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Includes Issues:Tor (1975) 1; Tor (1993) 1-4
Issue Dates:May 1975 – September 1993
Creators:
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This review may contain light spoilers. It’s also not work safe! Skip To The Verdict? »

The third Tor hardcover sees our wandering caveman into the Bronze and Modern Ages of comics, with more of Joe Kubert‘s dynamic art and action packed storytelling. While the plotting and dialogue gets more complex, though, aspects of this book are decidedly backwards. And not just in a man-fighting-dinosaur kind of way. Kubert seems to have some serious issues with women.

Like Volume 1 and Volume 2, previously reviewed, this hardcover is a class production, if a bit thin (I’ve already mentioned several times that I think all of this material should have been collected in one omnibus-style edition, and this will be the last quip about that.)

It’s nicely oversized to fit the original art and includes a fair amount of supplementary material in the back. The introductions, by Kubert himself and Roy Thomas, are starting to get a little repetitive (also, Thomas seems to just describe each story and then say “I loved it! It was great to see for Tor fans. We always liked Tor!” which doesn’t make for very interesting analysis.)

A short issue from 1975 is collected here and it’s a reworking of sketches seen in Vol. 2. While having both versions is interesting, not much has changed besides color and a few extra panels (Thomas is very excited about this, but it didn’t do much more for me – I actually like the ambiguity in the character motivations from the pencil sketch version better.) The bulk of the book consists of the Marvel miniseries published in 1993.

Kubert is an amazing craftsperson and a true master of the human form. The art here is often beautiful, sometimes bewildering, and always impressive.

He allows himself much greater freedom with his character designs and with the starkness of their interactions – no longer is every prehistoric denizen a white 50s caricature, and no longer is the violence mostly suggested. It is shown in detail.

Kubert sketches, inks, colors (and the original colors here, not restorations!) and even letters his work. He’s a legend.

For all his skills, this book left me quite annoyed. Why? Kubert seems to think that women are either cowering rape bait or disgusting she-bitch monsters.

I’m sorry for being extremely blunt, but that is exactly the impression I got from this book.

In his Golden Age material, women were never particularly strong characters, but I assumed it was a failing of the era and general mentality of those times. It’s unfortunately rare to see strong women in Golden Age material (Go Lois!) So I kind of ignored the slight sexism.

The first story in this volume was created in 1975. The few panels featuring a woman (Tor’s mother) are reminiscent of 50s family dramas – she’s a cook and knows when the kid is crying in his room. Not much else.

Ok, maybe an oversight. Let’s see what the 1993 series contains….

Oh. Oh god. Really? Are you kidding me?

I’m pretty sure that’s a helpless bimbo clinging to our hero while he considers shaking her dumb ass off in order to beat down a horrendous lizard cuntmother.

I hope the laypeople can pardon my technical language.

This is 1993 for Marvel Comics.

Maybe I’m surprised because I didn’t grow up reading the manly barbarian genre (I was obsessively collecting Milestone titles and watching Xena and Quantum Leap.) But I’m pretty sure that you could go a couple pages without having a simpering topless woman either being sacrificed, saved, tortured, raped, about to be raped, acting willingly as bait for rape, being saved from rape, or killed.

Maybe they could, you know, hit back. Or put on a shirt. The women in 50s Tor had shirts. Is it more realistic for these women to be incapable of shirthood?

Let’s talk about how the women here are weak and constantly sexual objects to these prehistoric men – it must be depicted here because it is the cruel reality of pre-history. Right?

Well, the “this is based on research!” chats of the 1950s books are gone here – it’s straight up fantasy. And if Tor can be fighting demons and hell lizards, I’m pretty sure pre-historic women could have a little backbone. Or personality.

Kubert likes to go on and on about how his Tor stories are allegory.

“Dinosaurs? Alive at the same time that man came into existence? Ridiculous! … Tor is an allegory. A story in which people, things and events reflect symbolic meanings. … by bringing life down to its most basic form, it allows us to gain a perspective on that which affects us today.”

Straight from Kubert’s pen. So if the dinosaurs represent the challenges facing man (Oil Crisis? Overpopulation? I’m not sure.) then the naked women must have some deep meaning, right?

Oh, I got it, it’s about how they’re always whining and asking for help because they can’t do anything on their own. Oh wait, it’s about how women are only good for fucking and cooling our hot food by pressing it against their bodies, exposing themselves to horrible burns for our pleasure.

No, no, I got it, it’s about how even in the stone age every girl has grade A tits.

Forgive me, but I’m not even trying.

The point isn’t that the horrible people in this book are doing horrible things to women – that’s a pretty common plot thread and if they weren’t rapists, how would we know that they are really really horrible people?

Neither is the point that this is smut (it’s not, really, it’s a straightforward adventure story with many touching moments and lovely work about the strength of a tribe and so on, but for the argument, even it was that would not be the point I’m trying to make here.) I have no problem with naked ladies in general, crazy kink or straightforward sexin’, and you can tell by my language that I can be a bit of a crude person myself. I enjoy a wide variety of smut!

The point is that the women aren’t women. They’re ridiculous farces, two dimensional delusions – unflattering representations of what someone thinks women are like.

The attractive ones are clingy and whiny. The ugly ones are grossly sexual, spewing out babies and catcalls. They’re all very stupid.

Every woman is an easily spooked pushover, constantly controlled with violence actual and threatened.

I’d love to be writing more detail about all the wonderful stuff here, the content that kept me turning pages at a brisk pace, but this is just so much more important. Women cannot be treated this way. I don’t understand how someone has such a wonderful career, is capable of creating such beauty, yet somehow thinks this is ok.

The issue could be solved by adding one woman who actually raises her hand in self defense, just as they did in the first two volumes. I can accept that the particular characters here are weak and stupid – but with the way the introduction talks about distilling the essence of mankind and how Kubert introduces the comics as allegory about man’s eternal struggles – it’s pretty obvious that something more disturbing is at work here.

It’s crap like this that brings down an otherwise amazing work of sequential art – and pretty much ruins it for half the human race.

The half with brains in their skulls and a sense of moral dignity.

Verdict:
2 out of 5. Maybe I’m being a bit harsh. Maybe this is a classic or something. Or maybe Kubert really needed to deal with some issues.

Amazing artwork, some touching story moments, and women being treated despicably (in story and in characterization).

And here I am showing high res scans of the worst of it. Let’s try and look at it academically, ok?

Essential Continuity:
Tor actually gets two additional origin stories here, both of which conflict with the existing one. I’ll leave it to you to make the call on this one.

Read first:
Tor Vol. 1, Tor Vol. 2, maybe The Civilization of the Goddess: The World of Old Europe for some goddamn historical context.

Read next:
I’ll be reading Tor: A Prehistoric Odyssey in the hopes that our boy Kubert has somehow come to his senses.

You should read Four Women by Sam Kieth, Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, Buffy The Vampire Slayer by Joss Whedon, She-Hulk by Dan Slott, or Persopolis by Marjane Satrapi – in the hopes that one of those titles will help get that slimy feeling off. You might have to read more than one.

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7 Comments Post New »

  1. avatar Marc wrote on at November 19, 2010 4:32 pm:

    God, this sounds insanely misogynistic. I don’t think you’re being too harsh at all. In fact, this is a big part of the reason why I don’t read many fantasy comics. It seems like a lot of these stories are written with the mentality that since women used to be treated as nothing more than objects (a claim somewhat dubious in and of itself, but for the sake of argument I’ll go with it), they should be portrayed that way in so-called “historical” comics.

    But it’s just like you said — a fantasy comic isn’t “historical,” and the defense that fantasy writers use of basing their stories on “historical research” is absurd. Show me the part of history where a six-breasted lizard monster attacked a beautiful naked redhead, then we’ll talk.

    Even in the 1940s and 1950s, when sterotypical attitudes were more common, you still didn’t see this kind of thing in comics. You’ve illustrated that nicely with your three Tor reviews. Take also, for example, Tarzan: The Jesse Marsh Years, Vol. 1, which I reviewed a while back. There are some undoubtedly non-PC themes at work, particularly in regards to race; but in no place are they as overt or offensive as what seems to exist in these “modern” Tor comics.

    Could you imagine if someone published a Tarzan comic today filled with cannibalistic, subhuman Africans? The author could claim to have history on his side in that he was staying true to Tarzan’s historical roots (the original Edgar Rice Burroughs novel is blatantly racist). But would it be right? I highly doubt anyone would see it that way.

    [Reply]

    avatar Ian replied on November 19th, 2010 at 5:34 pm:

    yeah, I think we’re on the same wavelength here.

    A couple people on reddit told me that these comics were supposed to be smut and that was always the intent, but there are some serious problems with that argument.

    First of all, all the previous Tor comics were directed squarely at children – you saw that whole page I posted where Kubert talks about how he’d be proud to have his kids read it. And you bet they did, considering their careers.

    And then the introduction to this volume takes the same approach.

    I may have chosen my pictures a bit badly, because the content with this kind of promiscuity is actually not the bulk of the volume. It’s not a smutty book. Most of it is straightforward adventure, fun plotlines, action, and some touching moments between Tor and his father.

    The problem is that whenever a woman IS shown, it’s in one of the ways I discussed above.

    I’ve flipped through the next contemporary Tor story and it looks much better. Perhaps Kubert was playing to a specific audience here? Or maybe he had some things to work out and has grown past them? I’ll have to think more on it tonight when I’m putting my review together.

    [Reply]

    avatar Ian replied on November 20th, 2010 at 1:21 am:

    Here’s another couple people missing the point at the DC boards.

    I guess I wasn’t clear enough in my review. I’m not objecting to this being smut. Simply put, it’s NOT smut. It’s a relatively kid or teen friendly adventure tale with terrible characterization of the females. There are obvious problems that could be solved easily by viewing them as people.

    Smut, I’m all for. But that’s another story for another day.

    [Reply]

    avatar Marc replied on November 20th, 2010 at 12:36 pm:

    I love the comment that says you must be either crazy or a woman to be raising these concerns. Sounds like this book would be a perfect fit for him. ;)

    [Reply]

    avatar Ian replied on November 20th, 2010 at 2:43 pm:

    yeah, seriously? It’s like saying you have to be black to care about segregation.

    [Reply]

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