A vast, unexplored, alien world of natural and scientific wonders. Jungles, deserts and arctic wastes teeming with bizarre and savage beasts, fantastic monsters that defy evolution or reason. A dazzling variety of warlike peoples, whom, despite obvious technological advances, still swear, live and die by the sword.

Then, there’s the princess, of course.

The most beautiful woman of at least two worlds, stunning, sensual and immediately desirable. Strong of will and of unquestionable moral fiber, she is not only worth fighting and dying for, but worth defying a world for, just to receive a kind word or shy smile.

michael_whelan_1-a_princess_of_mars-coverAnd finally, we have the son of Terra, the noble Earthman (usually a Yank), who from the moment of his arrival beneath the hurtling moons of a strange, new world, finds his fate irrevocably entwined with its destiny…and its princess.

These are the elements of the planetary romance or “sword & planet” story (my preferred term, though, is “interplanetary swashbuckler,’ but hey, I’ve always needed to be different), and with minor variations, the genre has given pop culture everything from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars saga to Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon and DC Comics’ Adam Strange. Star Wars owes it a debt, and I’m convinced that Oz orbits a different sun, as well.

It is a decidedly “retro” form of adventure fiction, but if your heart and mind are in the right place, it can still serve as a rewarding and enjoyable escape from the grim realities of the world around us, even as it has for countless readers over the last century or so.

Flash-Gordon_ComicPerils on Planet X is unapologetically a planetary romance. It is not a reinvention, reimagining or deconstruction of the genre. Nor is it strictly pastiche, although there’s definitely aspects of that in there. It follows firmly in the literary footsteps of authors I greatly admire and enjoy: Edgar Rice Burroughs, Otis Adelbert Kline, Leigh Brackett, Lin Carter, Michael Moorcock, Gardner Fox, and the stargods know how many others. If Perils differs significantly in any respect, it’s only because it has been written and drawn in the 21st Century instead of the 20th, and it cannot help but reflect that.

Our protagonist, Donovan Hawke – a child of the late 20th Century – is not the “greatest swordsman of two worlds,” nor does he possess quite the same martial nature as many of his literary forbears. But he is college educated, knows karate, is a skilled pilot, and can find his way around a computer… as one might expect from a modern Air Force officer-turned-astronaut.

But he still falls for the princess, and as delineated by the incomparable Master Gonzales, who could blame him?

– Christopher Mills