Mars in pop culture -
Published Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 1:00 am / Updated at 1:53 am
Mars in pop culture

Our fascination with Mars is reflected in books, songs, movies and more, from TV's “My Favorite Martian” to the ubiquitous image of little green men. Some examples:


“Life on Mars,” David Bowie, 1971. More of an examination of what's going on here on Earth, the song asks the question we've all wondered: “Is there life on Mars?”

“Ballrooms of Mars,” T. Rex, 1972. This glam-rock tune mentions the glitzy dance clubs on the Red Planet and name-drops Bob Dylan, Alan Freed and John Lennon. These ballrooms sound much like the ones on Earth, but spacier.

“Rocket Man,” Elton John, 1972. “It's lonely out in space,” indeed. Mars is cold and no place to raise a family, the rocket man tells us. Yeah, it wouldn't be our first choice.

“Teenagers From Mars,” the Misfits, 1978. Teenage behavior may often seem alien, but the ones in this song are invading and doing bad, bad stuff.

“Phone Home,” Lil Wayne, 2008. Dropping a reference to E.T., the artist says he's a Martian. “We are not the same,” he raps.


“Invaders From Mars,” 1953. In the heyday of space paranoia, a boy finds out Martians are taking over people's brains.

“War of the Worlds,” 1953 and 2005. For the original version, made at the height of the Cold War, Martian = Russian. Steven Spielberg's recent version stars Tom Cruise.

“Santa Claus Conquers the Martians,” 1964. “Mystery Science Theater” turned this awful movie into a cult classic.

“Total Recall,” 1990. Paul Verhoeven's version of the Philip K. Dick short story starred Arnold Schwarzenegger. A current remake deletes the Mars plotline.

“Mars Attacks!” 1996. Tim Burton's black sci-fi satire casts Jack Nicholson as the ill-fated president when an invasion terrorizes America.

“John Carter,” 2012. Taylor Kitsch stars as the hero of Edgar Rice Burroughs' novels, an Earthling who gets caught up in an epic Martian power struggle.


“The War of the Worlds,” H.G. Wells, 1898. The first major work to explore the concept of the extraterrestrial invader.

“The Martian Tales,” Edgar Rice Burroughs, circa 1917. Eleven novels describe the exploits of Civil War veteran John Carter, who winds up on Mars.

“Out of the Silent Planet,” C.S. Lewis, 1938. The beloved children's writer's version of Mars is a peaceful planet untouched by sin, where three races co-exist in harmony.

“The Martian Chronicles,” Ray Bradbury, 1950. One of the world's best science fiction authors flips the tables, having Earthlings invade Mars.

Mars trilogy, Kim Stanley Robinson, 1993-96. Her recent sci-fi novels are perhaps the most realistic look at the colonization of Mars in literature.

“Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.” 1992. Author and relationship counselor John Gray used this metaphor to explain the fundamental differences between the genders. The self-help book spent 121 weeks on the best-seller list.


“Marvin the Martian,” 1948. The comic figure of an intelligent Martian becomes a Looney Toons cartoon hit for Warner Bros., eventually airing on TV.

“Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?,” a “Twilight Zone” episode, 1961. In a diner, waiting bus passengers fear there's a Martian among them.

Bill Brixby and Ray Walston

“Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars,” 1954-55. A serial originally made for movie theaters in 1938, it aired on television and starred Buster Crabbe.

“My Favorite Martian,” 1963-66. Ray Walston was the guy with the antennae who crash-landed and is stuck on Earth. Bill Bixby was his landlord.

“Babylon 5,” 1994-2000. A Martian colony that fights for independence from Earth is a major plot element.


“Mars Attacks.” Later turned into a film, “Mars Attacks” was originally a trading card series in 1962. It's been turned into a comic book a few times. The most recent series launched in June and its first issue quickly sold out.

“Warriors of Mars.” Based on the John Carter character that appeared in an eponymous movie this year, “Warriors of Mars” has Carter meeting another Earth man, Gullivar Jones. The comic launched in February this year.

“Watchmen” One of this seminal graphic novel's most important scenes takes place on Mars, where the cosmically powerful Dr. Manhattan has a conversation about whether humanity deserves to be saved with his lover, Laurie Juspeczyk, aka Silk Spectre II.

Video games

“Red Faction.” Set in the late 21st century, this first-person shooter follows a Mars miner who leads a rebellion against the Ultor Corp. Sequels take place on Earth and on Mars.

“Doom.” A space Marine fights his way through military bases on the moons of Mars, where demons from hell have spawned. Sequels feature similar story lines.

“Mass Effect.” Mars is something of a backwater planet in the “Mass Effect” series, but ruins of an ancient space-faring race were found there.


Mars bar. It may taste out of this world, but the milk chocolate candy containing nougat, soft caramel and almonds is named for Frank C. Mars, who made Mars candies in the early 1900s. The Mars bar got a U.S. relaunch in 2010 after being discontinued in 2002.

Compiled by Bob Fischbach and Kevin Coffey

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