Tuesday, March 22, 2016

RAR #8: THE HORNED BEAR




As I noted with an earlier TOMAHAWK issue, the best thing about this comic is the forbidding cover, depicting a three-headed totem pole and a cloudy-featured Indian chief menacing a bunch of Caucasian tourists.

"Legend of the Totem," credited on the GCD to scripter Arnold Drake and artist Jack Sparling, is typical of the lazy work that usually appeared in Gold Key's BORIS KARLOFF title in the 1970s, as against the relatively sharp work seen in the 1960s.

The tourists of the story, the Kelly family, visit a reservation billed as the "home of the last of the redmen." Maybe Drake didn't want to bestow that dubious honor on any real Indian tribe, for he calls his made-up tribe the "Zaquis." The name probably derives from the tribe of the Yaquis, whose stomping-grounds were Mexico and the American Southwest, and thus not exactly coeval with the Pacific Northwest tribes that made the greatest use of totem poles. No place-names are cited in the eight-page story, but Sparling does make the surroundings suggestive of northern North America.

At the reservation the three tourists-- a mom, a dad, and a grade-school boy-- listen to the legend of the Horned Bear, related by a jive-talking Zaqui who calls himself "Zaqui Zeke." The evil chief of a neighboring tribe once sent a demonic lizard to steal away a beautiful Zaqui maiden. Her betrothed prayed to "Yolakata," and the god sent his demon-bear to destroy the lizard. Zeke finishes by showing the tourists his tribe's totem pole, which depicts (as shown on the cover), the human head of Yolakata on top, his demon-bear emissary in the middle, and the vanquished lizard on the bottom.

Short story even shorter: the tourists stumble across the burial grounds of the Zaqui lovers of the story, and the Horned Bear appears to kill him. The smarty-pants kid uses a touristy replica of the totem to pray to Yolakata, and the Indian deity obligingly manifests as a cloudy shape and tells his buddy the bear to lay off the tourists. And before the reader has time to say "so what?," that's the end of the story.




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