Friday, June 12, 2009

Like Athena from the brow of Zeus...

In 1954, the idea for Turok, Son of Stone sprang from the brain of this man, Gaylord Dubois (1899-1993). Dubois was an incredibly prolific writer for comics (one source gives the total number of scripts at over 3,000), many of these for Western Publishing, i.e. Dell and Gold Key comics.

The Turok concept seems to have blossomed out of Dubois' work on Dell's Lone Ranger comic, in which he'd recently inserted a new Indian character called Young Hawk. Young Hawk was to star in Dubois' new title about an Indian lost in a hidden valley filled with dinosaurs and cavemen, but before publication Young Hawk became Turok, and Turok gained a companion, the youthful Andar. The time period for their adventures was now "before the coming of the white man."

Dubois went on to write the next seven issues. As a small child, I only caught one of these, but now, with Dark Horse's archived Turok, I'm catching up, reading the first six issues in sequence as I would a book with chapters. Back in 1958, at 9 or 10, I was able to secure issues of Turok more or less regularly, but I was in it for the dinosaurs. Indians didn't grab me. I'd read a book about Squanto that I'd liked, and Lon Chaney, Jr. was okay as Chingachgook in an early TV show based on The Last of the Mohicans. Disliking Tonto was an untenable position. Yet Westerns bored me, and I'd never picked up an issue of Dubois' Lone Ranger comic. And cavemen? Even at 10 I knew cavemen with dinos constituted an anachronism, but, regardless of that issue, I had no use for them.

For this bristle-haired boy, the success of any issue of Turok rode on the frequency of dinosaur appearances and how well they were drawn. Large prehistoric mammals, saber-tooth tigers, mammoths, etc., didn't cut it. Just give me the thunder lizards, see?

The plots meant little to me, the writing nothing at all. But now that I'm paying attention, I must give Dubois his due, especially for his scripting of the first issue. It's not surprising to read that Dubois was an "avid outdoorsman." Turok is nothing if not a tale of survival in the great, prehistoric outdoors, with only simple tools, a bow and arrow, and your wits to keep you alive. Dubois fills his narrative with Indian ingenuity, most often in the form of Turok observing a dangerous or mysterious circumstance, pondering his options, and then acting decisively upon his best judgement.

In the first issue's fourth panel, Turok notices a column of what appears to be smoke rising from a distant hill. Andar thinks prairie fire, but Turok knows better. [above]

Throughout Turok's quarter century run, there was this constant: while Andar persistently leads with his youthful gut, Turok pauses, thinks, and troubleshoots. Dubois inserts Indian lore and Indian know-how whenever he can, and thereby, perhaps unintentionally, provides his stories with a subtext.

Whenever Turok and Andar meet up with primitive tribes in successive sunken valleys, the Indians are the ones with technology and advanced weaponry (poisoned-tipped arrows) and the cavemen are the savages, sometimes not knowing how to rub two sticks together, helpless in the face of nature and its attendant terrors like flesh-eating dinosaurs. Who's white man now?


  1. Nice to see a face put to the creator of "Brothers of the Spear" (who knew?)!

  2. He also scripted Dell's Tarzan. And wrote a bunch of Dell's movie comics, e.g. Spartacus, 7th Voyage of Sinbad.