Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Boy and His Dinosaur

Back in 1978, after a short (but ridiculously influential) stint working at DC Comics, artist Jack Kirby returned to Marvel, the place where he had helped to create the Avengers, Iron Man, the Hulk, the X-Men, and most of the other characters who are still cash cows for the company. Jack, whose contract stipulated that he pencil fifteen pages of comics art a week, leapt into the fray, drawing Captain America, a character he had also co-created and 2001, a series based on the movie. That series eventually spawned two spin offs, Machine Man, a comic about a robot who became almost human, and Devil Dinosaur, a series about one of the 'dawn men' (the hairy guys dancing around the monolith in 2001) who befriends a big, red, tyrannosaurus.
   Now you and I know that, according to the fossil record, man and dinosaurs didn't exist at the same time. Jack knew this too and mentions it in an essay in the back of issue #1, but he goes on to say that in the interest of fun and entertainment, he's just going to gloss over that. So for nine issues Devil, the big red dinosaur, and his young pal Moon Boy roamed the prehistoric world, encountering monsters, aliens from space, and a clever retelling of Adam and Eve.
   It sounds kind of goofy, but like most things, Jack made it work. However when the book originally came out, I didn't read it. I can't recall why. I was buying all of Jack's other Marvel books, Cap, the Eternals, etc. However 1978 was before I discovered Comic Book Stores, so it's entirely possible that given poor news stand distribution in my home town, I just never saw it. Or maybe I thought I wouldn't enjoy a comic book about a big red dinosaur. Nah, that's not likely.
   Anyway, in 2007 Marvel published a big shiny hardback omnibus collecting the nine issue run of Devil Dinosaur. I didn't get it then either. Probably just an oversight, or maybe I was broke the week it came out, but somehow I missed it. (There were a couple of other Marvel series Jack worked on that slipped under my radar. I don't think I knew he was drawing Black Panther until he had already left the book.)
   Recently, as I began trying to accumulate the collections of Jack's work from both Marvel and DC, I started looking for a copy of the Devil Dinosaur Omnibus. Problem was, the book didn't have a huge print run, so copies in the aftermarket were hard to come by and usually cost more than I was willing to pay. So I kept a watch on Ebay and Amazon, figuring that eventually I'd find one at a reasonable price.
   Last night that became a moot point because my pal Cliff presented me with a copy of the omnibus as an early birthday present. My birthday isn't until next week, but Cliff knew he wouldn't see me again until after the day, so he went ahead and gave me the book last night. Made my day I can tell you.
   So this weekend I'll be reading, what for me, will be all new comics by my idol, Jack Kirby. Not at all a bad thing. Thanks again, Cliff. You're a pal.

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