Back in my pre-tweens, I went through a phase of writing and drawing my own comic books. This was in the pre-print shop days, long before the advent of Internet publishing, so the only outlet for a cash-strapped kid at the time was to tear the inner paper flaps out of hardbound books (I cringe to think of how many book bindings I ruined), fold ’em in half and draw what would later be called mini-comics with a pencil and a ballpoint pen. My drawing skills were limited, to be put it best. Unable to get even a cartoonish grasp of human anatomy, I populated my mini-comics with talking dinosaurs instead. I’ve long lost these early creative endeavors, though I have a vague memory of one of the stories being about my two main characters, a T. Rex and his friend, going fishing in a rowboat. Wacky hi-jinx ensued.
Wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Hitoshi Shioya, creator of the All-Ages manga series Dinosaur Hour (VizKids), had some similar childhood works stuffed in a drawer somewhere. A collection of dinosaur comics, rendered in a clean and simple cartoon style, it’s the kind of funnybook you can imagine seizing the imagination of a paleontology-minded kid, the kind of reader who’s not the least bit intimidated by multi-syllabic dinosaur names. I know this young dino-happy boy would have loved it.
Still there are plenty of decent comic moments in this little manga. In one of the better entries, two Proceratops re-tell the story of a headless Tyrannosaurus that is reportedly rampaging through the “haunted forest.” They meet up with a Troodon, who Shioya explains is “believed to be one of the most intelligent dinosaurs.” The Troodon scoffs at the two herbivores’ campfire ghost tale: “Current theories,” he states, “posit that the phosphorous released by decomposing corpses looks like departed souls to the naked eye.” Our learned dino turns out to be wrong, of course, but not before he also spends some time debunking the UFO myth.
The cartoonist also devotes a couple of stories to wittily dissecting the way images of specific dinosaurs have changed since he was a boy. In one “Bone,” for instance, he humorously re-imagines Velociraptors with feathers, drawing them as giant chicks with menacing bird claws. In another, he forces a Tyrannosaurus to walk the way that current paleontologists propose he moved around — less upright, with his tail elevated — over the long-standing image of the creature most of us carry from stop-motion monster movies. Perfect fodder for young dino geeks, even if it does make my lost-in-time mini-comics decidedly out of date. Powered by Sidelines