Comic books have been through many historic ages – the Golden Age, the Silver Age, the Modern Age - but it looks like it may be time for trip back to the Dinosaur Age.
This April sees the debut of Robert Kirkman’s new series Super Dinosaur from his Skybound imprint at Image Comics. Co-created with his Astounding Wolf-Man collaborator Jason Howard, Super Dinosaur tells the story of a high-tech teen prodigy named Derek Dynamo and his best friend --- a super-evolved Tyrannosaurus Rex! Brought together through the inventions and explorations of Derek’s father Doctor Dynamo, this mis-matched pair work to protect the hidden homeland of Super Dinosaur under the Earth’s crust from poachers, robbers, and plain-out villains trying to exploit the resources within.
Kirkman’s gone on record call this project as his attempt at “a PIXAR movie on paper,” and Howard’s kinetic linework makes this super-charged sci-fi boy’s adventure book something for readers to pay attention to – and also something ideal for children just getting into comics.
Newsarama: Robert, we’ve talked last time about the basics of Super Dinosaur, but we haven’t really got in his head. What’s his personality like?
Robert Kirkman: He has human intelligence, but he’s still very young. I’d say around 10 years old. He’s a fun-loving, video-game-playing, young human person in a dinosaur body because his brain has been altered to work like a human brain. He’s still in that cool tyrannosaurus rex body. He has fun with our main character Derek Dynamo, and they get into all kinds of trouble.
Nrama: I can imagine the trouble I’d get in if my 10-year-old friend had a dinosaur body.
Can you tell us about Derek Dynamo? What motivates him, and what does him and Super Dinosaur have in common that they could become such close friends?
Kirkman: I think Derek is there to take care of Super Dinosaur; he’s kind of a “fish out of water” character, so Derek is a little bit of a big brother to him. They’re also part of a crack team that protects Inner Earth and defends the access points from nefarious bad guys out to steal deposits of Dynore. They work and play together, so there’s lots of bonding time – and they basically go to war together every week.
Nrama: How does the Dynamo gang get such hi-tech toys? I believe you said previously they do work for the government somehow.
Kirkman: There’s a secret society inside the government that’s been keeping Inner Earth Secret for years, to protect it. So when Doctor Dynamo, Derek’s father, discovered Inner Earth and led to the creation of Super Dinosaur, he was finding a new way into Inner Earth. This governmental secret society had access to it for decades, but not in this new way.
Once they find out, the Dynamos get recruited by the society to be a paramilitary arm of their organization to help them defend Inner Earth.
Nrama: One of the people at the top of the list that they’re protecting Inner Earth from is Doctor Max Maximus – Doctor Dynamo’s former partner, and the guy who experimented on a dinosaur to create Super Dinosaur. How do they do that from someone as resourceful as Doctor Max Maximus seems to be?
Kirkman: Well, it’s certainly not easy because Max is always creating new threats. I’m not discounting that they may eventually lose that battle, but they’re always fighting and so far they’ve won.
Nrama: Besides the dinosaurs living in Inner Earth, there’s another valuable commodity – something called DynOre. What does it do?
Kirkman: DynOre is kind of like a super-charged deposit of solar power; the power of the son contained in a rock. It’s a large deposit of energy in rock form, and very easy to manipulate.
Nrama: Speaking of valuable commodities, Jason told me the initial idea that would become Super Dinosaur came out of a drawing he did to entertain his son Jake. How does fatherhood, for both you and him, play into this series?
Kirkman: Fatherhood is a big part of the origins of Super Dinosaur. After I had my son (who is closely approaching 5 years old), I kind of realized that I write comics for a living and that’s a pretty cool thing for a kid to have a dad doing that. But I don’t do anything he could read, so when you have a young son or daughter you get into kids stuff with them. Sometimes I get out some of the old cartoons I watched when I was his age and we watch them. Other times we watch new things like Ben 10 and Batman: The Brave & The Bold, stuff like that. Jason and I were talking about how cool some of the new stuff is and how fun it would be to do comics that they could read, instead of waiting until they were 18 and hated us.At the same time I’m a firm believer that if comics are going to continue as an industry that we need to take a more aggressive approach to getting more kids to read comics and hook people earlier.
Nrama: What was it about that drawing that grabbed you, and where did your mind start going after seeing it?
Kirkman: The initial drawing was just silly – it was a t. rex flying through the sky with a red cape. What really stuck out to me was the word “Super” in front of the word “Dinosaur”. That was the joke – he’s like Superman but he’s Super Dinosaur. I really thought that “Super Dinosaur” was one of the catchiest titles I’d heard in awhile; it bore itself into my brain. I thought about it for a day – or at least a few hours – and came up with the idea for big mechanical arms he drives with a joystick.
So I called Jason back awhile later and said, “This super dinosaur thing; there’s something to it. We should totally do this as a comic.”
His first response was something like “What are you talking about?!”
Nrama: Do you ever talk with your children about comics, either to entertain, brainstorm or just ask their kid opinion on the matter?
Kirkman: My daughter’s just now starting to talk, so she’s useless to me. *laughs*
Give her six months.My son and I play with action figures a lot. One time we were playing with a dinosaur figure and I asked my son what his name was, and he said his name was Dinosaurus, which became the name of a villain in Invincible. I show him Super Dinosaur stuff to use him as a test audience sometimes too. When he asks to see more of something that’s always a good sign; you know we’re doing something right. Just from playing with him I’ll get ideas like Dinosaurus.
He’s looked at some Marvel books like Spider-Man and Captain America, and he’s a big fan of Jeph Loeb’s Hulk series. When he just turned four, Hulk was his favorite comic because “it had a red Hulk and a green Hulk.” I thought that was the coolest thing in the world – because that’s why I liked it too. One book with two Hulks – it’s a lot of fun.
I really enjoy sharing comics with him.