Friday, 30 November 2018

JURASSIC PARK #6: VERSION 1

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The "Version 1" above refers to these brand new Jurassic Park adventures being the first ever official continuation of the story of the first film and novel.  Of course they weren't to remain official for long, as just a few years later Michael Crichton would release his sequel novel The Lost World and the subsequent film was naturally based on that.  But back in 1993 the American Topps Comics was the first to do so, published here in a different format by the UK division of Dark Horse.  This was the comic, the actual issue, which single-handedly brought me back into the comics fold, albeit temporarily, after I'd defected to magazines and it was hugely exciting!

Editor Dick Hansom had decided to split up each issue of the US comic into three parts and have it backed up with two other dinosaur-themed strips.  You might think this unnecessarily dragged out the story but that couldn't be farther from the truth.  We were used to stories from across the pond being split up in weekly/fortnightly publications and while this was a monthly it still felt completely natural for us UK readers.  But while Dark Horse's Aliens title had many different comics to pull strips from, for Jurassic there was only the one so here there's 8 pages for the main story, 10 pages for Xenozoic Tales and 12 for Age of Reptiles, altogether combining to create one superb comic which (somehow) never felt like anything other than a Jurassic Park title.  If only it had carried on in this way, the 19 US titles could've spanned a whopping 57 British editions!


I may not have had a Sega Mega Drive or any wish to own a Sega Mega-CD (I went down the 3DO route myself) but this page brings back a wonderful feeling of nostalgia.  These were the first pages I read as a young fan, the competition just smacks of the 1990s and the editorial page is as atmospheric as always.  For me, personally reliving those memories sets a wonderful, exciting tone after that eye-catching Walt Simonson cover, which I only found out in researching this post was actually created for the cover of the graphic novel of the adaptation, not for this issue's story.  It perfectly suits this issue though when you see the opening pages of Aftershocks!

Topps Comics didn't start straight into an ongoing comic after the movie's tale, instead deciding to opt for the mini-series route, meaning they could promote a new #1 every few months.  Aftershocks! made up the first issue of the 2-issue 'mini-series' (yes, apparently 2 issues still qualifies) called Raptor and it's this title our comic uses in its contents page, confusingly.  I never did understand this as a teen, unaware of how the American comic was being released, and to this day I think it would've been much better to stick to the title of the chapters for the editorial.  It would feel more seamless, more like an ongoing story.  But it's only a small niggle and doesn't detract from the main event.


Steve Englehart states on his website how he was given free reign to develop the movie story as he saw fit, which is very surprising.  He takes up the tale just a few days after the previous events and reintroduces Dr Alan Grant and Dr Ellie Satler as they supervise the military's clean-up operation.  Yes, this seems to fly in the face of what we'd later learn in the sequel movie that the animals were just left in peace, but just think of this as the first version of what happened next, or an alternative universe.  Of course, I can't actually remember if anything contradicts what came next in the movies and at the moment I'm only guessing the events of this story don't end up leaving the animals alone in the end.  Maybe the operation at hand here fails?  Wouldn't be like a human endeavour on Isla Nublar to fail now would it?  It's not seen as canon by fans but could it still be included in the franchise's overall story?  Time will tell.  Interesting months ahead then.

Part one sees Grant and Satler supervising InGen's attempts to regain control, contain the animals and reinstate the fences to begin scientific experiments to make their money, rather than reopen a park.  There's a hint the raptors may have escaped their pen before the moment in the movie (why would they have gone back in though?) as Alan isn't convinced with the lack of eggs and a new character called Dr. Fischer in introduced.  Believing Ian Malcolm's prediction of doom and chaos theory to be coincidence rather than proof it'll all go horribly wrong again, he's a person who sees this as a perfect opportunity to advance his own scientific career.  I can't remember if we see much more of him or whether he's just a face for the corporation but he's already interesting, his belief that advancing the scientific community at odds with Grant's belief of advancing science itself.


At only 8 pages the focus here is on the T-rex and Alan.  While the former is contained and overdosed with tranquilisers, the latter stands firm, both terrified and in awe, not flinching when she nears, knowing she'll collapse before reaching him.  Conflicted between knowing how the animal views him merely as prey and the fact she saved his life just a few days earlier, it's action-packed and thought provoking and already had me convinced this comic was going to develop the movie in a way I was going to find fascinating and exciting.  I feel the same way again today.

Having worked on such serious titles as The Punisher and The 'NamArmado Gil's art style brings a grittiness to the story, giving it a more mature feel and distinctly different tone than the adaptation and I do like his interpretations of Grant and Satler.  The angered rex here feels genuinely huge and a real threat to the humans, the first time the comic has had this feeling for me so far.  His sharp penmanship is brought to life with a colourful palette from Renée Witterstaetter, who has worked as colourist and story editor on such comics as the squeaky clean Superman and Hercules/Xena to the exact opposite in Jason vs Leatherface.  As a team these contrasting styles bring a uniqueness to the proceedings and I honestly can't wait to read the next parts from these individuals.


The first backup strip continues the saga of Earth in the far future when mankind has reemerged from the caves they retreated to for centuries when the planet suffered a cataclysm as a result of manmade climate change.  In this Xenozoic age, Jack Tenrec is a mechanic, a lost skill in a world which has reverted to pre industrial revolution times, but with the addition of dinosaurs which have mysteriously reappeared.  Jack has a collection of classic automobiles he runs on dino poo (seriously), which he uses to explore the land and through this has become an unofficial expert on this new Earth.  This puts him into a leadership role among his tribe, a position he doesn't want but which he realises the tribe needs.

Finding a friend in Hannah Dundee, a visiting scientist and diplomat from a neighbouring tribe, they soon find themselves in conflict with the other leaders who seem determined to make the same mistakes their ancestors did centuries ago.  I love this part of the story as it roots it in reality and at the time of writing it's a stern warning as the issue of climate change permeates our news cycles.  Written and drawn by creator Mark Schultz, with colours by Christine Couturier, Benefactor is the seventh story from the original comics series (from #3 of Mark's irregularly-released independent comic) but only the third to see print in Jurassic Park because the black and white stories were being left out.  Ending with a cliffhanger for the first time I remember what these strange creatures ended up being.  I don't want to spoil some lovely surprises to come, so for now here's how the tale ended this month after Hannah went searching for Jack, who'd disappeared in one of his Cadillacs after the heated exchange above.


The final backup strip wow'ed me before I even bought the comic.  The moment I saw the Jurassic Park strip wasn't the adaptation and was instead a continuation I was sold, the art convincing me I was about to go home with less change from buying my next issue of Commodore Format that I'd planned.  But as I flicked through it, these following pages just stunned me!  A gorgeously presented strip set in the original dinosaur age to run alongside the modern day tale of resurrected creatures?  Just look at this artwork!  If anything this made me even more excited about buying into this comic than I already was.


Age of Reptiles was a one-off comic book in the States which Dark Horse then serialised across a few months here in the UK exclusively in Jurassic Park.  It's another perfect fit, actually more so that Xenozoic Tales, and despite not having a single written word, not a single caption or a sound effect, it tells an absorbing story with great characters.  Ricardo Delgado is better known for his movie and television work, having been an artist for films such as How to Train Your Dragon and The Real Ghostbusters TV series.  James Sinclair, who brings this prehistoric world and its creatures popping off the page with gorgeous colour work, has been a colourist, penciller, inker and cover artist with a back catalogue that includes Legends of The Dark Knight, Hellblazer and The Mask.

Set in the mesozoic era, the main protagonists are a pack of deinonycuses, which I originally thought were 'raptors until the next issue's catch up on the contents page, and a Tyrannosaurus rex.  The pterodactyl above soars across a wide plain where a large brontosaurus is cut down by the deinonychus pack who then begin to feast, until they're rudely interrupted.  One tries to leave a mark on the rex as they flee but it doesn't quite go to plan.


Yes, anyone who has read the original Beyond Oink! post about this comic will have seen scans of those pages before but for anyone reading this series of write-ups how could I not include this great moment of humour?  The story can be rather gruesome at times with plenty of gore and it's all so lovingly illustrated it makes for a really dramatic story.  Over the course of these few months one of these groups of dinos above would surprise us with a real feeling of compassion towards them, while the other would shock us with their tactics.  There's a real sense these are real characters with their own individual personalities, which is no small feat given the nature of the strip!

It's a thrill to be reading Age of Reptiles again after so long and my will power is getting tested to the extreme with all of the remaining issues sitting on display on a shelf in my living room here!  But I want to relive this superb comic the way it was intended so for this month we've come to the end.  Before I go, who remembers the endless TV and magazine advertisements for the video game Street Fighter II from around this time?


What a brilliant play on those endless fighting game adverts.  I actually ended up with the Game Boy version of this game.  It wasn't exactly movie accurate, with Grant running around the park trying to find all of the hidden dinosaur eggs before evacuating the island, but at least he wasn't shooting them like in some other versions!  It may have been on a tiny green and black screen but I remember the atmospheric gameplay, the suspense as I wondered about Isla Nublar in bed at night when I should've been asleep for school the next day.  I really do have a lot of very happy memories thanks to Jurassic Park and its sequels.

For now it's time to sign off but join me again for #7 on Friday 28th December, right smack in the middle of what I hope will be an enjoyable selection of special festive posts.


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