Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #055: Valley of the Dangerous Dreams

Monday, August 3, 2020 at 8:00 am Comments Off on Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #055: Valley of the Dangerous Dreams

Turok: Son of Stone #31

Don’t do drugs, kids, unless you want to see some totally messed-up dinosaurs.

Our heroes find a man staggering through the woods, babbling of being pursued through a valley by men and beasts with multiple heads! Puns probably weren’t invented yet, so our heroes are left to take this at face value instead of asking “are they getting ahead in life?” Turok thinks he’s nuts, but Andar figures it’s worth investigating.

Inside the valley, they bag a honker that was about to feast on a group of dozy bozos, who all describe Turok, Andar, and the dinosaur totally unlike how they appear. To thank them, they’re invited to the feast and given strange fruit to eat, said to grow only in this valley. They have no choice but to take it, so it’s a good thing it tastes good! But as they slink off when the tribe takes their nap…

… things take a turn for the uncanny! A two-headed tyrannosaurus descends upon them, their poison arrows only killing one of its heads! A second arrow puts it down, but the freakshow isn’t over yet — their prize is fought over by a gang of one-legged cyclops!

Now it’s three-armed men chasing them out of town — talk about an arms race! T & A take cover in the river, and come face to face with a man-faced monster! Stuck between it and the spears, they duck beneath the water…

… and the world seems so much clearer once they surface. Turok quickly deduces the fruit of the valley must be a powerful hallucinogen, with just one slice enough to induce wild visions… and its taste is addicting, to boot. When it’s foisted upon anyone who enters their domain, no wonder they rarely see people emerge from it; they never want to leave.

Andar please we’re trying to instil a message here

The story itself involves little more than our characters marvelling at the weird sights, which sadly isn’t capitalised upon in the art; besides the two-headed t-rex, everything else is depicted only from a distance, forcing you to look at the page close-up to get the intended impact. The cover’s amazing three-headed long-neck is sadly absent as well, depriving us of anything even close to Turok battling a hydra…!

It’s only on the final two pages do Turok and Andar discover the cause of their hallucinations, and the ramifications of its use. I could just be reading too much into things through a modern lens, but it sure as heck seems like a prototype for “the war on drugs” stories, doesn’t it? Turok’s heavy-handed approach and the shade thrown on the daydreamers seems right at home with what became more prevalent in the ’80s and onward.
This issue was published in February 1963, which seems a bit early for the sentiment to really catch on — I’m sure there were allegories against drug use at the time, but I imagine it wasn’t until Nixon’s 1971 campaign that media really went on the warpath. I wasn’t even close to being born then, so I’m the last person to go about regurgitating comic book history from the era!

While Andar goes fishing, but is knocked unconscious by unexpected turbulence, leaving him to drift wherever the stream takes him.

One thing you might have noticed about the images so far is there’s no panel outline! Instead of a black outline, the colours and inks at the edge of each panel are gently hatched before meeting the blank border. An unsourced remark on Wikipedia claims this was Gold Key’s attempt to “make their comics more like traditional children’s books”… which puts a lot of weight on the significance of black square borders, don’t you think?
Much like a picture frame, you could argue whether or not this adds or detracts from the full page. I honestly never noticed until it was pointed out to me — and until I had to colour-correct images without the border to help separate each panel! The practise comes and goes in the next few issues, until it finally settles on it as the new standard for the bulk of the series run.

While looking for his missing chum, Turok saves a tribe from an attacking honker and asks them where the river leads, believing it’ll lead him to Andar. They give him an escorted tour, but make a point of not discussing the dudes tied to rafts in their village. What happens in lake village stays in lake village.

The river leads through a cave and splits into two streams, but the path they claim Andar went just leads to a sheer wall, with no way for a raft to go besides get pulled under. They claim the other path is a dead end… but it’s clearly where the current is flowing. The tribe are forced to admit that stream leads to the den of their river god, and Andar has been sent as a sacrifice! They had a guy already queued up to sate its hunger, but when they see a total stranger float by on a raft, they figure, why look a gift horse in the mouth?

Andar finally awakens in the cavern’s shore, and although oblivious of his newfound role as freebie sacrifice, it’s pretty clear something’s up. Skeletal remains, the smell of death, a big nasty plesiosaur… there’s probably a connection between all of these.

Turok shows up in the nick of time to put down the beast, and they make good their escape on Andar’s raft — until an alligators goes and bowls it over, forcing Turok to stab it a lesson. They’re not out of the woods yet; the tribe are waiting outside, apparently hoping for a sign their sacrifice went down smoothly.

Knowing the tribe won’t take survivors in stride, they use the alligator carcass as a shield and swim out unseen, hoping the tribe will make no more sacrifices to their ex-god.

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