By GW Thomas
The contents were never as good as those covers, but it still remains a dream of mine to read all the old titles, especially those written by Donald F Glut. His books were always the best because he genuinely liked the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres. I'm starting my journey with Tragg and the Sky Gods. This is a very appropriate title to begin with since the idea that inspired it could only have come from that decade. Erich von Daniken's Chariot of the Gods? (1968) inspired a good part of the '70s love of Bigfoot, the occult, UFOs, and other fringe beliefs. It was in to be out. Far out!
Also popular in that decade was a hold-over from previous decades: cavemen and dinosaurs. Still hot in 1975, despite One Million Years BC appearing in 1966, the ideas that Conan Doyle started in 1913, Edgar Rice Burroughs expanded upon until 1950, and Frazetta painted in the '50s and '60s, eventually brought us Rachel Welch in a prehistoric bikini. When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth appeared in 1970, Land of the Lost was 1974, The Land That Time Forgot showed up in 1975, and At the Earth's Core arrived in 1976. You get the idea. Sexy cave chicks and pterodons were as prevalent as Hostess Fruit Pie ads! Gold Key used a lot of dinosaurs in comics like Turok, Son of Stone and Tarzan, so another one wasn't going to be a problem.
The comic ran for eight issues, with a reprint at the end, plus three additional stories in other Gold Key comics. In just eleven stories, Don Glut, Dan Speigle, and Jessie Santos presented an entertaining struggle between earthmen and aliens that unfortunately remains unfinished. But Glut did manage a couple of nice things in that short time. First off, I have to applaud his use of dinosaurs. Yes, they don't belong in an age of cavemen, but if you're going to have them, use them well. Glut identifies each major dinosaur that appears, making them as accurate as possible. (He does ignore time periods, with an allosaurus and a T-Rex existing at the same time. He also shows a saber tooth eating a dimetrodon, so what the hell?) It is apparent that the writer is a real dinosaur fan and not just throwing vaguely dino-shaped monsters at us. Looking at Glut's later career, I see he has written several volumes on dinosaurs including the award-winning Dinosaur Dictionary (1972) and The Dinosaur Encyclopedia (1997). He has also written for TV shows like Land of the Lost and Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle. He also maintains an interesting cave-girl and dinosaur website (not for the kids).
My Gold Key journey has only begun. Was I disappointed with Tragg? Not at all. My appetite is only whetted. The journey continues in chronological order (of history, not publication date) with Tales of Sword and Sorcery: Dagar the Invincible...
GW Thomas has appeared in over 400 different books, magazines and ezines including The Writer, Writer's Digest, Black October Magazine and Contact. His website is gwthomas.org. He is editor of Dark Worlds magazine.