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'Turok': A classic comes back

By Rob M. Worley     February 04, 2008

A classic comes back this week with a two-pronged, modern media attack. The original time-lost dinosaur hunter returns in an all-new video game and the direct-to-DVD animated feature film: 'Turok: Son of Stone'.

Comics2Film sat down with the movie's producer Evan Baily and screenwriter Tony Bedard to talk about what the new film offers and why Turok is such an enduring character.

Bedard, a veteran comics writer, has seen his comics experience thus far book-ended by Turok.

"Weirdly enough, it was the first comic book that I'd ever read back when I was a kid in Puerto Rico and I was four or five years old. It had Indians and Dinosaurs on the cover. That was pretty much all she wrote. I had to read it," Bedard told us, referencing the original comics, which were published by Dell and Gold Key.

"Many years later I got into the comic book business at a company called Valiant. They had brought back Turok and revamped it. I think my first credited work in a comic was in Turok #1."

The Valiant comics featured a reimagining of many of the lost Dell characters. Their version of Turok was an updated one, which featured a time-traveling version of the character, equipped with modern weapons and fighting cybernetically enhanced dinosaurs. This new Turok would rise to new levels of prominence due largely to the video games that spun off from it.

"I think I first became familiar with the character as a Valiant comic, and then went back to the Dell/Gold Key incarnation of the character," admits producer Evan Baily, who held the rights to the character. While Baily was eager to develop Turok into a feature film, he also was clear that he wanted to the character justice and get the right people involved.

"I think the earliest conversations were with Michael Uslan and his colleague F.J. DeSanto," Baily said. Uslan is well known as the producer of the 'Batman' movies, not to mention 'Constantine' and the upcoming 'The Spirit', which DeSanto is co-producing.

"We started talking about Turok and how much potential there was for this character and how awesome it would be to do a Turok film. I think it must have been F.J. who suggested Tony. I had already worked with Tony developing another script and I thought that was just about the best idea in the world and we went from there."

Rather than follow the science-fiction bent of the modern Turok, Baily and Bedard wanted to take it back to the rustic fantasy that it originally had been.

"I think we wanted to go back to the roots. We felt like, for a generation of fans who grew up on the original comics it would be exciting to revisit just the raw, simple, man vs. nature fantasy storytelling," Baily said, adding that the movie version doesn't necessarily exclude the newer generation of fans. "This would be their introduction to old school Turok."

Bedard agrees. "I always remember that original Gold Key Turok comic and the characters and how I felt about them. That was the version that I really wanted to get to. There was something really primal and clean and simple about it that spoke to me when I was a kid and still works for me as a grown up.

"A lot of it comes down to the paternal relationship between Turok and Andar," Bedard said. "Whatever they ran into I felt it was gonna be OK because Andar had Turok looking out for him, and Turok obviously kicked ass. Now as a father I can look at it from the other point of view. I wanted to make sure we had that working in the story."

As we said earlier, when Turok returns on Tuesday it'll be on DVD, where he's an 18th century native American who stumbles into a savage Lost Land, as well as in video games, where he's a futuristic Marine sent to battle dinosaurs on a lost planet.

Baily said the video game is brilliant and the dueling Turoks just heighten the excitement around the relaunch of the character.

"I think that there's no fan in the world who's more sophisticated about multiple incarnations of the characters and the properties that they love than comic book fans," Baily said. "It's almost obligatory in the context of comic book characters that you take a character that people love and show that character to them in a new way."

Bedard likens it to the way Frank Miller restored the dark, gritty tone of Batman in "The Dark Knight Returns" after several years worth of lighter stories that had evolved out of the 1960s Batman TV series. "[Miller went] back to the roots of that character and doing it in a more sophisticated and hard-edged way, that you couldn't do when that character was launched.

"I feel like that tracks closer to what we're trying to do with the movie, trying to go back to the roots of the character and represent it in a more sophisticated and hard-hitting fashion than a 1950s comic book could have."

Check back tomorrow where we'll talk to Baily and Bedard about updating the Son of Stone as a wild and violent anime for adults.

'Turok: Son of Stone' arrives on DVD this Tuesday.


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