A lot of people come up to me and say, “Love the blog, especially the ones about moons, planets and dwarf planets in film, music, video games, &c… so why haven’t you done one on Mars?”
Actually, no one said that and I just never did one until now because I figured it would be too much work. To my surprise, it actually turned out to be pretty manageable, so here you are, on the two year anniversary of the discovery of water on Mars.
The reason writing an entry about Mars in films, TV, &c proved to be rather easy is because although Martians show up all over the place in films (mainly as invaders of Earth) we rarely ever see the planet or culture of Mars itself depicted. This post, then, is only about depictions of life on Mars and not every depiction of Martians.
Marriage of Venus and Mars
O MIGHTY MARS!
Mars is named after the Roman god of war. He was the sun of Juno and Jupiter. He started out as a god of fertility, vegetation, cattle, fields, boundaries and farmers. Over time, he became the most prominent of the martial gods. As the father of Rome‘s founder, Romulus, he is the ancestor of all Romans.
BACKWARDS SIGNIFIER OF FIRE AND FLOW
Easily visible to the naked eye and recognizable for its reddish color, the planet named after the Roman god was an object of study and speculation for ancient Babylonians, Chinese, Dogon, Egyptian, Greek, Indian, and Mayan astronomers. To the Egyptians, the planet was Horus the Red, the backward traveler. To the Dogon, it was Yapunu toll, the planet of menstruation. To the Chinese, it was ruled by fire.
Mars was first observed with a telescope by Galileo Galilei in 1610. As telescopes improved, so did our view, revealing geographic features and storms, igniting the imagination of writers. In 1877, American astronomer Asaph Hall III first observed Mars’s two satellites and named them Phobos and Deimos. Italian astronomer Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli believed he could see seas, channels and continents. The Italian term for channels, “canali,” was misunderstood to mean canals and American astronomer Percival Lawrence Lowell popularized the notion that they were the work of intelligent life.
LIFE ON MARS?
The perception of massive irrigation systems led to the notion of Martians as a dying race and inspired early Science-Fiction writers. In 1880, author Percy Greg wrote Across the Zodiac, in which his hero travels to Mars, where the Martians refuse to believe he is from Earth. H.G. Wells‘s War of the Worlds, published in 1898, depicted a Martian invasion of our resource rich world. By the turn of the century, efforts were made to communicate with Martians. In July 1965, Mariner 4 arrived at Mars and pretty much put an end to speculation about life on Mars. After that, most science fiction about Mars dealt either with ancient Martian civilizations, or the future taming of Mars by settling and often terra-forming it.
MARS IN FILM
Films set (at least partly) on Mars include:
MARS IN TELEVISION
Martian depictions on TV include the 1962 series Space Patrol, the Doctor Who episode “The Ice Warriors,” the Twilight Zone episode “People are Alike All Over,” Space – Above and Beyond, Space Odyssey: Voyage to the Planets, the mini-series Race to Mars, and the Outer Limits episode “The Invisible Enemy.”
MARS IN ANIMATION
In animation, Mars has been depicted in Armitage III, Cowboy Bebop, Avenger, Mars Daybreak, Tom and Jerry Blast Off to Mars, Big Wars and Genesis Climber Mospeada.
MARS IN COMPUTER AND VIDEO GAMES
Mars has also been the setting in video and computer games including Red Faction, Zone of the Enders, Commander Keen, X-COM – UFO Defense, Red Faction, Elite 2, Doom 3, Airforce Delta Strike, Descent, Martian Gothic Unification, Leather Goddesses of Phobos, Armor Core 2, Terra Driver, Darius II, Mars Matrix and DoDonPachi.
MARS’S MOONS IN POP CULTURE
Mars’s moons have shown up less often in fiction. On April Fools Day 1959, amateur astronomer Walter Scott Houston perpetrated a celebrated hoax in the Great Plains Observer, claiming that “Dr. Arthur Hayall of the University of the Sierras reports that the moons of Mars are actually artificial satellites.” Both the doctor and school were made up. Nonetheless, my perusal of Youtube has shown that some people didn’t get the joke and now perpetuate one of the dumbest of all the dumb conspiracy theories — this one involving a NASA cover-up. Anyway, the moons don’t show up too often.
Deimos appears in the games Doom and Marathon and the animes Zone of the Enders and Astro Boy (2003).
Phobos has appeared in the games Doom, Armored Core 2, Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner, Unreal Tournament, Unreal Tournament 2004, Leather Goddesses of Phobos and RTX Red Rock.
Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in Amoeblog, diaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art Museum, Form Follows Function, Los Angeles County Store, Skid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Magazine, LAist, Eastsider LA, Boing Boing, Los Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
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