In Review of Dark Horse's TUROK, I said what I thought was wrong with the new Turok comic book. But suppose Jim Shooter came to me and said he had a great idea for a new Turok series. It was based on a group of "bad savages" chasing Turok and Andar the "good savages." Rather than just saying "no, it's stereotypical," could we make it work?
Answer: Yes, of course.
For starters, I don't see why TUROK has to be set in pre-Columbian times. If you want, you can ignore the advent of Europeans and do the same stories. But setting it after 1492 means you can send conquistadors, monks, and other Europeans down the rabbit hole. Why should indigenous people be the only ones chomped by dinosaurs?
Use two real tribes
Okay. Instead of the horrible cliché of the bloodthirsty Mesoamericans (see Apocalypto), use two actual Indians tribes who are traditional enemies. Then they'll have a real, credible motive for fighting each other.
For instance, the Lakota and the Crow. Turok and Andar are Lakota who were trying to steal the Crow's horses. The Crow caught them in the act and a few of them chased our heroes down the tunnel.
You wanna stick with pre-Columbian times when there weren't any horses? Okay, Turok and Andar are Lakota who were trying to steal the Crow's women so they could keep them or trade them. The Crow caught them in the act, etc.
To make it (even) more interesting, Andar the Lakota was trying to steal horses or women from Turok the Crow. Turok and his men caught Andar in the act, chased him down the tunnel, etc.
But wait, you say. Turok and Andar are the good guys. They can't be shown stealing anything. It would mean they're not noble savages. Not...perfect!
Response: First, traditional Indians would consider these legitimate acts of war, not crimes. They might punish someone who stole their property, but they wouldn't be morally shocked and outraged. Rather, they'd admire the perpetrators for their courage and daring--for doing what they would've done in the same place.
Besides, comics companies have made millions off of anti-heroes such as Wolverine, the Punisher, and Deadpool. What's wrong with adding a little moral complexity to Turok's and Andar's cardboard characters? As with Wolverine, maybe they'll grow from selfish savages into self-sacrificing samurai. And make Dark Horse some money in the process.
What would enemies do?
Once our heroes are in the Land of the Lost, what next? In the present TUROK comic, murderous Aztecs hunt Turok for revenge or bloodlust or because they're there, I guess. Cardboard characters don't have to have real motivations. In my version, the Lakota and Crow find they have a lot in common compared to the dinosaurs and beast-men and other creatures they meet. They have to overcome their age-old differences and work together to survive.
Maybe the Lakota and Crow are enslaved for a time and learn that enslaving others isn't as justifiable as they thought. As a result, maybe they decide to lead a revolt against the lost land's slavemasters. Or maybe they're appalled to see all the barbarian kingdoms fighting and killing each other. Maybe Turok becomes this land's Hiawatha and forms a league of nations united under one law.
There you go. I've just taken Turok's limited premise and made it several times more interesting. If Shooter wants, he can still tell his one-dimensional stories of "evil" Indians chasing "good" Indians. But now he also can tell stories about rich characters who learn and grow.
This is why I'm trying to publish comics, kiddies. I think I can come up with better ideas than someone's who's been in the business 45 years. Who's been an editor-in-chief at several companies. If you need my help on TUROK, Jim, give me a call.
For more on the subject, see Shooter on Dark Horse's TUROK and 3.5 Arrowheads for Dark Horse's TUROK.
P.S. I'd give TUROK only 2.5 or 3 arrowheads on the five-arrowhead scale. And a couple of those would be for the attractive art.
Below: A previous version of Turok.