Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thark Thursday: Michael Whelan

Illustrator Michael Whelan's renderings are the first impressions I had of the Tharks and their gangly, four-armed physiologies. It's my opinion that the cover of A Princess of Mars (above) did justice to their physical description more than some of the steroid-induced and hulking versions we see in comics today. Whelan's Tharks are tall and slim but still muscular.

At the same time, this portrayl is almost jarring to me after having read it--since the Tharks appear to be more sniveling and weak. While an arguement can be made that this is showing them at their weakest--when John Carter has asserted his military prowess and Mars-enhanced strength over them, the scene doesn't do much to illustrate their reputations as mighty warlords. From that perspective it's perplexing why the scene was chosen.

Still, it's an awesome painting!

Later renderings depicted mainly Tars Tarkas in a buddy role--and even as a third wheel. At least we got to see Whelan's Thark in a more adventerous posture.

This last piece is a character study (Tars?) and shows off some of the more alien features of the Tharkian face. The displaced eye socket in the top version makes them appear more like a preying mantis and it's a feature that I wished had stuck in the final renderings. Perhaps the eye was kept forward to humanize the Tharks a bit more with the assumption that "more alien" = enemy and "more human" = ally.


  1. My favorite ERB illustrations. Those will always be what I compare the others to

  2. I'm a huge fan of Whelan's Mars covers.