Monday, July 30, 2007

The Final Panels from Canceled Comic Books: #1 - Devil Dinosaur

This might be interesting. I'm going to find the last panel of canceled comic books and post them to my online photo album, then write something about it here in Lady, That's My Skull. I anticipate some of the final panels will reveal different things about the title, the creators and some of the the editorial decisions that led to a book being canceled. Some of the comics will undoubtedly show signs of being unceremoniously or quickly dropped, others will present a cliff-hanger that may or may not have ever been resolved. Some panels will probably document the results of the decline caused by the mishandling a character or the mis-steps by the creative team on the title. A few of the final panels might be sad, some will be uplifting or even baffling.

The first in this series is the last panel from Jack Kirby's Devil Dinosaur #9 (December 1978).

After many adventures and a multi-issue re-telling of the Garden of Eden myth, Moon-Boy and Devil Dinosaur trod off into the sunset after being not-unexpectedly canceled, not to be revisited by Marvel for many years.

This is a title that ran during one of the 'Marvel Explosions' that occurred every now and then in the 70s and 80s when a comic company published a lot of things just to see what would have staying power in the market. Devil Dinosaur is a Jack Kirby work that is either considered great, has camp-value or is even admired in 2007. At the time it was a strange book to publish. It had no real large audience and it was mainly for Kirby fans who, honestly, were not numerous enough 20 years ago to support a title when a book could sell 700,000 copies and still be considered a failure. In 2007, executives can only dream of selling that many copies of a comic book. Also, Devil Dinosaur could very likely been put on the schedule out of a sense of obligation to Jack, who was gaining an ever-increasing audience in his very vocal and public battle with Marvel.

Interestingly, the series is was set outside of the Marvel Universe familiar to fans of 1978. Jack gleefully stomped all over his own extensive Marvel continuity during the nine issue run. That was odd considering that at the time the company was exploring deeply the concepts that Jack Kirby contributed in the Eternals subplots that were all over the place. Jack either didn't want to play within the established Marvel continuity by creating something new or was sending a message as a few Devil stories contradicted the foundations of his Eternals stories.

The final panel of the Devil Dinosaur title is a good example of a book that was quickly removed from the schedule as the farewell text and image is clearly an after-thought to the story. I can't really tell if the final panel is Jack Kirby and Mike Royer or is John Byrne doing Kirby, as the rocks look kind of Byrne-ish (See cover). At any rate the panel is kind of hastily done and something about the perspective is wrong. Amusingly, Devil Dinosaur has his fist cocked back like he is prepared to go over that hill and punch somebody out.

Jack Kirby may or may not have known that cancellation was coming for Devil Dinosaur and if he did, probably didn't care all that much since he just kept on Kirby-ing like mad throughout the final issues. The story in the last issue is one of time travel, where Devil accidentally enters a warp and briefly visits the modern era to stomp the crap out of things. Recently, the entire Devil Dinosaur and Moon Boy concept was retconned to have actually taken place not in pre-history or another reality as Kirby wrote it, but in the modern day locale of the Savage Land. Not a bad update to the Kirby Universe and it is one that I can live with.

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3 comments:

  1. My personal favourite final panel is from Dakota North. Want me to scan it for you?

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  2. Interesting idea.

    Devil Dinosaur sounds like a truly odd idea for a comic.

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  3. Mari: Sure, thanks! I don't have any Dakota North comics here in sunny Ca.

    If Dakota was 90s, I missed most of that decade because of the 99% suckness of comics then.

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