Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #091: Flight Into Fear

Monday, December 7, 2020 at 8:00 am Comments Off on Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #091: Flight Into Fear

Turok: Son of Stone #49

The Wright brothers were chumps. Why make planes when temperamental pteranodons are the future of aviation?

Our story begins in medias res as Turok and Andar catch a ride on a pteranodon, ostensibly to find a way out of Lost Valley, but they’re going on a trip all right — down that t-rex’s gullet! This scene doesn’t even take place exactly as depicted, but it makes for a good opening, don’t it. How do our heroes even get into a situation like this?

Exactly how you’d imagine, more or less. There’s an upward current facing one of the cliffs, and Turok’s got a mad notion that by capturing a newly-hatched pteranodon and building its strength, they can use it to carry them both from this cursed domain! Because it’s easier to do that than build an airship out of palm leaves, surely.

The little pecker’s a fussy little thing, only demanding the finest wining and dining, and trying to leg it at every opportunity out of its cage… but they keep at it, raising the little blighter until it’s a full-sized man-carrying beast. They even paint its beak to mark it as their own, though at no point do they give the creature a name. I’m disappointed in you, Andar. Even a rubbish one like “Wingy” would suffice.

Today’s the day! They’ve got a good current for gliding, and the three of them set out for new ventures. The creature takes them to heights thought unimaginable, and only once does it nearly plunge them into certain doom. The problem comes when they try to steer the thing, but through some uncomfortably gymnastics they can guide the beast towards the cliff just as their grip begins to wear out.

Unfortunately, they’ve only plopped themselves at the foot of an even higher cliff! The wind is too wild for even pteranodons to set foot, so they’re forced to trek it alone. They lost most of their arrows in the process, leaving them ill-equipped to fend off a herd of stampeding styracosaurus! The beasts don’t come with brakes, sadly, and would sooner plunge off the side of a cliff than assess their priorities.

Without weapons, the pair are forced to high-tail it from everything else they encounter and hope “this town ain’t big enough for the two of us” syndrome is enough to pit them against each other. And when that fails, they have to count on the thing killing itself in its overeagerness. That’s an unfortunate trend in the Lost Valley, isn’t it…?

Their red-beaked pteranodon is found circling the skies above (you wouldn’t have to call it a dumb thing like “bird-honker” if you gave it a name, Andar) — now there’s a sight for sore eyes! Of course, the fickle thing’s in no mood to come down; they’re well aware of its picky eating, so all they can do is slay its favourite meal and lie in wait.

On the bright side, guess who’s the lucky recipient of Turok’s last poison arrow! The pteranodon finally descends to take its meal before taking off with Turok and Andar in tow, who are pretty keen to be in a less-populated jungle right about now.

And then their pteranodon’s struck dead by lightning. They just can’t catch a break, can they…?

They’ve no time to mourn their persnickety steed, they’re falling fast! The beast itself might be dead weight, but its lifeless wings still function as intended, catching the wind and gliding them down to safety… right back where they started. It may not have been the most fruitful of voyages, but that’s one potential exit they can safely rule out.

A charming little adventure! The opening to this ish is really wham-bam — it starts right in the middle of the action, with Andar crying out about Turok’s ridiculous plan. It’s not often we see Turok the one with an unexplained, seemingly hare-brained scheme, but seeing the plan spelled out over the weeks the pteranodon takes to grow is interesting. I’m tempted to ask why they don’t just build a glider, taking a leaf out of the winged men’s scheme back in issue #22, but I figure Turok’s savvy enough to know he’s unqualified for the actual act of flying. Leave that to the experts!

Seeing our heroes take active measures towards escaping is always a treat, pushing the plot by their own efforts rather than simply being chased by monsters for twenty pages. A shocking bodycount though, innit? At least a dozen perish throughout the course of their fact-finding voyage, and all directly or indirectly by their hand; the styracosaurs wouldn’t have fallen to their deaths had they not attracted their attention, and the poor pteranodon wouldn’t have come a cropper if it just stuck to its usual haunting grounds. The fickleness of life…!

Among the advertisements in this issue is one for “war books”, a line-up of memoirs and dramatisations from publisher Ballantine Books, “including books written from the Nazi and Japanese viewpoints.” Gold Key was no stranger to hocking entire book catalogues, with just the previous issue offering the entire run of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan novels for a mere $11 (that’s nearly $100 in today’s money! or three sheets of toilet paper on the post-outbreak bartering system!).

War stuff is common as muck in these old comic ads, and this ad is relatively innocuous all things considered; one could argue it’s filling in the gaps of school history books, or expanding upon the types of battles one would see in ye olde war movies. Within the feasible realm of 1960s kids’ fare, so to speak!
Among the other types of ads you’d see in such comics are model kits of historical armies, which seems fine. Then there’s memorabilia, including actual freakin’ Nazi flags, and that’s when it feels like someone oughta explain themselves. The dirty unwashed hippie in me that’s always trying to preach about peace and love, man, has some concerns about how much of this stuff is a slippery slope. Stephen King’s novella Apt Pupil, about a boy whose obsession with Nazi war crimes grows into a fetish for murder, even namedrops Turok: Son of Stone as he begins his fateful descent:

‘I know there’s comics here someplace,’ Foxy had said. […] ‘Neat ones. They’re Westerns, mostly, but there’s some Turok, Son of Stones and–’

‘What are those?’ Todd asked, pointing at the bulging cardboard cartons under the stairs.

‘Ah, they’re no good,’ Foxy said. ‘True war stories, mostly. Boring.’

‘Can I look at some?’

‘Sure. I’ll find the comics.’

But by the time fat Foxy Pegler found them, Todd no longer wanted to read comics. He was lost. Utterly lost.

It’s like a key turning in a lock. Or falling in love for the first time.

It had been like that. He had known about the war, of course — [about] World War II. He knew that the Americans wore round helmets with net on them and the Krauts wore sort of square ones. He knew that the Americans won most of the battles and that the Germans had invented rockets near the end and shot them from Germany onto London. He had even known something about the concentration camps. […]

The difference between all of that and what he found in the magazines under the stairs in Foxy’s garage was like the difference between being told about germs and then actually seeing them in a microscope, squirming around and alive. […]

All the magazines said it was bad, what had happened. But all the stories were continued at the back of the book, and when you turned to those pages, the words saying it was bad were surrounded by ads, and these ads sold German knives and belts and helmets as well as Magic Trusses and Guaranteed Hair Restorer. These ads sold German flags emblazoned with swastikas and Nazi Lugers and a game called Panzer Attack as well as correspondence lessons and offers to make you rich selling elevator shoes to short men. They said it was bad, but it seemed like a lot of people must not mind.

Like falling in love.

from Stephen King’s “Apt Pupil” (1982)

War is darkly fascinating and offers insight into human behaviour and follies, or the evolution of technology and medicine, but there’s a whole lotta folks whose takeaway from the long history of human atrocity is: “boy, war crimes are a trip. Propagandised racism also. Why don’t we have more of those?” To which I say eat my shit and drink my piss.

This is way more scrutiny than an ad for seventy year old books deserves, at least on a Turok retrospective column. There’s no shortage of scholars you can turn to for better analysis on war’s influence on media and culture, or media and culture’s reflection on war. This kind of heady crap is a little outside of my wheelhouse. Tune in for Friday when Turok fights a dude wearing a dinosaur onesie. That’s the kind of stupid crap I’m way more attuned to!

Filed under Dinosaur Hunter Diaries Tagged , ,

Comments are closed.

« »