JURASSiC PARK #2: BUiLDiNG THE PARK

Welcome back to “Isla Nubar” (misspelled like this on the contents page) and Dark Horse International‘s UK version of Jurassic Park from 1993, edited by Dick Hansom. A rather strange cover by Gil Kane and George Perez, given how no dinosaurs have escaped yet. It’s a mishmash of named characters and extras, including a rather red-faced man in the middle. Maybe the raptor is holding his nose.

Inside is the second 28-page chapter of Topps Comics‘ adaptation and a few extras, something we were accustomed to this side of the pond. First up is an advertisement for John Williams‘ soundtrack album. I owned the CD at the time and have been listening to it on Apple Music while reading these. There’s a competition for glow-in-the-dark stickers, a somewhat unimpressive prize compared to later ones I remember. No comics checklist this month, instead a glance at the other titles currently in publication.

The strip continues adding to existing scenes while moving others about in order to adapt the film to the format, something I discussed in more depth last time. This chapter starts off where we left off in the midst of that iconic brachiosaur scene and there’s quite a lot of additional dialogue from Michael Crichton’s novel, such as Dr Alan Grant‘s and Dr Ellie Satler‘s further observations.

One part lifted directly from the book involves a little bit of background on the park itself. To achieve something of this magnitude would require more people than just those on the island, so John Hammond explains others were involved across the globe, knowing only their specific part of the puzzle. To maintain secrecy they were never let in on the bigger picture. The novel goes into things like this in a lot more detail to ground the fantastical story in the real world and if you haven’t already you really should read it yourself (or get the audiobook which is expertly brought to life by Scott Brick).

From here we make our way to the Visitor’s Centre, our characters excitedly discussing what they’ve seen, trying to take it all in. After the Mr. DNA sequence we find ourselves in the lab where we meet Dr. Henry Wu, who was played by BD Wong. In the novel Wu was a central character and certainly not the affable person we saw in the movie.

Crichton’s Wu was ruthlessly ambitious, believed the success of Jurassic Park was solely down to him and never saw the dinosaurs as real; they were engineered adaptations of the originals. He even argued with Hammond about the ability to create any dinosaur they wanted, even new breeds, tailoring them to exact requirements to bring in the most money from paying tourists. All of this would of course form the main plot of the fourth movie, Jurassic World. However, in the comic his role is reduced even further than in the first film, appearing in only three panels with most of his dialogue given to Hammond.


“I’m simply saying that life finds a way.”

Dr. Ian Malcolm

One character who definitely doesn’t suffer this indignity is Dr. Ian Malcolm, so memorably encapsulated by Jeff Goldblum that you can’t help but hear his voice when reading one of his many quotable lines. In the novel Malcom’s fascinating monologues ran to several pages and for the film their essence was broken down and brought to life by Goldblum’s very natural delivery, becoming the very backbone of the story.

This continues in the comic although his characterisation is a little different thanks to Gil and George. Overall he’s still the cool mathematician but his facial expressions make the character a little darker in tone, lending his predictions a more sinister feel. This actually suits the medium. Scenes here don’t have the luxury of playing out over several pages to build tension, so this little tweak in tone works a treat instead. Below is an example as he delivers his most famous line, used as marketing for later movies in the series.

While the Tyrannosaurus rex was the biggest dinosaur and the most publicised the stars were the Velociraptors. Apart from a baby their existence is merely hinted at and talked about for much of the film in an expertly crafted script that built tension for their final reveal and dominance in the latter acts. But young comic readers wouldn’t want to wait three issues to see them on the page.

So, just like last month we’re treated to prehistoric flashbacks to these great hunters in their natural environment (highlighted by Tom Smith‘s change in colours) when game warden Robert Muldoon (Bob Peck) introduces them during that memorable dinnertime cow scene. With a graphic novel it’d be easier to follow the movie more closely, but writer Walter Simonson and story editor Jim Salicrup had to give readers a monthly dose of the ‘raptors and I think these scenes are a great solution and a natural fit.

Ian Malcolm‘s quotes aren’t the only ones to survive the transition to comic form. Jurassic Park is a very quotable movie, with a surprising amount of dialogue taken directly from the novel. Some would have to be excised for this shorter form of storytelling but here are a small selection of those to be found in this second issue.

For some reason the comic changes the recorded in-car voice to James Earl-Jones from the film’s Richard Kiley. Maybe Earl-Jones was better known to the comic audience? On a side note, Crichton chose Kiley’s voice in the book so I thought it was funny how Speilberg actually got Kiley to play the part!

The story rolls along until we find ourselves at the T. rex paddock complete with a very worried goat and an almost gloating Malcolm. He knows the park can’t work, knows the natural systems in play are too complex to control and as far as he’s concerned chaos theory proves it. Unfortunately we lose the lovely butterfly effect scene between him and Ellie, but then again without Jeff’s delivery it would probably fall flat.

Maybe this is just a way of speeding the story along, because we’d never have bought Alan [Grant] doing this in the movie.

However, after the others jump out of the vehicle we still get to laugh at him talking to himself about talking to himself, John Workman‘s speech bubbles pointing away from the action, highlighting the fact he’s chittering away on his own. It’s a very funny way to present this moment in a different way, I actually laughed when I read it despite seeing the film countless times already.

At this point we see more evidence of changes to the comic’s pacing in order to fit it all in. In the film Alan jumps out of the moving car when he sees and hears something in a field beside them. Here, he’s out of the car before it’s even started moving away from the T. rex paddock, climbing through a gap in the fence simply because he’s fed up of not seeing any dinosaurs.

It’s not exactly the safest of places to go for a dander! So maybe this is just a way of speeding the story along because we’d never have bought Alan doing this in the movie. It’s the first time I’ve questioned a change made by the comics team. Yes, the very next page is the last but come on, they could’ve simply added a caption to indicate they’d moved away from the T. rex first!

This isn’t a case of going back to the book either because in that they see a vet with a sick Stegosaurus and walk over in a safe environment, whereas here you can see they get surprised by an apparently healthy Triceratops. Same species as the film but this isn’t how the encounter played out. Could there be a major change of plot here? Or just a quick cheat for a cliffhanger? We’ll find out next month.

If chapter one was the introduction to the story, the setting and the characters, this month has been the build up. We all know next month will include the elements all coming together to create the disaster that befalls the park so I’m interested to see how that will be adapted for the comic and how successful it will be.

Straight after the strip is the second of the behind-the-scenes features, explaining the differences between the four special effects teams and what each of their roles were. Miniature photography for animatics and choreography, the full-motion live-action creations, the mechanics for those beasts and of course the CGI. It’s easy to forget these days just how far ahead of anything else Jurassic Park was in 1993. The fact it looks just as spectacular 28 years later is testament to the hugely talented individuals who worked so hard to create Spielberg’s vision.

I saw the film in a Glasgow cinema with my dad and then devoured the novel that summer, after which I bought a fantastic book called The Making of Jurassic Park by Don Shay and Jody Duncan. There had been such books for movies before but the level of detail in this one was second to none. Fascinating stuff but lost when I moved out of home years later. These features have me eager to read it again, so I might just add it to the Christmas list this year.

On the back cover was another advert with that timeless logo and the island sunset. More a tease, it announced the inevitable video game coming to multiple formats in three months’ time. More memories are flooding back because I owned the Nintendo Game Boy game and spent many a late night in bed before school playing it under the covers with that massive, heavy light attachment on top of the little monochrome screen. Happy memories indeed.

For reasons now lost to time the third issue of Jurassic Park would only take three weeks to arrive, releasing on 19th August, the penultimate Thursday of the month rather than the last like the first two issues. Oh well, it just means there’s less time to wait. But, from #4 it changes again to the last Tuesday of every month, so there’ll be a longer gap between the next two! Why this happened is anyone’s guess.

But the main thing is that #3 is here in just 21 days’ time on Thursday 19th August. Until then, don’t move. It can’t see you if you don’t move.

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