Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Dojo Classics - The Devil Is In The Dinosaur!

Jack Kirby and Frank Giacoia

Devil Dinosaur is one of Jack "King" Kirby's weirdest offerings. Coming late after his return to Marvel in the Bronze Age, this wacky tale of a pre-human cave-boy and his amigo, a mighty T-Rex is at once bizarre fantasy and oddball allegory. Moonboy is a youthful protagonist who is separated from his tribe the "Small Folk" and finds a baby Tyrannosaurus Rex who has ferociously fought off raiders dubbed the "Killer Folk" who have annihilated his whole brood. A fire causes the T-Rex's skin to turn a fiery crimson and so he gets his sobriquet of "Devil Dinosaur". Moonboy and the Devil inexplicably bond and are able at some basic level to communicate.

Jack Kirby and Mike Royer

They revenge the death of Devil's "family" when they confront the giant spider god and see to it that the prehistoric raiders who were responsible meet a properly grim fate.

Jack Kirby and Dan Green

They battle a giant caveman who proves a rival to Devil himself, but find some level of peace in this encounter.
Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott

And then things really being to heat up when aliens descend from outer space and start herding up biological samples into their spacecraft. Moonboy and Devil Dinosaur become separated when Moonboy is captured and Devil must make other allies to battle against the alien threat.

Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott

This story continues when Devil and his new allies Stone-Hand and an Elder make use of giant ants to battle the aliens, to a very large extent defeating them and saving the creatures they captured.

Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott

Then the allegorical aspect of the series, already hinted at in places comes fully to the fore when an ersatz Garden of Eden is established by a remnant of the alien technology (which remarkably resembles a tree) and Stone-Hand and his newly acquired "mate" Eev find themselves held captive within. The garden is a mixed blessing as it offers lush sustenance but limited liberty.

Jack Kirby and Steve Leialoha

Then Devil invades this "Eden" and things change pretty dramatically. I won't spoil it.

Jack Kirby and Walt Simonson

For the final two stories in this brief series, we get Devil and Moonboy battling against cave-dwellers who have "domesticated" dinosaurs as steeds.

Jack Kirby and John Byrne

And Devil finds his way into the future world of 1978 when he falls into the magical pit of a witch-like crone. Needless to say that Devil finds plenty to do in his brief stay in the "modern world".

All in all, the Devil Dinosaur series is a hoot and a half, full of riotous action and some of the absolute best two-page spreads in Kirby's illustrious career. The lush inks are by Mike Royer. See below for some wild examples.

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  1. I've got a few issues, including #1, but I also bought the Omnibus Edition purely because it was Jack's last mag for Marvel. I've always wondered how Moon-Boy can be the first human when he's from a tribe. Jack had lost it by this point; the lazy way he drew Devil's teeth, as if straight from a joke shop, made the art look even more cartoonish than usual. Just about every title he wrote and drew for DC and Marvel only served to demonstrate just how much he needed Stan.

    1. We of course will agree to disagree about this in some respects. The work on his grand return to Marvel does showcase some of his rowdy weaknesses as a scripter, but this plotting remains sturdy. The work on the Fourth World books, the early ones is unusual for sure but in my opinion not inferior to the work at Marvel in tandem with Stan.

  2. Funny Kid should mention DDs teeth I always thought that was a strange way to draw them as Jack's art was still (imho) quite detailed , maybe it was meant for some reason.