Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #014: Cold Blood Blazing

Friday, March 13, 2020 at 9:00 am Comments Off on Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #014: Cold Blood Blazing

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #1

The nineties catch up with Turok!

When we last saw Turok, he had just walked away from his servitude to the universe-threatening Mothergod… but how did he come to serve as her huntsman in the first place? What happened to him afterward? And where was Andar during all this? The grand debut of Turok: Dinosaur Hunter helpfully begins with a recap of all we need to know.

If you’d read the Son of Stone comics, you know how Turok and Andar first wandered into the Lost Land. And if you kept on top of Valiant, then you saw the visitors from the future try to colonise it in Magnus: Robot Fighter, savaging the land and nearly exterminating the time-stranded natives to carve a domain for themselves…

Then out of nowhere appeared Mothergod, seemingly gracing the Lost Land with her rainbow tower, and aspiring to bring harmony to all of existence: Unity, she called it.
Although a pithy line, “only fools and white men deny the wisdom of gods” doesn’t quite line up with what we know of Turok from Son of Stone, where he was constantly refuting the native tribes’ belief in gods. He sought to find logic behind what they believed to be signs of a greater power; not out of an anti-religion agenda, but more because their beliefs kept putting his and Andar’s asses on the line. This is the first time a so-called god had a rockin’ bod, though, so you can forgive him for flip-flopping just this once.

Of course, then the words of Archer put the kibosh on that; there was nothing holy about her violence and genocide. So Turok apparently threw his lot in with the rest of the Valiant heroes, fighting alongside the likes of Shadowman and X-O Manowar in the war against Mothergod’s hordes!
No, that didn’t happen in the pages of Unity, it’s just suggested to have happened sometime, somewhere… off-panel, most likely. This would be a recurring trend across all future Valiant stories, even Turok. Need a familiar face to reappear? Require an inciting incident for a hero or villain? Say it happened during Unity. After all, the event only followed a dozen or so characters, but its wars wrought the entirety of the Lost Land. There’s bound to be stuff we missed the first time!

Mothergod didn’t take this sitting down, and to repay his betrayal, sent her underlings to lay waste to the camp, slaughtering the people he had fought alongside. There were no survivors, and Andar was nowhere to be found. Wracked with grief and stricken with rage, he sought to slay the pillagers and their leader, but before he could enact vengeance, he found himself whisked away to another world…
… to Colombia, South America, in June of 1987.

Turok’s had a crummy time of it, huh? He’s lost his closest friend and companion, he’s lost his adopted tribe… he’s even lost the Lost Land, somewhere he thought he’d never be free of! On top of that, he’s lost time! Over a hundred years have passed on Earth since he and Andar entered that fated cave, and much of what he knew is now gone.
One thing he hasn’t lost, however…

… is adversaries!
Meet Mon-Ark. He’s a mean-lookin’ reptile with a mouth full of fangs, claws fit to tear a man in half, and perhaps nastiest of all: the brains to let him revel in it. He’s not just an ordinary dinosaur, but a bionisaur – an evolutionary throwback gifted with cunning and intelligence, courtesy of their metallic brain implants. The Lost Land’s coming down in dinosaurs, and apparently Mothergod figured, why waste them? Stick some brains in them and you’re good to go! The Lost Land may be gone, but whatever forces transplanted Turok to this new time, it’s carried over the less respectful denizens as well.

Oh, and Mon-Ark has a mate. Hello, Mrs. Mon-Ark.

Even with Mothergod’s bow and quiver of explosive arrows, Turok can’t fight at this close-range. The cliff they’re on gives way, and Turok is plunged into the water below.

His body washes on the shore of a small jungle village, and he’s rested back to health in the house of Serita, a charming native girl. Turok is able to communicate with the natives (thanks to Mothergod’s nebulous language infusions), and although you can’t take away his fighting spirit, he finds himself at peace in his new lodgings.

Mon-Ark and his posse are also enjoying the lodgings – the gatherers collecting herbs make easy prey, and one of them lets slip Turok’s name. The bionisaur lets him live, knowing Turok will go hunting for them once more…

… allowing them to pull the same stunt as before: attacking Turok’s adopted tribe while he’s away. Jaws and claws hurt, but cruel irony’s on a whole other level. He returns to a scene of carnage and empties his quiver to cut down the raptors, tearing the rest apart with his knife…

… all but one, who knocks his weapon aside! The only thing standing between him and its maw is Mothergod’s bow, which has aided him well in his battles so far, and is still full of surprises– it’s got a big freakin’ switchblade buried inside it, for a start! That’s one for the mantelpiece. The bow or the decapitated head, either works.

The battle may be won, but Mon-Ark still lives and won’t stop hitting Turok where it hurts – the people he cherishes. He and Serita may have grown fond of each other, but she can’t abandon her people, nor can he stay and endanger them further; he has no choice but to leave his new tribe behind. The hunt continues!

As a re-introduction to our hunter out of time, it does a reasonable job. The commentative narration is translated accordingly for the modern day, following Turok’s inner monologue instead of a detached narrator, and he himself is reinvented as a warrior fighting to fix his past mistakes… with copious amounts of brooding and violence, as was the style at the time.
It’s not quite the Turok we’re familiar with – he’s suffered losses that have left him a changed man, a darker, moodier figure than we once knew him; it’ll take a while for him to grow some nuance. I’d argue it’s not very reflective of the series as a whole, which won’t find its definitive creative ensemble for a few issues yet. Still, David Michelinie’s writing and especially Bart Sears’ art are a whiff of fresh air, and it’s a change of pace from the fantastical sci-fi malarkey of the Valiant universe.

image from popculturezone
Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #1
, unfortunately, is somewhat emblematic of the comic collecting bubble of the mid-90s, in how it was touted to be the next hottest, must-have item that – perhaps more importantly than its actual contents – would be worth shitloads of cash as a collector’s item. Valiant’s #1s had already spiked in value for their rarity, and it’s been confirmed by a couple of sources (including Valiant co-founder Bob Layton, quoted in the Turok: Son of Stone DVD special features) that this one issue sold 1.7 million copies…!

… which is to say, comic stores ordered 1.7 million copies. A good chunk of them wound up unsold, the buyer’s interest simply not matching the hype, and soon found themselves relegated to discount bins. Longtime comics blogger and longer-time comics retailer Mike Sterling explains some of the reasoning, but it basically boils down to: for a comic to be valuable, it’s gotta be rare and sought-after, and this was neither rare or sought-after!

excerpts from Wizard Magazine February 1994 and September 1994
Not that that stopped folks from trying. While the vanilla version retained its cover price of $3.50, Wizard Magazine’s price guide touted the gold trim edition as being worth $30 on the collectors’ market if in good nick, circa Feb 1994! In September 1994 that price had ballooned to $65!! Then a year later that value deflated to $10, and as of this writing you can pick up a near-mint copy on eBay for less than its cover price, if not a dozen of them for a buck extra.
Mike Sterling has commented that some comics of this ilk have experienced an upturn in value – after decades of being mistreated, suddenly it’s hard to come across a copy that hasn’t been mauled, and demand suddenly spikes. For a comic with a print-run of nearly two million, colour me doubtful. It’s all fine and well to say, “people are selling this for $50!”, but it’s important to ask. “who’s buying at $50?”

Viewed purely as a comic, it’s a breezy read and passable introduction to the series, but hardly what I’d call emblematic or representative of it. As a relic of a speculator’s market that continues to haunt back issue bins to this day… let’s just say it made an impression, for good or for ill.

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