Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Guest Post Travis Hiltz

Devil Dinosaur Omnibus
Quick history lesson: Jack Kirby (hallowed be thy name!) was one of the men who helped to create Marvel Comics. From 1960 until early 1970 he wrote and drew hundreds of Marvel’s most well known characters.
He then had a falling out with the “powers that be” at Marvel and spent several years working for their chief rival in the industry, DC Comics.
At the end of the 70’s, Kirby returned to Marvel. During this time he created several short-lived series that were more science fiction oriented than straight super heroes. They existed in their own little corners of the Marvel universe. One of them was Devil Dinosaur.
Set way back at the dawn of pre-history (the time before time!), it chronicles the adventures of Moon Boy a young cave man (cave boy?) and Devil Dinosaur, a bright red Tyrannosaurus Rex. Both Moon Boy and Devil are outcasts, Moon Boy because he tends to question and think about things more than his tribe is comfortable with and Devil because he’s bright red and the biggest badass in the valley.
This duo learns that by working together they can survive and so begins one of the strangest friendships in comic history.
At first glance, it appears to be a very odd “boy and his dog” story, but it’s more similar to “Peabody and Sherman” than it is “Lassie and Timmy”, as Devil is portrayed as being just as smart as Moon Boy. As they traveled, they encountered rival tribes, evil hunters, natural disasters, monsters and eventually aliens.
With Jack Kirby’s wonderful larger than life art and wild adventure stories, ‘Devil Dinosaur’ has the feeling of the old Hanna-barbara cartoons that I used to watch as a kid. Why the film rights were never grabbed up has always baffled me.
The down side of this otherwise entertaining series is that it has gotten a bit lost in the shuffle and has not found the audience it deserves. Fans of Kirby consider it one of his lesser works, mere “kid stuff”. “Serious” comic fans and historians seem to get embarrassed by its lack of concern for historical and scientific accuracy and cartoonish nature.
This hardcover is the first time the series has been collected. Individual back issues are difficult to track down, making it unavailable or out of the price range of the younger readers that it would most appeal to. This is a shame, since this is a comic that would perfect for a kid just starting out reading or who is new to comic books.
Whatever complaints people may have about the writing, the art is pure Kirby magic: The dinosaurs are huge and fearsome, the monsters are threatening, the colors are vivid, and panels are big and feature crowds of cavemen yelling. The aliens and their technology look suitably intricate and otherworldly. As with all Kirby art, it beautifully presents a world you know doesn’t exist, but looks real enough that you wish it did.
This hardcover collection is a worthy addition to any Kirby fans bookshelf, but I can’t help thinking they’d have sold more copies if Marvel had instead done a soft cover collection, maybe something similar to the digest sized collections that Archie comics and Japanese manga come in.
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