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Volume 1708

Dave Burton and his portfolio of Barsoomian art

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


Part 5
Part 6
ERB Artist Article
A Princess of Mars Promo

Part 5: An Artists Journal A Princess of Mars By David Burton
Martian Airships

When I started designing the Martian airships, I went over every description that I could find, not only in A Princess of Mars, but in the other books as well. Like everything else, I wanted my airships to be realistic and functional.

As that they touch ground on rare occasion, I needed a bottom that would be flat, since they don't have landing gear. I designed the bottom so that the landing lights under the ship were in recesses protecting them from the ground.  I wanted them to be able to handle like Mr. Burroughs says they do, so I streamlined them so that  traveling at fast speeds wouldn't be a problem. I also had nearly everything enclosed, depending on the type of ship, thus protecting the crew and passengers.

I made several different styles and wanted them all to work. I have merchant airships, military airships, and so on. I had a problem with the one-man flyers as that they change at a point in the series and you no longer sit in a chair, you're laying flat on your stomach. I've designed them to look like the ones with the chair but more aerodynamic. However, the overall design had to work.  I struggled with all kinds of designs and though I wanted them to look like a ship, I also wanted them to do everything that Mr. Burroughs had them doing. I based the interior designs on actual ships and came up with the outer design while playing with a model ship. I took out the middle of it and had my design.

Arming them wasn't easy. I had to go through several designs before I found a gun turret that I felt would work. I have to say that old movie serials like "Flash Gordon" were always on my mind while designing the airships and their weapons.

It always amazes me how the simplest things become so hard until you just look at them a different way.

Then I had to design the flags and medallions for all of those Martian cities.

. . . continued in Part 6
Martian Airships


End of Part 5

Part 6: An Artists Journal A Princess of Mars By David Burton
Martian Flags and Symbols
One of the things that I felt was very important was the insignias that everyone on Mars wears denoting where they're from. I started by designing a few and then felt that if I were going to do that, I should design what their rank is as well. From there, I went ahead in the series and noted some of the major cities. I felt that if an airship were to be shown, I should have a flag noting which city it was from. So I went from there. All six cities that I felt would be most important in the first three novels were designed. This was easy in that I went through a book featuring flags and national symbols. I felt that Greater Helium and Lesser Helium would have similar flags, so I designed them so that they would make one design if they were put together yet also would make good sister flags as that the deigns are opposite from one another.

For the Tharks, I went further. I took what I had created, a series of symbols that denoted rank and created a small written language. The symbols read: "Thark". For the other nations, I based their symbols on what was in their flag, making it easy to note where they with the viewer in mind and felt that they would note a Korad when they saw either their flag or a symbol no matter what the rank. I then added color to them noting military position. Such as if they served in the Navy or Ground troops.

I had a lot of fun with this and felt at this point in designing the Mars series that everything was truly coming together. I felt that at this point, I had made it, what my friend Gary Gianni had told to make it. Mine. No one else, to my knowledge has ever taken everything to this level of detail for an illustrated book. I also felt that something greater was coming from this. I had what would best be called a "calling". I had this vision of what I wanted to do with this series. And that was to take it to a whole new level.






Martian Flags and Symbols





End of Part 6

ERB Artist: David Burton
A Book Review from SeaCoast Online by Rebecca Rule

Classic Burroughs story gets a new look 
A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, illustrated by David Burton 
(Leanta Books: paper, 120 pages, $ 29.99)

"I opened my eyes upon a strange and weird landscape. I knew that I was on Mars; not once did I question my sanity or my wakefulness. I was not asleep, no need for pinching here; my inner consciousness told me that I was upon Mars, as plainly as your conscious mind tells you that you are upon Earth. You do not question that fact; neither did I."

In 1866, John Carter fell asleep in a cave surrounded by ferocious Apache warriors, but he woke on Mars among giant, green, tusked, four-armed Martians, some ferocious. Edgar Rice Burroughs published "A Princess of Mars" in 1912 as a serial in the pulp magazine "The All-Story." Since then it's been reprinted many times, and since the words stay the same, the challenge for each new edition is to reinterpret the story through the art. 

David Burton of Northwood, professional illustrator and Burroughs fan, found a lot of space for interpretation in his version of the classic. Though the Martians are described as "naked," Burton realized that, to a Virginia gentleman of the era, "naked" might not mean nude. For example, in the eyes of the Colonists, Native Americans were "naked," because their clothes were unconventional -- animal hides and buckskins. So Burton gives his Martians some skimpy but functional coverings. He also designed his Martians more realistically than previous illustrators had:

"Their anatomy should reflect the possibility of their existence; that they ?could be real.' In the history of this story, no one else has looked upon the creatures of Mars with a view for functional anatomy in mind. I began by designing the Tharks.

"A bipedal creature with four arms would have no way to move them if the second set was simply attached near their rib cage. I decided that in order to move properly, they would need a second set of shoulders and chest muscles to operate the arms in the deadly ways that Mr. Burroughs describes in the story."

And how would they kiss with those big tusks? Burton experimented with sculptures, devising ways for the heads of males and females to be close together, tusks interlocked.

"Not only was it affectionate," Burton says, "but it became even more intimate with that feeling of being locked together in the moment."

He looked to the animal kingdom -- spiders, ants -- for clues to the anatomy of the multi-legged wild creatures of Mars. Fantasy, through the eyes of David Burton, can be rooted in biology.

Burton and his business partner, Kate Wiggin of Lee (also his girlfriend), and his other business partner, Kylen Wiggin (Kate's son), talked with me about their publishing business, Leanta Books. Burton, who's been a freelance artist for 20 years, was unhappy with his publisher. In print, Burton's art had been "distorted," and "the color was off." Kate says the publisher "didn't do justice to David's artwork." Her idea: "We could do this ourselves." The three of them researched the process, the technology, the market, possibilities for printing and distribution, and came up with a vision for their company. They knew what they didn't want -- books that would blend in with everything else. They wanted to print classic novels with a new look for a new generation of readers to discover. David Burton would be the art director and marketer. Kate would do editing and finances. Kylen -- a 21-year-old computer whiz -- would design the books, take care of the technology, and design and maintain the all-important web site,, which would provide a worldwide market.

Burton says, "The Internet is key to breaking that barrier of how to get to a lot of people."

If you're not one of the five big publishers that control most books published in this country, distribution can be tough -- it's the bugaboo for independent presses. Advertising in fantasy and sci-fi magazines helps. So does a presence at conventions, shows, book signings, and a newsletter. All of these efforts help to create a network for sales. 

"A Princess of Mars" was Leanta's first volume; H.P. Lovecraft's "The Book: Volume 1" was their second, a collection of Lovecraft's Necronomicon stories. The necronomicon is the book that holds the secrets of the universe. Shawn Myers, one of Burton's art students, illustrated Volume 1. And Volume 2 is on in production. 

With "War of the Worlds" and "Gods of Mars" set to come out in the spring, in just over a year since start-up, the family business has developed, as Kylen said, "a process that flows." 

I asked David Burton what advice he'd give others interested in breaking away from the mainstream as artists or publishers. He said:

"Never give up. I didn't give up on my career as an illustrator. (Even though) it's not a job where you get a regular pay check. It's been hard. There are easier routes. I could have compromised, i.e. sold out. But things have always worked out. (I tell my art students) even if the arts are not what they end up doing, whatever they seek, that's what they should keep going at. I definitely believe one person can change the world."

Attention high school writers: The New Hampshire Young Writers Conference is an opportunity to work with professional writers, as dedicated to their art as David Burton is to his. It will be held on Saturday, April 14, at New England College, but the time to apply is now. Fritz Wetherbee of "N.H. Chronicle" will give the keynote address this year. Intensive workshops on poetry, fiction and sci-fi/fantasy will be offered by such well-known writers as James Patrick Kelly, Katherine Towler, Kevin Harvey, Liz Ahl and Maura MacNeil. Go to for information and to download an application. To receive the early-bird discount, you must register before Feb. 3.

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

See more David Burton art at: ERBzine 0535  and

Contact the artist at:

See Volume I in ERBzine 1698
See Volume II in ERBzine 1708
See Volume III in ERBzine 1714
See Volume III in ERBzine 1715
See the Official David Burton Website
ERBzine Artist Profiles Series Presents David Burton

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