Friday, November 20, 2009

Frontiersman AND Anthropologist- Tomahawk #71

The term "Caveman" was coined shortly after the first, isolated discoveries of Neanderthal Man in 1829,1848 and 1856. However, in the story "The Caveman Indians" from 1960's Tomahawk #71, Revolutionary War scout Tomahawk and his sidekick Dan Hunter seem really familiar with the idea of Cavemen.

While exploring for new hunting grounds (in unnamed territory) Tomahawk and Dan are caught in a landslide on a mountaintop and get dumped into an underground river. When they come to and make it ashore, they are set upon by Caveman warriors who capture them and take them home to their cave.

Luckily, these Cavemen (who live in an isolated lost valley) speak a dialectic Algonquian and Tomahawk and Dan can understand them.

What follows is a fairly mundane story about a tribal power struggle. Tomahawk and Dan have lost all their ammunition, but teach the friendly Cavemen how to make bows and arrows and a canoe. They also use their black powder to make exploding arrows. The comics code, however, makes sure that the good guys use ropes and padded arrows to subdue their foes without bloodshed.

The day is saved when Tarn, chief of the good guys challenges Varrak, chief of the bad guys (and a giant) to single combat. Tarn quickly vanquishes Varrak with the aid of the "Indian wrestling" techniques taught him by Tomahawk.

Tomahawk and Dan climb into their new canoe and paddle right out of the lost valley.

I have to say this was a little disappointing. I mean, I would have liked to at least see some mammoths or sabre cats in this lost valley. Sure, it's not all that realistic, but Tomahawk faces a giant gorilla somewhere in the American West in one issue. Where are my extinct beasts?

Also, apart from wearing the kind of sad, unfinished loincloths that are the Caveman's stock in trade, and their stone-age tools, I don't see any reason why anyone would think these guys are Cavemen instead of just isolated Indians. Never mind the fact that Tomahawk and Dan shouldn't even know Cavemen ever existed.


  1. Man, you're right. This whole premise in just goofy with flaws ...

    So, if these guys stumble into a valley full of people who pretty much look like Native Americans with maybe a different style of dress, why would they assume they're in a "Lost Valley" to begin with? Wouldn't they just assume that they'd run into a previously-unknown tribe of Indians?

    And how "lost" can this valley really be, if they speak a dialect that can be understood by (at the time) modern-day people? Are they suggesting that Native American languages didn't develop or change in any major way for something like 9,000 years? Look how much English has changed since Shakespeare, or since Beowulf was first written down about 1,200 years ago:

    HWÆT, WE GAR-DEna in geardagum,
    þeodcyninga þrym gefrunon,
    hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon!

    Add that to the lack of any "lost species" kind of creatures, as you mentioned, and I get the feeling that this valley couldn't have been lost for more than about 200 years or so.

    Also, how did their muskets end up where they are? Did the landslide just deposit them in a nice "leaned against a rock" position for them? Or did they walk up, lean the guns on the rocks, and then take a few steps back to allow the "Cavemen" time to start their assault? Odd.



  2. Aaron: I think that was one of the primary strengths of Turok, who you discuss in the previous post: In the Turok comics, a world was logically created (the stumbling into the Lost Valley) wherein reality could be thrown to the wind. Dinasaurs battling Indians! Great stuff. It sounds like Tomahawk tried to have a foot in both camps - a realistic depiction of Indians and a fantasy where they involved cavemen. Turok simply committed to fantasy - but tossed in a realistic (Indian) touch now and then.

    I have always been interested in this title. Thanks for the post! -- Mykal

  3. 7- Actually, in regards to the muskets, they had them slung when the landslide hit.

    Mykal- Yeah, I wanted to make the Turok comparison, too, but didn't want to sound like all I talk about this week is Turok. ;)

    Thanks for your coments, guys.

  4. I'm not certain, but this issue of Tomahawk just might not be historically accurate.

  5. Rob- I'm not certain, but I'm not sure ANY issue of Tomahawk was EVER historically accurate ;)