I guess with a title like that, the metaphorical cat is out of the imagined bag, here. Today, we are going to discuss and review Turok, specifically, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #1, the opener for the 1993 Valiant Comics series. Turok has long been on my ‘B-team’ of comic fandom.
I ought to explain, because the B-Squad is NOT the not-ready-for-prime-timers, au contraire. My B-team is populated by the characters I like enough to say I dig ’em, but not so much I have spent so much money on them. Folks like Zorro, Daredevil, Hellboy, The-Big-Red-Cheese Captain Marvel, and even Supes himself. Time-tossed Turok is among these noble warriors, and I am glad to have him there!
My first exposure to Turok was about 1998. I was visiting with the the nine year old Brandan and Jordan Stolen. A couple of years prior, I’d introduced the twins to comics; and on that day, I spotted a tattered copy of X-O Manowar, with special guest Turok! There he was, in all his glory, a proud and mighty American Indian hunting cyborg dinosaurs. I mean, what’s not to love? It wasn’t long after that one of my housemates brought home ‘Turok: Dinosaur Hunter‘ for N64; and what a game that was (even though I am not a FPS player.)
Turok and I didn’t cross paths too often after that, and I went back to reading the exploits of my favourite urban avengers. A few weeks back I spotted Turok #1 at Game Time here in ‘Bluffs, and decided I needed more Turok in my life. Of course, Turok’s own story has a lot more to it.
Created by Western Publishing in 1954, Turok was originally imagined as a pre-Columbian Native American from the South-West who, along with his little brother Andar, found his way through the Carlsbad Cavern to a hidden valley deep in the Earth that was populated with all manner of prehistoric beasties. (Now, I have never had the chance to check these stories out, but they are definitely on my list!) Western, through it’s various companies, such as Dell, Whitman, or Gold Key, published and re-published Turok stories up throught the middle ’80’s.
In the early ’90’s, Turok got a remake by the folk at Valiant. Instead of being pre-Columbian, Turok and Andar were moved to the 19th Century, an instead of a lost valley, the Indian youths discovered a pathway to the ‘Lost Lands’, an indeterminate crossroads of universes and times (where Time has no meaning). There Turok met the likes of Magnus, Robot fighter, Solar the Nuclear Man, and X-O Manowar. In a big crossover event, Turok finds himself facing off against ‘bionisaurs’, cybornetically enhanced dinos in the employ of a being called ‘Mothergod’. Battle is joined and the day is saved; and Turok is again thrown though time and space only to land in modern Columbia, in jungle.
Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #1, penned by David Michelinie, and art by Bart Sears and Randy Elliot, begins with the story told above, as Turok narrates for the first five and-a-half pages, but doesn’t stop there. In fact, Turok narrates the entire story. Awaking in the jungle, Turok finds sign that his great rival Mon-Ark, leader of the dinosaurs, has himself made it to modern Columbia. Mon-Ark is a butcher, and the leader of butchers, who kills with no reservation or mercy, and Turok has dedicated himself to slaying the dragon in order to protect innocent lives. But alone and in the wild, Turok might be outmatched. He is nearly killed falling off a cliff and into a river, but rescued by Serita, a Columbian Native. For a brief time, Turok finds a home and acceptance among these simple working folk, until the dinos start hunting him; and Turok must decide between peace and safety.
I mentioned Turok’s narration before. Almost more than his somber carriage, it is his internal monologue that reinforces Turok’s strength of character, resolve, and inner stoicism. We see that Turok is a thinker–that he is a warrior who is thoughtful and serious, not reckless. And we see that his motive is not glory, but duty. It is here that I think I love Turok the most.
Writing an ethnic character is difficult. It can seem to be a pastiche or a stereotype or insincere flattery. Or it can be down right insulting. But the writer has just got to give it the best he or she can. What I find most striking about Turok in this comic is his individualism. He was a man with a personal stake, a personal honor to live in. There are things he does and mannerisms he holds that bear the essence of a cultural paradigm, but those are not the things that define Turok. He is not a Native American Warrior as much as he is a Warrior who is a Native American. He is a man first, possessed of a nobility, a violence, skill, and a devotion to his mission. Those things about the MAN Turok are highlighted and accentuated by his culture, but he is an individual. He chooses to forgo his personal comfort and act with his exceptional skill to attain a higher goal, defense of the innocent and justice to the victim; and that is what makes him a hero.