TOR: ONE MILLION YEARS AGOMedium: Comic Books
Published by: St. John Publishing
First Appeared: 1953
Creators: Joe Kubert and Norman Maurer
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the many comics he's worked on, he's told interviewers his favorite is Tor, a cave man who lived a million years ago, and whom he created in collaboration with cartoonist Norman Maurer back in 1953.
Tor came from a long line of cave men in comics — Alley Oop, Peter Piltdown, etc., all the way back to Our Antediluvian Ancestors, by F.B. Opper (Alphonse & Gaston). But for audience appeal, he stood out from the crowd, with reader demand facilitating repeated revivals, by one publisher after another, over a period of decades.
Of Tor's creators, Joe Kubert (who did most hands-on work on the character) was best known for his work at DC Comics, where he drew Hawkman, Vigilante and other features. Norman Maurer had worked mostly at Lev Gleason Publications, on such features as Crimebuster and Little Wise Guys. Together, they were also responsible for bringing 3-D technology, which was all the rage in movies, to comics.
Tor himself was a loner, adventuring around in a world of dinosaurs, exploding volcanos, near-human troglodytes and suchlike, with no supporting character except his pet monkey, Chee-Chee. He first appeared in One Million Years Ago #1, dated September, 1953. The publisher was St. John Publishing Company, which at the time was also licensing Terrytoons characters such as Dinky Duck and Gandy Goose. With its second issue, the series was re-titled with the simple name of its main character: Tor, with "One Million Years Ago" a subtitle on the cover but not the indicia.
The second issue (October) was produced in the 3-D process, a follow-up to the Kubert/Maurer 3-D Comics #1, starring Mighty Mouse, which had come out a month earlier. It was also published in a magazine-sized edition. With #3 it was back to normal. The comic lasted only five issues, the last dated October, 1954.
Tor seemed gone, a short-lived title from a short-lived publisher, but readers didn't forget him. More than 20 years later, one of the majors took notice. DC Comics brought out its own Tor #1 with a cover date of June, 1975. The first issue contained new work by Kubert (Maurer had left comics to work in movies). Other than that, it reprinted the St. John series (converting the 3-D work to the regular format). Not surprisingly, it ended after six issues.
In 1977 and '78, Kubert published two issues of a tabloid-sized comic book titled Sojourn, designed to present outstanding comics in a package that particularly favored the artwork. Tor was featured, alongside the work of Doug Wildey (Jonny Quest), John Severin (Mad magazine), Lee Elias (Beyond Mars) and other master comics creators.
The character's next appearance was in Marvel Comics' epic line, which featured creator-owned work. (Kubert had long since established legal ownership of Tor.) Epic's four-issue Tor mini-series, which featured new material by Kubert, began in June, 1993.
Most recently, DC Comics reprinted the entire corpus of Tor material in a deluxe, three-volume hardcover format, one volume a year starting in 2001.
The hardcover would seem to be the definitive edition. But since his re-discovery in the 1970s, Tor has been back in print at least once in each decade, so there's plenty of room to speculate on what the future may bring.