I was inspired to revisit some comics while listening to the THN All-New Answer of the Week, Episode 10, and talk about Valiant’s current rekindling of their books took center stage. Turok, the Dinosaur Hunter was mentioned, as well as how Dark Horse Comics unsuccessfully attempted to resurrect the character in 2010 alongside fellow Gold Key characters Doctor Solar, Mighty Samson and Magnus Robot Fighter. I remember liking them when I first read them, yet word ringing through the streets was that they were bad. But I maintain that they weren’t so; they just didn’t find their audience. I compare it to the John Carter movie, which people heard was bad (it isn’t) and in turn, they didn’t give it a chance.
That’s the problem with these types of media: People tend to act like lemmings and go with the flow instead of choosing for themselves. Granted, I did not read all of the titles, instead choosing to pick up only Turok, Son of Stone (now reverted to it’s original title) and Mighty Samson — mainly because I prefer swords over science in my reading.
From the get-go I was taken by the books. The covers were so striking. They all follow the same format, with the title of the books set onto a strip of color across the top and each title carrying its own individual logo to match. It immediately brought back Dark Horse’s Comics’ Greatest Worlds series of books and the common elements those covers carried.
For Turok and Samson, Raymond Swanland was given cover duties. His work is savage and energetic, siphoning all of the action from the inside pages and pooling it on the cover in a single-color-focused paint palette. Swanland chooses a main color that drives all other color of the image with variants of that color masterfully used to evoke a mood or feeling. The art direction then takes it another step further and uses a single strip from that color family for the aforementioned title bar, tying it all together. But they say never judge a book by its cover, so let’s take a peek inside.
For this comeback, Dark Horse chose Jim Shooter to oversee publication. Flash back to the THN All-New Answer of the Week, Episode 11, and once again, these books get brought up, spurred by Mr. Shooter’s connection to them.
Despite whatever type of dictatorship and conflict the guy brings, I did find it a positive that he was spearheading the books. He grew up with the original books and has relaunched these same characters as editor-in-chief of Valiant in ’89. But this time he was going back to the original source material and building off of that.
Joining him on Turok, Son of Stone, for two issues of art chores was Eduardo Francisco, who had done very little work in the States, and the final two issues were drawn by James Harren, a personal favorite of mine. For Samson, it was Patrick Olliffe, who had done various works for both Marvel and DC. All of the artists brought their signature styles to the work and really got to shine building the new look of these old worlds.
So, do the creative teams deliver? Yes, they do. Jim Shooter is the biggest name here, with the artists being relative unknowns. Maybe it was the fact there was no star power draw that led to the books poor performance.
Shooter does a great job of making Turok what it originally was: the story of a displaced American Indian and his companion in a time lost land, filled with dinosaurs and prehistoric humans. Not the wacky Dinosaur Hunter series of the ’80s where Turok uses machine guns, and the dinosaurs are talking, machinery-enhanced lizards that come to the modern world. Back to basics here, but with a slight twist.
Turok and Andar are not the only ones transplanted to this lost world. There are Aztecs, a woman from the modern world and a man with weapons, including a space craft and laser gun from the far-flung future. Although the story is actually a bit light on dinosaurs, the emphasis is on Turok and how he relates and seamlessly becomes part of this world. All of the characters are well-established, and I found myself rooting for certain parties.
Although this story does wrap up in its four issues, the door is left open for more, with Turok and Andar’s fate left to wander.
Eduardo Fancisco does a stellar job bringing the lost world to life, and I would have liked to see him continue. His detail and accuracy of the different culture’s clothes and weapons is a delight. But getting James Harren to finish it out is straight brilliant. The action revs up the final two issues, and if there is one thing Harren excels at, it’s action scenes. His panels move with panther-like speed when needed, yet he can still handle the calmer moments with an equal mastery. The story took itself pretty seriously with the more comedic moments coming from the woman displaced from the modern world and the misunderstanding of different cultures trying to communicate. I would gladly have read more.
Mighty Samson has never been retooled. Since the final issue of the original run, Samson remained all but forgotten until Dark Horse gave him a new home. I find I enjoyed this book more so than Turok, mainly because of how Samson is presented and how familiar things, such as modern cities, are given an unfamiliar twist.
For those unfamiliar with Samson, the story takes place 500 years after the end of the world. Mankind shares Earth, now battle-scarred and reverted to a near-prehistoric state, with all manner of mutated beasts. It’s a dangerous place. But the story itself is more fun and lighthearted than Turok. Samson, for all his power, is still a rather naive fellow. It’s actually quite funny. The tribes roaming what was once New York are called N’Yarks, with their enemies being the Jerz (from Jersey). Shooter uses characters from the original series to flesh out the supporting cast and to expand the different peoples populating what was once Earth. Patrick Olliffe really tears into this world. His Samson looks just like how you might picture him, and his monsters are the right twist of recognizable and fantastical at once. Again, a book I would have remained with had it kept going.
The paper quality and coloring are stellar on both titles. The first issues of each also includes a reprinting of the very first Turok from 1954 and Mighty Samson from 1964. I always enjoy when companies add this feature. It gives you a slice of history that you may not have otherwise been privy to. But more importantly, it really makes you appreciate modern comics and how they have evolved. Look, I could talk to you until I’m blue in the face on why these books deserve a second chance. Probably, you’ll never believe me. But think of some of your favorite books that no one else is reading and which are now struggling to stay alive. They deserve a chance in your view, yes?
Yeah, well, I heard they suck so good luck with that …
Wooly Toots is just a man. A man like any other. Although there is not a corner of geekdom that has escaped his eye, he doesn’t always like what he sees. He is uncomfortable with the term “love slave.”