Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Devil is a Dinosaur

Jack Kirby is widely recognised as the "King of Comics" and rightfully so. For pure imaginative power and bold design, he is unequalled, and his fingerprints can be seen on nearly every major character created by Marvel Comics in the sixties and seventies. He created the X-Men, the Fantastic Four and the Hulk in 1963 (Stan Lee wrote the books and Kirby illustrated them),
characters that have become household words around the world. Looking at Kirby's long career spanning several decades, you can see the many phases that he went through as an artist. The seventies decade saw what is arguably his biggest and most creative phase, certainly his boldest. Even so, some of his creations have not aged quite as well as Mister Fantastic and the Human Torch.

In 1978 Jack Kirby introduced a slew of titles at Marvel Comics, notable among them... DEVIL DINOSAUR! At first flush a book that looks silly and seems to be the particularly harsh consequences of experimenting with horse tranquilisers, further study reveals a sublime pleasure. "In an age when GIANTS walked the world -HE was the mightiest of them all!" This tagline contains within it one the most immediate pleasures, to imagine that the age of dinosaurs was not only brutal and bloody but that it also had its own version of what amounts to a superheroic lizard. Things only get better from there.

Inside the third issue of the series, Devil Dinosaur is being scolded by his humanoid companion, the loquacious Moon Boy. "How can one find sleep when the valley resounds with fearful screams?!" Moon Boy sends Devil Dinosaur to find the source of the racket. Take a moment to think about that: Devil Dinosaur, the mightiest dinosaur of them all (and you know that is mighty indeed), takes orders from a little hairy creature called Moon Boy, when he can tear up pterodactyls like they were made of paper? Not only takes orders but lets the runt ride on his back like he was a horse? My friend, this is the stuff of legend! Let the song in our hearts be heard!

The series, woefully cancelled after only nine issues, is basically one battle after another, as Devil Dinosaur takes on progressively stronger and more fearsome monsters. In essence, he is revealed to be Godzilla's red-hided stepchild -but with the crucial distinction of having his very own Moon Boy telling him what to do.

Nevertheless, Jack Kirby shows us why he is the king, even with this title which admittedly pales by comparison with most of his other creations. Only a royally descended artist could have brought us Devil Dinosaur.

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