Right now, Joe Kubert’s Tor: A Prehistoric Odyssey is my favorite monthly comic. I purchased issue #1 on a whim, in a very awkward situation. During the time when I was trying to find Beanworld back issues and graphic novels, I visited my hometown comic store, Superior Comics in Dover, Delaware. As the middle-aged, borderline autistic sales clerk is looking up Beanworld issues on some irrelevant comics message board, I fumbled for something to buy on the new release shelf. Ultimately, I decided on the first issue of Final Crisis because Grant Morrison was writing it and the first issue of Tor (“The Outcast”) because I liked the art. I was just happy to just get the fuck out of there without feeling bad about not supporting the store. I never finished Final Crisis and didn’t read Tor #1 until about a month ago, when I read that issue and the next three in one shot; I couldn't wait for the next issue--#5, “The Sacrifice”--and was additionally dissappointed when I found out it came out the week following Labor Day, delaying its release to Thursday. Thursday also happens to be the day when I am in class for almost the entire day from 8am to 5:30 pm. I sat through my last class that day knowing that Tor #5 would be waiting at my apartment!
Upon reading, I concluded that it is my favorite Tor issue yet! Judging from the blue tinge in the stones on the cover, I half expected that there may be something happening with ice. 100% Incorrect. Tor four ended with a cliffhanger; Tor was being held hostage by these violent troll dudes. In addition to his hostage status, the trolls were also detaining his buddies, charcoal chic and baby friend troll. In this issue, it becomes apparent that the trolls were baiting a group of raptors to the tied up friends with fruits and vegetables. When the raptors appear, Tor tricks them into biting him free from the vines binding him. Once he’s free, he frees his buddies and then, fights off these raptors. While fighting, the trolls, who are hiding in the tree above, drop a club to assist him in his fight. There is an internal problem within the troll clan; the shaman leader says that Tor is evil but the lower class trolls think he can’t be evil if he endangers himself for others. The lower class trolls push the shaman out of the tree. After defeating the raptors, the remaining trolls want to know if he will be their leader. Tor makes it clear that the job is not for him. The issue comes to a final cliffhanger when Tor, charcoal chic, and baby friend troll start their journey beyond the mountains, back to Tor’s home, when a shadow large enough to block out the sun comes over them.
There is only one more issue left in this series and that sucks. I’m excited to formally find out what this huge-ass thing is because Kubert’s monsters are great and always fit perfectly with the plot. More subjectively, I’ll be sad to see the series end because Tor is one sexy dude with great fashion sense. His little loincloth is just ratty enough to be bad-ass instead of homo and his boots…HIS BOOTS. The boots are great because they are like sacks around his feet with straps that keep them tied higher on his leg; high-top moccasins. The only thing I can liken them too is some Tatooine desert shit. Furthermore, his muscles are not TOO muscular; he’s ripped but it’s in proportion to his body and doesn’t give focus to just his arms, but I digress...Kubert’s writing is essentially what makes Tor attractive. Writing the comic from a third person point of view helps to look at Tor objectively. Kubert’s writing as well as Tor’s actions indicate his intelligence and capability. Males inevitably take on perceived roles in communities (i.e. social roles) which is one way that females judge the quality of males. Tor does, in my opinion, the best thing which is to differentiate himself from the group in a positive way and he does, by being a smarter, more efficient outsider. Looking at things from this perspective is something I learned in my behavioral ecology class and I think I can find some truth in it but I think that’s for another discussion.
Kubert is a great artist and thus far, his style works cohesively throughout issues of Tor. It has enough lines to be truly “action packed” but doesn’t add an extra level of distracting detail. He keeps his colors within a spectrum and collectively, its all very tonal. Green and brown being the most prominent colors in the comic, they are always used in dull shades. The greens never seem to have more than about 15% yellow and extra white. Likewise, the brown shades go light on the red which overall, adds to the cool tone of the colors. As I am considering the color theory of Tor, I’m finding it interesting to consider how the colors are connoted with being old or prehistoric. It seems to me that throughout the four issues, the covers have been increasing in blue hue. The first cover has brown stones around the outside and a very warm, reddish-brown tone. Not only do the stones change in color from issue to issue, but also the actions in the center of the stones becomes increasingly busy. The increased levels of whites used in the color scheme, is what I think, is key to keeping the colors “old”. As we age, pigment leaves our hair. As clothing is washed and worn, pigment fades. Maybe this is obvious but I think it plays a major role in setting the stage for the “prehistory odyssey”.
In a few of the issues, there are these really incredible, mixed-media type splash pages/dream sequences wherein Kubert extends the art of Tor beyond just really great comics illustration. I call them the "special features". The “special feature(s)” of issue #5 are full-page, mixed-media drawings of Tor’s fears. I’m going to go ahead and make a maybe stupid guess about what he uses in these pictures. I think that these are drawn directly on the light brown colored paper using ink for the fine lines, watercolor for the paint, and white conte crayon for the white highlighting.
I think that the aspect that I really like most about the drawings is they don’t hide the complications and connectedness of fears. Fear is essentially foundationless (maybe this is just goonbabble, now). Things become increasingly scary as you realize their connectedness to other details and this seems to be expressed though the gelling of the drawings within the frame In combination with the words, the fear is truly represented. The drawings also serve as a great contrast to the art, color, and frame-full pages that make up the rest of the issue.
September 18 marks Kubert’s 82nd birthday and A Prehistoric Odyessy may just be the last thing he ever produces. Born in 1926, he moved to Brooklyn, NY from Poland with his family shortly after he was born, arriving just in time for the depression. He was lucky enough to be born into a family that encouraged his drawing abilities and he landed his first gig when he was almost twelve years old, making 5 dollars a page. In 1976, he was started his three-year technical school for cartoonists. In 2008, it’s just hard for me to imagine a man of 82 years having such a steady hand. Maybe that is ageism but it just seems phenomenal to me that someone who is so old would still have such a passion and understanding of his craft. Kubert certainly won’t die having copped out on anything.
xxx. BONUS FEATURES
a. TOR IN FASHION
Givenchy Boots from the Autumn/Winter 2008-2009 runway collection that are similar in overall shape and idea, Tor's less structured moccasin boots but still strappy
You know...sometimes you see a bitch and you like, "damn, why her headband all down?" Then, you may be like...well, Chloe Sevigny's headband was like that in Vincent Gallo's Brown Bunny. But really, it's TOR. And he had a REASON. His shit was MANGEY. Anyhow, next BONUS feature.
b. MONIQUE'S SEXIEST TOR PANELS