Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #103: Reprinted by popular demand!

Monday, January 18, 2021 at 8:00 am Comments Off on Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #103: Reprinted by popular demand!

Turok: Son of Stone Giant Comic

… didn’t I just talk about reprints?

The Giant Comic line was a separate entity from Gold Key’s bi-monthly releases, normally dedicated to their cartoon fare like Woody Woodpecker and Tom & Jerry, but Son of Stone was the one adventure series to see reprints in this manner. For 25 cents, twice the cost of an average 36-page floppy, you got five stories jammed together into one 84-page volume — no ads, no guff, just the action!
The line was occasionally host to original and exclusive movie adaptations, among them Disney’s The Jungle Book and the classic King Kong. In 1966, that’s way less than the cost of a movie ticket, and it’s re-readable! Talk about bang for your buck! Or quantity for your quarter, if you want to be punny about it.

Turok: Son of Stone issue #11 (top) / Turok: Son of Stone Giant Comic (bottom)
Sadly, the Giant Comics are only big in density, not in dimensions; they’re thick, not huge. We’re deprived the novelty of reading Turok on pages the size of a window frame. Inside you can find tales plucked from issues #10, #11, #12, and #16, in addition to a bevy of backups we’ve seen already, all slightly recoloured just like I’d addressed in last week’s entry.
It’s an adequate and varied selection that offers a good bounty of adventures from the early days of Son of Stone. I could dispute its choice of Perilous Voyage from issue #12 over The Conqueror, one of my personal favourites, but just for the diversity of tales and themes I’d say it makes a good introduction to the series as a whole.

After Valiant’s short-lived reprints in the mid-’90s, classic Turok saw no new distribution; if you wanted to see what you were missing (and not via illegal scans, ooer), you simply had to track down the increasingly age-worn vintage issues, which were understandably getting rarer and rarer. Wizard Magazine priced the first dozen issues at over a hundred dollars in good condition circa 1995, and nowadays that’s what you might expect to pay for even weather-beaten copies. Triple that for slabbed and graded issues you can’t even flick open and read!

That changed in 2009, when Dark Horse licensed it out from Random House (who’d snapped up the rights to all of Gold Key’s properties in 2001) and began releasing hardcover collections of the classic stories under the Dark Horse Archives banner. Starting from the very beginning, these luxury collections included straight reprints of the original comics and all their contents — backup features and in-house ads included! — touched up to present the art in as crisp quality as possible, free of the blemishes and colour-bleeding synonymous with crappy ol’ newspaper stock.

The artwork appears to be sourced from well-preserved copies of the original comic, and although printed on much cleaner paper stock, it doesn’t appear to have been remastered using the original pencils or anything fancy like that; those materials are likely long gone. The art has been cleaned up to reduce ink-bleeding, and the colours levelled to present the series to the best of their ability. For the most part, it looks the biz. It’s the cleanest and sharpest you’re likely to ever find these stories.

Turok: Son of Stone Giant Comic (top) / Turok: Son of Stone Archives Volume 2 (bottom)
Some stories are treated better than others, though. Some, like #11’s Valley of the Vines, suffers badly from colour levelling that reduces a lot of finer detail, particularly the natural fading between colours and inks — the Giant Comic version uses different colouring, but you can tell the Dark Horse reprint renders deep colours and mid-tones as almost wholly black. Likewise, the honker in the same story is also near-on black in some panels (see above), when it should be brown as seen in the vintage comic.
Try as they might, the art remains as muddy as ever in most cases, sadly. This is the price you pay when doing any kind of colour grading and levelling; I’ve certainly butchered countless images doing it myself!

There’s merit to be found in the ‘coloured’ newsprint of olde, in that it gives the art a distinct texture, where the faded art almost looks stronger than it does at full ‘opacity’. To get the outlines at peak blackness, browns and greys tend to go with it, requiring some work to get everything in tip-top shape. While it’s easy to grumble that some panels look a bit rubbish, I’ve seen for myself how exhausting this can be with even just a few panels, never mind the dozens that comprise just one of the hundreds of stories throughout the series!

Turok: Son of Stone Archives Volume 1 (March 2009)
The first volume features an introduction by William Stout, illustrator and occasional production designer on such films as Conan or Masters of the Universe. He provides some insight into the paleontological stylings of the era: prolific artists whose renderings of prehistoric life were referenced or traced through the covers and pages, as well as general commentary on the manner of writing and logistics of the setting. It’s been a good well to plunder for subjects to waffle about, so I’m thankful for that!
Where available, full-page printings of the original painted artwork is included as well, devoid of logos and text; not every cover gets this treatment, the original art having since been lost to time or the hands of a collector, but it’s a treat when it shows up.

The tenth and final volume was released in 2012, covering up to issue 67 (having skipped the three reprints thus far), before the line ended suddenly. Dark Horse passed the buck of publishing books to Random House the following year, so they were clearly still in cahoots to some capacity, though whether that’s the same as retaining the Gold Key license is another matter. Perhaps the sales weren’t up to snuff? Who can say. The books originally retailed at $50 to $60 a pop for 7 issues each, and that value has only increased in the years since. The draw of hardback covers and glossy printing…!

Turok: Son of Stone Archives Volume 10 (May 2012)
The first two volumes were also released digitally on iTunes at the time, though the listings to purchase them has long since been delisted, and the e-book treatment was never extended to the following eight volumes. This made… shall we say, ‘preserving’ those two volumes online a little easier, though I don’t think folks are in a rush to break the spines of their hardback collector’s edition books to make fresh scans. Understandable!

I could get on my soapbox about how making these comics cheap and accessible on digital storefronts would be a nice gesture, but it might come across as a dishonest gesture coming from me. For every attempt to reach out, there’s some folks who are just cheap… and I’m probably among them. Welp!

Two years later Dynamite Productions would begin their run on a new Turok series, reprinting select tales from Son of Stone as backup features… but there’s been no sign of the Archives series continuing, leaving over half the series missing in action. A pity, as I believe the series deserves some kind of circulation… though whether we necessarily need every single story, even the rubbish ones, is a subject for debate. Are we overdue for a “Best Of” collection…?

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