Tag Archives: Christine Couturier

JURASSiC PARK #7: ON THE HUNT

The Christmas festivities may still be upon us but you wouldn’t know it from the latest edition of Dark Horse International‘s Jurassic Park from 1993. Released just three days after Christmas Day itself there’s not a hint of snow or any festive wishes for its readers, but then again there never were any personal touches to the Dark Horse comics, no editorials or the like. The cover is really special though and the first by Michael Golden to feature on the UK title. I love its mix of the natural and technological (the computer circuits in the background), perfectly summing up the world of Jurassic Park in a gorgeous and eye-catching piece of art.

What it does have are the next chapters in its three fantastic strips and a competition that takes me right back to late nights in bed exploring Isla Nublar on a tiny little electronic screen. It’s another phone-in and states it’s been made particularly easy for all to enter, then goes and continues its tradition of misspelling the island name! But let’s not fuss, the screenshots here may not look like much compared to today’s games but this was such fun to play and kept me awake far past lights out on many a school night.

In the second part of the first official follow-up to the film, as InGen attempt to recapture all the dinosaurs they ignore Dr Alan Grant‘s warnings that there are more Velociraptors out in the wild, so Alan and Dr Ellie Satler decide to take things into their own hands. They head for the other side of the island, scientific reasoning given for every step they take in tracking the animals. They end up on a beach searching caves and in the background a little boat putt-putts along the coast in some scenic panels by penciller Armando Gill and inker Dell Barras (Samsona, Conan the Barbarian, Batman) who criminally wasn’t mentioned in the previous issue’s credits. This is a shame because his deep blacks and line work bring a real sense of action amid a gritty, realistic atmosphere.

There are some nice references to the other surviving characters from the film and where they are now, all of which track with the as yet unwritten sequels, before a new character literally pops up, having come from that small boat I mentioned. After The Lost World this new addition of big game hunter George Lawala may not seem that original, but remember this was out just a few months after the first film. Amongst the dark caves colourist (and story editor) Renée Witterstaetter gives his entrance a burst of surprising colour, matching the sudden change of pace.

He instantly recognises the duo as a threat to his income, resulting in a chase deeper into the cave. He picked this particular cave because of its cover, easy access and the fact it’s far from the humans on the island, unaware of what could be living within. Alan and Ellie are fully aware (in fact they’d already deduced this was the perfect spot) but have no choice but to run further inside. The chase is rather exciting, the deep colours and camera angels drawing us in until we turn the page and both us and the characters are confronted with the ‘raptors.

George will be key in developing the story further and, eventually, in getting us off the island for the first time in the franchise. For now though this is our cliffhanger for another month after a dramatic, beautifully drawn eight-page adventure. Again, the Jurassic Park strip has the least pages of the three stories but it doesn’t feel like that while reading, and where it’s been cut into parts by editor Dick Hansom we’ve ended up with two opening chapters that feel very different from each other (even though they were part of the same issue in the States), as if it was written for this format.

Mark Schultz‘s Xenozoic Tales is next up and it’s the second half of the story from last time. The mysterious lizard people that appeared to be kidnapping Hannah Dundee are revealed to be The Grith, a race of people who work with the Earth to grow both their own health and that of the planet. Despite correctly seeing humans as fighting against the Earth and even after everything they caused, Jack Tenrec was able to befriend them, communicating through a system of ancient tiles, the meaning of which have been lost to time. They might seem familiar to the reader though.

They appear to be a peaceful race but as you’ll see from the end of this chapter they’re quite capable of defending themselves, their friends and the Earth from any danger. The fact they can use the Scrabble tiles (a funny touch to the story) might be because they’re descended from ancient humans, or from other creatures that were around at that time, or maybe there’s some other, simpler reason behind how they can communicate this way. They’re also so in tune with the planet they’re able to predict an earthquake about to hit a cliffside farming community, so Jack and Hannah set off to save them.

Their journey takes them through deep caverns and past a huge, sleeping lizard monster. They must sneak past or be devoured! But the beast wakes up, sees our heroes and simply goes back to sleep, completely disinterested. I love these little moments in Xenozoic Tales that run contrary to our expectations. The stories are full of them. Funny moments also include The Grith making gestures with their bodies and Jack explaining how difficult it has been to communicate with them, priding himself on the use of the tiles. But of course, Hannah is able to decipher their body language easily, completely stealing Jack’s thunder.

For some reason The Grith trust Hannah. They can foretell she’ll help them, so her protestations and claims she’ll report all of this to the council back in the city fall on Jack’s deaf ears; he knows once The Grith have decided to trust her that’s it. It makes for more crackling dialogue between the pair. But just before things can be wrapped up with a neat bow and a happy ending, we get a glimpse into the darker side of these new additions to the story.

This feels like it’s building on the way the Velociraptors communicated in Jurassic Park

Gorgostamos, a man who had pretended to help Hannah find Jack last issue (as a trap to kill both her and Tenrec) comes face to face with at least one of them, and when we return to him all we see are these rather grisly final panels below. Was this to defend our heroes? Was there no other way? Or are The Grith more capable of violence than Jack thinks?

Jurassic Park would only print a selection of Mark’s strips because most were in black and white and this was a full-colour publication. I do hope we don’t miss out on any of the answers this intriguing strip continues to raise every month.

Finally it’s time to return to the Cretaceous era and Ricardo Delgado‘s sublime Age of Reptiles. Last time a huge Tyrannosaurus rex stole the newly killed dinner of a pack of Deinonycuses, killing one of them in the process in what was actually a very funny moment. This issue kicks off with them returning to their nest and communicating via sound and body movements what had just happened. Even though it was created before the movie was released, this feels like it’s building on the way the Velociraptors communicated in Jurassic Park. It’s clear they’re now out for revenge.

But first we get a few pages of the T-rex simply making his way back home, through forests and across large expanses of water. The art here is gorgeous and I find myself taking more time to ‘read’ this strip than either of the others. I just want to take in all the details, not only in the characterisations on the faces and bodies of the animals (which really do tell the story) but in the backgrounds too. Just look at this page below and you’ll see what I mean. Taking up a full page with these two panels of him simply walking home could be seen as dragging out the scene if it weren’t for Ricardo’s art, which demands this kind of space.

As you drink in these pages it also deliberately slows down the story. Ricardo is a master of pacing. You simply can’t rush through this, and if you did you’d be losing out. Just because there’s not one single written word, no captions, no sound effects screaming off the page, doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to this in terms of characterisation, drama and scene building, and it only gets more intense as the months go on.

It’s so unfortunate the comic wouldn’t keep to this format for very long but we’ll get to that next year.

When he returns to his nest we see his family waiting. He lovingly rubs heads with the female looking after their eggs, while the other looks on a bit jealously, although we do find out she is the mother of the adolescent rex, who is currently learning to hunt by chasing a small creature about the rocks and trees. I felt transported back to this time and involved in the natural lives of dinosaurs like no prose story or documentary before it.

Subsequent Jurassic Park/World movies have built upon the original’s emphasis on dinosaurs just being animals, not the monsters of older films and books. Age of Reptiles does a great job of this too, and moments like the one below remind me of the Tyrannosaur family from The Lost World: Jurassic Park.

This instalment ends with the Deinonychuses sneaking into the nest at night and stealing all of those eggs, but the adolescent awakes and raises the alarm. Giving chase, our male closes in on them as they dart through the forest, but eventually the smaller, more agile dinos leap across a chasm and escape, the T-rex left roaring into the night. I remember roughly how this develops and it’s well worth sticking around for! Brilliant, beautiful stuff.

What a superb issue! The three strips come together to create a whole that’s hugely entertaining yet again. Yes, they may be cut down every month and as previously explained this wasn’t technically necessary, but with the three of them side-by-side like this they never felt like anything but three complete strips every issue. It’s so unfortunate that it wouldn’t keep to this format for very long but we’ll get to that next year. Before we go though, a quick look at the adverts within its pages, including news of a new magazine from Dark Horse which sounded awful to me as a kid.

I loved my computer games magazines (in particular Commodore Format and GamesMaster) but the idea of something like that with lots of comic strips in it felt like a gimmick. Although I wasn’t sure if the gimmick was comic strips in a gaming magazine, or gaming features in a comic; it sounded confused. Elsewhere, a chain of comic shops uses a painfully strenuous link to the comic to justify its advert, and a comics and sci-fi merchandise shop I’ve never heard of takes the inside back cover. It’s rather quaint seeing these now, what with comic shops being so much more prevalent today, but back then mail order was much more necessary.

So as far as Jurassic Park‘s stories go and where they’ve left us this month, it appears there’s a lot to look forward to in 2022. Or should I say 1994. The new year of dinosaur action kicks off on Tuesday 25th January.

JURASSiC PARK #6: THE LOST WORLDS

By 1993 I’d moved on from comics into the world of computer games magazines, but when I saw that ‘Jurassic Park‘ title with that tagline peering over the other comics on the shelves I was quick to grab it! Previously put off by the movie adaptation, here was the first official continuation of the movie’s storyline. But there was more! As I flicked through to get an idea of what it was about I noticed back up strips too. On first sight it felt like the Transformers comic I’d loved so much. I was sold and bought my first comic in over a year.

Of course this wasn’t to remain the official sequel for long. Just a few years later Michael Crichton would release his novel The Lost World and the subsequent film was based upon that. But the American Topps Comics was the first to do so and Dark Horse International published it here in a typical UK comic format, meaning they were chopped up into smaller parts and backed up with other strips following the central theme. To the uninitiated it might sound like this would drag a story out unnecessarily but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

UK readers were used to monthly stories from across the pond being split up in weekly or fortnightly comics out of necessity. This may have been a monthly too but it still felt completely normal, it was just how things worked over here. Also, the Topps stories were split into mini-series with an unspecified gap between each so editor Dick Hansom‘s decision also made sense. If the comic had kept to this format a four-issue mini-series in the States could’ve lasted a full year over here. If the publishers themselves hadn’t gone bankrupt we could’ve had multiple years of these.

The first thing this issue hits us with isn’t a comic strip but it still takes me right back. I may not have had a Sega Mega-CD (or any wish to own one) but I do remember the onslaught of new gaming consoles at the time, investing in the 3DO myself which I adored. My computer was the Commodore 64 but I loved reading up on the latest tech and the Jurassic Park game for the Mega-CD was completely different than all the others and looked like a proper adventure on the island. The constant hype for all these new machines was so exciting for me back then, like the future was arriving!


“That T-rex saved us from the ‘raptors! By the time we left Jurassic Park, I was almost — hell, I WAS in love with her!”

Dr. Alan Grant

So let’s get started into our three strips. While Dark Horse’s Aliens had various stories within that universe to pull from, joining the eight pages of Aftershocks (our main strip) here is the return of Xenozoic Tales (at ten pages) and new back up Age of Reptiles (at 12 pages). Yes, our main strip is shorter than the others but cliffhangers in all three had to be carefully chosen. With a unique dinosaur theme throughout – movie sequel set in the present, one set in the far future and one set in the actual time of the dinosaurs – I never felt short changed and it never felt like anything other than a proper Jurassic Park title.

The story begins with a narrative caption simply stating, “Three days later” above the body of a furious Tyrannosaurs rex. Writer Steve Englehart (The Avengers, Doctor Strange and creator of Star-Lord) was given free rein to develop the movie story as he saw fit, picking up the story with Dr Alan Grant and Dr Ellie Satler returning to Isla Nublar to supervise InGen‘s military-style cleanup operation. This already contradicts what came later (Hammond told us in The Lost World they’d been left alone) but let’s go with it as an alternative storyline.

We begin with that great double-page spread above, narrated by Alan as he watches the ‘rex destroy jeeps, tanks and anything else thrown at her. She’s furious with her prey but Alan’s inner thoughts are ones of love, of being grateful that she saved all their lives. Her very existence in the modern world is a miracle and , just like in the novel and the film, even though he and Ellie are frightened they’re equally in awe of her.

InGen want to regain control, contain the animals and begin scientific experiments on them in an attempt to make back some of the money they’ve lost. They don’t want to reopen the park. A new character called Dr. Fischer is the face of the corporation. He believes Ian Malcolm‘s predictions were coincidence rather than proof of Chaos Theory and he makes it clear he stands for advancing the scientific community, rather than science itself, putting him at odds with Alan.

It’s a small slice of action but it’s a great start and thought provoking at the same time.

There’s a hint in here too that the Velociraptors had managed to escape their enclosure earlier than we’d thought, because no eggs were found in there and we knew they were able to breed. This ties in with the book but not the film. In Michael Crichton‘s original story the ‘raptors were able to get in and out of their enclosure at will without the humans noticing. In fact, some had made it on to one of the boats for the mainland, which added more tension to Alan and the kids’ return to the Visitor Centre because they had to warn the boat before it docked. But in the film they clearly didn’t get out.

The art style is a world apart from what we had in the adaptation. Armando Gil (The ‘Nam, Savage Sword of Conan, The Punisher) brings a gritty, mature style to the art. His T-rex certainly looks the part, closely resembling the actual dinosaur and he really captures her size and power. Alongside Armando comes letterer John Costanza (Green Lantern, Batman, Ronin) and colourist and story editor Renée Witterstaetter (Silver Surfer, The Sensational She-Hulk, Jason Vs. Leatherface) whose subdued colours suit the wonderfully scratchy artwork perfectly. It’s a small slice of action but it’s a great start and thought provoking at the same time. I like InGen’s desperation and I like the fact Dr. Fischer believes he’s right, that what he’s doing is for the greater good. I hope it develops these threads.

Carrying on the theme of not learning from past mistakes comes the first backup strip, Xenozoic Tales in which our hero Jack Tenrec finds himself at odds with the council and his new friend Hannah Dundee. Both his and Hannah’s tribes want to stop his campaigns against their poaching. But Jack is standing firm, knowing he’s baring witness to humans going back down the very same path that led to the cataclysm in the first place. Creator, writer and artist Mark Schultz has been very clear from the first chapter this is a story about the dangers of human created climate change.

Benefactor is the seventh story in the series but only our third, something I went into more detail on last time. This could be because only some of the tales were published in colour, here by Christine Courtier. It ends with a cliffhanger for the first time and I remember who these strange creatures ended up being. Hannah had been sent to look for Jack after he had stormed off. Using her tracking skills, unaware the council man who accompanies her is intending to kill Jack, she catches a glimpse of his Cadillac shining in the hot afternoon sun but gets more than she bargained for as she approaches it. The back-stabbing and the politics, wrapped up in an adventure in a land populated by dinosaurs is unique and really fun to read.

When I scanned over this issue in the newsagent’s my eyes lit up when I saw the final strip. I know it’s a cliché and an exaggeration to say “it took my breath away” but you’ll get my point. Set in the Mesozoic period it follows a pack of Deinonycuses and a T-rex family as they do battle after one steals the meal of the other. Created and intricately drawn by Ricardo Delgado and beautifully coloured by James Sinclair it contains no narrative captions at all. Everything is told solidly in pictures only, without even any lettered sound effects.

Ricardo is an artist working in the movie and television industries, whose credits include everything from The Real Ghostbusters and WALL-E to Jurassic Park III, suitably enough. James’ credits have included Legends of The Dark Knight, Hellblazer and The Mask comics. Age of Reptiles was Ricardo’s first book in a series and hadn’t been released here yet when it became serialised in the pages of Jurassic Park, where it’s an even better fit than Xenozoic Tales for obvious reasons.

It tells an absorbing story through great art and wonderfully designed characters. The Deinonycuses kick things off by taking down their dinner, a giant Brontosaurus. Originally I thought these were Velociraptors until I read the catch up on the contents page of the next issue, although to be fair they are very closely related species. I love how each one has particular markings and by paying attention to such things we get to know each one over the next few months. How Ricardo imbued each one with individual personalities through markings, facial expressions and their movements is simply genius.

They begin to feast but are rudely interrupted when a giant T-rex jumps on top of their prize and roars at them to back off. But they aren’t giving up so easily and one leaps in to slice at the bigger beast. The strip was quite gruesome and violent for the time and, while there’s nothing to put off younger readers yet, it will build upon this as the story develops. But as I said it also had its lighter comedic moments, one of my favourites coming up right now. After the smaller dinosaur leaps and slices we turn over to be met with the page on the right below.

This still makes me laugh to this day. As the story develops we’d see an ever-increasing battle of revenge between these characters which would include some ferocious fights, some tender moments and one surprisingly heartbreaking scene. Don’t believe me? You’ll just have to wait and see. It’s not an exaggeration to say it’s a thrill to be reading Age of Reptiles again after so long. The collected books go for silly prices online these days so I’m happy to wait and play the slow game with this serialisation. Worth the price of admission alone!

To finish off here’s a look at the advertisement on the back cover for the Jurassic Park videogame which was being released on a variety of platforms. It’s the tagline I love the most here. This was around the time Street Fighter II was everywhere. (It would even be a comic advertised in these pages soon enough!) But forget that game, because “when the street just ain’t tough enough… go play in the park”. A brilliant piece of competitive marketing for the time!

I remember playing the Nintendo Game Boy version. Even though it didn’t follow the plot of the film at all and had Alan Grant out in the park collecting all the eggs with a gun, firing tranquillisers at all the dinosaurs as if they were all out to eat him, it was still a really fun game to play. Especially at night when I was meant to be asleep for school the next day, having to play it using that heavy, cumbersome light attachment on the supposedly handheld console.

This was a brilliant start to my Jurassic Park comics journey. Surely here was a title that I could collect without fear of it being prematurely cancelled? How could a comic based on the hottest thing on the planet be anything other than a runaway success for years and years? Well, if the comic had kept to this format and continued until the end of the US strips, those 19 American issues would’ve spanned a whopping 57 British editions over nearly five years! The next one is #7 and its review will be up on the blog on Tuesday 28th December 2021.