark and Red Martian to use. The swords are light and I gave each race a design for its crossguard and pommel.

   As to how they are carried - one has to imagine that the two main swords are carried on the side and the longsword carried on the back. If for no other reason than to allow mobility. You can't have three swords on your sides and still carry a hand gun and think that you'll be able to function. Walking, alone, would be difficult! So I placed the dagger and short sword on the side and the longsword on the back. The pistol rests on the opposite side of the swords. I have Tharks carrying their longsword on the same side as the pistol because the weight and accessibility wouldn't be any trouble. The longsword is about five feet from pommel to tip. Not exactly a long sword for a Thark, but long enough to make it a very formidable weapon in their hands.

   Next: The mighty Martian Airships


ERB's A Princess of Mars
A new Leanta Books edition lavishly illustrated by David Burton
Now available at through the LULU Books Online Order Site

Originally published in 1912, 
Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars
is a classic science-fiction tale, brought to life by 
the stunning artwork of David W. Burton. 
The artist has been working on the 
nearly 30 illustrations for this book for the last six years!

"David Burton's illustrations are revolutionary in the anatomical realism of the amazing creatures that inhabit Burroughs' world. This book is wonderfully illustrated throughout, with portraits of the principle characters and full-page illustrations that give insight into Burroughs' amazing world as has never been seen before." ~ Leanta

"When it comes to accurately depicting the creatures that inhabit Edgar Rice Burroughs' worlds, David Burton stands as one of ERB's most conscientious interpreters. His thoroughness is staggering and deserves to be lauded. David really does his ERB homework!" ~ William Stout

124 pages, 8.50" x 11.00" ~ perfect binding ~ black and white interior ink
ISBN: 978-1-84728-153-1
$22.98 Download ~  $29.99 Print 

Purchase at:  or

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