Dinosaur Rex is two comics in one. In the title story, Hempsted Grenville is a rich playboy living in an alternate 1920s where dinosaurs still exist. Most of his money comes from his uncle, who went missing several years ago during a hunting trip in Africa. Hempsted soon learns that the family fortune has been depleted, so his aunt charges him with finding his uncle and the treasure he allegedly found during his time in the Dark Continent. Hempsted teams up with his attractive cousin Flavia and his uncle’s manservant Duubadah – actually an intelligent species of dinosaur with psychic powers – on an adventure that will lead them to a lost city and a mythical dinosaur graveyard.
The second story – “The Dragons of Summer” by William Messner-Loebs and Dennis Fujitake – is set several hundred years in the future after humanity spread to the stars and mutated into different species. However, space colonization didn’t work out, so the various types of humans returned to Earth where they live in uneasy co-existence. Chester Franks is a regional director in a bureaucracy that helps former space colonists reintegrate into Earth society. Other than the paperwork, Franks’ greatest challenge is battling the racism that “normal” humans feel toward their mutated cousins. Then there are the dinosaurs that start mysteriously appearing throughout the city.
Dinosaur Rex is a three-issue comic book series that may have the dubious distinction of being the most obscure comic I have reviewed on this site. It was published in 1987 by Upshot Graphics, a division of Fantagraphic Books, a U.S.-based publisher of alternative comics. The comic didn’t sell well: After the first issue, the creators switched from color to black-and-white illustrations to save money. Don’t let that dissuade you from hunting down Dinosaur Rex because it actually is pretty fun.
The title story is a satire of Victorian adventure fiction. The two lead characters couldn’t be more incompetent, bumbling from one misadventure to the next. They only survive thanks to the efforts of their dinosaurian butler, who proves more capable than any human in the series. The writer, Jan Strnad, explains in an afterword that Dinosaur Rex was inspired by the works of P.G. Wodehouse, a British humorist whose most famous creation was a butler who looked after a dim-witted aristocrat. I haven’t read any of Wodehouse’s works so I can’t say how the comic compares, but Dinosaur Rex stands on its own as a fun little adventure that packs a surprising amount of story in three issues. The art is very nice and actually looks better in black and white than it does in color. The dinosaurs look a little strange given they are often drawn with oversized cartoonish eyes – and they are of the tail-dragging variety – but Dinosaur Rex was never meant to be a comic aiming for scientific accuracy.
“The Dragons of Summer” isn’t as much fun by comparison, although it still works as a nice filler story. The mystery of the dinosaurs’ sudden appearance drives the plot but the terrible reptiles only play a minor role. What makes the story is notable is its sympathetic portrayal of a government bureaucrat, a job that usually doesn’t get a lot of love in fiction. Franks, the main character, is a good guy just trying to do the best he can with the limited resources he has available. The writer, William Messnet-Loebs, also tries to make a point about racism, but the message comes across as heavy handed. The art by Dennis Fujitake is quite good and, like in Dinosaur Rex, looks better in black and white.
- As far as I can tell, Dinosaur Rex was only one of three titles published under the Upshot Graphics brand. The others were Flesh and Bone and The Miracle Squad.