Devil Dinosaur Omnibus
Writer: Jack Kirby
Pencils: Jack Kirby
Inks: Mike Royer
FC, 176 pgs
$29.99 US / Higher in Canada
With Jack Kirby’s return to Marvel Comics in 1975 (after a short tenure at DC Comics), he created a whole slew of new properties for the company including Devil Dinosaur, which was hoped to make the transition from comic book to animated television series. But Kirby’s tale of Moon-Boy, an early human, who befriends a mutated Tyrannosaurus Rex, didn’t last long; it was cancelled after only nine issues. Together, this unlikely couple defends their home valley from all threats-aliens, witches, and opposing tribes.
Devil Dinosaur isn’t just a tale about a boy and his Jurassic pet; it’s a vehicle for Jack Kirby to explore certain ideas about human history and evolution. Kirby figured he had a blank canvas to paint upon, and he believed man and monster could have lived together, sharing the same environment. As Kirby explains in his letter page “Dinosaur Dispatches”: “After all, just where the Dinosaur met his end, and when Man first stood reasonably erect, is still shrouded in mystery.”
Within the pages of Devil Dinosaur, Kirby’s “healthy speculation” on humankind’s beginning draws attention to Roman/Greek mythology and Judeo-Christian beliefs. Kirby loosely claims that primitive man’s encounters with aliens from distant planets and the supernatural are responsible for the religions we practice today, and some of the origin stories found in religious texts. Kirby has dabbled in this motif many times in previous works, including Fantastic Four, The Fourth World and The Eternals. One example found in Devil Dinosaur is an alien computer called the Demon-Tree, who creates a Garden of Eden of sorts to house two ape-like people; in exchange for all their mortal needs, the computer asks only for servitude and companionship for eternity.
The aliens that come to Dinosaur World bring war and destruction with them. These encounters essentially change the primitive inhabitants, almost alluding to a new direction of evolution-a once peaceful people now see war, greed, and reproducing as a means to survival.
But if you don’t want to read into Kirby’s ideas too much, Devil Dinosaur is a great romp through a silly landscape. The companions, Moon-Boy and Devil Dinosaur, have a bond stronger than friendship. Their actions are selfless when defending or helping one another. Devil Dinosaur protects his human-ape friend because Moon-Boy saved the dinosaur from certain death when a tribe called the “Killer-Folk” killed his mother and siblings. For Moon-Boy, the friendship brings safety, food, and mobility in a hostile world.
Inside this omnibus you’ll find everything that made Jack Kirby a fan favourite; terrific conflicts waged between awesome monsters, aliens, and giants, with crazy conceptions of good versus evil. Kirby has a chilling intuition of the human psyche, and the good and evil of which we are capable. Devil Dinosaur might have been a failed project at its time, but looking back, this series continues the evolution of a creator’s career. Kirby wasn’t just making comics; he was attempting to understand his race, their motives, and the politics of his time. (Dana Tillusz)