Dejah’s origin is tied as much to her literary background as it is to her character’s own development. The concept of a group of Martians was a popular one in the science fiction writings of the late 19 and early 20 centuries. Edgar Rice Burroughs first wrote stories about a man named John Carter that traveled to Mars (Mars is called Barsoom by its native inhabitants) and met variety of other races long before they were ever put to comic format. Dejah’s origin is thus influenced more so by this genre of fiction and has carried through to modern day comics.
She is a native of Mars and of the race of Red Martians (those Martians that most closely resemble humans.) By her birth she is a princess of Lesser Helium, as her father (Mors Kajak) and grandfather (Tardos Mors) rule the city state with her help. It is worth noting that Leser Helium is called thus not because of it relative power, but because of its geographical position. Red Martians do not age once they reach maturity and thus the story of Dejah Thoris far predates that of her eventual husband, John Carter. By Earth standards her earliest adventures occurred in the 1500s, 400 years before John Carter arrived. In her earliest appearances her mother is already dead, killed in war with the other city-states.
She was a character that was created by Edgar Rice Burroughs and was representative of a change in fiction to what would later by regarded as pulp fiction – a scantily clad female in action sequences. Although John Carter was ostensibly the star of the series, Dejah generally was depicted as a capable companion, and the first John Carter novel in 1917 made reference to her in its name – A Princess of Mars.
The characters in the John Carter franchise have long since passed into the public domain, and the character is essentially free to be used by any company that desires to use her. Thus while she has been published by Dell, DC Comics, Marvel and Dynamite, there is no continuity between her appearances (that is to say that essentially any time that the character is shown with a new company that it is essentially a new version character and the first appearance thereof.) Her first appearance in any comic was in Four Color #375 in 1952.
The character has undergone a variety of changes over the course of her appearances. Her golden age and silver age appearances were in line with comics of the time in that the stories were generally either in self-contained issues or that story arcs would be at most three issues long and would generally not focus much on character development. The transition to Marvel in the modern day accomplished the same, as the action generally focused more on John Carter than on her. It is only with the Dynamite version of the character that more has been shown of her own individuality than ever before. Due to the success of the Warlord of Mars series featuring John Carter, a separate series was launched featuring Dejah which focused on her exclusively. Although shown in other instances before, this for the first time put the spotlight on the character, and showed different aspects of her femininity, as she acts as a daughter to her family, but in a mother role to her subjects. True to her motherly instincts, she tends to make deeper emotional connections with those that are considered weaker or more innocent. This is displayed as a sincere emotion though as she takes great care in the protection of these others, and mourns them greatly in the case of their deaths.
Although her initial appearances featured her as a romantic interest of John Carter, as her character is evolved and expanded it is revealed that she had many romantic interests over the course of her life, some forced for treaty, others out of love.
Major Story Arcs
The majority of her story arcs have tied closely to the original sources material. Her appearance with Dell in the 1950s was only over the course of three issues. Both DC Comics and Marvel acquired the characters for use in the 1970s for runs of six and twenty five issues respectively. These appearances did not carry over much to the later appearances as these stories were ignored. If there is anything which is considered canon it is the source material from Burroughs, in which Dejah is first rescued by John Carter from the green-skinned Tharks.
In terms of her appearances while being published by Dynamite, they are somewhat out of sequence. After first being featured in Warlord of Mars (featuring on John Carter) in 2010 (though still set in the early 20 century) her own series of Warlord of Mars was launched 400 years previous while the other series is still ongoing. She thus has two series in publication at the moment separated by 400 years, thus her story arcs have a significant gap between them.
In her first story arc of her own Warlord of Mars series, she is sent to Greater Helium as means of effecting a treaty as she is to marry Dor Valian, the son of Senneth Dor. It was not a sincere offering though, as he sought to bring Lesser helium further into war while also ridding himself of a son that he thought was useless. This ultimately prove to be ineffective as the Jeddak of Yorn seized control of an ancient colossus and sought out to destroy the military forces of his enemies. Dejah is eventually able to stop the colossus and end the threat with the aid Dor Valian, who dies in the process.
After this the long task of rebuilding Lesser Helium began. First she is required to travel to the southern pole to discover why water has stopped flowing through the irrigation channels. While there she discovers that some pirates from one of the Martian moons have been investigating the reservoir. She is subsequently captured but escapes and discovers that more than one faction of pirates searches for a great treasure. After surviving their abduction of her she returns home with new funds to stimulate rebuilding. She soon leaves again searching for mineral with which to rebuild and while away she is possessed by a malevolent witch that seeks to control all of Mars. She is eventually is stopped but Dejah flees in self-imposed shame. She soon experiences other adventures while wandering the Martian landscape, but is soon abducted once again and taken to Titan (the moon of Saturn.)
In the time of John Carter she is also featured in the series published by Dynamite. Although still a capable heroine, here she is less influential than Carter. Despite this she appeared in a miniseries in which she battled the White Apes of Mars after being accidentally led to an abandoned ancient city.
Powers and Abilities
As the character has gone through various depictions, her specific power have also changed. She is occasionally shown to have long life, though at present this is actually that she does not age at all. She has some innate psychic ability, and she can use this to communicate with others without talking as well as to interact with riding beasts. She is an accomplished fighter well skilled in martial combat and with much experience. This includes marksmanship, swordsmanship and hand-to-hand combat. She also has access to Martian technological items, some of which allow her to perform feat which would be incapable to humans, such as a pair of energy wings which allow her to fly.
Princess of Mars (2009 film)
Dejah Thoris appeared as the titular character in the Princess of Mars direct-to-dvd movie, based on the novel of the same name. She was played by actress Traci Lords. Because Lords is known for being blonde, the filmmakers decided to make the character blonde as well, rather than black-haired to better match Dejah's description in the novels. She wore a metal bikini-like costume that appeared to be borrowed directly from the slave girl outfit worn by Princess Leia in Return of the Jedi.
John Carter (2012 film)
Dejah Thoris will appear in the upcoming theatrical movie John Carter, produced by Disney and based on the classic Martian novels. She is played by actress Lynn Collins. In order to give her an exotic Martian appearance, she has swirling red patterns tattooed on her skin and wears a decorative gold costume reminiscent of ancient Egyptian dress.
Dejah Thoris was described by Burroughs as being beautiful in the extreme, with wavy coal black hair, large lustrous eyes, and light reddish copper-colored skin. Because the Red Martian people are born from eggs rather than giving live birth, she has no belly button (though artists frequently draw her with one). As was typical of Martian custom, Dejah wore no clothing: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's lack of apparel was a challenge for comic book publishers. Dell, the publisher of her earliest comic book appearances, simply ignored the description of her character being virtually naked. Due to the socially conservative time period of the 1940's, Dejah appeared in Dell comics wearing a modest brown dress. Later publishers, beginning with DC in the 1970's, decided to be truer to the novels and had Dejah's "highly wrought ornaments" strategically placed so the character would not be in violation of the Comics Code Authority. In these appearances her ornaments essentially took the form of a decorative metal bikini. Dejah's most recent publisher, Dynamite Entertainment, has made her nearly as naked as originally described in the novels, with only the smallest of ornaments covering her modesty.
Dejah Thoris is sometimes confused with another Edgar Rice Burroughs character named La, the Queen and High Priestess of Opar (from the Tarzan universe), for having a similar appearance as well as a similar lack of wardrobe.