350. Devil Dinosaur
After his ’70s stint at DC, Jack Kirby returned to Marvel, and brought several new titles with him, one of which was Devil Dinosaur. This series is basically the story of a boy and his dog– only the dog is a giant red Tyrannosaurus Rex and the boy is an ape-man named Moon Boy from the dawn of time. Together, they fight to survive in a dangerous world. It’s the best comic about a dinosaur kicking stuff to death ever made.
I’ve only just finished reading my Devil Dinosaur Omnibus (more on that in a bit), and I have to say, this series has immediately become one of my all-time favorite Kirby projects. I had a huge grin on my face the entire time I was reading it. It’s filled with thrilling dino-adventure and huge action in the mighty Kirby manner. He originally created it as a possible springboard for an animated series that was never made, but he certainly turned it into a fantastic comic.
The series only lasted nine issues, but that was plenty of time for Kirby to tell some excellent stories. We learn Devil’s origin: how he was borne through flames, and how he and Moon Boy met and saved each other. We follow them through battles with the savage Killer-Folk and a group of giants. Kirby then goes on to tell a four-part mini-saga that serves as an alternate version of the original Garden of Eden tale and involves space-robots, giant ants, an evil computer “demon tree,” and a primitive ape-lady named Eev. It’s a hell of a tale. Finally, the series wraps up with a brutal story in which Devil is kidnapped by Dino Riders, and a quick jaunt through time which lands Devil in the strange future of 1978.
At its core, though, the series wasn’t about Devil kicking stuff to death, although that happened an awful lot. It was about the friendship and loyalty between man and beast, and the evolution of mankind– if not in biology, then in spirit. Moon Boy had a great heart to him, and Devil was the cleverest and most insightful dinosaur of them all.
Kirby’s art was furiously gorgeous here. His depictions of of the great lizards– from “Thunderhorns” (Triceratops) to “Plant-Eaters” (Brachiosaurs) to Pterodactyls and more. Kirby’s science wasn’t accurate at all, however, but didn’t need to be– the series existed in some mythological between-time he called the X-Age (later revivals have transplanted Devil and Moon Boy to the Savage Land).
I haven’t talked much about the inking on Kirby’s work for the past few posts, so I’d like to do that now. Mike Royer was Kirby’s inker of choice throughout much of his later career, and he did a fantastic job. Royer transformed Kirby’s pencils into the Kirbiest art I’ve ever seen. Great brushwork and eye-popping blacks. The double-page splash from #4 is one of the most astonishing Kirby/Royer images of all time– that of a giant cosmic dragon beast. You can see it, albeit without color, here.
As I said above, the complete series is now available in the handsome oversized Omnibus format, with excellent paper and dazzling colors. It even reprints the letters pages and text pieces by Kirby himself! Ignore the less-than-enthusiastic introduction to the volume, and leap into the enthralling stories themselves. This book would make an incredible Christmas present for any six-to-ten-year-old boy you know. At that age, they’re fascinated with dinosaurs and aching with the need to read something. Give ’em Devil Dinosaur– it’s the perfect thing to hook ’em on comics. I know the kid in me loved it.
Devil and Moon Boy have reappeared in several places over the years. They’ve even teamed up with Godzilla! Devil also made a hilarious appearance in the pages of Nextwave. Eric Powell drew ’em fighting the Hulk a couple years ago, and they still pop up here or there. Everybody loves ’em a little Devil Dinosaur.
Hey, maybe they should fulfill the original plan and make a Devil Dinosaur cartoon. I’d watch it. Also, Mr. Quesada, if you’re listening? I’ve got this awesome “Devil Dinosaur: Agent of SHIELD” pitch I think you might like.
Devil Dinosaur is all above the interweb. Gorilla Daze provides an issue-by-issue review of the series here. Loads of lovely images there. The Marvel Masterworks website also provides synopses, high-quality images, and letters pages from the Omnibus. And you can read more about Devil and Moon Boy at Toonopedia.