Tullus: Adventures of a Christian Boy in Roman Times by Joe Newton

CookTullusTofuWhere I Got It: Review copy

Illustrators: Bob Magnusen, Danny Frolich

Editor: Rick Norwood

Publisher: Manuscript Press (2016)

Length: 52 pages

Series: Volume 1 Tullus

Author’s Page

Teenage Tullus and his friend Nereus are off on adventure in the ancient Roman empire. They’ll go through many sidetraps and pitfalls as they do their best to assist Ajax and his daughter Helena to retrieve a hidden treasure. They’ll have to pit their wits against Roman soldiers, bandits, and a wolf-worshiping clan.

I’m not Christian but I absolutely adore ancient Roman empire stories. So going into this comic, I had a little concern that the Christian views would outweigh the story. Not to fear! I really enjoyed this tale and while Christian values are incorporated, I didn’t feel they took center stage and detracted from the story.

Tullus himself kind of reminded me a young Jim Kirk. Indeed, he and Nereus have hairs cuts similar to Kirk’s and they run around doing good deeds while holding to this high moral code. While there aren’t any Red Shirts to be sacrificed to Drama, the two young heroes do manage to sway a great number of people to their way of thinking, gaining assistance throughout the story.

One of my quibbles with the tale is that there are only 2, maybe 3, female characters. Helena features at the beginning and then at the end. She has a maid servant that’s in one or two frames. If there was a third female character, I don’t recall who she was. Now, this comic was originally published 1940s-1970s, but even keeping that in mind, it’s still a little sad to see the female gender underutilized.

Helena herself doesn’t get a real personality until towards the end of the story. She does keep her wits about her (which Nereus seems to have trouble doing) and is instrumental in getting the guys out of a fix. Yet once that is accomplished, she goes back to being background.

My favorite secondary character is the Roman war horse Blaze. He definitely has his own personality! The guys save him and in turn he adopts them and assists them throughout the story.

I was a bit surprised that there wasn’t more ancient Roman empire stuff thrown in – there’s no Roman myths, holidays, or customs. There are the wolf-worshipers at the end though the author doesn’t tie them to a specific culture. While Nereus and Tullus stay in character with their views on the worshiping of a wolf god, not all the worshipers are portrayed as evil or ignorant (which is good and realistic).

Over all, I was pretty entertained by the story. It’s definitely G rated with no cussing or nudity and only mild violence. Yet the story itself is compelling enough to propel me through to the end. The inside back cover gives a short history of the Tullus comic strip, including the fact that Newton’s wife illustrated the first few runs of the comic. As a bonus, this issue has some panels of another comic, Sir Bagby, on the back cover.

I received a copy at no cost from the publisher (via Word Slinger Publicity) in exchange for an honest review.

The Illustration:  The front cover, credited to Danny Frolich, is done in luscious colors and highlights. I like the image that was selected from the comic as it has a sense of mystery and imminent action to it. The internal artwork, attributed to Bob Magnusen, has a catching attention to detail: face wrinkles, arm hairs, folds in clothing, etc. The colors are rather muted compared to the cover, but enough of a pallet remains to distinguish each character. There are some frames that use predominately black and white to illicit suspense and concern for our heroes (for example, a thunderstorm scene). I was most satisfied with the illustrations for this comic. 

What I Liked: Fun adventure; the comic kept my attention despite it’s lack of death and sex; Blaze makes a great and worthy companion; the complexity of the wolf worshipers; worthy illustration; great cover.

What I Disliked: So few women; no references to Roman myths and culture.

What Others Think:

Bluerose’s Heart

The Story Is Enough

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