Tars Tarkas and John Carter fight the Plant Men of the Valley Dor. Artwork by Michael Whelan
Tars Tarkas is the Jeddak of Thark, and a longtime ally of Warlord John Carter. Like all Tharks, he is a brute and can be cruel, but he has aspirations of raising the Tharks to become more than just an angry, subsistant coalition of tribes. He was driven to seek power after his lover Gozava was killed by then-Jeddak Tal Hajus.
Tars Tarkas was a cruel and heartless fighter who served the evil jeddak Tal Hajus, but Tars Tarkas became a good person when he met a young Tharkian woman named Gozava. He met Gozava when he was in the city one day and he noticed her sitting on a bench, so he sat down beside her and they had a casual conversation. Then Gozava started talking about how she felt about Tharkian society, how she hated the cruelty and heartlessness of her people, Tars Tarkas couldn't help but agree with her. From then on, Tars Tarkas knew love and began to love instead of hate, and he started a romantic relationship with Gozava. Gozava and Tars Tarkas kept their love a secret because Tal Hajus would not be pleased if he knew one of his warriors had become soft and fallen in love. Gozava and Tars Tarkas later had a daughter named Sola but kept her a secret, Gozava hid the child in an abandoned ancient Tharkian structure and visited her everyday. Eventually Sarkoja discovered the child and had Gozava imprisoned in the castle of Tal Hajus, Sola was adopted by an unknown Martian family and never found by Sarkoja. Whilst in the castle of Tal Hajus, Gozava was tortured by Tal Hajus and died a slow and painful death. After hearing what had happened to his wife, Tars Tarkas hated Tal Hajus and vowed one day to kill Tal Hajus and avenge his beloved wife's death.
- Sola, Tars Tarkas has a good relationship with his daughter, and although having a child like this is forbidden in traditional Thark culture Tars Tarkas did not hide this fact.
- Gozava, the one woman Tars Tarkas ever loved, against thark law and culture he loved her and fathered a child with her.
In the Disney film, Tars Tarkas is already the Jeddak of Thark, which is presented as a much smaller horde, rather than many hordes of a great nation. He is the first being that John Carter meets after arriving on Mars. His primary rival in power is Tal Hajus, who challenges him for control of the horde. He loses his position after he allows Carter, Dejah Thoris, and his daughter, Sola, to escape down the river Iss in a display of sentiment. When Carter and Sola return to Thark, he and Carter are sentenced to the arena. John Carter saves his life and restores his station. In return, Tars Tarkas leads the Tharks against the armies of Zodanga to fight in defense of Helium.
According to the Warlord of Mars comic series, Tars got his surname after he killed a cruel Tharkian warrior who was named Tarkas.
- Tars tarkas briefly appeared in the DC comic limited collectors edition, vol 1 C-49 during a wedding scene. According to the information at the end of the book he is lacking two of his arms, but that is inconsistent with the image of the character.