IDW Publishing dusts off another classic Topps property this July with the five-issue mini-series “Dinosaurs Attack!” by writer Gary Gerani and legendary “Incredible Hulk” artist Herb Trimpe. “Dinosaurs Attacks!” presents a brutal vision of time-travel gone awry as vicious dinosaurs are loosed upon an unsuspecting present-day society.
“Dinosaurs Attacks!” was originally published in 1988 as a mini-series through Eclipse Comics but was discontinued after one issue. IDW’s “Dinosaurs Attack!” reprints that first issue as its own before continuing with all-new art and story for the remaining four issues.
Gerani spoke with Comic Book Resources recently about the project, explaining how “Dinosaurs Attack” landed at IDW after a two decade hiatus, revealing how closely the new IDW series sticks to his ’80s scripts, what the future holds for the property, his personal favorite dinosaur and much more.
CBR News: Gary, what’s the gist of “Dinosaurs Attack?”
Gary Gerani: On the surface, it’s a wild takeoff on the sci-fi thrillers of the ’50s and ’60s, with a daring experiment gone awry and dinosaurs invading our modern-day planet. But it’s actually much more than that — as with the original “Robocop” movie, the satire extends far beyond the parameters of sci-fi, to society in general, with ultra-violence becoming part of the satiric “message.”
Who are the human, and not-so-human, characters in “Dinosaurs Attack?”
Unlike Topps’ “Mars Attacks,” there are human characters in “Dinosaurs Attack!” that we follow throughout the dino-munching storyline. Prof. Elias Thorne is the well-meaning genius who inadvertently triggers all the trouble, scientist-colleague Helen Chambers is his ex-wife, Ambrose Woolley is Thorne’s personal shrink, and Bob Gowen is a reporter. There is also an evil entity watching over the dinos — their monstrous “god” — who makes a dramatic appearance during the climax.
Who is this evil and monstrous dinosaur “god” you speak of?
Not only did Elias Thorne’s TimeScan device bring hungry dinosaurs into the present day, it brought their “god” as well, a monstrous cosmic entity that watches over them and doesn’t want them returned to the past — it wants the rematerialized dinos to destroy humanity and inherit the Earth anew! This ties in with a subplot involving Prof. Thorne’s rejection of God’s existence when he was a child after losing his older brother, which is why Thorne eventually stepped into God’s shoes, so-to-speak, for the benefit of mankind. But whenever man tries to play God…
What originally inspired “Dinosaurs Attack!” all those years ago?
Dinosaurs were becoming very popular in the ’80s for some reason, so I suggested that Topps try a “Mars Attacks”-style series with prehistoric monsters as the baddies. As an on-staff creative developer, I had been trying to get a sci-fi painted series off the ground for years, including a “MA” sequel in the ’70s called “Mars Attacks Again.” It was the phenomenal success of “Garbage Pail Kids” that allowed for the company to take a shot with “Dinosaurs Attack!” We even made a TV commercial for it!
What has the journey been like for the “Dinosaurs Attack!” property from the first trading card set all the way to this new series?
More than a little bumpy. The creative work has been fun and fulfilling, but the card product never sold well, very much like the original “Mars Attacks;” these things tend to become cult items. Original sci-fi series created by Topps would fare poorly at the candy counter, whereas “slob” humor properties like “Garbage Pail Kids” and “Wacky Packages” would go through the roof. The original Eclipse graphic novel based on “Dinosaurs Attack!” was warmly received, but then Eclipse went out of business! The new version I’ve just prepared for IDW at least completes the story, and the apocalyptic ending packs quite a punch, I must say.
How did the property wind up at IDW?
I write/edit/design/publish an ongoing series of movie books for IDW — the “Top 100” series — under my company label of Fantastic Press. I also do the occasional graphic novel for IDW (“Bram Stoker’s Death Ship”). When Greg Goldstein was over my house visiting, I showed him all the art developed for the “Dinosaurs Attack!” graphic novel that never saw the light of day, because Eclipse went out of business. We then spoke about making a deal with Topps to finally release the completed “DA” graphic novel project.
What sets “Dinosaurs Attack!” apart from other dino-centric properties like “Jurassic Park” or “Flesh?”
I’m not familiar with “Flesh” (great title), but the main difference between “Jurassic Park” and “Dinosaurs Attack!” is that “Jurassic Park” offers realistic, museum-style dinosaurs, whereas “DA” is closer to things like “Godzilla” and “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms”… sort of like those wonderful, over-the-top movie posters from another era, with dinos the size of mountains taking down suspension bridges and such. Very “amazing colossal,” very crazy — my restless id gone berserk, undoubtedly.
How does it feel to finally finish the “Dinosaurs Attack!” story after a two-decade hiatus?
Nice. Beyond all the carnage and satire, I think “DA” is a powerful story about a man playing God because he doesn’t believe there actually is one, although he thinks there should be. He steps into the almighty’s shoes and all hell breaks out, literally.
Is the story changing at all in the IDW series from how you originally envisioned it?
No. All this material was prepared decades ago; it was just dusted off and polished up for IDW. Only one five-page attack sequence required fresh painting.
Do you think the amount of over-the-top satirical violence you can get away with has increased since you first created “Dinosaurs Attack?”
I suppose. But hey, we had no limits on violence, and it probably shows. The rest of the world finally caught up to our level of craziness!
What’s it like to work with the legendary Herb Trimpe on this project?
Herb was the ultimate pro, good-natured and always on deadline. I think some of the violence of “DA” gave him pause, but he was a real trooper. Flint Henry also contributed several penciled pages when Herb was unavailable. And Earl Norem was the man behind the painted sections. Great artists all, and fine people to work with.
What does the future hold for the “Dinosaurs Attack!” property?
I have no idea. I recently prepared it as both a summer movie and a mini-series for the SyFy Channel, a project I aimed at Raimi/Tapert. But Topps seems more interested in going in a comical direction. For the record, Warner Bros. and Joe Dante optioned the property in 1988, but everyone got cold feet when galleys for “Jurassic Park” started circulating right after that. Tim Burton also optioned “DA” in the ’90s, and intended to make it before [his adaptation of] “Mars Attacks,” but ultimately decided he didn’t want to buck Spielberg’s dinosaur franchise. Perhaps it’s just as well.
What other projects do you have coming up?
As a screenwriter, I’ve just had two original scripts optioned by John Travolta — one’s a road comedy, the other a father-and-son melodrama set against the world of stock car racing. Not a creature or monster in either one of these. But hey, not to worry — I’m developing a supernatural TV series with a legendary producer even as we chat. That’s my “Pumpkinhead” occult background coming to the fore again!
What’s your personal favorite dinosaur?
In real life? The Tyrannosaurus Rex, absolutely.
In the movies? It’s a three-way tie between “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms,” “The Giant Behemoth,” and “Gorgo” – director Eugene Lourie’s dinosaur trilogy. With all due respect to Willis O’Brien and “King Kong”, these three flicks seem to speak directly to me… with a mighty prehistoric roar!
“Dinosaurs Attacks!” #1 by Gary Gerani and Herb Trimpe debuts this July from IDW Publishing.