I bought this comic for a measly TWO DOLLARS from an antique store (really more of a junk shop) last year when I spotted that sweet painted cover in a stack of unbagged random comic books thrown in an old wooden laundry basket in a corner of the shop. There were only a few comics in decent condition in that forgotten stack of comics, so I grabbed this one, a couple of Roy Rogers comics, and a Casper the Friendly Ghost.
Imagine my surprise when I was later adding them to my comic collection database (Thanks to Comic Book Realm!) and discovered that this comic I'd bought for the cover for Two Bucks was worth a pretty penny! Just HOW pretty a penny depends on where you look. But in any case, it's of interest to collectors because it features the second appearance of Turok and is therefore not quite what one could call "Longbox Junk", as far as "value" goes.
BUT. . .
After a quick flip through to confirm that, yes. . .the interior art didn't even come close that that great painted cover (something I've come to expect from Dell/Gold Key comics), I bagged it, boarded it, and put it away unread. . .like I do with most older comics I buy for their covers.
I'm crankin' up the Longbox Junk paper time machine and setting the dial to 1955! Join me as I read this very "collectible" comic and throw down what seems will be the one and ONLY full review ever written on it. Ready?
The Mystery of The Mountain & The Missing Hunters
SCRIPT: Du Bois
PENCILS: Bob Correa
INKS: Bob Correa
COVER: Robert C. Susor?
I couldn't find any solid information on who painted the cover, but the physical appearance of Turok is very similar to that on the covers of a couple of other early Turok comics I have in my collection (from his later solo series) done by Robert Susor, so that's who I'm going with. If I'm wrong, please feel free to mock me publicly in the comments.
THAT SAID. . .
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. The painted covers done by companies like Dell and Gold Key are hands-down the BEST covers in comic history, in my extremely humble opinion. This one is no exception. The colors are what caught my eye. . .with the stunning burnt orange sunset contrasting with the yellow title. The flying dinosaur threatening Turok is a little rough, and he's holding his ax sort of awkwardly, but those little things don't keep this cover from being a fantastic Golden Age eye-catcher!
Too bad the interior art doesn't even come close to matching the awesome cover. But that's sort of to be expected from this comic publisher. But enough about the cover, let's get inside this thing!
There's two stories in this comic, but really they're just the first and second parts of one long story through the whole issue. . .a little odd for comics of the time, which tended to feature multiple unrelated (except by character) stories in each issue. Still, they're titled as two separate stories, so I'll run them down that way.
MYSTERY OF THE MOUNTAIN
Turok and his brother, Andar, are teaching the primitive tribe of humans they have discovered in an isolated valley full of strange creatures how to make and use bows to hunt with. They are having some success, but one warrior, Sinak is not doing well.
After Sinak breaks his bow and tries to steal Turok's, the tribe's chief punishes him by making him stand watch that night on the cliff above the canyon. To Turok's surprise, the burly warrior shows fear of this task. That night, Turok and Andar lay awake and discussing the days events when they hear Sinak scream in the darkness!
The tribe rushes to the sound of the screams, but there's no sign of the warrior. Turok scours the area, but even he finds no clue as to where Sinak might have gone. With the mystery unsolved, the tribe goes about their business until, that night, more screams come in the night and yet another sentry vanishes! Determined to get to the bottom of the disappearances, Turok and Andar volunteer to stand guard duty during the coming nights.
On the second night of Turok and Andar's watch, they are attacked by a giant, silent flying creature! After narrowly defeating the flying beast with poisoned arrows, Turok and Andar gather supplies and investigate the cave that it came from the next morning. . .
The two brothers discover a gigantic cave full of the flying creatures! After a brutal battle, Turok and Andar manage to defeat the creatures using torches and poisoned arrows. Their new friends now safe, the brothers pursue one of the surviving creatures deeper into the cave. . .
Turok and Andar follow a maze of passages leading to another, even larger cave. From there, they follow a stream and manage to find an exit that leads to another valley that is much bigger than the one they had been exploring!
As Turok and Andar begin to scout the new valley, they witness a battle between a huge flightless bird and a gigantic cat. . .and then encounter a bison that has someone trapped in a rocky cleft. The brothers decided to come to the rescue and bring down the bison with their poisoned arrows. . .
The brothers discover that they have rescued a woman. They are able to communicate with her and learn that she is hunting because all the young men of her village have been missing for several weeks. Turok and Andar help her carry the meat from the bison to her village.
The End. . .to be continued.
THE MISSING HUNTERS
Continuing directly from the end of "The Mystery of The Mountain", Turok and Andar arrive in Yellana's (the woman they had saved from an attacking bison) village. They are greeted by hungry women, children, and old folk glad to see them bringing food to eat. Indeed, as she had told them, there are no young men to be seen. . .
After a few days, the meat they had brought has almost run out. Turok and Andar decide to go hunting, and Yellana insists on coming with them. The trio climb back down the treacherous cliffs to the huge valley below. Yellana guides the brothers toward the tribe's hunting grounds. On the way, they spot several gigantic creatures too large and strong for the small party to take down. . .
Later, while hiding from a battle between a stampeding pack of mastadons and the saber tooth tigers hunting them, Turok discovers the skeleton of a bear that has been killed with a stone-headed spear. Upon examining the spear, Yellana begins to sob. She recognizes the spear as one belonging to her brother. . .one of the village's missing hunters.
When Turok and Andar investigate the area, they discover human tracks. They follow the prints to the edge of a steep cliff leading to a cavern below. As they consider whether or not the village's hunters might have somehow fallen down the cliff, a black panther attacks!
The panther's attack takes them by surprise, and as they fight the cat the three hunters tumble to the bottom of the cliff. After defeating the panther using their poisoned arrows, the three of them are greeted by the shouts of men as they run from the darkness of the cave. . .Yellana is overjoyed to find her brother, Marok, among them!
Marok explains that a herd of pigs had driven them over the cliff and that they had taken refuge in the cave, where they had found food and water to survive on during the weeks they had been missing, but could discover no way to climb back up the cliff.
Turok and Andar quickly fashion a rawhide rope out of the skin of some dead animals that had fallen down the pit, amazing the primitive hunters who had never seen rope before. It's not long before Turok, Andar, Yellana, and the village's missing hunters have all climbed back up the cliff and out of the pit.
At the top of the cliff, they are attacked by the same herd of gigantic pigs that had driven the hunters into the pit. Turok and Andar manage to drive the boars away using their poisoned arrows. Turok teaches the amazed hunters the secret of making the poison powder he coats his arrowheads with, then they all head back to the village, loaded down with meat.
After once again using his homemade rawhide rope to help climb the cliffs surrounding the village, Turok, his brother, and the missing hunters are greeted with much celebration and joy. Turok and Andar have now found a place to call home. . .but Andar still hopes to one day return to their own home and hunting grounds outside of this strange new valley they have discovered.
I've discovered that when doing these "Retro Reviews", I sort of need to separate my opinion into two parts: First, what I think of the comic as a modern reader. . .and second, to consider it from the point of view of who it was originally written for. And from there to try and find a middle ground.
As far as my opinion as a modern reader goes. . .this comic gives me a feeling of mediocrity. This is written and illustrated in such an utterly average manner that I wonder just how the character of Turok managed to survive for over 65 years. The IDEA behind this story is a great one. . .Ancient Native Americans discover a series of lost valleys where dinosaurs and humans live together. It's a narrative path with a lot of possibility for action and adventure. Unfortunately, while the idea is great, the execution is lacking.
The writing is just. . .bland. This story is pretty much a series of "They went there and then they did that" told with a narrative voice that is so level and straightforward that reading this comic is almost like watching a documentary. Information is presented, but there's not much "punch" to it. Disappointing in a story involving rampaging mastodons, saber tooth tigers, and exploring mysterious caves.
Likewise, the art is also bland. It's not BAD, but it can certainly be described as "workmanlike". It tells the story and that's pretty much it. There are moments here and there that manage to reach a little higher than the rest, but overall nothing here ever really goes above "pretty good". Once again, disappointing in a story featuring elements like a surprise black panther attack and a battle against a cave full of hungry pterodactyls.
So as a modern reader, I found this to be pretty disappointing. Not bad, mind you, but it could have been a lot better. It's just sort of. . .there.
BUT. . .
This story wasn't written for me. It was written for boys in the 1950's. So how does this story look from that perspective (or at least my best try at it, anyway)? It looks better. Still not great, but better.
There's a lot to like here for a kid spending a dime on a comic book in 1955. I'm mostly speaking about dinosaurs and Indians. I think I can boil down the good stuff in this comic from a 1950's kid view as dinosaurs and Indians. Westerns were king in the 1950's. At heart, this is a western comic. It has a sort of unusual viewpoint in that the main characters are Indians instead of Cowboys, but it's pretty much a western comic when you get right down to it.
And then you throw in dinosaurs. It doesn't matter WHAT decade you're talking about, kids love dinosaurs! Heck, I loved dinosaurs growing up in the 70's. I STILL like dinosaurs! Does it matter that the dinosaurs aren't drawn that great? Not really because it's still dinosaurs! And Indians! It's Dinosaurs and Indians!
In other words, the kid in me sees a comic about dinosaurs and Indians. Not much more than that. The modern me wants a better story and art. These two things come together in the middle and I say that this is a pretty good comic book for what it is. . .something written for 50's kids that puts a western twist on the old "Lost World" style story.
To the modern reader, this is a pretty disappointing comic. The writing is bland and unexciting. The art is decent, but very workmanlike. The cover is honestly the best thing about this comic.
But looking at it as best I can from the point of view of who it was written for, it's better. It's a story about dinosaurs and Indians. Does a kid really need anything more than that?
Both of those viewpoints together say that this is a pretty good comic that could have been better, but really didn't need to be.
I'm glad I have this comic preserved in my collection and that I gave it the only full review that's ever been written of it. . .and I hope that the information here is of interest to people who might be trying to find anything on this comic besides that it has the second appearance of Turok. But I'm gonna be honest here with the bottom line that this isn't bad, but there's a lot better comics in my collection that are "worth" a LOT less.
Up Next. . .
Longbox Junk time machine set back to 1967. . .
Fantastic Four #58 . . .The Dismal Dregs of Defeat!