If the little boys of the 1950s loved cowboys and Indians, I can only imagine how dinosaurs and Indians must have hit them. In 1954, Dell Four Color #596 introduced the feature “Turok, Son of Stone,” the story of two young braves who stumble upon a lost world of dinosaurs. It cost a dime, and it had a painting of two dinosaurs fighing while a worried Indian watches from the safety of a cave right there on the cover.
While I have to imagine how exciting those early Turok stories must have been in the eyes of the readers they were originally created for, I don’t have to imagine what the stories themselves were like, thanks to Turok, Son of Stone Vol. 1, a new Dark Horse Archives collection of Turok stories from Dell Four Color and six issues of Turok.
While there’s certainly no mistaking them for modern comics, these Turok tales age remarkably well.
The Indians Turok and Andar are still “Indians” and not “Native Americans,” but they’re not red-skinned and given to expressions like “Ugh,” “How” or “Heap big.” Additionally, since there are no white guys around—they lived before “the day the white men came”—they’re never relegated to any kind of sidekick or helper role; the Indians are the heroes, bringing civilization to the primitive cave people in the valleys and caverns full of past life they find.
As for the science, well, that actually aged better than I expected as well. Unlike, say, The War That Time Forgot, almost all of the various prehistoric creatures featured within this volume are ones we know from the fossil record actually existed, and in the sizes, shapes and behavior patterns the scientists of the day thought they did. In fact, these dinosaurs and other creatures look and act just as the ones I was reading about as a little boy 30 years later.
So one fine day Plains Indians Turok and the younger, more-in-need-of-being-bossed-around Andar are looking for water in the area we’ll eventually call New Mexico, and they climb down a bat hole, which, for all intents in purposes, is a rabbit hole into a Wonderland. At the bottom is a labyrinth of caves and tunnels that leads to a series of valleys shared by animals and people who likewise stumbled upon them and got stuck millions of years ago. The result is a weird ecosystem shared by Tyrannosaurs, wooly mammoths, cave people, rabbits, raccoons, bipedal killer birds and huge crocodiles.
Turok and Andar spend the book mostly trying to survive, finding meat to eat, fighting off various menaces and trying and failing to find their way home, in the meantime bringing the benefits of their own advanced civilization—boats, ropes, bows and arrows—to the various tribes of cave people.
The stories aren’t exactly complex, nor are they terribly sophisticated, but they’re not overtly childish or boring either—writer Gaylord DuBois does a decent boys adventure yarn, and makes rather creative use of his premise. When not locked in life or death combat with monsters themselves, for example, Turok and Andar often observe beasts fighting one another, and these lead to some interesting match-ups.
Everyone’s seen a triceratops versus a T-Rex, or a saber tooth versus a mammoth, but a triceratops versus ichthyosaurs, or a saber tooth versus a crocodile?
Much of the actual fighting occurs in the gutters between the panels and the imagination of the readers, as the stories are mostly short and fleetly told, and Dell seems to have taken a great deal of pride in their wholesomeness, at least based on the company pledges that are reprinted within.
It’s easy to see how that could be an attribute to little readers though, as each story seems to suggest a great deal more action and adventure than it actually depicts. In addition to being stories, these seem like fuel for more stories to daydream and play.
Like most archival reprint programs, this one is pricey—this volume will run you $49.95—but it’s an all-around nice package, very well-designed and featuring a three-page introduction by dinosaur illustrator par excellence William Stout, who, by the way, has a fantastic-looking new book coming out: William Stout: Prehistoric Life Murals.