Interview: John Picacio

How did you first come to discover the Barsoom books by Edgar Rice Burroughs?

I went backwards from cinema and derivatives, and ultimately discovered his original books. I’d have to say Frazetta’s covers probably deserve significant credit.

What do you find appealing about the characters and milieu?

They’re totally pulp and totally unapologetic.

What sort of an influence do you think the Barsoom books have had on the development of fantasy & science fiction?

It’s hard to say that they’re anything less than seminal. I grew up absorbing countless comics and movies that were influenced by these stories. Sometimes it’s easy to take the most influential works for granted.

Who is your favorite character in the Barsoom canon? (And why?)

It’s gotta be Tars Tarkas – green, mean, and four arms? What’s not to love?

Tell us a bit about your illustration for the anthology. What’s happening in the scene?

Tars Tarkas sees trouble in the valley below. The picture says all you need to know about his response.

After reading the story, how did you decide which scene to illustrate?

The title itself was a springboard. I figured most of my fellow illustrators would be drawing/painting John Carter and Dejah Thoris, so I had a chance to feature Tars here.

Was this a particularly challenging piece to create? If so, how?

The toughest part was realizing it was okay to not depict John Carter. The answer was right there in the title all along, but it took me a couple of rounds of thinking to realize that this was about Tars all the way. Once I started drawing, this was a fun piece to do.

What artistic techniques did you employ to create this piece?

Pencil and acrylic on illustration board, with digital finishes

Any new work of yours just out or forthcoming you’d like to mention, or anything else you’d like to add? 

I’ve been busy lately but there are three recent works that stand out. I illustrated all twelve months of artwork for the 2012 George R.R. Martin / A Song of Ice and Fire Calendar, available now. I did the cover art for Ian McDonald’s first YA novel, Planesrunner, and I’m excited about the early buzz on that book, which is a December release. Lastly, the cover art I did for Mark Van Name’s No Going Back (May 2012) is fairly provocative for a military sf book, and I’m proud of that one.