TITLE: Arak: Son of Thunder – Vol. 1, Issue 3
YEAR: November 1981
COMPANY: DC Comics
Created by Roy Thomas and Ernie Colon
Written by Roy Thomas
Penciler: Ernie Colon
Embelisher: Tony Dezuniga
Letterer: John Costanza
Colorist: Adrienne Roy
Editor: Dick Giordano
One thing you will notice in the comics that I feature, many feature the written work of Roy Thomas.
Stan Lee hired Roy Thomas at Marvel and Roy would be hired as Editor-in-Chief of Marvel succeeding Stan Lee. And both men are legends in their own right in the comic book industry.
And as many of us have grown up reading Roy Thomas stories, may it be classic “The Avengers”, “X-Men”, “Captain Marvel” and worked on many A-list titles, he would also be known for writing “Conan the Barbarian” (introducing “sword & sorcery” to comic books) and the “Star Wars” adaptation.
In the ’80s, Roy Thomas would return to DC Comics where he worked (before Marvel) for a few weeks but this time for a longer run, working on titles such as “Legion of Superheroes”, “Green Lantern”, “Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew!” and “All Star Squadron”, Roy Thomas would continue to have a great career at DC Comics and Marvel Comics for many more years to come.
But there is one title from his work in the ’80s that tends to often be overseen. And understandably, it doesn’t have the same cool factor when compared to other superhero comics, but for comic book readers who love a well-written series with great artwork, “Arak: Son of Thunder” and it’s earlier run was no doubt one of the best comic book series out there that unfortunately, many dismissed as Roy Thomas’ attempt to bring a Conan-style comic book series to DC Comics.
I can understand the comparisons, muscular guy, dark long hair, sword and sorcery storyline.
But when you read the stories, they were much, different. Where Smith integrated mythological creatures, legendary characters and figures from the Greek, Norse, Judeo-Christian, Muslim, etc. If anything, with the thought of exploration of those looking for new land, what if the roles were reversed where a Native American ended up in a new land living among people different than him.
Arak’s first appearance was as an insert for the August 1981 issue of “The Warlord” issue #48.
For those not familiar with “Arak: Son of Thunder”, the story revolves around a Native American man who was found by Vikings drifting in the ocean alone. Never having seen a human with skin so red, some thought of him as a demon but one man protected the young man, who appeared to have great fighting capabilities. As the Viking talked about his friend who died, Erik, as the Native American tried to say the name, he says “Arak” and so, his Viking guardian would call the young man Arak and Arak would be raised among the Norsemen.
In issue #3, Arak and Malagigi, the court wizard of Carolus Magnus come across a group of thieves who demand their money or their lives.
Arak and Malagigi are not going to give up anything without a fight and as one can expect, both men defeat the group of thieves easily. But their swordsman, a man named Perro who is maimed by Arak asks for one thing, to die in honor in his home not in the field. Malagigi is against it but Arak respected the fight in battle with Perro decides to abide his wishes. Meanwhile, Malagigi schools Arak on the Four Pillars of Power and the various sorcerer abilities.
As Arak carries the man back home and Malagigi follows, they are shocked that Perro would lose but also bring a man with red-skin to their home.
And once they arrive, they bring Perro home but they learn that the King sends a knight in dark armor to take from the people of the village. And sure enough, the knight arrives when Arak and Malagigi are in their village?
This issue is important as it introduces readers to Valda, daughter of Bradamante (a fictional knight heroine in two poems of the Renaissance: “Orlando Innamorato” by Matteo Maria Boiardo and “Orlando Furioso” by Ludovico Ariosto), better known as Valda the Iron Maiden. The opposite of Marvel Comics’ Red Sonja, Valda is a warrior wearing a full mail shirt.
And Arak and Valda would appear in other DC Comics years later.
But my feeling of “Arak: Son of Thunder” is that it’s one of the few comic book series which not only was it well-written but also managed to incorporate mythology from various cultures and integrated into a storyline but it was also the first Native American hero that would have his own comic book for numerous years. Roy Thomas did a magnificent job with this issue, as did artist Ernie Colon and crew, but it’s a shame that because this is not a superhero comic book nor is there guarantee that it would lead to positive sales if released as omnibus, that very few will discover this comic book series.
Seriously, if you want to read a well-written comic book with intriguing characters, then definitely give “Arak: Son of Thunder” a try!