Dejah Thoris header art for Marvel Warlord of Mars comic book.

Full cover of Warlord of Mars comics
A cover from Marvel's Warlord of Mars comic, featuring a chained Showgirl Dejah Thoris. This is from the late 1970s, and still it beats the current movies all to hell and back, in terms of hot imagery.
Dejah Thoris sexy and bound from a cover of Marvel's Warlor of Mars comics.Dejah Thoris bound for a cover of Marvel's Warlord of Mars comics.Sexy Dejah Thoris from Marvel's Warlord of Mars comics.Sexy fighting Dejah Thoris from a cover of Marvel's Warlord of Mars comics.
Left to right: Sexy Dejah Thoris in bondage, not-so-sexy Dejah Thoris in bondage, sexy Dejah Thoris swoons, and sexy Dejah Thoris fights, all from covers of Marvel's Warlord of Mars comic.

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Back in the 1970s (first issue was in 1977) Marvel Comics ran a series called "Warlord of Mars" that were based on Burroughs' novels. At that time, comic books were still sold in supermarkets and grocery stores. They had not become the niche industry they are now, sold only in comic book shops and via the Internet. Which is to say, they still adhered to the gruesome Comics Code that effectively neutered comics for 25 years or so.

The Comics Code, like the Hayes Code, was an industry response to the public perception that comics had Gone Too Far in its portrayal of crime, violence and sex. Comics were especially vulnerable to such perceptions because they were generally perceived at being an entertainment medium primarily aimed at children, perhaps because they WERE an entertainment medium primarily aimed at children ... at the time.

So when Congress started having hearings comic publishers quickly, nay, eagerly, cut off their balls and neutered themselves with voluntary compliance to an industry-based Comics Code Authority before they found themselves reporting to some federal board or other that would NEVER go away. This required adherence to rules that essentially said comics will be fit only for children to read, because we are not about to permit anything that includes adult topics, so rest easy, Amerca, comics are banal and boring, and will remain that way so long as the Comics Code is in existence.

This lasted until the late 1960s, early 1970s, when comics began feeling the heat from the rise of what were called "underground comics." Underground comics were the sex, drugs and violence drenched product of the counterculture, gleefully and explicitly exploring every single dark alley that the Comics Code had permanently sealed off from mainstream comics.

For the mainstream comics, underground comics were pure, unadulterated nightmare fuel, because of course underground comics were incredibly hip, cool and hence, desirable to the young, and by extension mainstream comics became square, boring and stupid. Or at least, more obviously square, boring and stupid. And that threatened to hit them where they lived, which is to say, the cash register.

Warlord of Mars came along in 1977 and ran until 1979, at a time when mainstream comics were responding to the threat posed by underground comics by stretching the comics code as far as they could, which still left them safely banal in relation to underground comics. Still, after the long unchecked reign of the Comics Code they were Wild Stuff Indeed.

Which is how we have Showgirl Dejah Thoris gracing the pages of Warlord of Mars comics. I call her that because her normal costume did kind of look like a Vegas showgirl's, most often featuring a skimpy metal bra, and Slave Liea style mud flaps fore and aft held together by a tiny string. Sometimes she was more overdressed, but for the most part it was a teeny metal bra, a thong bottom and mud flaps.

All in all it was fairly sexy gear for a comic book heroine. Not TOO sexy, mind you, because the Comics Code still ruled and Marvel was one of the Big Two comics publishers. If you want to look at what the off brands were doing, who were not nearly so concerned about the Comics Code Authority (because they were not nearly so affected by news stand sales) you need only look at Savage Sword of Conan's naked and almost-naked female characters.

Marvel's Vegas Dejah Thoris was plenty sexy and plenty naked compared with the Dejah Thorises the movies have given us to date, however. Despite being created thirty years before either movie, she upholds the general principle that artists and illustrators have far outdone moviemakers in capturing the real Dejah Thoris.

Marvel Comics has announced that is is going to do a new John Carter comic, no doubt aiming to pick up eyes from Disney's "John Carter of Mars" movie. It will be interesting to see how they handle it. I seriously doubt, however, that they will be able to match Dynamite Entertainment's' Dejah Thoris Comics for sheer sexy fun. Marvel never was the risk-taker that Stan Lee makes them out to be, and they certainly aren't risk takers now. More like franchise-protectors, and looking at Dynamite Entertainment's prior publication, franchise-grabbers, if they can manage it.
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