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 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.
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 - although that is only true within the United States as Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. (the family company to her creator) still claims the right within the UK and elsewhere in the world. She has been published by Dell, DC Comics, Marvel and Dynamite, and each is a different incarnation and continuity for each publisher. Her first appearance in any comic was in Four Color #375 in 1952.
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.
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.
Dejah Thoris is regarded as a renowned world-class beauty on Barsoom and as such a popular subject of real life pin-up artists. Despite over-sexualized appearance, Dejah embodies grace, femininity, duty, chastity, motherhood and is held up as the ideal proper lady for Red Martian standards. While the choice of attire can be considered scandalous for a highborn lady for Earth customs, its typical for Martians who do not cover themselves much for that matter. Unfortunately, her unmatched beauty makes her a considerable prize, making Dejah the target of unwanted affection of several suitors, even to males of other species, such as the multi-armed inhuman Tharks and the vampiric Vathek. There have been multiple instances of villains going to extraordinary lengths to force themselves on her, among them are included, but not limited to Thurid and Dagur Andlaust (who both fell madly in lust with her), Tal Hajus and Matai Shang (who wanted to ravish and torture her out of pure sadism), Sab Than (who sought to force her to marry him for political convenience) and Salensus Oll, who desired to add her as the newest concubine to his harem. Regardless, she proves to be courageous, tough and always holds her resolve, despite being frequently placed in both mortal danger and the threat of being dishonored by the lust of villains.
Dejah Thoris was described by Burroughs as an unparalleled beauty, 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. Many artists take this opportunity to depict her with a voluptuous figure, accentuating her curves by adorning them with jewelry.
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. Ironically, this lead to Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc., the company owned by her creator's family, suing Dynamite Entertainment citing that one of the reasons is that the sexualized depiction of the character would be harmful to their brand.
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.
Major Story Arcs
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.
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.)
Foray Into Time Travel
She is sent by her grandfather to inspect the ruins of Dorvas, where scientists have set up an archaeological site and are studying an strange time portal from the time of ancient Martians. When an undercover Zodanga agent tries to assassinate Dejah Thoris, he destabilizes the portal creating a vortex that sucked the princess in, sending her to 1003 years into the future. In this time period, Barsoom has been invaded and conquered by Earth forces (or Jasoomians as Martians call), who used their advanced technology to thicken the atmosphere and refill the oceans. The Martians have been enslaved, but there is a resistance lead by Dejah Thoris's descendant Dejah Carter.
Due to her resemblance to the resistance leader, she is captured and tortured by the Jasoomians until she is set free by a group of Martians from her own time period lead by Bor Vik, the leading scientist from the time portal project. They stumble upon Dejah Carter and her group who infiltrate the compound and escape together into safety. Her descendant reveals her past to Thoris, who is perplexed that she would mate with an Earthman, and tells that the archeological site has been submerged by the enemy, with no way for to return to her home and she is stuck in the future. Contemplating her new predicament, Dejah Thoris reflects on what she should do. During a private conversation with her descendant, she is offered command of the resistance after its revealed Dejah Carter is secretly dying due exposure to Jasoom's nerve gas.
The Earthmen however figured out how Dejah Thoris travelled to the future, and use a submarine to retrieve the Dorvas time travel to reshape the past and future of both worlds for their own ends. The resistance devise a plan to thwart their enemies from fiddling with the timeline: they let Dejah Carter form a distraction, by blowing herself up along with the Earth commander, launch a desperate attack with her remaining fighters to distract the Earthmen long enough for Thoris and Bor Vik to infiltrate the base. Dejah Thoris is conditioned by Bor Vik (who remained behind to ensure that her transition to the past is safe) to forget the events transpired in the future after hearing a trigger word to destroy the time portal after returning to her time period so that the Earthmen wouldn't use it in the future. Without her knowledge, she was also give an implant with tactical information to warn her people about the future invasion, ensuring that this future never comes to pass.
John Carter and a Princess of Mars
By the early 20th century, the planet's atmosphere was quickly decaying, its resources dwindling and her kingdom in the verge of war with Zodanga once more, with the tide turned against them. She organized an scientific expedition to figure out a way to found a way to preserve the atmosphere, unfortunately, her ship is attacked by Thark raiders and she is brought captive before their Jeddak, Tal Hajus. She tries to appeal to him and form an alliance for their whole planet's sake only to be randomly attacked by a Green Martian, laughing at the notion Reds should be anything other than dinner to his kind. Before he could further harm her however, a white-skinned man that accompanied the Green Martians stepped him to protect her. Because of his fighting talents and monstrous strength, none dared to question him. His name was John Carter.
Though respected for his prowess in combat, he was as much as a prisoner as she was, something which both of them bonded over their shared predicament. As she was first person he saw in this new world that reminded him of his own kind albeit with red skin and was extremely beautiful, Carter fell in love with her and became determined to find a way to free them both and deliver her home. Their plan was discovered by Tal Hajus who placed both Dejah and Sola (her Thark caretaker) under arrest as they gathered to meet Carter in a alley. He had her chained to his chambers and declared he would take her for his own degenerate pleasure than hold her ransom to her father and grandfather. Before she could be molested and horribly tortured by the evil Jeddak, she was timely rescued by Carter who had successfully evaded his guards and broke into his palace. He had Hajus subdued rather than killed (preferring to leave his friend Tars Tarkas, who long despised the Jeddak take his life himself) and the three escaped into the desert and. For three grueling days, they wandered into the desert without food or water, as they didn't have enough time to proper ration in their long journey. They were forced to split up as a Thark tribe of pursuers appeared to attack them, with John staying behind to buy the princess enough time to return home. Believing that he was sacrificing his life in her name, she finally reciprocated the sentiments and declared she loved him as their parting words.
There was still the matter of Zodanga to be resolved. While she went missing, her grandfather had deployed their entire army to search for her leaving Helium unprotected, allowing Than Kosis, the Zodangan Jeddak to surround Helium with his army. Though Carter's last stand allowed Dejah and Sola to escape safely, there was still a long way to Helium and would have surely died in the desert had they not have picked up by a Zodangan patrol and taken to their city. Dejah agreed to marry Kosis' son, Sab Than if she were to spare her beloved city from being razed to the ground by Zodangans.
Unbeknownst to her, John had survived and disguised himself as a Red Martian to enter the city and he had eavesdropped the betrothal. He confronted her in private for agreeing to marry Than, frustrated she would declare love to him and then to anyone else at hand. She responds that she thought he had died and her love for him was real, but they can't be no longer together as she is now promised to Than, who she absolutely despises, but needs to marry to there can be finally peace among their kingdoms. When John vows to kill Than, she tells him that she couldn't marry him either since Barsoom's custom dictates that she cannot marry a man who killed her husband. Deciding he won't give her up, John leaves for Thark, helps his friend Tars Tarkas to kill Hajus and become Jeddak, then gather their army and invade Zodanga while the wedding ceremony took place with Carter killing Sab Kosis, while his son was killed by Tarkas. With all obstacles finally overcome, Dejah and John had officially became a couple.
Their happiness was brief however, as another urgent issue arose with the atmosphere factory malfunctioning and the entire air weakening. All of Barsoom would die asphyxiated in a day, making all their struggles turn to naught. John volunteered to reach the factory as he knew a secret passage inside it that otherwise would take too much time they didn't have, and restore the power back. While he lead some men to the facility that were able to repair the machinery, John had mysteriously disappeared and never to be found for the following ten years.
The Gods of Mars
Unknown to her, Carter had returned to his home world of Earth just as mysteriously as he arrived to Barsoom in the first place, in the decade that followed she had bored him a son, Carthoris, who inherited his father's strength and fighting finesse. Her husband's disappearence was a huge blow to her and soon her whole family crumbled when her son went missing while travelling North, and her father and grandfather soon followed in search for him. Completely alone in Helium, she went on a pilgramage on the River Iss, the sacred stream which all Martians take in search of the afterlife, intending to look for her loved ones while accompanied by Sola and Woola. After five days of travelling, she was attacked by Black Martian raiders who took both women captive. Aboard the Blacks' vessel, there was another prisoner, a beautiful Red Martian princess named Thuvia of Ptarth, who revealed that Carter is alive and he returned to Barsoom.
The First Born made Dejah a harem-girl in their stronghold, chaining her to a bed until she was finally freed by John, who had lead an assault against their realm. Their happy reunion turned into horror as Dejah was quickly recaptured by the Black Martians and thrown into the Temple of the Sun, along with Thuvia and Phaidor - a Thern princess that was also infatuated with John, locking them inside a entire year. This punishment was made specifically to spite John for all three women loved him. Before the door closed on his eyes, Phaidor tried to kill Dejah in a fit of mad jealousy for being Carter's wife. Whether she was successful or not was unclear, but Carter was almost driven to despair with these final moments.
Released from the Temple
It was revealed later that Phaidor was stopped by Thuvia from killing Dejah, and came to eventually regret her actions and impressed by her devotion to Carter and re-thinking her infatuation with him. Regardless, their fates were apparently sealed as there was not enough food to last an entire year and it was only a matter of time before they starved to death. By luck's twisted design, certain men were able to find a secret entrance to their cells and break them out. Unfortunately for Dejah, their "saviors" were not honorable, well-intentioned men, but they were Matai Shang, the Holy Hekkador of the Therns and Phaidor's father, and Thurid, a Black Martian dator who was humiliated by Carter during his own captivity under Issus. Both men shared their profound hatred for the Earthmen, and they sought to punish him by defiling his wife in every way they could find, no vileness would be vile enough to inflict on his beautiful princess.
She and Thuvia were taken aboard Shang's vessel as his concubines, but they were pursued by Carter, who eavesdropped on the villains' conversation and followed them relentlessly to free his wife. The search for the women took them to Okar, the far North in Barsoom populated by the Yellow Martians. While Shang sought asylum with Okkar's Jeddak Salensus Oll, an impasse took place as each warlord decided to have the Red Martian princess for themselves. Thurid drew her out of her cell and offered to run away with her, only to be angrily rebuked and later Oll turned against Shang and killed him when he declared he would make her his fourteenth concubine. This ultimately proved to be his undoing when Carter's reinforcements arrived in Okar and launched an attack, Oll was stabbed to death by Dejah, Thuvia and Phaidor during a moment of distraction. As the tide turned against the Yellow Martians, Thurid took Dejah and Phaidor with him on his airship, with Carter giving chase. Thurid is knocked over by Phaidor and the couple finally reunites. Recognizing the true love between the couple, she repents for her jealousy and throws herself off the airship in front of the two. Dejah, her husband and her son return to Helium, but are saddened greatly that both her father and grandfather perished fighting the Yellow Martians. Somedays after John is proclaimed Warlord of Barsoom and Jeddak of Jeddaks and the two kiss in celebration.
The Green Men of Mars
In the miniseries "Dejah Thoris and the Green Men of Mars", the Princess of Helium is kidnapped by a rogue Thark named Voro during a peace delegation, threatening the stability between the Red and Green Martians. Voro absolutely rejected the truce between their people as he and his kind still retained the taste for red meat. They have kidnapped countless other female Reds, amputating and butchering them, selling them as meat for other Tharks. She was thrown into a dungeon with other women in several states of mutilation with some or their entire limbs removed. When came her turn to be hacked, she manage to struggle with her butcher, take away his knife and kill him. Dejah successfully escaped, evading the guards and lured Voro to the dungeons, where she and all the other Red women had savagely stabbed butchered the insane Thark. Dejah was found among with the other women by Tars Tarkas and returned home. She intended to keep her kidnapping secret from the public eye and even her grandfather himself, in order to not ruin the recently achieved peace although the terrible inhuman acts she witness haunted her to not end. In addition, she also spared Voro's life despite horribly maiming him on the condition he revealed the name of his buyers, whom she had arrested.
Their commemoration was not to last however, as a mysterious Thark conspiracy was set in motion to undermine the peace. This group was identified as the Cult of Hok, an extremist sect of Green Martians named after an warrior killed by Tars Tarkas, that reject the notion of peace among the two people, and the Red Martians will always be meat for the Greens. Voro greatly admired Hok and it was revealed he was part of the conspiracy, and now was determined to get revenge on Dejah Thoris for crippling him, as there is no fate worse for a Thark.
With the stability hanging by a thread, the princess and her husband both confronted Voro in their hideout. She challenged Voro to a fight, but instead of confronting him physically, Dejah goads Voro into killing himself, pointing out he cannot possibly live up to Hok's ideals as he was still defeated by Tarkas and the Tharks only value strength - while Voro was crippled and maimed. Confronted with that reality and that killing the princess wouldn't have brought him victory either way, Voro took his own life. Dejah assumed control of the remaining members of Hok's cult and turned them into the Hok Squad, a elite secret force of Tharks loyal to her and only her. The Hok Squad's existence was short-lived however, as they served a single mission with her to prevent a psychic-powered superweapon to fall into Warhoon's hands. Each member of the team, except Dejah, perished by the end, however the threat of the Thark seceding was prevented once and for all.
Barsoom saw an devastating offensive launched by beings from beyond the stars known as the Kahori that brought down Helium's forces and all other nations around the planet. This was made possible by an insane scientist called Vush Tanzar, who had unrequited feelings for Dejah Thoris and betrayed its tactical position to the aliens. Dejah was imprisoned and interrogated by the Kahori's leader, Joshua Clark, who happened to be an Earthman just like her husband and his old rival from the American Civil War.
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
Like all Martians, Dejah is ageless or at very least longed lived past reaching physical maturity - in her own spin-off series, its stated she is biologically in her early twenties, while chronologically she is over a century-old, making her 500 years-old by the time she meets John Carter. 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. As befitting her warrior princess status, she is an accomplished fighter, skilled in martial combat, marksmanship, swordsmanship and hand-to-hand combat. While the original incarnation from the books did not get to show these skills off and was notorious for being a damsel in distress that got captured by several villains in every volume, her many spin-off series displayed her being capable of outwitting and surviving many opponents much larger and dangerous, like Green Martians, Warhoons, Vatheks, White Apes and even going toe-to-toe against other accomplished fighters like Red Sonja during "Swords of Sorrow". Finally, it should be noted, she performed these feats without possessing superhuman force and finesse like her husband, as Red Martians are about as normal as average humans on Earth.
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. When required, she can be an accomplished tactical leader and strategist as shown when she commanded the Hok Squad, a secret Delta Force of Tharks for special missions. She inspired their loyalty and devotion in spite of being a Red woman and the Tharks' natural predisposition to barbarism and violence, specially towards her people. Its shown that she also has a scientific knack in the areas of archaeology, history and engineering, initially more prominent in the Disney movie where she is depicted as the Regent of the Hall of Science on Helium, and it was later reflected in following comics with her having similar interests.
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 appeared in the theatrical movie John Carter, produced by Disney and based on the classic Martian novels. She is played by actress Lynn Collins. Dejah's hand is promised in marriage to Sab Than in order to end the war between him and Zodanga, and prevent their city-state from being conquered, for Than used Thern technology to quickly turn the tide of the conflict to his advantage. Dejah rebels against her father's orders and runs away, disguising herself as a Helium soldier to escape aboard a ship that is attacked by Zodanga forces. As the battle is witnessed by a Thark tribe and John Carter, Dejah almost falls to her death but she is saved by Carter who jumped to her rescue. She surrenders to the Tharks after the battle is over and is given as a reward to Carter for his bravery. She accompanies him to try and find a way to return to Earth and heir search leads them to the discovery of the Ninth Ray, the same tech used by Sab Than and the Therns which the latter use to teleport across worlds and could be used for him to return home. Their discovery is sensed by Matai Shang, Holy Hekkador of the Therns and Sab Than's puppet master, who sends an Warhoon clan to kill them. They are timely saved by an Helium ship, boarded by Tardos Mors and Sab Than, who organized the rescue party to get her back. Dejah tries to kill him on the spot, but hesitates and gives up when he goads her to do it, knowing that Zodanga will crush her city if he is killed.
Demoralized, Dejah begrudgingly agrees to marry Than so that the conflict can end. She uses the information used in the sacred temple where the Ninth Ray was found to configure the Thern medallion to send John back, however he is hesitant to let her go through her marriage. Unknown to her, Than actually plans on killing her once her marries her as a plan devised by the Therns to further control the course of Barsoom's history as they have done with many worlds before. Carter decides to return to Thark, unite the Green Martians and attack Zodanga to prevent the marriage. After a massive battle, Than is killed and Zodanga surrenders, and in the same night Dejah and Carter marry instead, resolving to stay as Prince of Helium.
In this movie, Dejah is re imagined not only as Princess of Helium but also Regent of the Hall of Science, responsible for researching artifacts and creating inventions. She came close to figuring out the Ninth Ray tech, the same one used by Sab Than to turn the tide of the war against Helium, but her attempt was sabotaged by the Therns. Because of her discovery in the River Issus could throw a wrench on the Therns' plans, they planned to kill her off so they wouldn't make use of their technology. In order to give her an exotic Martian appearance, she has swirling red patterns tattooed on her skin which represent her social standing on Red Martian society and wears a decorative gold costume reminiscent of ancient Egyptian dresses.