Disclaimer: This column is an opinion formed by an author who does not have an omniscient knowledge of comics. It also contains spoilers for the titular comic.
“Devil Dinosaur” is a comic from the last 1970s about a super-strong, relatively intelligent T-Rex and his humanoid companion, Moon-Boy, running wild across a prehistoric landscape and having all kinds of crazy adventures. The series takes place in a parallel universe where dinosaurs and an early form of humanity lived during the same period of time. It is the creation of the King of Comics, Jack Kirby, who was heavily involved with much of the comics industry from the 1930s onward, but is usually best known for creating or co-creating some of the legends of Marvel Comics, including the Fantastic Four, Thor, the Hulk, Iron Man, the X-Men, Magneto, Doctor Doom, Galactus, the Silver Surfer, Uatu the Watcher, and many others. Devil Dinosaur was an attempt by Marvel to create a comic series that could be turned into an animated show to rival DC’s attempts at producing their own animated show based on “Kamandi,” a series Kirby had previously created for DC. Neither comic was ever actually turned into a TV show and the “Devil Dinosaur” series of comics was cancelled after just nine issues, though Devil Dinosaur continues to make sporadic appearances in the Marvel universe to this day. Despite its short run, Kirby clearly had a lot of fun with this series. With that said, it is time to dive into the adventures of Devil Dinosaur, who, as the cover of the first issue says, “in an age when giants walked the world – he was the mightiest of them all!”
The story begins by telling the readers how Devil Dinosaur came to be: he was attacked by a “killer” tribe of pre-humans who became angry at how many people he had killed and decided to set him on fire as an offering to a volcano. He survives the burning, though his skin turns red and he is extremely weakened. Moon-Boy, a pre-human from another tribe, arrives on the scene and attempts to help Devil. Devil saves Moon-Boy from an attacking dinosaur and Moon-Boy nurses Devil back to health. The two become bonded like brothers, though Moon-Boy is rejected from his tribe for his choice to remain with Devil. Later, the killer tribe decides that they should kill Devil so that they alone may rule the valley with their strength. He and Moon-Boy evade the initial traps, but are caught in a rock slide. The killer folk tie up Moon-Boy and offer him to a giant spider, though Devil eventually manages to free himself from the rocks and fights his way towards Moon-Boy. Devil uses the killer tribe’s own methods against them and sets the land near them on fire as he rescues Moon-Boy, which forces the tribe into the cave of the giant spider. Devil and Moon-Boy later run into and briefly fight a pair of giant humanoids before being confronted with an alien invasion.
The aliens begin slaughtering most creatures around them, though they capture some, including Moon-Boy, to study. Devil joins up with two other pre-humans, Stone Hand and White-Hairs, to attack the aliens. They soon discover that if they can compromise the integrity of the aliens’ protective suits, it becomes very easy to kill them, which gets Devil to come up with as many ways as he can to smash, stomp, and punch the invaders. He kicks rocks at them, stomps on them, uses a geyser to launch rocks at them, and even has Stone Hand smash one with a rock before realizing that the giant ants in the valley can also kill the aliens. Devil tricks the aliens into attacking the ants’ nest and the ants go swarming off to retaliate, completely wiping out the invaders and destroying most of their equipment. Moon-Boy escapes and Devil is separated from his companions, who soon meet a female named Eev. The pre-humans find the prime computer from the alien ship and, upon determining that the aliens are no more, decides that its purpose is now to protect these pre-humans. It creates a fruitful place of paradise, but seals the pre-humans in to keep them safe. White-Hairs soon dies of a radiation leak and Stone Hand decides he’s had enough. At that moment, Moon-Boy and Devil Dinosaur are re-united and together, smash down the wall holding Stone Hand and Eev prisoner.
Some time later a tribe of dinosaur riders decides that they want Devil Dinosaur for their own. As they fight to claim him, Moon-Boy runs away to beg his own tribe for help. His tribe is initially afraid, but soon bands together and fights off the invading tribe, which allows Devil to free himself. Afterwords, Devil and Moon-Boy find themselves wandering a place of many pits. Devil attempts to fight the hag who lives there, but winds up falling into a pit which transports him into the future, when only humans rule the earth. After causing a lot of destruction in the modern era, Moon-Boy and the pre-humans he has met at the pits manage to figure out how to open a gateway back and Devil leaps through, returning to his proper time. He and Moon-Boy run from the place of the pits and ride off into the sunset to have more adventures together.
This comic is a zany kind of fun. Its wacky, absurd nature is more reminiscent of the Silver Age of Comics than one might expect for its time, but then, that is somewhat typical for Jack Kirby’s work at this time. As they advance through the story, readers can almost see the creator grinning like a little kid as he explains the plot. The comic violates a ton of known science, what with humans and dinosaurs living together, a Tyrannosaurus Rex with strong and versatile arms, the fact that almost any dinosaur can become a carnivore in this series if it suits the immediate needs of the plot, and just the sheer madness of how different elements of the world interact with one another. Additionally, the story itself in unquestionably very childish in its origins and the characters are very simplistic. Devil Dinosaur makes for a cool concept, but has very little identity outside of being a dinosaur who protects Moon-Boy and though Moon-Boy sometimes plays an important role, he usually winds up just being a glorified combination narrator/mouthpiece for the reader/plot device for Devil to rescue. However, readers who can suspend their disbelief and scientific knowledge long enough to accept the events unfolding on the pages in front of them will find a rather delightful and enjoyable story that reminds the reader that not all comics have to be dark and serious to be good. Sometimes comics are allowed to be quirky, impossible, bright, colorful, and sometimes ludicrous and even though the characters in this series are simplistic, they always manage to remain interesting enough to keep the reader invested in the story. The art is on par with much of comic artwork at the time and its vivid, slightly cartoonish nature fits Kirby’s eccentric style perfectly. Readers certainly have to be in the right mood to enjoy these comics and cannot really expect a deep, massively impactful story. However, those who are ready to suspend disbelief and enjoy the delightfully impossible will find themselves lost in vast prehistoric jungles, cheering at fights between dinosaurs, hanging on to every word of each cheesy villain monologue, and discovering an element between the pages that many modern comics forget they are allowed to have: fun.