Joe Kubert Tor 2008
Joe Kubert Tor #1 "The Outcast"
DC Comics July 2008 (purchased in May)
Art and Story by Joe Kubert
Kubert has been in comics since near the very start of the industry (Kubert claimed to have begun inking at the age of 12 for Bob Montana of Archie fame), and now at his advanced age he is still turning his hand toward embellishing, or if you're a bit more negative about it, repeating, the adventures of the characters most attached to his career. In particular he has produced Sgt. Rock tales (one written and drawn by himself, a multi-part story called "The Prophecy" in 2006) and also a Rock story written by Brian Azarello from 2003 ("Between Hell and A Hard Place").
Neither effort change the character in any significant way, but each are reasonably good interpretations of the character made known by Kubert and primarily the creation of the late writer Robert Kanigher.
But the prehistoric "Tor" series has a longer association with Kubert, dating back to 1953 when Kubert was at St. John, a publishing house that produced a number of comics (for example Mighty Mouse and Abbott and Costello Comics). Set in a world where primitives in loincloth flee from dinosaurs, it seems modeled directly on the caveman movie opus "One Million BC" from 1940 (the more famous Racquel Welch film version comes later in 1966).
In this reworked version of the Tor character, Kubert has made his existence seem grittier, though Kubert's unique flowing pen and brush work still beautifies everything.
The tale begins as a bleeding Tor struggles to get over a savage beating from his home tribe, which he is escaping. He rubs mud into his wounds as medicine to stop and heal the oozing sores, and he also scoops up small reptiles and worms as snack food for later. After more travel he encounters strange fruit which he devours, and later produce bizarre, psychedelic nightmares (remincent situation that appeared in the Kubert Tarzan of 1972).
He penetrates into a large white mountain that is thrust up out of the jungle, and he discovers a green world inside the open core of the mountain. He also finds an apelike child tied to a rock, apparently a sacrifice. When a prehistoric alligator in the river comes to attack, Tor, who had dismissed the crying child as none of his business, promptly leaps like Tarzan to the rescue.
And therein is the strange overlap between Tor and the King of the Jungle, because they are both characters drawn by Kubert (at DC Comics in the 1970s, Kubert drew and was in charge of the Edgar Rice Burroughs properties there) and his style links them together closely, as Tor could pass for Tarzan (and vice-versa.) Perhaps Kubert will delineate real differences later in this series (this is part one of six issues).
The only grating issue at hand is that Kubert's writing interferes in a few places with Kubert the artist. Some panels contain text such as "Tor ignores the desperate pleading and turns to leave" and sure enough the panel art shows Tor ignoring the desperate pleading and turning to leave. Kubert the artist doesn't need Kubert the writer for clarification, the reader can see it. This is the cliché that Japanese manga fans used to level at older American comics, text-heavy descriptions completely mimicked in the artwork, rendering one or the other completely superfluous.
But Kubert's artwork is as fluid as ever. Seeing his facial renderings of Tor in 2008 reminds me directly of the same head position and expression found in my older Kubert Sgt. Rock comics, when the battle-weary sergeant was drawn in a slightly more savage way (versus the more retrospect, baggy-eyed version by Kubert that developed in the 1970s.)
According to the bio at Wikipedia, Kubert co-created Tor with writer Norman Maurer:
"In the 1950s, [Kubert] became managing editor of St. John Publications, where he, his old classmate Norman Maurer, and Norman's brother Leonard Maurer produced the first 3-D comic books, starting with Three Dimension Comics #1 (Sept. 1953 oversize format, Oct. 1953 standard-size reprint), featuring Mighty Mouse. According to Kubert, it sold a remarkable 1.2 million copies at 25 cents apiece at a time when comics cost a dime.
At St. John, writer Norman Maurer and artist Kubert created the enduring character Tor, a prehistoric-human protagonist who debuted in the comic 1,000,000 Years Ago (Sept. 1953). Tor immediately went on to star in 3-D Comics #2-3 (Oct.-Nov. 1953), followed by a titular, traditionally 2-D comic-book series, written and drawn by Joe Kubert, that premiered with issue #3 (May 1954). The character has gone on to appear in series from Eclipse Comics, Marvel Comics' Epic imprint, and DC Comics through at least the 1990s. Kubert in the late 1950s unsuccessfully attempted to sell Tor as a newspaper comic strip."
Additional Kubert Tor Books
"Tor and the World of 1,000,000 Years Ago"
There are three volumes of the original Tor comics reprinted in hardback by DC Comics.
Tor - Volume 1 (The Joe Kubert Library)
Volume 1, published 2001, 144 Pages
Tor I from amazon $39 new, $25 used
Collects seven stories from the first three comics from the 1950s. Includes a foreward written by Kubert, an introduction by Roy Thomas, also a 29 page portfolio of Kubert sketches and storyboards. Also includes Kubert's short "Wizard of Ugghh!" and "Danny Dreams."
Born over a million years ago, the primitive Tor lives in a world where man and dinosaur exist in a mad ballet of survival of the fittest. Accompanied only by his simian companion, Chee-Chee, the noble Tor endures a solitary existence in a landscape of savage humans, deadly creatures, and natural disasters.
Tor - Volume 2 (The Joe Kubert Library)
Volume 2, published 2002, 118 Pages
Tor I from amazon $49 new, $26.72 used
Collects eight stories from the St. John company comics of 1954 Tor #3 thru #5. includes written introductions by Kubert and Roy Thomas, also the original backup features. A Kubert art portfolio of 27 pages is also included.
The second in a three-part comprehensive anthology series, JOE KUBERT'S TOR VOL. 2 reprints the legendary exploits of Tor, the primitive warrior who lived over a million years in the past. Collecting eight tales of the solitary hero, this amazing book chronicles Tor's perilous life in a world of human savagery and Jurassic terror. Also featured in this stunning edition are fascinating insights into Tor's conception, early, unseen sketches, and beautiful animation art by the man who created the noble savage, Joe Kubert.
Tor - Volume 3 (The Joe Kubert Library)
Volume 3, published 2004, 168 Pages
Tor I from amazon $49 new, $31 used
Collects the last 8 Tor stories from the 1970s through 1990s, including Kubert's self-published "Sojourn." has an 8 page sketchbook section, plus a written introduction by Roy Thomas.
[Below] Joe Kubert Tor cover from July 1954
Joe Kubert Links:
Between a Rock and a Hard Place graphic Novel
Original page: Thursday, May 22, 2008 | Updated Sept 2015