Though the age of the dinosaurs has long since past, they live on in our stories and imagination. And in the upcoming February one-shot Tyrannosaurus Rex from Image Comics, one particular T-Rex has his eyes set on a small primitive village and stomping out every single one of its inhabitants.
Tyrannosaurus Rex comes by way of frequent horror helmer Jay Fotos and co-writer Mark Kidwell, with artist Jeff Zornow. Best known for their work on '68 and the recent string of Frank Frazetta comics, this new one shot finds him in a new terrain — where man and dinosaur co-exist. Birthed out of a life-long love of Ray Harryhausen flicks, the zany antics of Looney Tunes and the image of Raquel Welch in her One Million Years B.C. bikini, the team for Tyrannosaurus Rex talked to us about this 32-page one-shot.
Newsarama: The solicits for the book says, "these aren't your granddaddy's dinosaurs.” How are they different from the dinosaurs that we've learned about over the years?
Mark Kidwell: The dinos in Tyrannosaurus Rex inhabit a young world populated by a young human race. They dwell side by side with people, fighting for their spot in the food chain under twin suns and moons. As you might expect, such an ecological relationship results in some pushing and shoving. In response, these dinos do their dino thing with extra helpings of savagery, personality and a dash of Looney Tunes mentality.
Jay Fotos: Mark hit it with the word “personality.” Our Dinos have a definite personality. Even though they don’t speak, you know what they are saying.Nrama: Tell us about this world when men and dinosaurs live together. What's it like to be living in that kind of place?
Kidwell: It ain’t dull. Times are hard for both humans and reptiles in a world where villages are devastated by titanic dinner-time death matches, stone knives and toothpick spears are your only defense against slavering monstrosities and everything in the surrounding jungle wants to eat you. There is a bright side, though. The Gods (Mark, Jay and Jeff) have seen to it that hot babes in fur bikinis are always around to spur you to greater heights of evolution.
Fotos: I guess if I had to compare it to something, on the dinosaur level, it would maybe be how we view insects in our lives. There is so much going on at our feet but they are so tiny we look past it, shoe them away or squash them. The Dinos don’t really give humans a second look, but we are telling the story at “bug’s eye” level as well.Nrama: Are they going off against a mass of T-Rexes, or is there one particular bloodthirsty one coming at them? And does he have a unique personality?
Kidwell: There’s just one Rex, but one’s enough. He has the nasty habit of continually destroying the village of Taka-Na and like a bad penny (a huge, hungry penny); he keeps showing back up, just as they get it re-built. As far as personality, our Rex’s tiny brain holds just enough raw data to give him one main trait: indifference. He bullies his way through life following his instinctive, voracious hunger. If something or someone gets between him and lunch, they’d better dip themselves in gravy and pray to go down whole.
Fotos: Yea, just one T-Rex, and geez, he takes a beating and keeps coming back. Our T-Rex defiantly earns the crown of “King of the Dinosaurs.”
Nrama: Jeff, let's bring you into the conversation here. Jay sent me some of the finished pages you've got, and I'm amazed by the detail you've done on the pterodactyls and T-Rexes — so hyper detailed in the action scenes that the scurrying humans are a rough blur. Can you tall about your thought, time and ink you spent into drawing the dinosaurs? Jeff Zornow: Thanks! Well, as I said before I think universally artists hold a special place in their hearts for the Dinosaur genre. It's not often that you see bad Dinosaur artwork out there you know? So I knew my biggest challenge was to illustrate T-Rex in the most grand way possible. I had a lot of freedom with this "world" we created. So my main source for this world was looking at Peter Jackson's King Kong Skull island stuff. I really liked the extreme jungle sets in that movie very stylized like the original. I also knew that the dinosaur action scenes would have to be the very best action scenes that I've done yet. Doing this all with animals that no longer exist is a wicked challenge. In the Pteranodon battle sequence, I designed them as something like a flock of ravens, making them black, I tried to stylize the Pteranodons to be pretty ugly and textured. This was where I most deviated from what is known about Pterasaurs. But I really wanted them to be harsh looking. The Velociraptors which appear for the climax were my favorite to design, as now Paleontologists are pretty certain they were indeed feathered, or proto-feathered. So I designed them to look like toothy/clawed roadrunners, with funky feathered crest to make them look as exotic as possible. The T-Rex himself is your basic T-Rex with some crocodillian type scales on his back. It's ironic as more and more Paleontologists are beginning to think that by the Cretaceous period that many dinos, even the T-Rex may have been proto-feathered. I didn't think anyone in the public as ready to look at a feathered T-Rex yet! [Laughs.] And as far as the action sequences went. I drew from several inspirations to try to give it a big epic feel. Takehiko Inoue, the writer and artist for Vagabond, is probably the comic/manga artist I look at most today. Literally this man cannot do any wrong it seems, and his action sequences rule all. So as far as my inspiration form comics, I always look at him. Junji Ito is my other comic god, however he is my main horror influence. Burne Hogarth, Joe Orlando, Wally Wood, Jack Davis, are all other big influences comic book -wise. Then combining my love for daikaiju films of Japan, I looked at some of my favorite giant monster fights to look for visual things to help the action seem ! and in those Japanese movies they always have lots of smoke and dust clouds blowing everywhere when the creatures fight, mix all that up with repeated viewings of Jurassic Park trilogy, and Jurassic Fight Club series, as well as the Walking with Dinosaurs series. Nrama: Although the T-Rex is in the title of the book, you also have a prehistoric man from a village called Taka-Na. Can you tell us about him, and what he could possibly have to fend off a tenacious T-Rex?
Kidwell: His name is Gorn and in keeping with his evolutionary status, other than not having to concentrate to walk upright, he isn’t very bright. As far as his monster hunting equipment, he’s armed with a flint dagger, a spear and the promise of Taka-Na’s hottest fur-clad babe as his prize upon the devil lizard’s destruction. Admittedly, it ain’t much, but as the old saying goes: “Horny cavemen do the strangest things…”.
Fotos: Gorn is like that annoying fly that won’t go away and has the balls to keep coming back when he’s been swatted at a few times.
Nrama: Jeff, how did you figure out what he'd look like to make him seem savage but also relatable as goes into this?Zornow: I really wanted Gorn to look like he be heroic. But I didn't want a ripped muscle-bound character, as there are plenty of those out there in comics. I wanted a character that could compare to "Tarzan's stupid cousin"; charming in his own silly way. I really had a lot of fun drawing him trying to get through this adventure. I knew that some major facial expressions would be needed. Actually designing all the inhabitants of Taka-Na was a blast. For the most part they needed to look downtrodden, ugly, and wonderful; sorta like the inhabitants of "pig sty alley" from Stephen Chow's movie Kung-Fu Hustle. I basically wanted a group like that, (and if you don't know this movie...you really have to treat yourself to it's splendid awesomeness!) Nrama: Like I said earlier, you have a lot of detail into this. Were you this well-versed on dinosaurs before you signed onto to do this project? What kind of prep did you go through to get in the right mindset for Tyrannosaurus Rex? Zornow: Jeff: Thank you! Thank you very much! I had one major intent in illustrating this book, which was the thought that "I want this to be the best looking Dinosaur book in recent memory." However I'm mostly known for my work in the horror genre, and I hadn't had the opportunity to do something "different" in quite a while. I was well versed in dinosaurs but had not had much opportunity to do much dino illustrations professionally. However I have ALWAYS been a big fan of nature illustration. I have always prided myself on being able to draw convincing animals and wilderness. Basically looking at a lot of Dino stuff on the net, as well as watching lots of the Jurassic Park movies, and the series Walking with Dinosaurs, Jurassic Fight Club and Peter Jackson's King Kong as stated earlier. It's all a balance of combining convincing nature illustration, with fantasy illustration. I hope the comic book fans out there will approve and applaud this fun dino romp of a book!
Nrama: Jay, you're listed as both co-writer and co-artist; how do you divvy up the work with Jeff Zornow and Mark Kidwell?
Kidwell: Jay and I both had some ideas on the book and we got together for a big brainstorming session over the phone. We took all the good ideas from each brain, berated each other over the bad ones and pooled resources to form the final story. I wrote the finished script and off it went to Jeff to draw. Then (Credit where credit is due note:), Jeff threw in the giant squid. It’s like comic creation summer camp with these guys and the favorite phrase is “Wouldn’t it be cool if…”.
Fotos: With me, and I’m sure the other guys can agree, we love to collaborate on projects. We’re all locked away creative hermits, hunched over at our desks and being able to interact with each other on ideas and concepts gets our juices jumping. That’s what makes comics fun for us amongst other things. Tyrannosaurus Rex is a prime example of that, we formed our “band” and created great music with each other. To divvy up the work, production wise, it pretty much all falls into place, everyone has their job, we do it and it all comes together in the end.
Nrama: I'm really psyched to see Jeff Zornow's name on this - I've been following him for a while. How'd you hook up with him, and what made him the right guy to join forces with for this book?
Kidwell: I’ve been working with Jeff Zornow since way back in the Dead Dog Comics days. We created the Day of the Dead: Bub Rising series together and did a short piece for Gene Simmons’ House of Horrors over at IDW. He and I have always been on the same page as far as our horror and gore interests and his style meshes perfectly with my scripting. His deranged attention to massive detail, action and splat made him the perfect choice for an over the top book like Tyrannosaurus Rex and when Jay and I saw his dino designs, it was like icing on the prehistoric cake.
Fotos: I’ve worked with Jeff on a few projects before and we’ve always got along really we’ll, he’s goofy like me. Like Mark, we all kind of share the same sense of humor, thought process and drive toward what we do. So for me it was a no brainer, Jeff would have to be involved! It was one phone call, and I barley finished my sentence, “Hey Jeff, it’s Jay. Ya wanna do a comic about a Tyranno…” “!”Nrama: What say you, Jeff — what made you want to jump into this one-shot?
Zornow: The First thing that made me want to do this book was an opportunity to work with Jay and Mark again. We're all friends, and Mark and I have done several wicked books and stories in the past. When Jay Told me it was a Dinosaur book, well that made me flip! I have always been a huge fan of Dinosaurs and Giant monsters, since I was 2 or 3. Dinosaur illustration has always been a wonderful genre as it combines both fantasy and real-life illustration abilities. Plus since I knew Mark would be writing it that it would mean the Dino action would be FIERCE! And it's always been my job to take his writing as far as I can take it visually.
Nrama: Before we let you go, tell me this – how did you three go from the horror, western & sword & sorcery work you're known for back to the age of the dinosaurs with this book?
Kidwell: That was Jay. He called me up and wanted to do something we hadn’t really delved into before. We’d done horror, western and sword and sorcery books together, but never a “Giant-Monster” type thing. He was thinking dinosaurs and I’ve always been a big fan of thunder lizards and their related cinema, so I jumped in.
Fotos: What Mark mentioned above, I was sitting back in my chair, rubbing on my chin and pondering on what I would like to do or have not done yet and then it hit me like a tone a bricks, ! And like forming a music band, get your homies together that would love to do the same, jam and have fun with it…and we did!Ready to be terrified by a TYRANNOSAURUS REX?