5 Things to Like About the Devil Dinosaur Omnibus

Like all of Jack Kirby's 1970s project, Devil Dinosaur was short-lived, misunderstood, and pure, golden, unadulterated COMICS. It's part of what I call Kirby's Comics Gospel, in which comic book tropes are used as Myth. This is a comic that combines dinosaurs with talking apes (in fact, a talking ape that rides a dinosaur), and throws in aliens, magic, the Bible and time travel for good measure. The Omnibus collects all 9 issues, including the text pieces and letters pages, in strong, glossy color. Aside from the lackluster design of the hardcover and Tom Brevoort's awful introduction (that does more to slight Devil Dinosaur than praise it), it's a wonderful book that ends on a bittersweet note.

While I could go on, let me tell you just five things that make Devil Dinosaur special:

1. Baptism by fire
Devil Dinosaur's origin story is simple and pure comics. Torched by cavemen, his skin turned red. That's it, and it's enough. It's his radioactive spider-bite, his gamma bomb, his parents' murder, and it's PURE COMICS. How this relates to Devil's good nature, brainy problem-solving or bond with his brother Moon-Boy isn't important. (So everyone with the Fallen Angels mini-series in hand can stop pointing at that panel of Cerebro detecting DD and MB can put it down and shush. You're ruining it for everyone.)

2. Dinosaur Dispatches
If Kirby's essays in the first four issues are to be believed, he really thought Devil Dinosaur's adventures could have happened. He proposes that the experts may be wrong about dinosaurs and men never having co-existed, just as they were wrong about the brontosaur. What if our ancestral memory of dinosaurs explains the legends of giant beasts in all cultures? He claims we can't know what the heck was going on in the X-Age (before recorded history, not that equally incomprehensible Marvel comics of the 90s), so this is all "honest conjecture". And he's also sure that no one knows just how intelligent the dinosaurs might have been, and that there's compassion in every creature on Earth (just ask scuba divers spared by sharks, he says). The lights are on, but nobody's home? Or Marvel-style hype used to good effect? That's just it, we can't know. So when an issue begins with the words "Primitive doomsday text: Origin unknown" or "Since the picture of Genesis is still incomplete...", you believe this is gospel truth. Someone's gospel truth. The Gospel of Comics.

3. Devil Dinosaur kicking stuff
He kicks other dinosaurs. He kicks alien robots. He kicks bad cavemen... to death! Devil Dinosaur is uncompromising in his kicking. It was a harsher time when kicking was required, that's all.

4. Eev and the Eden myth
Like Dinosaur Dispatches correctly teaches: We don't know how Genesis actually went down! Not only is Eev the sexiest, best coiffed cavewoman ever, but Kirby uses her to retell the myth of the Fall of Man. Except in his version, the Tree of Knowledge is an alien computer that creates the Garden of Eden under a forcefield, until the Devil (Dinosaur) destroys the Tree and blows Eden to kingdom come. It could have gone down that way, the real details lost in translation. As in Genesis, Eev defies male leadership by lobbying for sticking near the tree and is happy when Devil frees her to live a life unsupervised by Powerful Beings. It's not quite like the catechism of my youth, but it'll do!

5. Kirby Kirby Kirby!
Kirby's art is perfect for this idea. It's so PRIMAL, just like the mash-up prehistoric world he created. 'nuff said, true believers!

Stroll of the Day
Walking with... Torosaurus
Hey, that's Thunder-Horn to you, Devil Dinosaur reader!

And so endeth Dinosaur Week 2009. Hope to see you next year... or sooner. Yeah, pretty sure there's dinosaur content next week. I just can't get enough.


De said...

I haven't yet had the pleasure of reading Devil Dinosaur. I'm going to have to check it out now that I know there's a wacky explanation of the Book of Genesis.

FoldedSoup said...

Great way to end Dino Week!

And I don't think Kirby was enough of a Marvel Huckster to be anything but a little sincere in his belief (hope?) that this *could've* happened. Makes you wonder what he would've thought about the modern dinosaur interpretations.

Michael May said...

I can't look at Torosaurus without hearing that sickening snap of his horn coming off and his painful bellow. *shudder*

Siskoid said...

Those were hard times.


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