Mission to Mars: Mike Maihack draws John Carter and Dejah Thoris

Trevor Hogg presents an exclusive piece of artwork from illustrator Mike Maihack depicting John Carter and Dejah Thoris…

When looking through the weekly Internet feature BestArtEver posted by Andy Khouri of Comics Alliance, I came across the work of Mike Maihack; the discovery resulted in me interviewing the Tampa Bay, Florida based illustrator for the profile titled Sketchy Details. With The Martian Tales of Edgar Rice Borroughs coming to the big screen under the Oscar-winning direction of Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo), I was curious to see how Mike would depict the American Civil War veteran and his beloved Martian princess. Here is the end result along with some insightful comments from the artist himself.


When Trevor commissioned me to draw John Carter and Dejah Thoris, he said, “The environmental sensibilities of Michael Whelan drawn in the style of Bruce Timm.” So I started by looking at a bunch of Whelan’s covers for the Barsoom series, a bunch of Bruce Timm, and then threw all them out of view because they were making me waaaaay to intimidated. I decided to draw something keeping within my own style while still trying to call upon what I remembered from looking at those two Greats.


The only thing I was concerned about was making sure John Carter had a slightly darker skin tone than Dejah and the right green to use for the Martians. And lots of red [being on Mars]. If you were to take away all that surrounding red you’d see the skin tone on the Martians is actually more like gray.


I suppose the only thing left is to talk about is the rendering. Everything on Dejah is meant to be soft; few rigid shapes, subtle gradients, and even the lighting on her right side blurs her slightly. John on the other hand, has much more defined features. There’s more of a crisp differentiation between highlight and shadows, especially, on his left side. I ended up softening it down some though so as not to compete with Dejah. You might not be able to notice it, but the Martians were painted with more of a spongy brush to give more texture to their skin which, for whatever reason, I assumed would be more rough and dry.

Finally, I was planning on the sky being completely red, but I ended up going back and adding in that soft blue, as a [slight] nod to Whelan who often paints his skies a deep, rich blue. I think this was good idea since it draws the eye more to our two heroes, which is the first thing I want viewers to see.

Be sure to check out Mike Maihack’s website, which you can find here.

John Carter is released in cinemas on March 9th and stars Taylor Kitsch as John Carter and Lynn Collins as Dejah Thoris. Visit the official website here.

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada.