Why John Carter of Mars is the Original Star Wars

While Star Wars was said to be inspired by George Lucas’ love of the Flash Gordon serials, the real inspiration can from science fiction author Edgar Rice Burroughs.

His nearly 100-year-old stories about a human that travels to Mars and falls in love with a beautiful princess are often argued as being responsible for the whole “green men from Mars” thing – and they also get the occasional bit of credit for the influence on Star Wars.

It's irrelevant that the recent “based on the books” movie called John Carter flopped big time at the box office.

Regarding that film, Forrest Gump director Robert Zemeckis apparently turned down the chance to direct, quipping “George already pillaged all of that” with the Star Wars movies.

In other words, most of the best elements of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars fantasies had already been “borrowed” for George Lucas' space saga, and just because the film was dismissed by many people, the source material cannot be so easily rejected.

Lucas made no bones about how he was inspired by Rice's work and said in 1977 “Originally, I wanted to make a Flash Gordon movie, with all the trimmings, but I couldn’t obtain all the rights. So I began researching and found where (Flash Gordon creator) Alex Raymond got his idea: The works of Edgar Rice, especially his John Carter series of books.”

Indeed, the first draft of the Star Wars sequel The Empire Strikes Back was written by science fiction author Leigh Bracket.

She was quoted as saying:

“I was introduced to Edgar Rice Burroughs at a very young age… That changed the course of my life . . . My fascination for Mars came from the fascination for his Mars.”

It's hard then not to see how her influence also shaped Star Wars by way of Burroughs. Some of the influences are plot-based, and some are style-based.

Check out this comparison:

Dejah Thoris, the Princess Of Mars herself, was commonly described and depicted as wearing golden bikinis and showing a lot of skin. Is it a surprise then that another princess wore a golden bikini in Return of the Jedi? Probably not, so Good one George.
1 Star Wars John Carter bikini inspiration leia
Images Courtesy of Marvel Comics and Lucasfilm

George also took a bit of “naming” help from Burroughs. Ever wonder where the word “Jedi” came from?

While it may have an Asian language link, the monarchs found on the planet of Mars are titled Jed (king), Jeddak (emperor), and Jeddara (empress) respectively. So one can assume Jedi may have come from Edgar Rice.

On Barsoom, a “padwar” is a low-ranking officer. This is not too far a stretch from “padawan,” an apprentice Jedi, is it not?

Did you ever see Attack of the Clones?

In the end, it featured a pretty epic arena battle whereby Yoda swooped in with his merry band of Clone Troopers to save the luckless Jedi from certain defeat. Did you notice that John Carter had a similar scene where the hero had to battle chained alien beasts?
Star Wars John Carter arena attack clones
Images Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures and Lucasfilm

If you thought John Carter was ripping off Star Wars, think again – Burroughs wrote this scene over 100 years ago.

So, if we accept that these elements found in Star Wars are indeed stolen from the stories that Burroughs set on Mars, then it would seem only fair to Disney's John Carter that it should be recognized as the original Star Wars movie.

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Editor in Chief at Wealth of Geeks | + posts

Paul Rose Jr is the Editor in Chief of Wealth of Geeks & manages the Associated Press program for The Insiders network. He has worked as TV News Producer, Forensic Analyst, and Train Conductor, among many other things. He’s the former TV Editor for InfuzeMag and owns more books, DVDs, and comics than most people have seen in their lifetimes. When he’s not writing or editing on Wealth of Geeks, he exercises his creative muscle writing screenplays and acting in film and television in Los Angeles, CA.