Kirby's Late Period

Devil Dinosaur #1-2

Devil Dinosaur #1 cover

"Devil Dinosaur!"/"Devil's War!"

Written and drawn by Jack Kirby
Inked and lettered by Mike Royer
Colored by Petra Goldberg

One of the things that amazes me about Kirby's late period is that he's consistently able to take a sure-fire hit and then fail with it. Consider Devil Dinosaur: who wouldn't want to read about a boy and his dinosaur in prehistoric times? It already sounds like a badly-animated Hanna Barbera cartoon or a spin-off from Land of the Lost. And yet poor Devil got cancelled after a mere nine issues. What gives?

Unfortunately, there's no clear-cut answer. Kirby's art from this era is so stylized that young comics fans, weaned on a steady diet of Neal Adams, Gil Kane and Ross Andru, found it tremendously off-putting. It's clear from looking at these comics that Kirby isn't wasting a lot of time on each page: Devil's anatomy is rarely consistent from panel to panel and even the storytelling is pedestrian and uninspired. Kirby's writing, never his strong suit, is seriously hampered by his lack of adequate planning and tin ear for dialogue. Perhaps the biggest sin, though, is that while Kirby has constructed a massive world in his imagination he rarely, he rarely bothers to try and explain it to the readers. (This last sin isn't unique to Kirby; many modern fantasy, sci-fi and comic book writers share it too.)

All of these factors combine to make Devil Dinosaur less than it could be. On the other hand, Kirby could still produce some great art when his heart was in the work. To wit...

Devil Dinosaur #2, pages 2-3

Devil Dinosaur #2, p. 2-3

This splash is everything that the splash from 2001 #3 isn't. The composition is very basic and balanced: the massive figure of Devil dominates the top half of the composition while the Killer Folk and their trap cluster around the bottom of the page. The angry black slashes on Devil's form reinforce the direction of his movement, and the blacks on the bodies of the Killer Folk help draw your eye from one figure to the next, and the black lines of the rock radiate up and left from those prominent stakes. Details are clustered at the points of emphasis — Devil and the stakes — but even the contrast between them (Devil is slickly rendered while the stakes are crude and craggy) creates plenty of visual interest.

But what really steals the show is Petra Goldberg's superb coloring. The background is colored entirely in cool and neutral colors which recede from the viewer. Devil is a bright red, contrasting excellently with the pale cyan of the rocks beneath him and drawing your eye directly to him. The warm slash of sky in the ground behind him reinforces the direction of his movement, and the warm oranges on the stakes beneath him draw your eye to the oncoming danger.

I'd say Devil Dinosaur #2 is worth purchasing for this splash alone. A pity that the rest of the contents aren't up to snuff...

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