Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #078: Ghost Dance

Friday, October 23, 2020 at 8:00 am Comments Off on Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #078: Ghost Dance

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter / Shaman’s Tears

The crossover that never panned out.

Turok wasn’t the only Indigenous comic book hero on shelves at this point in time, but perhaps one of the few headlining a title of his own. Alongside him was the creator-owned, Image-published, limited-series Shaman’s Tears, written and illustrated by Mike Grell.

Shaman’s Tears
#6 (Feb 1995)
Grell was perhaps best known at the time for his work for DC Comics throughout the late ’70s, particularly on the likes of Green Lantern, but also had notable forays into creator-owned comics in the past, though Shaman’s Tears was perhaps his shortest run of them, lasting from 1993 to 1995. The twelve-issue saga of tells of Joshua Brand, a man of Sioux-Irish heritage finding his way in the world. Believing himself an outcast from his peers at the Lakota reservation he once called home, his reluctant participation in a Sun Dance reveals to him his power to harness the abilities of the totem animals.

Empowered but still unguided, he stumbles headfirst into a war against Circle Sea Enterprises, a company responsible for the creation of half-animal hominids, and found himself alternately fighting against and aiding the hybrids (who later bagged their own spin-off series under Valiant, Bar Sinister).
Brand struggles with identity, not just his mixed parentage, but his role as the chosen one. He’s stricken with self-doubt, seemingly only tolerating the gig out of peer pressure, and when he suffers a fatal injury every three issues, you can see why he’s got qualms about it.

Shaman’s Tears #12 (Aug 1995)
His mission isn’t any easier either — while Circle Sea make a good evil corporation, his objective told to him by the spirits is to reunite mankind with its lost ways, to “help them back to the true path.” You could say he’s an eco-warrior, but it’s more a quest for bettering himself and the people around him, like his wayward brother, whose life is transformed from the fallout of his first victory against Circle Sea.

As an Image Comics publication, it leans heavily on its sense of style, which manifests in its sketchy, crosshatch-heavy lineart, and across several luscious two-page spreads. Animal motifs, dual imagery, and even quotes from literature or poetry are frequent themes, resulting in multiple extravagant splashes per issue, many practically begging to be painted on the side of a van. The story thins out somewhat after the initial arc, but for pages upon pages of dynamic, stylish artwork, you get your money’s worth.

from Previews Vol. 5 No. 2 (February 1995)
I’m not sure which party struck the deal, but in February 1995 solicitations for a three-issue mini-series appeared in magazines such as Previews and Advance Comics, for Turok: Dinosaur Hunter / Shaman’s Tears, to be published by Valiant. The synopses presented in these solicitations are about all we have to go on regarding what would’ve occurred; hats off to G√ľnter Bouwer’s The Valiant That Never Was pages for archiving the summaries.

In the first issue, “the two heroes join forces to battle the mysterious White Buffalo Warriors.” We can only assume the Warriors have got a bee in their bonnet to incur the wrath of both heroes. One wonders how Turok and Brand would’ve gotten on; Brand is literally in tune with the spirits, while Turok is only as acquainted with them as your average Kiowa-Apache. Would Turok’s reputation as essentially a merc for hire, by the government or otherwise, be a sore spot against Brand’s loftier moral code?

from Heritage Auctions
The second issue would have depicted a big ol’ scrap between the White Buffalo Warriors and their rivals, but also Turok and Brand themselves. “The White Buffalo has been kidnapped and the tribes blame each other, allowing the real culprits to evade retribution. Their escape is cut short when Turok and Shaman Joshua Brand get on their trail–a trail that leads to the hatchery of Bar Sinister!”
Nine pages of interior pencils for this issue were sold at auction around Autumn 2007, penciled by Brian C. Kong and said to be inked by Jeff Albrecht. It’s the only evidence the series existed beyond solicitations and advertisements, and even from those few samples it’s just as rife with rich double-page spreads as the original Shaman’s Tears comic.

from Previews Vol. 5 No. 4 (April 1995)
In the final issue, “the White Buffalo is safe and sound, and the Tribes have been cleared. Now it’s up to two Native American heroes, Shaman Joshua Brand and Turok, to put an end to the white supremacists’ violent conspiracy. But when the supremacists are joined by Bar Sinister’s old friends, Circle Sea, the fireworks get out of hand!”
Assuming the White Buffalo is literal and not some dude’s name, and given Circle Sea’s business in bestial hybrids, one can imagine they had mutative intentions for the animal. The white supremacists might’ve been in cahoots, or just profiteering from the situation, but would surely have had their skulls cracked if all was right with the world.

Solicitations and advertisements for the series first appeared in comics and magazines on February 1995, promoting an April 1995 release date… though the advertisement still ran in the likes of X-O Manowar #43, cover-dated several months after that unchanged release date. Though this release evidently slipped by, it was supposedly still on the cards. The series continued to appear in the price guide of Wizard until at least September 1995, and even a letter from a fan looking forward to the run was printed in Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #32, cover-dated October 1995.

from Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #32
Whatever the case, the series quietly fell through. I can only assume retailers were told to stop taking pre-orders at some point, but I’ve yet to find record of its cancellation in, say, Wizard or Previews… not that the comic industry is big on telling folks when something’s gotten canned. You never realise until you look through these old catalogues just how many titles never reached the shelves!
Mike Grell has been somewhat tight-lipped about the series, and I can find no record of him discussing its contents in interviews, even ones that raise the subject to him. The closest he’s come to acknowledging it was in an online interview conducted by Dan Woodward, on the possibility of it ever seeing a belated release: “Not a chance. That deal fell apart on a corporate level.” It’s rumoured production on the series was scrapped partway through issue 2, meaning those uncoloured pages above are probably the furthest it got!

While it would’ve been a novelty seeing the two heroes cross paths, Joshua Brand probably works best as a solo star, and Turok was spared from playing second-stringer for the umpteenth time. Mike Grell would write six issues of Turok: Dinosaur Hunter anyway, so something managed to come out of the deal one way or another.

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