Swap Meet Surprise
The Dinosaurs Comic
by Nicholas Walstrom
Most TV-watching Americans who lived during the '90s probably remember the TGIF sitcom Dinosaurs in some fashion. If nothing else, they remember the phrase "Not the mama!", the song "I'm the Baby, Gotta Love Me!", or the final episode in which you can probably guess what happens if you don't know already.
Was Dinosaurs a good show? If you're familiar with it, you probably have your opinion already and NYmag.com recently did a whole article on the subject, so I won't devote much time to it. But since it informs the content of the rest of the article, I'll summarize my feelings briefly: It could be great or mediocre depending on the episode and its writer(s). At its worst, it was too indulgent in standard hoary sitcom jokes and overly preachy in its unsubtle left-wing political statements. It was often at its best when its satire was dark and a bit on the mean side.
Seen above: The other thing audiences invariably remember.
But I'm not here today to talk about the show itself. I'm here because Spiral PMed me and said that if I don't deliver a big scoop, I'll be back on the street. So let's back up a bit. Or... no, Dinosaurs was a '90s show, wasn't it? All right, let's fast forward to the future year of 2010:
I was in San Jose, California for Fanime Con. Friday night before the convention started was Swap Meet Night, the best place to find strange and wonderful artifacts that nobody cares about. Like a flea market in which every item sold is geeky in nature, often rare and/or forgotten, but still at flea market price. So basically the best place on Earth.
I remember it semi-vividly: I was looking through a box of (non-pornographic) doujinshi, each book with half a Post-it note stuck to it listing the price. Prices ranged from $5 to $25 depending on... well, at random as far as I could tell. Eventually, I came upon a comic that elicited laughter as soon as I saw the cover. Here's what I saw, complete with the original Post-it note price tag:
Cover art by Jackson Giuce. Which, appropriately enough, does sound like the name of a doujin circle.
Fifty cents? Of course I bought it! How could something this beautiful have gone unbought long enough for me to lay my grubby mitts upon it? [Editor's note: Though NAveryW can pretty much get away with whatever he wants at this point, it is generally inadvisable to look through a collection of comic books, especially those for sale, without properly degrubbing your mitts first.] Before we move on, let's just take a moment to savor the cover. Free from the confines of puppetry, The Baby expresses more malice than ever. And Earl is either swelling with pride or having a heart attack. Perhaps both?
Printed stories have a number of advantages in creative freedom over TV series, mostly due to TV's budget constraints. Dinosaurs, for example, had to reuse the same puppets over and over to represent different characters by dressing them in different clothes. Jim Henson Studios knew full well they weren't fooling anybody, but they didn't really have any choice. In comic books, on the other hand, they were free to-
...Oh. Uh... free to give dinosaurs large, mammalian breasts. Now why would reptiles have breasts? Or, for that matter, eyelashes? Perhaps they were human fetishists and got surgical enhancements to look more like them? Hey, that's something Dinosaurs never got around to. They could have easily done an episode on furries had the show lasted just a bit lo-
So what's the comic book about, anyway? Well, it's a collection of five issues, the first two of which comprise a single story called "Citizen Robbie", in which Robbie runs for school president against "Plutopod" J. Rassik Quill. Or maybe his middle name's Rassic. It's spelled "Rassik" on the campaign poster, but "Rassic" later on in a speech bubble. Maybe the person printing up the campaign posters didn't know how to spell his name. In any case, based on the pun they seem to be attempting, we can probably guess that the J stands for "Jew".
No doubt taking full advantage of the lack of network censorship, "Citizen Robbie" opens with a school bombing. And why not? In a society whose members routinely eat each other, detonating explosives in crowded areas at school barely qualifies as delinquent behavior.
Kudos to the writers for avoiding the obvious pun.
From here, we get a story in which Spike (which, come to think of it, is probably not only the most common name in television genre fiction, but also a common name among dinosaurs), eager to wrestle the school's control away from the "Plutopods", convinces Robbie to run against Quill. Which is bad news for the Wesayso Corporation, which was counting on Quill to plug their products to the school's students.
Apparently the bulk of their revenue comes from one school.
Hey, now that we're not dealing with puppets, maybe we actually get to see Mr. Richfield's lower half! Already commanding reverence behind his desk, imagine how fearful he could be with the ability to walk around! Remember in Invincible Superman Zambot 3 when Killer the Butcher stood up for the first time and suddenly became really imposing? Of course not, because you've never seen Invincible Superman Zambot 3. Maybe that guy selling the doujinshi saw it.
So, does Mr. Richfield get up from behind his desk? Yes, in fact, he does...
...to open the door for Earl! Who'd have guessed the first time Richfield ever expended physical effort would be for the convenience of someone else?
In the end, Robbie loses the campaign because of his honesty.
Boy, that sure is some political commentary.
The next comic, "The Flying Fool", tells the story of the dinosaur kingdom's first attempt at building a flying machine. The airplane itself flies just fine, but things don't work out due to the pilot being The Baby.
This time, Mr. Richfield gets pants!
The comic ends with Robby's words implying dinosaurs give up the dream of flight. So does this comic take place before or after the episode that ends with The Baby being launched into space?
The remaining two comics take the same "having ideas is too hard" approach as the Dinosaurs: Classic Tales audio cassette: shoving the characters into public domain stories in the framework of bedtime stories for The Baby. This approach makes the writing much easier because the story's already laid out, the characters don't have to be particularly in-character, and you don't have to worry about that pesky social commentary, domestic comedy, or anything that has to do with the characters being dinosaurs. I won't go much into "Nana Ethyl's Dinosaur Tails: King Earl and the Knights of the Buffet Table" or "Nana Ethyl's Dinosaur Tails: Baby and the Beanstalk". But I do feel obligated to show you this panel, which may be among the most unintentionally horrifying images ever:
"Baby and the Beanstalk", and consequently the omnibus, ends with the following images:
Woah, plot twist! The Baby isn't actually asleep! Yep, that's the way to wrap up a story.
So, is the Dinosaurs doujinshi worth owning? The writing isn't fantastic, but I think the hilariously grotesque art alone makes it worth the price of lol 50¢. Just look at this stuff! If Dreamworks ever finds this comic, you know we can count on seeing a revival in the form of a CGI film series.
A dig at Dreamworks! Yep, that's the way to wrap up an article.