Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #008: Young Hawk

Friday, February 21, 2020 at 9:00 am Comments Off on Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #008: Young Hawk

The Funnies #65 (1942)
In the last entry I briefly mentioned Young Hawk, a comic strip with a lot of similarities to Son of Stone, so much so that it even tangentially ties into the creation of Turok as a whole. No good comic book begins without a decades-spanning kerfuffle over the true identity of who created it, how it came about, and other minutiae that’ll eat up a dozen pages of a retrospective before it gets to the bits anyone might be familiar with. Be glad I didn’t start the feature on this tangent!

Twelve years before Turok made his debut in Four Color Comics, there was a little strip called Young Hawk penned by the very same author, Gaylord Du Bois. In the western-lovin’ years of 1942, it was one of many stories centred on brave men surviving against the treacheries of the wilderness, fighting against, interacting with, or otherwise starring Native Americans. Much like Turok: Son of Stone, however, while it fumbles in some stereotypical vernacular and depictions, it otherwise presents the Indigenous characters as people, without setting out to make them simplistic caricatures… at least by the standards of the depth-starved medium at the time.

New Funnies #66 (1942)
Set in the 1500s, long before the white man showed their face in Dakota, a pair of boys from a Mandan tribe are separated from their people in a prairie fire and find themselves having to survive the wild lands. Without their kin or elders to support them, they must only rely on their instincts and teachings – and their adorable puppy dog, Tumbleweed – to survive encounters with savage beasts and dangerous environments.
Young Hawk, being the title character, is a little older and a little wiser than his companion Little Buck, and is forced to improvise tools and schemes from whatever they can scavenge in hazardous scenarios. Although fanciful, in the earliest strips these moments of ingenuity have all the tools shown on-panel to the kids at home; the first story alone demonstrates how to create a rope, a fire, or even splints, all with materials you’d find in the canyons of bum-fluff-nowhere.

The strip made its debut on July 1942 in issue #65 of The Funnies (alternately titled Walter Lantz New Funnies), an anthology comic mostly dedicated to established cartoon characters, among them Raggedy Ann and Andy, Walter Lantz’ Oswald, and the relic of a racially insensitive time himself, Li’l Eightball. Young Hawk was perhaps an oddity among the cast of cuddly animals, but hardly the only ‘serious’ strip in its ranks, with jungle fare and pirate antics in Keeto the Jungle Boy and The Robinsons to keep it company.

The Lone Ranger #40 (1951)
Young Hawk
ran for only a scant three issues in The Funnies, but would reappear across Dell Comics’ cowboy publishings as a perpetual backup strip, perhaps where it was more appropriate. It enjoyed a single appearance in issue #33 of Red Ryder Comics, before finding its forever home in The Lone Ranger, appearing semi-regularly from 1948 until 1962, with its final strip appearing in issue #145.
The series’ publishing history has been documented, but perhaps not in the most easily navigable manner. The Grand Comics Database lists all its appearances in its internal search engine, including foreign reprints and anything remotely resembling the name. There are roughly 150 appearances of Young Hawk, discounting possible repeats.

A number of elements would carry over into early issues of Son of Stone. The byplay between Young Hawk and Little Buck in the early strips is very similar to Turok and Andar, though aged up from little boys to young men. Young Hawk’s flavour of crafty action would carry on into early Turok strips, but would soon take a backseat in both series to more general action; where Turok often ran afoul of superstitious natives, Young Hawk instead focused on their day-to-day survival and wellbeing.

A couple of plots are even pretty dang similar; the very second story, told across The Funnies #66 and #67, has Young Hawk fetching a horse to carry his injured companion, a tale we’ll see great similarities to in the very next entry! On the whole, however, Young Hawk is almost akin to a slice of life – not every story is a daring adventure, but some are simply about making new friends among foreign tribes, playing games or solving problems.

New Funnies
#67 (1942)
While threads of continuity would sputter out quickly in Turok, Young Hawk appeared to maintain its chronology across its serialised run. Although the quest to reunite with their tribe was abandoned after Red Ryder Comics #33, their journeying spirit never stopped, taking them across America and interacting with the local tribes, their final stories taking place in the frosty lands of the Yukon.
Perhaps the biggest difference between the two is the lack of Dell’s “pledge to parents” – where Son of Stone obfuscates most harm that befalls its human characters, Young Hawk hides nothing when our child hero fatally crushes attackers under boulders, or show villainous schemers getting their just deserts: a tomahawk to the skull. It remains just as bloodless as classic Turok, but it’s not afraid to depict senseless death, and pauses to dwell on the loss of life when it could so easily have been avoided.

While they share a good deal of tropes and idioms, they’re just that – common methods of storytelling. There’s nothing to suggest Young Hawk has anything to do with the development of Turok, unless you knew they were both written by the same author. Even then, Dell Comics were not in the habit of crediting writers, artists, or much of anyone on their comics; Young Hawk‘s only credit is “Copr. 1942 by R.S. Callender”, a name only affiliated with one-offs in Popular Comics circa 1936 to my knowledge. Trying to identify who worked on these strips is largely down to detective work.
Randall W. Scott, a librarian at the Michigan State University, appears to be the one responsible for publicising Gaylord Du Bois’ credit as the writer and creator of Young Hawk through the release of his personal accounts to the university’s library. Going off Mark Evanier’s various retrospectives of artists who worked at Dell, they weren’t in the business of passing work between staff, so one can presume Du Bois worked on the entire series.

The Lone Ranger #64 (1952)
According to his personal records, Du Bois penned two stories in 1954 titled “Young Hawk and the World Below“, and “Young Hawk Conquers the Terrible Ones“. David Porta on LiveJournal made the leap to suggest that the title and pagecount of these stories line up with what became Turok’s first adventures in Four Color Comics #596! It can only be assumed this fantastical twist on the survival adventures of young Mandan tribesmen was a bit too much of a swerve, and renamed to become its own entirely different franchise.

There have been a few guesses at the identity of Turok’s creator over the years, and this only complicates matters – Du Bois certainly penned the first Turok strip, but only because editorial changed the title of what was otherwise an entirely different comic. Should Du Bois be hailed as the creator of Turok? Does the unknown editor deserve it, if that is indeed what happened? Is the title of “creator” even worth anything in this topsy-turvy world of media conglomerates and hereditary works? The Du Bois estate (if any) certainly hasn’t gotten a dime for any of the reprints and derivative works…!

The Lone Ranger #140 (1961)
Du Bois is credited with writing eight Turok stories, before Paul S. Newman would take on the series from then on out. Young Hawk would continue its serialisation with the young adventurers and their pup aging as the series went on, growing from young scouts to prepared young men, and even little Tumbleweed growing into a big ol’ dog. Although adventures abounds, by the series’ end the two were still no closer to an end to their journey, and the final story is no different from any other; closure was a rare commodity in comics of the era.

Although not nearly as fantastical as Turok, there’s something very sweet about Du Bois’ writing, who tells tales steeped in adventure and big on heart, with copious amounts of dog-related comic relief for sappy readers like myself. If this era of Son of Stone is to your fancy, these might be worth tracking down if you want more of the same.
For all the comics starring Native Americans at the time, it’s curious how Turok was somehow the one to stand the test of time, running for 26 straight years in its original incarnation — and that’s before we start addressing the ’90s reboots and beyond. It’s probably because of the dinosaurs, though. A little bit of dinosaurs goes a long way!

The Lone Ranger #47 (1952)
Anyway, I started this whole investigation because Turok has a wolf pup now. Will Turok’s dog pull his weight to justify this deep dive? That remains to be seen!

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