“Age of Reptiles: Ancient Egyptians” marks the fourth series in Delgado’s line of stories which began with 1993’s “AoR: Tribal Warfare.” The tales are textless, relying on the storyboard artist’s skills as an illustrator to engage the reader in the non-anthropomorphic, often violent prehistoric world.
Below, the Eisner Award-winning creator explains the inspiration behind his latest foray into the dinosaur-populated world, citing the works of Akira Kurosawa, John Ford, Sergio Leone and more, stating “a story is a story is a story, genres and categorizations be damned.”
The Revolver and the “Katana”
This story is basically a western that stars a samurai, but I did not like westerns as a kid, and I’ll tell you why.
All of the people that looked like me or came from the part of the world I am from were usually depicted as dirty, swarthy, amoral people, or weak, subservient peasants. And even then, some of the roles that could have been played by people of Latino descent went to actors of other ancestry, like in “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” where Tuco is played by Eli Wallach, or in “The Magnificent Seven,” where Horst Buchholz plays Chico. So as a kid I pretty much shunned western films, with the exception of “The Valley of Gwangi,” which I will write about in a later issue.
All that began to change with the help, of all things, of a Japanese filmmaker. I was making my way through Art Center College of Design in Pasadena in the mideighties, semester through semester, and like all impatient young people, wondering how long eight semesters took to get through. There was a day in the week where I had class in the morning and again in the evening, and so I spent the hours between those classes in the library, where the college had a pretty good video collection of “classic and important” films, even back then. So I decided to watch as many of them as I could, and that was where I discovered Akira Kurosawa.
The list of his great films is long. “Seven Samurai,” “Yojimbo,” “Sanjuro,” and “The Hidden Fortress” (which influenced Star Wars tremendously) were stories set in a mystical, beautiful Japan during the time of the samurai, and I was enthralled. Kurosawa seemed to tell his stories in such a clear way that I began to ignore the subtitles on the VHS copies and simply take in his storytelling. Later on I would read and hear about his use of photography, his obsession with detail, but early on, sitting in the Art Center library with a set of headphones on, I was wowed.
Then came a few things, like graduation, a career, a family, but I never forgot about Kurosawa, who is referred to in the entertainment business with near-reverential tones. And somewhere in the middle of all that I was watching a few DVDs of his films, and he explained how he was influenced so much by John Ford’s westerns. What? My mind was blown. And how his “Yojimbo” was basically copied by Sergio Leone in a picture called “A Fistful of Dollars.” And how “Yojimbo” was based on a detective novel called “Red Harvest” by Dashiell Hammett, who also wrote “The Maltese Falcon!” One of my favorite detective stories of all time! Huh!
I then sat down to watch “A Fistful of Dollars,” harrumphing all the way. Surely it could not be as good as the amazing “Yojimbo?” No, but it was pretty damn good, I discovered. If you believe Wikipedia, Kurosawa sued when he saw “Fist,” because it is his story, but Leone did not stop there, making a really good sequel called “For a Few Dollars More,” and an even better third film to complete the trilogy, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” Great pictures all. He took the western to different heights, where everyone was dirty, not just the people in sombreros. Watch “Once upon a Time in America” if you want to be wowed. So I watched more westerns, and I saw what Kurosawa had seen in Ford. I still saw much of the silly racial stuff I had seen before, but I was also, at that point in my life, able to see past the stereotypes to discern quality. I recommend “Stagecoach” and, in a grand irony, “The Searchers,” a story of bigotry where John Wayne is clearly a bigot, and a door literally and metaphorically closes on him, his kind, and his time at the end of the story. Wow.
In terms of politics, Mr. Wayne and I are at the poles, and yet that was a pretty great film. Is it flawless? Nope, but what picture is? Everybody always refers to one thing in “Stagecoach”: its breathtaking chase at the climax that did not need to happen if the Indian (Native American!) pursuers would have simply shot the horses pulling the stagecoach!
Anyone that needs clarification on the Native American experience simply needs to read “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” by Dee Brown to have that sorted out. Better yet, have your prospective loved one read it. If they cannot sympathize with all that the native cultures endured in that story, you should break up with them right away.
Then later on came the apex, when I sat down to watch “The Magnificent Seven,” a clear remake (Cough! Rip-off! Cough!) of “Seven Samurai” which was full of poor, dumb Latinos like myself that need the help of the clean cowboy to rid themselves of the scummy, dirty bandidos. But damn it, to my surprise, it was pretty good. Not “Seven Samurai” good, no way, nohow, but it holds its own. Is that because I am a Steve McQueen nerd? Maybe, but still, pretty good.
Along the way I read “Red Harvest,” and I saw a cowboy being played by Hammett’s unnamed main character, referred to in the story as simply the Continental Op. I continued to learn and grow in my humanity. As time went on, I yearned to tell my own stories, and this comparatively humble story — “Age of Reptiles: Ancient Egyptians” — is about a samurai, a cowboy, a loner . . . who happens to be a forty-foot-long predatory dinosaur. I guess my main point here is that a story is a story is a story, genres and categorizations be damned.
Why tell you all this? Because if I’m gonna even dare to follow in the footsteps of titans, and titans they all were and are, I’d rather some of you younger people know who they are and look them up, ‘cuz there’s cool stuff out there, while some of you who are my age or older know that a story is a story is a story.
Watch all the films mentioned above, and read “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,” then come up to me at a convention and tell me you did.
It’ll make my day, to quote Clint Eastwood. 🙂
— Ricardo Delgado, February 2015
The Eisner Award-winning series returns!
Age of Reptiles: Ancient Egyptians #1 (of 4)
Ricardo Delgado (W/A/Cover) and Ryan Hill (C)
On sale June 3
FC, 32 pages
Ricardo Delgado’s gorgeous and brutal Age ofÂ Reptiles series returns, marking a bold new direction in wordless storytelling! The steaming swamps of Cretaceous Africa teem withÂ prehistoric life andÂ primordial danger in a tale filled with villains, victims, and one ofÂ the mostÂ dangerous and unpredictable protagonists ever created: the lonely anti-hero Spinosaurus Aegypticus!