A Princess of Mars

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THE MAKING OF A PRINCESS OF MARS

October 2017 Update
(Summer 2018 Book Release)

The Fate of a Princess

When I began this project, I was under the impression that Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars was in public domain, and could therefore be published by anyone. This assertion has recently been questioned. I have contacted Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. in order to find out more information on this matter, and hopefully to get not only their permission, but their endorsement of Dream Tower Media’s Illustrated version of the novel.

Until I receive word back, the project will be on hold. If the work is still under copyright and I am unable to get the permission of ERB Inc. to do the project, I am afraid it will not be brought to completion and published. Dream Tower Media will then move forward instead with the other books planned for its publishing line. I will keep you all up to date on any news I receive.

Until then, I am releasing another one of my illustrations for A Princess of Mars, still in process of editing, but nearly finished as a piece. This is the scene where Dejah Thoris looks in wonder at the fresco of an ancient lost people. The fresco is a tribute to my favorite artist, Gustave Klimt.

Thanks to everyone who has been patient and supportive.

 

Best Wishes,

Robert Zoltan

October 6th, 2017

 

THE MAKING OF A PRINCESS OF MARS

WEEK 9-12
(Summer 2018 Book Release)

Artistic Striptease

My daily work on A Princess of Mars is yielding great results. I am now up to about sixteen compositions that will probably work out for inside illustrations. So why have I been remiss on keeping up with the blog, and even more, why am I not showing you the work?

I am facing the dilemma of the classic striptease artist: What to show, what not to show? If I show too much, I risk lowering the value of the book for those who will purchase it when it’s released, and also for those who will support the upcoming Kickstarter for the project and get behind-the-scenes extras. Additionally, I am still developing the style of the illustrations, so I don’t have too much that I feel is surely representative of the final look.

Of course, if I show nothing, I risk losing people’s interest. Oy!

I promise I will reveal more as I am able, and if I am not revealing much, it is in the interests of the book itself and those who will be fans of this book. I can only ask for your faith and patience, and for this post at least, leave you with a little “glimpse of leg” that promises to make it into the final edit of the book. Kaor!

 

Sincerely,

Robert Zoltan

July 9th, 2017

 

WEEK 8
(Summer 2018 Book Release)

Shooting Myself

That’s what I feel like doing sometimes during this project. But this morning I did it in a less destructive way—with a camera. I shot 125 photos of myself for illustration photo reference (behold the glamour of illustration modeling!). Tiring not only because action scenes are difficult, but also because I have to set timer, pose, shoot, then go and check the shot to see how it looks, adjust my pose to the drawing, shoot again, repeat. 125 times. Regarding my process, I don’t usually come up with ideas, shoot reference and then illustrate that. I do drawings and then shoot reference afterward to improve detail and work out difficult anatomical problems. I shot some good stuff, mostly for A Princess of Mars, but also for the cover of Lest Darkness Wreck the Stars, the new Rogues of Merth: The Adventures of Dareon and Blue story. Coming soon from Dream Tower Media!

The first session with the Dejah Thoris model was postponed due to my cold, but I will be rescheduling that very soon. And if you’re really good, I might even show you a photo or two from that…nahhhhh!

Sincerely,

Robert Zoltan

June 19th, 2017

WEEK 7
(Summer 2018 Book Release)

Finally…Green Martians!

The abstract drawing approach continues to yield results, and moves me ever closer to the specific feeling and style I desire for the book.

I  was recently hit with a cold, and was unable to draw yesterday, but felt well enough this morning to pick up the pencil again. I worked in a smaller format frame, about nine by twelve inches, and this is what happened.

After five or six attempts at drawing the Green Martians in the last few weeks, I finally nailed the essence of what I was trying to capture. The Green Martians are difficult to draw because, being true to Burroughs’ description, they can easily appear cartoonish or puppet-like. This time I was able to portray them as if they are actual living beings with distinct character and personalities, caught in a moment during a rest on a march across the desert. I also brought a rather slinking, animated feeling to the creatures, and the scene helped enhance this sensual, lazy, dreamlike vibe.

I hope you enjoy previewing this preliminary sketch. And I hope you like my portrayal of the Green Martians.

Sincerely,

Robert Zoltan

June 13th, 2017

WEEK 6
(Summer 2018 Book Release)

The Emperor’s No Clothes

Of my many artistic decisions for this project, the subject of clothes and ornamentation remains a primary detail. In my ongoing study of Burroughs’ text for A Princess of Mars, I find that the idea of the Red Martians not wearing any clothes is not as straightforward as it may seem, though it seems to be one believed my many readers. My fellow Burroughs’ fans, I refer you to three excerpts from the manuscript:

“She was as destitute of clothes as the green Martians who accompanied her; indeed, save for her highly wrought ornaments she was entirely naked, nor could any apparel have enhanced the beauty of her perfect and symmetrical figure.” (Dejah Thoris, Chapter 8)

Perhaps Burroughs was referring to only Green Martians and Dejah Thoris at the time of her capture when he stated that they were without clothes. He evidently was not referring to all Red Martians, for later, we read:

“Again no Martian interfered with me, and tearing a piece of silk from my cape I endeavored to staunch the flow of blood from her nostrils.” (John tending to Dejah, Chapter 10)

And…

“The chill of the Martian night was upon us, and removing my silks I threw them across the shoulders of Dejah Thoris.” (John caring for Dejah, Chapter 13)

So, in effect, some Red Martians did wear clothes at times. Perhaps they did at night when the temperature dropped, and surely in the regions nearer the Poles. Or, Burroughs did not consider the word apparel to cover capes or what seems to possibly be a silk wrapping of some type, perhaps similar to a toga. Or perhaps he simply loosened the idea of clothing as the novel went on. Who can say?

Fortunately, this ambiguity serves me as an artist, allowing me to stay true to the novel while granting me license to do what will best serve the visual images!

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Kaor!

Robert Zoltan

June 2nd, 2017

 

WEEK 5
(Summer 2018 Book Release)

Little Breakthroughs and Big Green Martians

Little Breakthroughs

Good news! Working on the project every day, and trying the abstract approach I described in the WEEK 4 entry (The Place of Unknowing) is starting to yield wonderful results. The image you see was started as a complete abstract drawing. Then I began to see forms and pulled them out. Dejah Thoris in front, Woola behind her on a step of the rock, John Carter looking to the right and hand on sword, and Sola at top right. Now the challenge is to keep the spontaneous feel as I continue to refine the drawing, ink it, and move on to a color peace if it goes well.

Big Green Martians

I have done three drawings of Green Martians thus far, and the last is probably the most accurate, though the first one is very weird, which is kind of cool. The second looks a bit like a mix between a Green Martian and a Klingon. What’s probably giving me the most trouble is Burroughs description that their eyes sit at the extreme sides of their heads. That’s all well and good if you’re a grasshopper (which is what I’m starting to think they should look like), but when you put eyes on the very sides of the head, the viewer of a picture  will really only see one eye at a time unless the Green Martian is facing forward. And how does one draw eye sockets and brow ridges on the side of the head? Also, not having eyes affects the whole facial structure—bones, muscles, skin, everything. And, having only slits for a nose means no frown lines, for the most part. I don’t want to overthink this, but I do want to understand the structure since I am drawing a Green Martian more than once. And I don’t want the Green Martian to look like a puppet, which is how Frazetta’s do sometime on the paintings (especially A Princess of Mars), but his inkings of Green Martians for some reason look better. But hey, maybe they should look like puppets. Huge, malevolent grasshopper puppets! I don’t know. Still trying to work it out.

Sign up for the Dream Tower Media mailing list at the bottom of this page to make sure you don’t miss a single entry of this ongoing story.

More next week!

Robert Zoltan

May 7th, 2017

 

WEEK 4
(Summer 2018 Book Release)

The Place of Unknowing

The first illustration I released of Dejah Thoris (the upper body image with the curling hair) set the tone for what I hope to accomplish with A Princess of Mars. But I have yet to find the soul of the project, especially as regards the inside illustrations.

I finished re-reading the novel and taking notes on the key scenes and most evocative ideas for pictures. I could now merely set up a model session, shoot photo reference, and proceed to illustrate those scenes. Such an unimaginative mechanical approach amounts to little more than a wearisome chore to me. By that method, I will end up with competent professional illustrations (which is a challenge in itself), but that’s not worth nine months of my life. If I can’t create something unique and exceptional, to me, it’s not worth doing.

So, I am now in that place of unknowing, which can be an uncomfortable place to be. But that is the mythological field, the dreamworld, the subconscious, from whence all creativity springs. However, one must learn how to tap into that place within oneself, to commit to the work (which often and for sometimes long periods, seems to be fruitless) and to be very patient.

In order to find the soul of this project, I have gone back to a method I discovered about two years ago. I do abstract pencil drawings, letting my mind and hand flow as freely as possible, creating shapes and arcs and lines. Then, slowly, I try to see forms emerging from that seeming randomness and disorder. It is a balancing act between the conscious and subconscious mind, between the world of mind and the world of form. If If I try to create forms too early, I force a false order on the drawing. If I wait too long, I end up with a space completely filled with pencil marks, where nothing seems to emerge. The drawing on the right started in this manner, as a completely abstract drawing (the image is a drawing for a painting for The Long, Long, Long, Long Rescue, an epic tale of The Incomparable Quill, slated for a 2018 release from Dream Tower Press).

This morning, I made four abstract drawings. The result. Nothing, as far as I can tell. I tried to push one into recognizable images and it all fell apart. That doesn’t make for a very encouraging session. The process is fairly taxing, so I’m done for this morning. I may try again tonight.

I’m not feeling comfortable with the process yet, or perhaps I should say, I’m not feeling much faith in it. Patience and faith in the process (and perhaps in the Source of creativity) is required. But a looming deadline does not help me to relax, even if that deadline is self imposed. Releasing the book in December sounds like I have a fair amount of time. Oh, trust me, my friends, that’s an illusion! If I wish to finish one illustration per chapter of the book, that means twenty-eight illustrations, which comes out to more than four per month! I’ve never been the fastest, so to me, that’s a daunting challenge. The reason it is extra daunting is that this is only one project I am doing. I expect to be hired in the coming months for several other projects (both publishing and gaming), and meanwhile, I have to keep producing Literary Wonder & Adventure Show (which you should check out if you have not: http://www.dreamtowermedia.com/podcast), keep writing fiction, and keep producing music for my musical projects.

Breathe. And try to remember what’s printed on the cover of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:

DON’T PANIC.

Robert Zoltan

May 15th, 2017

 

WEEK  3
(Summer 2018 Book Release)

Building Blocks

I’m currently enjoying a much needed vacation break on Barsoom, but wanted to give you all a quick update, and a sneak peek into the process of how a finished illustration comes into being.

Ideally, all of my illustrations would start with the building block of a live model study. Unfortunately, drawing a live model pose takes anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, and it would be very costly to pay a professional model for the many hours that would be required for numerous illustrations. So, the second choice is to photograph the model in the poses.

The sketch shown is from a live model pose and will be the basis for another Dejah Thoris illustration. Note the model’s short hair. Many things change by the time the illustration is complete!

More next week. Hope you’re all enjoying the springtime!

Robert Zoltan

May 7th, 2017

 

WEEK  2
(Summer 2018 Book Release)

The Trouble With Nipples

Last week I reached that moment of facing the dilemma all commercial artists must face (or even fine artists if they wish to market their work). How to deal with female nipples in our Neo-Puritanical culture?

This is a real problem for me, as I have already had my artwork censored by a certain social media website for showing “excessive skin.” Nipples? Not a chance.

It’s easy to say “don’t compromise,” but the realities of living in a commercial culture are very real if one wishes to take part in it. So, when it came to dealing visually with Dejah Thoris, whom Edgar Rice Burroughs describes as being unclothing except for ornamentation, I had a big decision to make.

Other artists in the past created nipple or breast ornaments, some quite elaborate, and some seemingly held up with nothing but the anti-gravity technology used for the Martian airships! Others have that area strategically covered by hair, others have simply thrown in the towel (or more accurately, used them to cover nipples), been inaccurate and given her clothing. For this early sketch shown at right, I created concentric cups reminiscent of belly dancer ornaments.

After a rather prurient picture of Dejah Thoris appeared on the excellent For the Love of All Things Edgar Rice Burroughs Facebook page, a lively debate ensued regarding how Dejah Thoris should be accoutered, and how an artist can deal with this very real problem. My thanks to all the ERB fans on that page. I found their feedback on this issue and the first couple of Dejah Thoris drawings that I have revealed for the upcoming book, to be invaluable.

From the research done by the fine folks on that site, it seems that Burroughs envisaged Dejah Thoris to be wearing some kind of jeweled harness that would drape down and cover part of breasts. So, that will be one of my solutions. The other is too have her very long hair covering her nipple area when she is not dressed in the harness.

And that is another decision I have made. I plan on showing her in variations of outfits. After all, she is a princess and I’m sure she had more than one costume! And my approach to having Dejah Thoris be the focus of this edition means that you may even see pictures of her that go beyond the scenes in the book. I don’t mean that I will show her doing things she wouldn’t do. I simply mean, I might show her bathing or sleeping or doing any number of things that would be a good opportunity to portray her incomparable beauty.

And along those lines, I have made great progress by discovering a beautiful model to use as my visual inspiration for Dejah Thoris. She’s young, gorgeous, built, with strong features but a playful, almost slightly elfin, girlish look to her. With the adjustments of my artistic imagination, she will be perfect for the part. And trust me, I have quite an artistic imagination. After all, I will probably be posing for John Carter!

Sincerely,

Robert Zoltan

April 27, 2017

 

WEEK  1
(Summer 2018 Book Release)

Why A Princess OF Mars?

Why create a uniquely designed, fully illustrated version of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ famous classic? Because it has never been done before! In the 1970’s, Frank Frazetta’s masterful cover work, accompanied by a handful of small ink illustrations, brought the Martian series to life for a new generation of Bookclub readers. Many artists—before and after Frazetta—have created their own version of Burroughs’ Mars, including recent comic book adaptations, but no one has created a total vision for the book, A Princess of Mars, itself. That is exactly what I am doing.

I wish I could claim that the idea came to me while standing outside at night on my terrace, looking up at the starry sky with my arms outstretched to the red planet. But in reality, I was distractedly watching a soccer game while trying to come up with a major project that would represent the standards of excellence for which Dream Tower Media stands. I had loved the Mars novels since first reading them about twenty years ago, and illustrating scenes or characters from the book had crossed my mind. But that night, three reasons inspired me to move forward. Firstly, A Princess of Mars is a fantastic fantasy adventure with a strange picturesque setting and a beautiful exotic princess, ideal subject matter for an illustrator. Secondly, the book is in public domain, which removes a number of obvious obstacles. Thirdly, Edgar Rice Burroughs authority, Ryan Harvey, had recently been a guest on my Literary Wonder & Adventure Show. Our discussion had further fanned the flame of my love for those books.

Despite the work that would be involved in such an undertaking, it was an easy decision to make. Soon after, I contacted Ryan about doing an extended introduction to the book. He was excited about the idea, and I’m very excited to read what he’ll have to say.
http://dreamtowermedia.com/dream-tower-press/princess-of-mars/So what can you expect from Zoltan’s Dream Tower Media edition of A Princess of Mars?
Exotic lush romance, mystery, and playful humor.

When I re-read A Princess of Mars as research for the creation of this new edition, what struck me most was how incredibly romantic it was. It was romantic, not only in a big sense of the word, Romance, as in sweeping poetic atmosphere and scope, but also romantic in the more common usage of a powerful attraction turning to devotion turning to deep love, between John Carter and Dejah Thoris. I’m not ashamed to say that I actually found myself getting choked up during a scene between the two lovers. If one can’t get choked up about true love, what can one get choked up about?

The mystery of the ancient ruins on Mars, and the wonderful strangeness of everything in John Carter’s eyes also seemed an essential part of the book. Finally, I was rather surprised at the moments of humor and tenderness that I had forgotten, such as John’s relationship with Woola, his unorthodox approach to thoat training, and the little misunderstandings that happen between John and Dejah. I remember no artist representing these delightful moments.

So, The Princess of Mars you will be seeing from me will emphasize the romance, the exotic setting, the wonder, the mystery, some heart-warming humor, and most of all, Dejah Thoris, the way Burroughs really described her. Dejah Thoris, not John Carter, will be the main focus of this book, because that is the book’s title, A Princess of Mars. And, Dejah Thoris is also the focus of John Carter! Would John Carter want to see page after page of himself in battle scenes? Not the humble gentleman from Virginia! He would want to see his princess, and so he shall, and so you shall!

I believe the sensual style of my work lends itself especially well to A Princess of Mars. And my dislike of gratuitous violence and gore (and Burroughs never distracts the reader with unnecessary descriptions of gore, which in truth, few people would even notice while fighting for their life), whether in literature, art or cinema, matches perfectly the aesthetic, and one could say even the mission of Dream Tower Media. For I believe there is too much that is grim and nihilistic in our culture, and specifically in our literature. I long for a renaissance of storytelling, where wonder, adventure, mystery, and romance are the focus. I long for more stories that celebrate the mystery and wonder of existence, and the joy of life, stories that may present dangerous or even dire situations, but inspire in the end. For that is what the golden age of fantasy and science fiction created. Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser saga, Jack Vance’s Dying Earth series, Bester’s The Stars My Destination, Frank Herbert’s Dune, Cordwainer Smith’s tales of The Instrumentality, the work of C. L. Moore, even many of Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories (which had a lust for life and a noble virtue, and which seem like PG-13 movies compared to some of what I read now) inspired with a sense of wonder and heroics that made one glad to be alive. A Princess of Mars is one of the early prototypes of that grand era.

And so, I hope when you eventually read this new edition, and enjoy the seamless blending of wonderful story, elegant design, and beautiful illustrations, you will escape to a place that is real in the heart of every human being who has the commitment and courage to make that journey. In this case, it is Burroughs’ Mars. And whether you are visiting Barsoom (the Martian word for Mars) for the first time, or going back to a favorite place that will appear new and fresh to you, I hope this new edition will open for you a literary pathway to bliss. For beyond fear and despair, the ineffable mystery and joy of life is waiting for each of us. Come this December, may you find it amplified by your visit to Barsoom through Dream Tower Media and Zoltan’s special edition of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars.

Robert Zoltan
April 17th, 2017

 

A PRINCESS OF MARS
by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Click here to follow the story of the making of A Princess of Mars!

OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE
April 15th, 2017

Dream Tower Press Announces the Upcoming Release of a Uniquely Designed, Fully Illustrated Book Edition of the Edgar Rice Burroughs Classic

Dream Tower Media, creator of the critically-acclaimed Literary Wonder & Adventure Show, announces a Fantastic Publishing Event:
The First Novel-Length Book Release from Dream Tower Press!

Coming Summer of 2018, Dream Tower Press will unveil
a Unique Vision of the Classic, Groundbreaking, Interplanetary Romance
by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The Deluxe, Elegantly Designed, Lavishly Illustrated…

A PRINCESS OF MARS!

Beautifully Designed and Illustrated by Zoltan.

With a Special Introduction by Edgar Rice Burroughs Authority,
Writers of the Future Award Winner and Black Gate Magazine Contributor,
Ryan Harvey.

View the Announcement Trailer Below

President and Owner of Dream Tower Media, Robert Szeles, says:
“This edition, fully illustrated and created with a cohesive sense of
design and imagery, will be unlike any version of A Princess of Mars
previously published. For those who have read the novel before, this will
be a highly desired collector’s edition and a new way to once again visit the Red Planet.
For those reading the book for the first time, this will be a unique
and wonderful introduction to this fantastic science fantasy adventure.”

Available Summer 2018 from Dream Tower Press. For more information,
sign up for the Dream Tower Media mailing list, follow the creation of the book at
http://dreamtowermedia.com/dream-tower-press/ or email info(at)dreamtowermedia.com. To hear the critically-acclaimed
Literary Wonder & Adventure Show, Episode 2, about Edgar Rice Burroughs and featuring Ryan Harvey,
go to www.dreamtowermedia.com/podcast.

 

Secret Project Reveal Trailer from Robert Zoltan on Vimeo.