Devil Dinosaur #1

April 1978

Devil Dinosaur and Moon Boy

Devil Dinosaur and Moon Boy

As the first issue opens, young proto-human, Moon Boy, is riding on Devil Dinosaur’s back. He’s goading his dinosaur pal to attack Thunder Horn, a badass dinosaur that looks suspiciously like a triceratops. Or it would if it didn’t have a mouth full of dagger-like teeth! I’m assuming Jack Kirby didn’t do a whole lot of research here to discover that triceratops was, in fact, a herbivore.

A big fight ensues. Moon Boy jumps for the safety of a tree as Devil leaps into the fray. He delivers a sideswipe to Thunder Horn’s head, but Thunder Horn tries to gouge him with his sharp horns. Undeterred, Devil keeps kicking Thunder Horn, eventually forcing him over the side of a cliff. Devil roars in triumph!

Devil Dinosaur roars

Moon Boy does a little dance as he’s so happy that Devil is now “master of the valley! He is the mightiest of beasts!”

As they wander off into the moon-filled night, Moon Boy casts his mind back. He remembers coming across a female dinosaur being attacked by the “Killer-Folk”, a tribe separate from Moon Boy’s own “Small-Folk”. The female is overpowered and killed, and two of her young are slaughtered as well. The third, however, is a formidable opponent. The Killer-Folk corner the beast and burn him with flaming torches, but the dinosaur refuses to die.

Devil burns

Suddenly a volcano erupts and scatters the Killer-Folk. They flee, leaving the baby dinosaur to its fate. He is now scarred completely red from head to toe from the heat of the flames. Moon Boy approaches and offers the stricken beast comfort. He names him “Devil”, and, once the dinosaur has recovered some of his strength, he takes him to find some food. Interestingly, the food Devil eats is fruit. Unusual choice for a tyrannosaur.

Devil eats

Moon Boy takes his new pal to meet his people, the Small-Folk, but they are terrified and flee. Moon Boy is now an outcast.

Back in the present, a coup is taking place amongst the Killer-Folk. Old leader, Stone Hand, is overthrown by challenger, Seven-Scars. Seven-Scars immediately sets out his platform for leadership: he’s going to kill Devil Dinosaur. “The Devil-Beast will perish this night in a trap of my making!”

Seven-Scars

The Killer-Folk set fire to the forest.

Devil Runs

Awoken by the sound of the conflagration, Moon Boy goes to find out what’s happening. He and Devil are confronted by a horde of terrified creatures fleeing the flames. Devil refuses to follow: he has sensed that the Killer-Folk are behind the disaster and wants to confront them.

Ahead, Seven-Scars waits for his prey…

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A Tempest-Tossed Tale Out of Time!

By the time Devil Dinosaur hit the stands in 1978, Jack Kirby wanted out of comics. Having been forced to leave DC in 1975, and now at the end of a less then satisfying three-year contract at Marvel, he knew there was really nowhere else to go. He was tired of the politics. He was a storyteller at heart and just wanted to be left alone to tell his stories.

Kirby was by then in his early sixties, and a medical insurance plan was starting to sound like a good idea. It was not something he was going get as a freelancer in the comics industry. At the dawn of his career back in 1935, he had worked briefly in animation, and now the lure of a regular paycheck and medical benefits a studio might offer was strong. After finishing up his contractual obligations at Marvel, Kirby left comics for the world of TV animation.

Devil Dinosaur itself began life as, essentially, an animation proposal. The simplicity of the concept is clear. You can easily imagine Moon Boy and his big red dinosaur pal as Saturday morning heroes. There’s very little plot in this first issue, but loads of running around and plenty of Kirby action: an animation studio could easily use this as a storyboard.

I suspect Kirby intended Devil Dinosaur to be marketed at a younger audience. There’s no blood: Devil eats fruit and fights with his feet rather than his pointy teeth; Moon Boy bops around like a five year old. Marvel, however, just put it out as a regular comic, and it looked hopelessly out of place surrounded by the angsty fare on offer in the rest of their line. But, y’know what? What was perhaps a weakness then, is one of its strengths now: it hasn’t dated as badly as, say, Englehart’s up-to-the-minute Captain America, and remains eminently readable.