art of John Carpenter’s “Ghosts of Mars” day one

Well, here is a mish mash favorite, I didn’t think I had all this on the computer but found it in a frantic “what to post” search…the images are soft and the exposures aren’t sharp, but this was done in the days when I didn’t have a scanner so I had to take pictures of the original art taped to the wall!!!!  HAAA, the old days of my computer illiteracy…not much more advanced now either!!!  HAAA!  Anyway, after DS9 and Geppetto there was a long dry spell in movie production, and I discovered a website called Production Weekly.  It’s a site that lists all productions that are getting ready to start.  Some never do and others just take longer to get going, but at least you know what’s out there.

It was early 2000 and I came across the listing for a new John Carpenter Sci Fi/Horror movie called “Ghosts of Mars”.  JOHN CARPENTER!!!  Holy Cow!!  I called and broke every rule to get through to the Production Designer on this one, and I was so glad that they brought me on!!!  Bill Elliot was my boss, and we worked out of the Culver Studios in Culver City.  The crux of the job was architecture and a whole load of props.  What you see here on day one is the establishing look of a Martian mining community.  The buildings were to have the look that they were dropped from a mold and have a gritty adobe type finish.  John’s point on the designs of things was distinguishing different places by the shadows they cast.  After showing him many renderings of various buildings, this was kind of the conclusion I came up with in how I would draw each structure.  Lot’s of fun drawings for today, and it was a blast to work with one of my all time favorite directors.  So with that, enjoy day one!


exterior sketch

exterior sketch

and on the set in New Mexico

and on the set in New Mexico

structure 2

structure 2

service garage

service garage

pump house

pump house


fueling and chemical station

fueling and chemical station

exterior to the reactor building

exterior to the reactor building


interior to the reactor room

interior to the reactor room

main airlock to the prison complex

main airlock to the prison complex


and a variety of patch art

and a variety of patch art

13 Responses to “art of John Carpenter’s “Ghosts of Mars” day one”

  1. 1 deg
    September 1, 2009 at 9:57 pm

    Ahahaha, necessity, the mother of invention! Takin’ pics on the wall, Awesome! They all look great too. BTW, which “rules” did ya break to get in? And is the production weekly website still around?

    Thanks for sharin’, John! 🙂


  2. September 1, 2009 at 11:21 pm

    Thanks for this. I got this on dvd a few months ago, and it was the first time I’d seen it. I really liked the design of the sets in it, from the colony to the train interiors.

  3. 4 Freak
    September 2, 2009 at 4:06 am

    Another one have not seen.

    but I love the building desgins.

  4. September 2, 2009 at 7:17 am

    Not as bad a movie as some people make out, I thought it was fun, just not as good as it could or should have been ! Cool design work though !!!

  5. 6 DeanneM
    September 2, 2009 at 11:47 am

    You certainly achieved the “dropped from a mold” look. I like how the recurring theme on many of them is the flying buttress style support you see a lot in gothic architecture…I guess even on Mars you want your walls to stay up, eh? 🙂

  6. 7 Buckaroohawk
    September 2, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    John Carpenter is one of my favorite directors. I can watch “Halloween”, “The Thing”, “The Fog”, “Escape from New York”, and “They Live” over and over again and never get bored. I’ve never seen “Ghosts of Mars” though. Of course, now that I know you worked on the production design I’ll have to pick it up and give it spin in the old DVD player.

    The drawings look great. You can hardly tell that the images were photographed and not scanned. And the final set designs seem very close to your drawings as well. Maybe it’s just me but I often find that finished set designs often differ greatly from the drawings on which they are based. Perhaps it’s just the transition from 2D to 3D, or the on-set lighting design makes things look different, or maybe changes are made dictated by budget, or all of the above. In any case, the constructed sets really adhere to your drawings, which is very cool.

    • 8 Jay
      September 3, 2009 at 6:30 pm

      “The Fog” is my favorite horror movie. Mr. Carpenter’s career stumbled in later years, but what an amazing run of movies he had there for 6 or 7 years, from the late ’70s through the mid-’80s. Enviable and admirable.

      AND he was married to Adrienne Barbeau.

  7. 9 Lee
    September 2, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    Fantastic pics, John. Knowing you worked on this film makes it slightly less guilty a pleasure to watch!

  8. September 2, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    Not his best movie, but still enjoyable enough and the production values were pretty good. I always watch it when it’s on tv.

    I’m curious what rules you broke as well. Anonymous threats written in fake Martian dust? 😉

  9. September 7, 2009 at 12:39 am


    Two things

    1) I’d like your permission to (re)print your article on ‘The Clone Wars’ for our website

    2) I was hoping we could use your ‘scribing’ talent for our website.

    The Best Shows Youre Not Watching (dot) com [all one word]

    ‘The Clone Wars’ is one of our featured shows. We’re hoping to round up a few people who can occasionally contribute perspective (via an article/blog) on the shows – maybe a recent episode, future direction, plot shortcomings etc.

    What’s in it for you?
    Primarily a larger audience back channeled to your blog. We don’t pay but the site has a lot of promise and we’re pretty excited about getting it off the ground. Let me know what you think.


  10. 12 Matt Boardman
    September 8, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    Oooo…another to add to the list of movies to see! Love the connecting theme with all the buildings, yet they’re all uniquely and interestingly their own.

  11. July 11, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    Hi John.

    I really love your designs. Would you ever consider selling the original print of the patch art?

    ~ Natalie

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September 2009

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