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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

Valley of the Dinosaurs: The Challenge of Mata-Zin "The Challenge of Mata-Zin"
Valley of the Dinosaurs #3 (Charlton)
Writer and artist unknown (but appears to be the same as credited in later issues from VOTD #4 onwards as Fred Himes)


John Butler runs afoul of the local godfather, Mata-Zin.


Story Summary


Searching for a way out of the Valley of the Dinosaurs, John, Katie, and Greg raft down the nearby river to see where it leads. But a Brachiosaurus flips the wooden raft and the trio are nearly washed over a waterfall before grabbing some overhanging branches and clambering into a waterside cave which they soon discover belongs to a local witch doctor who exacts tribute from the cave-dwelling tribe who have recently taken in the lost family. He chases the Butlers away with the threat of large trained lizards (possibly Komodo dragons).


Back at the village, John tries to convince the tribe Mata-Zin is a fraud who commands no evil spells. Mata-Zin himself unexpectedly appears at the caves and dazzles the tribe with his displays, but John knows his feats are really applications of primitive science. John bests Mata-Zin at this own game and the witch doctor retreats.


But the evil one returns in the evening and secretly poisons John with a dart from a blow gun, leaving him to die.




Notes from the Valley of the Dinosaurs Chronology


This story may take place fairly early in the chronology, as Mata-Zin is aware of the outsider Butler family embraced by the cave-dwellers but has only just now realized the threat they may pose to his domination. In addition, the Butlers raft the nearby river, searching for a way out of the valley, which they would presumably do early in their time stranded there.


Didja Notice?


The long-tailed pterosaur in the background of page 1, panel 1, is a Rhamphorhynchus.


On page 1, as John, Katie, and Greg raft down the river, Katie remarks that she thinks the river just leads back to the lagoon where they started. Now, the statement is vague, but she seems to be saying the river begins and ends in the same place! This is like the discovery of the closed-universe nature of the Land of the Lost by the Marshall family on the river that begins and ends in the same place in the "Downstream" episode of that series. Ignoring all of this, couldn't the Butlers have simply asked their cave-dwelling friends where the river goes in the first place?


Page 2 suggests that Katie was a champion swimmer back home.


The colorist seems to use red-orange coloring to suggest wet hair on the normally brunette Katie and Greg.


The various relatively small lizards seen in Mata-Zin's cave and on his person appear to be iguanas or something related to them.


On page 5, the iguana perched on Mata-Zin's shoulders is suddenly facing the opposite direction from where it was on the last panel of page 4.


The large lizards in Mata-Zin's cave appear similar to modern day Komodo dragons. He even refers to them as dragons.


On the last panel of page 5, we see several caves on the same hillside in which the cave-dweller tribe lives. In the televised episodes, it is not so clear that the various families of cave-dwellers live so close together.


On page 6, Tyrannosaurus rex is portrayed fairly accurately, with only two claws on its forelimbs, although generally not standing as tall as the 25 feet described here since scientists now think it carried itself more horizontally to the ground, with its tail balancing the weight of its huge head (rather than the tall, tail-dragging dinosaurs often described at the time this story was written).


Saltoposuchus, seen on page 6, was a prehistoric lizard not related to the dinosaurs, but to later crocodilians. It is no longer believed they locomoted primarily on their hind legs as stated here, though they probably did for short bursts of speed.


On page 7, Katie describes the tribute-demanding Mata-Zin as some kind of "godfather" running a protection racket. A protection racket is a form of extortion where criminals demand payment to "protect" a business from property damage (usually caused by the racketeers themselves). The "godfather" Katie refers to is the term as used to describe a sort of boss of the mafia, as popularized by the 1969 novel by Mario Puzo and the 1972 film based on it, The Godfather.


In what may be a color processing error, throughout page 9 Glump is colored more yellow than green.


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