The dinosaurs are dead. Long live Super Dinosaur!
Leave it to "The Astounding Wolf-Man" collaborators Robert Kirkman and Jason Howard to invent a concept like "Super Dinosaur," their all-new ongoing series launching from Image Comics and Skybound in April 2011. First teased on Comic Book Resources earlier this week, "Super Dinosaur" is an all-ages title described by Kirkman as "a Pixar movie on paper," telling the story of boy genius Derek Dynamo and his best friend Super Dinosaur, a genetically altered Tyrannosaurus Rex that comes from a hidden world called Inner-Earth that exists beneath our planet's surface. After his equally brilliant scientist father's brain is impaired during an altercation with the nefarious Doctor Max Maximus, Derek is tasked with protecting the dinosaur denizens of Inner-Earth from outside threats, thanks to the assistance of his missile-clad should-be-extinct best pal.
Kirkman spoke with CBR News in an exclusive first interview about "Super Dinosaur," his interest in writing an all-ages title, the forthcoming origin tale to be released on 2011's Free Comic Book Day and much more.
CBR News: Robert, you and Jason have been working on "Super Dinosaur" for quite a while. Before we dive in head first, can you give us some history on the development of the project?
Robert Kirkman: I guess, lordy, it was almost two years ago, at least a year and a half, that Jason Howard called me because his son was asking him to draw stuff. He came up with this super dinosaur by putting the words "super" and "dinosaur" together, and it was a funny, cool thing. Then I drew a T-Rex with a cape, because it was catchy. I couldn't get the title out of my head. Over the next four hours or something, I came up with the idea of a T-Rex with these giant mechanical arms that he controls with these joysticks. I called Jason up and said, "Man, I think there's something to this Super Dinosaur thing." [Laughs] I sent him a sketch of what I was thinking and he started drawing it. Over the course of the next few days, he and I just spitballed this thing back and forth until we turned it into something we absolutely fell in love with.
Then it was kind of a matter of, well, we still have this "Wolf-Man" book to do, don't we? We had never really talked about how long "Wolf-Man" would last, and it was pretty clear to us at the time that we both really wanted to do something that our kids could read. "Wolf-Man" had ended up being something that was fairly mature. So we decided that we would put a plan together to wrap "Wolf-Man" up in a satisfactory way - which is why it took us a year and a half to do it - but it was all with the goal to get to "Super Dinosaur" in mind. Now that we've gotten to that point, we're knee deep in "Super Dinosaur" and we couldn't be happier.
I almost feel there isn't anything beyond the title that we need to know, but let's ask anyway: what is "Super Dinosaur" all about?
Well, Derek Dynamo is the son of a guy named Doctor Dynamo, and Doctor Dynamo had a colleague named Max Maximus. Together they found a hole in the Earth that went to a place they called Inner-Earth. It's basically a hollow Earth concept; there's another Earth inside of our Earth, and it lives in reverse and there's a butt-ton of dinosaurs in there. [Laughs] It's this whole other universe on the underside of our world. They started doing experiments and started working in this world, and eventually, Doctor Max Maximus discovered a way to genetically alter a Tyrannosaurus Rex to make it smaller and smarter. But it turns out that he's a bad guy, and he tried to take over the world with [the T-Rex].
Doctor Dynamo, with the help of his son Derek Dynamo, stopped him and now they've formed a team, the three of them. They protect the dinosaur world from Max Maximus and they keep dinosaurs from escaping that world. They also protect a substance they found in this world they called Dynore, which they named after Doctor Dynamo. They've got a lot of work to do, and they work out of Seattle. They're a cool group that saves the world on occasion.
That little ball guy in the teaser, that's not Doctor Dynamo, is it?
No, no, no. That little guy is Wheels, a robot that Derek Dynamo created. Derek's kind of a genius, and in the falling out between Max Maximus and the Dynamos, Doctor Dynamo was injured to the point where he can't really think as much as he could before. His brain isn't really working right but he doesn't know it, so Derek has to go behind him and finish his equations for him, correcting his work and doing whatever he can to make sure that his father doesn't realize that he has this ailment now. It's also so the government overseers don't see that their operation is being run by a 10-year-old kid, so it's to make his dad look good and make sure that he can keep working. So, yeah, he lives under constant threat of the government coming in and taking control of the operation, not letting him do the things he's doing.
Talk about writing something that your kids are going to enjoy, Derek is not only a genius inventor, but he's covering up government conspiracies...
Yeah, definitely, and his best friend is a Tyrannosaurus Rex. What can go wrong there? [Laughs]
On top of that, I'm kind of setting out to do what's essentially a Pixar movie on paper. I probably won't achieve that, but I figure that if you aim for the sun, you might get halfway. The idea is that this is going to be as complex as "Invincible" and "Walking Dead." There are going to be subplots. I'm not trying to write this in any different kind of way. I want it to be a true all-ages book in that it's appropriate for kids young enough but still able to read, and it's still something that my fan base will probably enjoy. People who like "Invincible" will probably like "Super Dinosaur," they just probably won't see as many decapitated heads.
Yeah, you probably have to scale that back.
Yeah, yeah. [Laughs] Other than that, it's going to be a complex superhero type book that takes place in its own little world, so there's a bunch of different characters and all kinds of cool stuff going on. People will learn all about that in the coming months as we get closer to our launch.
Speaking of which, we're launching in April with the regular series, but in May, we're doing a "Super Dinosaur" origin special for Free Comic Book Day. It's a separate book that's not part of the series. It kind of details Super Dinosaur's origin and how he came to be, what's going on with Doctor Dynamo, just kind of getting everybody up to speed. In the comic book series, we kind of just hit the ground running. You'll pick things up as we go along, but we start with a little bit of mystery. The special reveals all of the origins and everything. When the book begins, a lot of that back story has already taken place.
Is there any crossover potential with the "Invincible" and "Wolf-Man" universes, or are you viewing this as its own separate world?
It's set in its own universe entirely, just like how "Walking Dead" doesn't interact with "Invincible." This won't, either.
Let's talk about Super Dinosaur himself. As a genetically altered dinosaur, what's this guy like - is he a talking, thinking dinosaur, or just a remote-controlled dinosaur that goes in and blows stuff up at Derek's request?
He's about as smart as a 10-year-old kid and he's getting smarter every day. He's growing up with Derek Dynamo, so they're the best of friends and they play off of each other quite a bit. They get into trouble in between doing these missions. But Super Dinosaur is trying to learn about this world, living in the base with Derek Dynamo. He's a fully realized character. He's not a remote-controlled dinosaur or anything like that. Derek has trouble relating with other children, which is why he just mainly spends his time hanging out with Super Dinosaur and doing all sorts of technical stuff around the lab where he lives. He's also very reckless in that he's a super genius, but he's still 10 years old, so he's constantly making mistakes and having to cover up for them and getting into trouble. He's constantly overestimating his capabilities, and getting into a lot of trouble because of that.
Have there been specific challenges in writing an all-ages tale like "Super Dinosaur?" Because, as you mentioned, it's not like "Invincible" or "Walking Dead" really fit that all-ages bill.
Well, it occurs to me sometimes that I don't really do similar comics to one another. "Haunt" is a very different book from "Invincible" and "Invincible" is a very different book from "Walking Dead." Sometimes I think to myself that I'd be better off if I did three "Walking Dead" clones as opposed to these other vastly different comics, but I don't know - it's not what I'm into. I like doing different things and I really like that when I sit down to write an issue of "Haunt," "Invincible," "Walking Dead" or "Super Dinosaur," I'm doing completely different things and flexing completely different muscles. It's a lot of fun for me, so it's not really that difficult to sit down and write an issue of "Super Dinosaur" and make sure that nobody's getting their stomachs ripped open or constantly edit out profanity; it doesn't really happen.
I've kind of spoken publicly about how I feel there should be more comics for kids. A lot of people have criticized me for not putting my money where my mouth is, and that's always frustrated me, because I've been working on ["Super Dinosaur"] for like a year and a half at this point. It's just taken time to get to a point where we can talk about it and release it. We're trying to do something cool that my kids can read and people who are going to comics shops to pick things up for themselves, maybe this is something else they can pick up for their kids while they're there. Filling a gap in the market is something I usually try to do when creating a new book - I try to think of what's not really out there and what people aren't getting, and if there's anything I can do to fill that gap that I'm super excited about. I'm happy to say "Super Dinosaur" is that right now.
Have you and Jason used your kids as a test audience?
Yes, and so far, our kids are ridiculously excited. I don't want to spoil anything, but Super Dinosaur has many different variations of armor. I was going through those with my son and he was like, "Wow, show me the next one! What does this one do?" Jason's kids are the same way. I think they're pretty thrilled. If we don't have toys for this thing soon, my son is going to be pissed. [Laughs]
"Super Dinosaur" #1, written by Robert Kirkman and illustrated by Jason Howard, arrives in comic book stores in April 2011.