Cage Match 2011: John Carter of Mars versus Severian


The Contestants

John Carter.jpg

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John Carter
of Mars
Age: Early 30s (but possibly immortal)
Race: Human
Weapons / Artifacts: longsword
Mounted attack

Journeyman of the Guild of Torturers
Age: unknown
Race: Human
Weapons / Artifacts: Terminus Est (sword); “Claw of the Conciliator”

The Breakdown


  • Deadly swordsman
  • Fearless
  • Possibly immortal

  • Flawless memory
  • Dispassionate, methodical killer
  • Extensive knowledge of human anatomy

  • Hopless romantic

  • Quite possibly insane

  • N/A

  • N/A

How we think the fight will go

John Carter, warlord of Mars and prince consort to the beautiful Dejah Thoris, thundered across the Martian plain, pushing his eight-legged thoat ever faster. He exulted in these moments of pure freedom. They reminded him of the old frontier, the Wild West. After the war, Carter had pushed west in search of gold, and more importantly, away from the civilian life that never suited him. He felt truly alive now, whooping an old Apache war cry as he raced toward battle.

His enemy was a single man, a stranger named Severian. The Red Martians had told Carter that they thought this Severian was an Earthling, but no one was certain. The man never removed his mask. He had simply showed up one day outside the gates and demanded to face Carter in combat.

Carter, bored since his people had forged a peace with the Green Martians, had agreed to meet the man just south of the large canal outside of the city. The idea of a duel appealed to Carter. He had fought a few in the old days. At least he thought he had. His memory was unreliable. For one thing, he couldn’t remember ever being any younger than he was now. Sometimes he suspected that the memories he did have were borrowed from someone else. Then there were the great, black stretches of missing time—but never mind all of that.

He could see the man before him, his pale skin contrasting with the red of the Martian soil. A bundle lay at his feet. The fool had not even drawn his sword.

Carter dismounted in a graceful motion, bounding to the ground with his sword in hand. He called out to the man, eager to begin the duel.

“Stranger, if you mean to do me violence, I suggest you pull that sword.”

The masked stranger neither moved nor spoke.

“I won’t fight an unarmed man, even a fool like yourself. Now make up your mind before I tire of this game and head back home.”

“There will be no battle, Carter, because you are already dead.” The man stepped behind the bundle at his feet.

Carter felt a cold chill creep down his spine. He wasn’t quite sure why.

“I’ve killed the only thing you cared about. As even a mighty fortress must fall without a foundation, you too will succumb to despair. You will not be long for this world.”

The man nudged the bundle forward, the blanket around it unraveling as it the object rolled toward Carter.

“Your Dejah Thoris died bravely, if it is of any comfort to you.”

Carter tried to force himself to look down, afraid of what he would see.

“It was a simple matter to arrange for her abduction, and simpler matter yet to deliver her to the void. I worked upon her for hours, but as you’ll see, there’s hardly a mark upon her. Such is the skill of a master torturer.”

It was true. Dejah Thoris, the love of his life, was dead. Her lifeless body lay at his feet. The man was right: he had no reason to live anymore. He thought about begging the stranger for death, but he doubted he would deliver such a mercy. There was only one thing to do.

Carter threw himself on his blade, seeking in oblivion the only respite he could find.

Little could he have known that Dejah Thoris yet lived. She had been slipped a poisonous—yet not lethal—draught by a treacherous servant, supplied by Severian. She woke hours later, cold and alone in the Martian night, with only the body of the man she loved for company.

Somewhere, Severian laughed.

Predicted Winner: Severian


Check out the previous match!

Check out the next match!

Check out the Bracket

John Carter of Mars is a character from the Barsoom series by Edgar Rice Burroughs; Severian is a character from the Book of the New Sun series by Gene Wolfe.

John Carter of Mars image courtesy of Frank Frazetta. Severian image courtesy of Don Maitz.

  • Ezio Cauthon

    No offense, but screw that; if the situation was the same, I’d say he, instead of killing himself, would at least attack, and maybe kill, Severian, then take Dejah’s body back home. Like as not, she’d then wake up on the way, or maybe shortly after they got home, and they’d live happily ever after, so to speak.

  • AHEM

    Man, John Carter would have to be pretty gullible, not to mention a wimp who gives up too easily, for Severian to win like that.

    Listen, Carter, if he killed your love, then AVENGE HER, DARN IT. It would turn out a lot better for both of you if you did.

  • AHEM

    Is this an accurate depiction of how John Carter would react to such a situation? I mean, no attempt to fight, no attempt to avenge her, not even to bring the body back or keep on living, just giving up and falling on his sword? I haven’t read his books, so I need to know whether this situation is actually plausible before I vote either way. It seems to me like Carter would win this fight . . . if he doesn’t commit suicide before it begins.

  • Kristi Deming

    This is unacceptable. I haven’t read either series, but John Carter was created by the same man who made Tarzan. Do you REALLY think he would just fall on his sword???? He’d rip ole’Torture Boy into pieces, and by the time the poison wore off, Dejah would be awake, end of story.

  • Kristi Deming

    grrr…I meant that to say that by the time he finished killing Severian, the poison would have worn off, Dejah would have woken up, so there would be no reason for him to die.

  • Dandin Storm

    Wow. Romeo and Juliet much, Suvudu?

  • AHEM

    Hmm . . . who to vote for . . .

  • Dunno

    This is NOT an accurate depiction of John Carter. In the opening chapters of the first book, his best friend is killed and he’s surrounded by a couple hundred angry…Sioux, I think. Far from giving up the ghost, Carter never stops moving. He’s actually thought Dejah was dead on several occasions, but that just galvanized him.

    Sure, Carter is a romantic. But he gets even more active when he’s emotional, almost manic. That’s a flaw in its own right, as on occasion he’ll just bull into things sword flying without thinking about the odds, but it makes this situation highly unlikely.

    If some snide fellow claimed to have killed his love, Carter’s first reaction would be to rip out his sword and start hacking.

  • Samuel

    Just as an additional point, someone hasn’t been reading the books very closely. John Carter very likely would have a gun as well as a sword.

  • Well. Seems that someone forgot good ol’ Tars Tarkas, (‘scuse me, ‘Jeddak Tars Tarkas’) John Boys’ bosom buddy, life-long pal and green blood brother.

    Tars is too much the honorable Martian to interfere when matters of honor are at stake, but you can bet he watched this whole sorry mess from behind a dune, desperately holding Woola the calot back.

    If Carter falls though, you can bet Woola will be on Severian in a second, Tarkas following right behind. The two of them would make short and bloody work of this upstart, misplaced ‘earth’ man.

    Then, of course, Woola would desperately lick Carter’s face, while Tarkas bundled both of them up, mounted his thoat and galloped off to Helium, where red Martian technology (aided by black martian technology, white martian technology, yellow martian technology, kaldane technology and who knows what else) will discover and neutralize Dejah’s stupor and bring Carter back to life.

    So, as you can see, whether in reality or in fiction, there is just no way that the upstart guttersnipe can ever win!

  • Michael

    Utter crap. I don’t think anyone at suvudu bothered to read the Barsoom series. Wikipedia may be an awesome site for some things, but please do a little research if you want to include iconic characters from yesteryear. John Carter deserves so much more than this. And you know damn well that for those who know neither character – and given the day and age that the Barsoom novels were written, how many people DO know him now? – they’re just going to go by your write-up.

    I like a lot of the changes you’ve made to this year’s Cage Match, but you made apparently not quite enough yet.

    Next year, don’t write a “How We Think it Will Go” blurb. Write a post-victory “How it Went”, so we can enjoy a story based on how the fans actually voted… and we can avoid people merely aping your suggestion for characters they don’t know.

  • Ok, someone needs to weigh in for Severian here. Unfortunately I’ve got the opposite problem of everybody else who commented in that I’ve read Wolfe’s Book of the Long Sun but never read Burroughs’s Barsoom series. Even without knowledge of the latter, I agree that Carter would lay into Severian in an almighty rage straightaway…

    And still lose. Quickly. Decisively. What’s not mentioned here is that Severian was an excellent and deadly precise swordsman himself – in combat, not just torture. Carter would’ve lost his head surgically, cleanly, painlessly, swiftly. (Severian’s famous sword, Terminus Est, was a massive double-edged blade with no point – made for public beheadings – so he always sliced and chopped with it, lopping off whatever it came in contact with, mostly heads, human and otherwise.)

    But there’s a much more plausible scenario in which Severian probably could’ve brought Carter psychologically to his knees like this – or at least unnerved him so, unhinged his mind so, that any attack on Severian would be highly distracted and erratic and even less of a match for Severian’s combat prowess. Severian would’ve injected Dejah with a serum by which he could cannibalise a small part of her and then possess her memories and a genuine part of her personality, by which he could’ve spoken to Carter of intimate details he could not otherwise possibly know, even in Dejah’s voice. (Something like this happens in Book of the New Sun.) The remainder of her would of course still be lying at their feet as described above. That’s how dark this torturer could be. That’ll mentally take out even a warrior like Carter I reckon. Severian knows how to mess you up. He’s been trained and apprenticed in the master ways of torture since early childhood, with no family or life other than the Torturer’s Guild.

    And if Carter gets a second to back him up, then Severian does too – the giant Baldanders (at a time before they turned on one another).

    But, frankly, none of this is likely to happen for Severian was on a serious spiritual journey moving from torture and severe justice to healing and mercy (seriously, that’s the shape Book of the New Sun takes – they fail to mention above that the Claw of the Conciliator is a holy relic that brings healing and even resurrection at times – Sev would be far more likely to raise Carter’s beloved from fatality rather than inflict it or pretend to!). Severian would take him out without much qualm if Carter was the aggressor, but Severian would have to be very early on in his career to make a move like what’s described above – and really, even at that early stage he wouldn’t have been so cunning.

    Still, imagining this encounter is GREAT fun!

  • Dunno

    Point about the gun again. It might very well not come down to a sword fight unless Severian directly challenges Carter to a duel between gentlemen. I haven’t read his series, but judging from what’s been said here, I doubt that’s his style.

    So Carter probably WOULD just pull an Indiana Jones on him.

  • Samantha

    There is no way John Carter would just give up like that! I don’t know that much about Severian yet, but John Carter, I do know about. If he thought Dejah Thoris had been killed, he would fight for revenge!

  • Well, obviously the well-timed drawing of a pistol can trump any situation. But Severian lived through several laser pistol battles so the mere presence of a gun is no guarantee. Not to mention he has a habit of being self-healed by the afforementioned Claw of the Conciliator, when he’s surprised by a fatal blow. But that’s not guaranteed. The Claw’s powers are intermittent.

  • Another weak battle that doesn’t make any sense for each character. I’m a Gene Wolfe fan, so I’ll vote for his character.

  • Michael

    The few times his lady was abducted or killed he was Rage personified. Basically like Juggernaut. Then there are his kids. You honestly think hes going to leave them as well? Someone needs to go back and read their Burroughs.

  • Michael

    Abducted or thought she was killed I should say (gods of mars to name the main one)

  • Marc

    Severian’s autoresurrection capabilities with or without the claw are quite frankly near the level of the Increate. He has been poisoned by deadly flowers, died in a fall, drowned, reabsorbed into himself, freely travels through time. If the White Fountain is shining in the sky he is for all intents and purposes immortal, and could probably resurrect beings before the claw was ever in his possession. Even if John Carter cuts him down, he can simply arise up again, eidolon or no. His moves are designed to be one hit kills, and his sword is a bit unwieldy for dueling, so he will have to fall back on the intangible divinity he seems to have attained.

  • Dunno

    This is the only match so far for which I feel abject disgust at the outcome. *Sigh* Oh well, I guess I’ll get over it. Farewell, Carter.

  • Dan

    Who are these guys? I’ll tell you who will take out these 2 characters. SINBAD! Yes, Sinbad. He’s a Persian warrior that is fearless, fights all types of creatures and kills them all. His weapon is a golden dagger and sash. He would destroy both of these characters.

  • jammin

    John Carter would cut that lame ass monkey fucker right in half. Then he’d (Severian) come back from the dead….and get cut in half again. John Carter wins!

  • Tarun

    Bah.. this is stupid. First of all, John Carter would attack Severian to avenge Dejah – NOT fall on his own sword. Who would win is then a toss up. Severian has the advantage in the first few seconds before Carter adapts to him.

  • Gstar

    Severian would lose.

    John Carter would see Dejah dead, and he would go into an unbelievable rage. True, Severian might manage to kill him, but he’d still manage to kill Severian. The Claw of the Conciliator MIGHT manage to bring him back; but seeing as he’s in a different dimension, it’s more likely that all of the magical/mystical powers would be disabled. After all, as far as I know, John Carter doesn’t use magic, but technology. Admittedly extremely advanced technology, especially for someone who still uses a sword, but it’s not magical. Severian would get in a few lucky hits and maybe chop off his arm, but that would probably just get reattached. Severian would get his head chopped off and trampled under Carters horse.

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