Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Dejah Thoris

Greg Manchess

Dejah Thoris will debut in Paris this October 17th, at Galerie Daniel Maghen. The show will exhibit my adventure paintings from literature, science fiction, fantasy, and historical subjects, as well as new narratives.

I wanted to make a classic portrait of Dejah as beautiful warrior, but with a hint that you might not be able to trust her. She’s a princess, but with a rebel attitude. She would do what it takes to protect her people.

I did a few thumbnail sketches to get the feeling and explore the pose, then I asked a favorite model to act the part. I did final sketches from there, and added the background once I felt her character was down.

There’s always some question about her being naked in the book, especially in the US, where no publisher would get away with showing what we consider today as being naked, i.e. not a stitch of clothing. I wasn’t worried about portraying her so very nude in the painting as it will show in France after all, where they don’t have problems with nudity in advertising...or anywhere else, frankly.

But I didn’t want her completely naked as a literal reading of the book might suggest. She’s part of a culture, whether written in obvious terms or not, and there would be some identifying characteristics on her person, such as a ‘frog’ to holster her sword, footwear, jewelry, etc. I didn’t overdo the accoutrements, but instead, gave her just enough to allow her to be Barsoomian.

I like the idea that she comes off a little ‘native’...and brazen.


  1. looks awesome as usual, but to be totally nerdy here, I don't think that the Martians had navels since they were hatched not birthed like mammals ;)

  2. LOL! That's ok, Michael! Comes up every now and then. But eggs have something like an umbilical within the egg sac. They just don't usually leave a scar. (but maybe Martian eggs do...)

    I just like her with a navel. Sexier that way. And it doesn't take away from Burrough's character fantasy.

  3. Navel-gazing aside, her pose seems weird to me: It looks like she's about to tilt over. I wonder if the photo reference was tilted or something?

  4. The charm of the Burroughs SciFi was the Victorian Values was it not? Even in my college days I imagined Deja looking like the girl next door, since Captain Carter actually married her... Looking at your rendering, I now believe that there were a couple of good reasons why Carter was willing to fight armies to rescue her... and I don't think it was the navel or tilted gesture... very compelling painting... great work...

  5. If you follow her spine, it's upright over her heel, as in mid-stride, foot level, with a slight head twist. It's ok....I don't like to paint perfect poses. She needs to be in the middle of movement, not at the apex as so many like to portray.

    Also, if born from eggs, her race wouldn't have breasts either, but I don't think that was what Burroughs wanted. Naked was sexy to him.

    No worries....just my own vision of her.

    Thanks, Arturo!

  6. "If born from eggs, her race wouldn't have breasts either".... the EXACT reason I don't date hatched women! ;)
    Great stuff going on here Greg!

  7. Great image, love the sense of energy, i keep expecting that next step.
    ...I admit i spent way to long staring at that moon, trying to deconstruct why it made the composition work so well.

  8. Great! Reminds me of Louise Jameson the actress who played "Leela" back in Tom Baker's days as Doctor Who. She didn't wear much either..

  9. Great interpretation of the character. I agree posing her in the off-balance "falling forward" phase of walking lends more sense of motion than drawing the stabilizing completed step. Um, does that sound like English might be my second language? Laurie Anderson put it like this;" You're walking. And you don't always realize it,
    but you're always falling.
    With each step you fall forward slightly.
    And then catch yourself from falling.
    Over and over, you're falling.
    And then catching yourself from falling.
    And this is how you can be walking and falling
    at the same time.
    I mean I think you did a great job of capturing that moment of imbalance.
    As for nakedness, remember this is a Virginia gentleman/ former captain of the Confederacy's notion of "nakedness".

  10. Great piece Greg, I like your take on the Princess. She isn't festooned in jewelry waiting for Carter to save her, she is advancing on us with deadly purpose.

    It may not be entirely accurate, but walking seems like an of act of controlled falling to me, Our body's various systems of balance and locomotion are compensating for us as we move through space. When one of those thing goes out of whack, we stop or we fall. What are often seen as "action poses" are actually quite static. Your Dejah looks like she coming for me. I surrender.

  11. There seems to be an impulse today to show feminine characters with masculine traits. ...The Dejah Thoris in Burrough's series in the epitome of feminine strength. Strong willed, emotionally resilient (and even elusive), and even nurturing at times.

    Burroughs was comfortable making a woman radiate those qualities that so perfectly compliment the masculine. I think in his age it was understood that each sex had it's own distinct strengths and weaknesses, and before the politically correct poison we wallow in was poured into the culture, it was okay, if not expected, to portray a woman as a woman. ...Not as a man capable of taking down opponents thrice his size, and back-flipping off of dizzying heights, decapitating yet another hulking enemy with his sword, and finishing with a picturesque one-knee landing... but with breasts.

    The image you created is beautifully done, but the idea is particular to the PC, cultural views of the day... and not so much in human (or Martian) nature.

  12. Thanks for your comments, Phesten!

    Politically correct labels are about being correct, and should leave the political out of the discussion. My version of Dejah is about her being a strong female, whether Terran or Martian doesn't matter here. Making terms exclusive to gender is what gets in the way.

    She's a strong character and she's feminine. The end.

    Our brains want to categorize and organize and simplify, but life doesn't care so much. The point of the painting and the image of Dejah is to blend these themes to create a feeling about her character.


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