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John Carter’s legacy: From an Arizona cave to pulp adventure to pop culture today

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Recently, our own Bob Leeper joined the enlightening army of Ignite Phoenix presenters to share his passion for all things Edgar Rice Burroughs and draw a line from the Tarzan author’s early sci-fi scribblings and the Arizona wilderness to all of pop culture as we know it today. If you missed it — as I did — you’re in luck: Leeper’s presentation has just been added to Ignite Phoenix’s YouTube channel, along with other great panels from the Ignite Phoenix #18 event.

Flash Gordon was inspired by Buck Rogers and they were both inspired by John Carter.

Says Leeper: “A line can be drawn from every modern superhero back to Superman, and a direct line can be drawn from Superman back to John Carter of Mars, especially the Burroughs trope of weaker gravity providing an alien man with super-strength. Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry loved the John Carter stories, and the original COSMOS astrophysicist Carl Sagan cited Burroughs’ Martian tales as steering him to the study of science. Stan Lee, the co-creator of the Marvel Universe, often mentions Burroughs as one of his influences, and in his recent memoir he is even depicted as a kid reading A Princess of Mars. James Cameron’s Avatar is the highest-grossing film of all time, and it’s the story about an incapacitated soldier having an out-of-body experience with weird aliens on a strange planet — just like John Carter.”

Leeper was (and, I can tell you, still is) frustrated by the box-office boondoggle that Disney made of the John Carter legacy, especially when detractors dismissed it as a ripoff of Star Wars — the reverse is actually true, if anything.

“George Lucas wanted to make a Flash Gordon movie, but he couldn’t get the rights so he made Star Wars, and the key is that Flash Gordon was inspired by Buck Rogers and they were both inspired by John Carter,” Leeper says in his presentation.

Introducing others to the impact of John Carter’s Martian (or Barsoomian) adventures is particularly important to Leeper. To collect resources and reference material for his efforts, he’s christened a corner of his Evermore Nevermore website (Arizona’s Pop Culture & Alternative Art Network) “The Arizona Cave,” and also created a Facebook community page where fans can follow along with his bountiful and beneficent Burroughs burrowing.

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