Tag Archives: Jim Salicrup

JURASSiC PARK #5: RUSHED ‘RAPTORS

It’s time to bring the movie adaptation of Jurassic Park to a close with the last 12 pages of the final chapter, originally part of issue four of Topps Comics‘ mini-series in the States. For UK readers it was split in two, with new backup strip Xenozoic Tales bringing up the rear. However, due to the decision to keep the comic going the back up gets more pages this time around and there’s a simple explanation.

I’m going to assume last month’s issue was originally going to follow the same formula as the ones that came before, with a full chapter of Jurassic Park and a behind-the-scenes feature. In the US it had been decided new adventures would make up another mini-series, but there was going to be a small gap before it went on sale. To plug this in the UK this last chapter was split over two issues and the back up added to fill out the pages. Makes sense now that there were only four parts to the behind-the-scenes series.

The opening chapter of Xenozoic Tales was quite short in length, so more of the Jurassic Park strip was included last time, but Mark Shultz‘s stories were of varying sizes, so working all of this out to best spread over the two issues has resulted in 14 pages of the movie adaptation climax and 18 for Jack Tenrec and Hannah Dundee. It makes for a strange balance but that would all be corrected next month. More on this below.

The monthly competition page acts as a kind of editorial this month, hyping the conclusion and the new strips to come. A strange choice of prize though, a graphic novel collection of the strip readers have read in this comic. Elsewhere, the lovely gloss paper of the covers makes these adverts for Dark Horse International‘s other mature titles really pop, especially that Aliens one. The more I see these adverts the more I want to add them to my collection at some point, even though I know they too were cut short.

So on to the end of the comic book adaptation of one of the biggest movies ever made. This month it crams in Dr. Ellie Satler‘s escape from the maintenance shed, the survivors reuniting, the Velociraptors infiltrating the visitor centre, the kitchen scene with the kids, the control room scenes, their escape and the final shock ending.  That’s a lot for writer Walter Simonson and story editor Jim Salicrup to squeeze in and unfortunately just like last month it suffers as a result.

Case in point is the famous kitchen scene with Tim and Lex sneaking about and eventually getting one over on the ‘raptors. Tense in the movie, here it doesn’t make an awful lot of sense. For a start the shadow signalling danger is barely noticeable and the reflective surface of the kitchen appliances Lex used in her terrifying encounter in the movie seems to be floating in mid-air!

At least the kids get a few pages for their scene, the rest really are cut down to their bare bones. The idea behind each one is there and is solid, the images are perfectly captured and the big scare moments are all present and correct. But with all the trims it rushes from one of these moments to the next every few panels, meaning their impact is diminished.

So ends the movie adaptation. But hang on, where’s Ray?

At least the dinosaurs themselves look the part as you’ll see below, with penciller Gil Kane‘s and inker George Perez‘s Tyrannosaurus Rex and those ‘raptors looking suitably powerful in their final confrontation, which thankfully is given a bit more room to breathe. Not too sure about the green blood though. You’d have to ask colourist Tom Smith about that one. The random letter jumbles making up the noises of these animals are just plain bizarre, but at least John Workman‘s unique style of breaking the panels still looks the part.

The dramatic angle of the Tyrannosaurus rex is so good it’s used twice over the double-page spread, but they both look so good we’ll forgive the repeating. There’s a lot of powerful red, at least giving the impression of a gory fight to the death despite that sanitised blood colour. But still, somehow it works and it’s the powerful, dramatic scene that’s been missing from so much of these two issues. I particularly like the fact the iconic ‘When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth’ banner from the film is worked in as a caption.

“And behind them, receding into the distance Jurassic Park and the past are swallowed up in the gathering dark. The End.” 

So ends the movie adaptation. But hang on, look at that final panel above. Where’s Ray? Yes, in the film he was killed in the maintenance shed off camera and Ellie discovered his severed arm when she went to reinstate the power grid. But last month Ellie volunteered first in a major change from the film. This means Ray is still alive and yet here he’s nowhere to be seen. It seems the one black character has been completely forgotten about. It’s clear this final chapter was rushed somewhat with it’s art not being as detailed or polished and huge chunks missing to get to the finish line in the page count, but still, just forgetting about a character is a massive oversight.

It’s such a shame it had to end this way because the first three chapters were so good that’s it’s more disappointment than anything else I’m feeling right now.

With no written feature to break up the strips this time we head straight from a natural island off the coast of Costa Rica to a manmade island group off the coast of North America for this month’s Xenozoic Tales, Mammoth Pitfall!

The story comes from the second issue of creator Mark Shultz‘s original series, but three stories which took place between last month’s introduction and this one have been skipped. Not all of the original run was in colour so this might explain the missing stories. It means character development is going to be pretty spotty though, for example last month Jack Tenrec and Hannah Dundee had just met, but here he’s trusting her in her attempts to capture a mammoth for domestication and she knows enough about him to know when he’s in trouble. It’s a shame we can’t appreciate their developing friendship properly but then again it’s only thanks to Jurassic Park we got to read them at all.

Jack knows nature has certain rules and knows a mammoth will always be a dangerous animal to humans. It should be respected but left alone. However, the reason the attempt fails is because of interference from another human who sabotages their attempt and sets Hannah up for a nasty death squish. After a very lucky escape she hides in the boot of Jack’s prized Cadillac. She later pops out and saves him from the man threatening to kill him if he doesn’t teach him the most prized skill of the time: how to drive!


Sometimes it seems nature bends the rules.

Mark Shultz, Xenozoic Tales

It’s all great fun and the wordplay between Jack and Hannah is natural and funny. Trapped inside his garage by the angry beast the action is put on hold but it’s testament to Mark’s writing how compelling these simple character scenes can be. The script is full of interesting contradictions too. The juxtaposition between the dinosaurs and the cars is effortlessly presented, Hannah seeks action while Jack wants the easy life, and Jack the environmentalist and animal lover has dedicated his life to restoring the very machines responsible for the great cataclysm. (Although he has converted them to run on dino guano.)

Curious to see what all the fuss is about with these ancient contraptions Hannah convinces Jack to take her for a ride, then to chase a storm back to the city. They discover the dead body of the mammoth she tried to capture, clearly the victim of a predator outside the garage. Jack is furious. “He should never have died here.” It’s great to see these characters learning about each other and again it pains me we’re not seeing it all.

The storm chase naturally ends in disaster. They crash, the Cadillac becoming a write-off in a sodden ditch. Tenrec carries an unconscious Hannah through the driving wind and rain until he bumps into a sheltered building of some sort that he wasn’t previously aware of. With no time to question its sudden existence he places Hannah inside and tries to wait out the storm. Flood waters rush them and by morning the storm has revealed the shelter that saved their lives.

With this the story comes full circle. The mammoth that Hannah was so certain could help them rebuild their world has in the end saved their lives, by losing its own, because of her. It’s thought provoking and rather sad and I felt genuinely sorry for the mammoth in the end, and thought less of us as a species. Which I think was the whole point. It’s a very different strip, but it works perfectly as a back up in this comic. After all, both strips are about the interaction between dinosaurs and humans and what happens when we try to force our dominance on animals we were never meant to meet.

With this we reach the end of another issue and the back page has me very excited. Using a one-colour version of the cover to my very first issue, the announcement I’ve been waiting all these months for is finally here.

If I’d been collecting these issues in 1993 then I’m sure I’d have been hugely excited by this! Who wouldn’t have been? Even now I’m hyped. Discovering #6 on the shelves with the promise of new adventures inside was thrilling and this promo is bringing back all of those feelings again. The mention of the third strip and even the competition headline are bringing a big goofy smile to my face because I remember both so distinctly. It’s quite extraordinary.

As is normally the case with all of these real time read throughs I will have to practice will power, but this is going to be harder than most. But I’ll do it. I’ll wait for the correct date, no matter how impatiently. That date will be Tuesday 30th November 2021, so join me then as we embark once more to Isla Nublar for the forgotten, original sequel to Jurassic Park.

JURASSiC PARK #4: BACK UP SYSTEMS

With issue four the UK version of Jurassic Park was evolving. In the midst of all the hype surrounding the film, Dark Horse International’s monthly was proving a hit. As such, changes were afoot over the next few issues to bring it more in line with the company’s other comics, and to ensure it would be around for a long time to come after proving itself with its initial editions.

The front page doesn’t reuse one of the American covers, instead recolouring a panel from the strip inside (and I love the font they’ve used). The reason was simple. Despite #3‘s checklist stating this would be the final chapter of the adaptation it’s being split in two, so the original cover was being kept in reserve for the following month. This split was to make way for Xenozoic Tales, the first back up strip which I’ll get to later. This was a familiar concept across British action adventure comics (in everything from Transformers to The Punisher) but Jurassic would go even further as you’ll see in #6.

The sequence in the tree with Tim trapped in the Explorer has been completely excised!

Check out this month’s comics checklist and you might get an idea of what’s to come, but for now we’ll concentrate on the issue at hand, which begins with a competition for The Making of Jurassic Park. I actually bought this book at the time and it was a heavy tome, full of details on the making of the film and stands up today as one of the very best of its kind for any movie. You’ll also see an advert for Manga Mania, which fed off the new craze to hit these shores. Ultimately it’d also be a very important title for Jurassic Park fans. But that’s a story for another time.

Our freshly chopped final chapter is still a lengthy 16 pages so regular readers wouldn’t have felt short changed, at least with the page count. Unfortunately, the actual strip itself is another thing. Yes, this is the first time in the comic’s young life when I’ve been left disappointed.

Last month the Tyrannosaurus rex attack was perfectly handled with plenty of tension building and atmosphere so I was looking forward to seeing how the final act would begin. The opening is great, with Mrs Rex towering above Dr. Alan Grant and Lex, both trying to keep completely still.

It’s all going so well until those final couple of panels. The sequence in the tree with Tim trapped in the Explorer has been completely excised! So it plummets to the ground instead and then he’s just unbelievably pulled out and off they go. Alan even has a map at hand to make their trip back to the Visitor’s Centre quicker which is a rather cheeky shortcut. In previous issues scenes had been moved about, moments edited, others added to, all in order to properly adapt the film to the comic page and I’ve been really positive about it. But all throughout this issue huge swathes of story are just missing or reduced to a shadow of their former selves.

Case in point is the fatal encounter between Denis Nedry and the Dilophosaurus. The movie scene included plenty of misdirection and humour, putting the audience at ease before the shock, and that wouldn’t have been easy to translate here but they could have tried. Instead this very famous scene only gets two pages. It’s a very basic sequence now; the dinosaur may as well be a lion. Denis gets attacked as soon as he steps out of the vehicle, he jumps back in and we actually see the Dilophosaurus jump in after him (ruining the final moments of the original) and… well, that’s it.

This truncating happens to basically every major moment, whether it’s the nighttime meeting with the Brachiosaurs, rescuing Dr. Ian Malcolm after the T-rex attack, even the electric fence scene (as you’ll see below) and Robert Muldoon‘s stalking of a Velociraptor. Each are reduced to fit on a page or two and basically follow a set pattern of only showing the first and last moments of the scene and erasing everything else, including almost all the humour.


“Think they’ll have that on the tour?”

Dr. Ian Malcolm

Right back at the beginning of this adaptation I stated how I didn’t usually like comic versions of films and this was the reason why. But up to this point Jurassic Park had been the exception to the rule, with a proper restructuring of the film to suit the format and it was working a treat as a comic in its own right. Maybe if they’d had five chapters instead of four it would’ve worked out differently, but then again maybe the pacing could’ve been plotted out better by writer Walter Simonson and story editor Jim Salicrup. Yes, having all the dino action in the final chapter would, in theory, make for a big climax but there’s just too much to fit in.

The result is a clichéd comics adaptation where it feels more like a way for people to reminisce about the movie they saw in the cinema months previous, rather than working as a good comic book. If I sound overly critical it’s only because the team had been doing such an amazing job so far, even adding in extra dialogue from either the original novel or earlier drafts of the script. So it’s more disappointment than simple negativity.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still things to enjoy here. It’s all on a lovely high quality gloss paper stock this month, some of the best lines from the film are still intact and the art in the first half here is top notch. However, in the second half even legendary artists Gil Kane‘s pencils and George Perez‘s inks start to feel a little rushed and Tom Smith‘s colours feel unfinished and flat, leading me to believe they were working very close to the deadline of getting the original US series out in time for the movie.

The chapter is cut off with a superb cliffhanger though. The view of a Velociraptor‘s feet as it chases Dr. Ellie Sattler is just as unnerving as it was in the film. It’s a shame then the terrifying Velociraptors, when viewed in full, are reduced to looking like miniature T-rexes. Below is this final scene with its positives and negatives, alongside that fence scene with the dramatic resuscitation of Tim also taken out.

I also noticed Ray didn’t volunteer to go to the maintenance shed as he did in the original story, where he met his grisly end. Instead Muldoon and Ellie head off while Ray looks on silently. This means he’s still alive, a big departure from the film. It’ll be interesting to see how that effects the rest of the story next month.

With 16 pages to the main strip I assume there’ll be roughly 12 or 13 next month unless the final chapter was given a few more pages in the original American Topps Comics publication of course. Either way there’s a lot of the film left to cover in half a chapter. The kids and Alan are still out in the park which means their return, the kitchen scenes, the chaos of the Velociraptors in the Visitor’s Centre and the heart-stopping climax are all to come.

I’ll still hold out hope things can be turned around because so far it feels like spending 90 minutes being completely engrossed in a film only for its ending to let you down. Which of course is not what happened with Jurassic Park! For now, the sun sets on the adaptation as we move on to something else entirely.

In the early days of Marvel UK‘s Transformers its back up strips were in some way related to the robotic theme, such as Machine Man or Iron Man. It wasn’t long before it became a way of bringing some of Marvel’s other US characters to these shores for the first time instead, but Jurassic Park kept its strips dinosaur-themed, much to the delight of the teenage version of me. The second back up would appear in my first issue (#6) but here readers were introduced to Mark Shultz‘s Xenozoic Tales.

Later adapted into a cartoon TV series called ‘Cadillacs & Dinosaurs’ it was an independent, alternative title Mark wrote and drew himself, running for 14 issues irregularly released between 1987 and 1996. Most of the strips were printed in black and white but Jurassic Park chose the colour ones from each issue, coloured by Ray Fehrenbach. This issue’s complete story was the first one written by Mark and what an introduction to something brand new this first page was.

Set in the 26th century global warming has resulted in sea levels across the globe forcing humans to initially build underground. After 600 years they’ve reemerged to find their cities flooded, technology virtually non-existent and strangest of all the world is populated by dinosaurs once more. Anyone capable of mechanical work is seen as invaluable and this is where Jack Tenrec comes in, a car mechanic with a penchant for Cadillacs. Thanks to these skills he acts as an unofficial head of security and advisor to his tribe’s leaders and lives on an outcrop (formerly high hills) not far across the water from An Archipelago of Stone, the home of the tribe and in reality the remains of New York City.

I love that first page, cleverly written from the point of view of a Pterodactyl. In the story a neighbouring tribe’s ambassador, Hannah Dundee arrives at the City in the Sea and a team of poachers who had stolen from her Wassoon Tribe want her dead. It’s up to Jack and his men to stop them. All the way through this strip, knowing he’s about to get in way over his head, Tenrec keeps telling his men to send someone called Hermes to help. Then, just as it seems he’s doomed a surprise arrival bursts in. That’s Hermes!

Well I certainly didn’t expect that. Hermes the Allosaurus disposes of the villain, munching on his head and throwing him out the window, before Tenrec thanks him, revealing who this is. That doesn’t mean he’s a pet of course and the usually cool and collected Jack knows it.

It’s brilliant stuff. Original, fun and surprising, introducing the main protagonists, the unique setting and the cast of regular and semi-regular guest characters all in 12 pages while maintaining an interesting story and racking up tension is rather a phenomenal feat. No wonder Xenozoic Tales is so highly regarded even to this day. It may at first seem like a strange choice for Jurassic Park’s back up but it works perfectly and as a teen I remember being engrossed with the slowly developing back story that would become more apparent in later issues.

In between the two strips is this month’s look into the making of the movie, covering the famous disaster that hit Hawaii and the relief efforts the producers helped coordinate, plus the building of sets and the end of principal photography. At the very end of the feature is the teeny tiny box with the date of the next issue including a little tease that things were afoot for the future of the comic.

Thankfully they didn’t say “great news for all readers” or we’d have got the wrong idea. With these couple of pages, a long main strip and a back up it really does feel more like the kinds of UK comics we were accustomed to at the time. I may have enjoyed the extras more than the adaptation this time but I know from memory that what’s to come from Jurassic Park made this one of my very favourite comics growing up. So stay tuned for some terrific stuff from Isla Nublar, as well as from the far future and soon the distant past!

The fifth issue and the conclusion of the movie storyline will be stomping its way on to the blog on Tuesday 26th October.

JURASSiC PARK #3: CUDDLY CARNIVORE

Don’t let the rather playful, pet-like Tyrannosaurus rex on the cover put you off, this is not a sanitised version of Spielberg’s monster movie. Things really do kick off for Dark Horse International‘s UK version of Jurassic Park comic this month, as Dennis Nedry puts his plan into action just as the unfortunate coincidence of a tropical storm hits the remote island of Isla Nublar.

But before we get to that let’s take a look at some of the other bits and bobs from this issue. The full comics checklist returns, featuring all five of the publisher’s UK titles and an extensive list of imports. You’ll notice the next issue of Jurassic Park has no specific date and I’ll get to that at the end of the review. There’s also an advertisement for possibly the worst idea in clothing ever to grace anybody’s chest. It’s difficult to make out but those of us who are old enough will remember these ridiculous t-shirts with a horrible rubber dinosaur sticking out, Alien-style. I remember there being Yoda ones in the shops too and they were just as garish.

But the issue opens up with the biggest competition yet on page two and oh, how this takes me back. My friend had a Sega Mega Drive back then and, while we never played this game, I’m reminded of the weekly trips to the local video store to rent the latest games. The writer certainly seems just as enthused. (It’s definitely a step up from glow-in-the-dark stickers.) If only this kind of hype were evident on the editorial page every month instead of the straight contents list we got instead. It’s not like there wasn’t a lot of Jurassic Park news to get hyped about after all.

The constant presence of rain in the background and the subdued colours envelop the reader in the cold, wet nighttime scene.

Clearly there was an excited human team behind the comic. Readers who had seen the movie a few months previous in cinemas would definitely have been looking forward to this issue too. Things kick off with the sick Triceratops scene now playing out like the movie after last issue’s cliffhanger. As it turns out, the supposedly terrifying creature (which wouldn’t have harmed them anyway) just collapses when the story begins, which makes that cliffhanger a bit of a cheat.

The scene uses more dialogue from the book that didn’t make it into the final cut of the movie, specifically the resolution of what made her sick in the first place, which really showcased Dr. Ellie Satler so it’s nice to have these details back in the comic.

While Nedry’s ultimate fate isn’t played out yet we do at least get some extra characterisation for the man whose greed would ultimately lead to the park’s destruction. He’s actually worried about turning off the park’s security before the tour gets back. He doesn’t want to hurt anyone, he actually cares and his intention is to sneak off to the boat, hand over the embryos and get back before anything bad transpires from the temporary deactivation of the electronic gates.

Of course, the storm would put a rush on things and we all know the outcome for everyone involved. Despite his worry he’s still an annoying hacker at heart and his “hacker crap” still keeps Ray out of the system long enough for his plan to be put into action.

The build up to the main event is superbly handled. The constant presence of rain in the background and Tom Smith‘s subdued colours envelop the reader in the cold, wet nighttime scene. Iconic moments such as Dr. Alan Grant and Dr. Ian Malcolm‘s chat and that famous moment the giant T-rex stares in at them, looking for a moving meal, are brilliantly captured.

Gil‘s and George‘s version of Ian continues to exude a darker presence, his humorous lines reading a little more cutting than Jeff Goldblum‘s perfect delivery. It’s such a shame then how Walt decided to change a key moment in a way which has a detrimental effect on the character, but we’ll get to that in a minute. For now, let’s back up a little to the first appearance of the issue’s big selling point.

Three issues in the comic team finally get to have the big reveal and their first bit of proper dinosaur action, something they’ve only been able to hint at thus far. This was a key scene to get right and just as the tension rose to its crescendo in the movie, here we’ve got pages of rain, booming sound effects and progressively more frightened characters until we turn a page and are confronted with this next image.

Timing is everything and editor Dick Hansom made sure to add an additional advertisement page after the editorial so that later in the comic this would work as intended. Of course, on closer inspection you could critique this image and say the size of the T-rex means she could easily chomp down on cars even with the fence electrified (and also, that’s one huge goat), but then we’d be missing the whole point of this glorious splash page.

Sure there’s some artistic licence at play here but you can’t deny its impact. Those proportions are corrected for the rest of the attack scene and to be honest it was only upon the second reading that this reader picked up on it, such was the impact of this atmospheric rendering.


“It is a beautifully-designed killing machine!”

Panel caption (Walter Simonson)

What follows are an intense few pages which I believe would work just as well on their own merit even without the memory of the movie. In the film the juxtaposition of the giant predator and the kids Lex and Tim made for a genuinely terrifying moment in cinema history. Conveying that to comics panels was never going to be easy but the simple addition of descriptive captions ends up being the perfect solution.

With the attack in full swing, every few panels we get a direct, to-the-point fact about the T-rex‘s size and strength. The attack spans four pages and each of these little captions brings another level of tension until they culminate in “It is a beautifully-designed killing machine” as it stands on the upturned car, its weight squashing the metal down into the mud, Tim still trapped inside. It’s a genius move.

What comes immediately after these superb pages is the first big disappointment in this adaptation.

As you’ll remember, in the film Ian lights a flare to get the T-rex‘s attention away from the kids and only starts running once he knows he’s being hunted down. This gives Alan the chance to rescue the children. But here he just runs away, leaving everyone else to their fate. There’s no indication he’s doing it as the foolhardy yet heroic gesture of the film. It’s completely out of character and if this had happened in the movie it probably would’ve turned the audience against him for the rest of the story.

A very odd choice and one I definitely do not like.

The end result is the same however, with Malcolm being tossed through the walls of the public toilet where lawyer Donald Genaro ran earlier to hide when he abandoned Lex and Tim. The ending to his particular story happens out of frame with only a scream in a speech balloon pointing off the page (in letterer John Workman‘s unique style). This seems like another rather odd choice seeing as how the vast majority of readers will have witnessed the scene play out in the film. Why censor it?

A couple of dubious choices by Walt and story editor Jim Salicrup aside the story rockets towards its cliffhanger. In America this would’ve been the penultimate chapter in a four-issue mini-series but here in the UK we actually still had two parts to come. How so? You’ll find out next month. (I have to try to get you back here somehow!) In the meantime this final page brings things to an end but the issue has more to give before we place it back on the shelf.

Last month the behind-the-scenes feature introduced us to the various special effects departments and their roles in bringing Michael Crichton’s creation to the screen. This time the focus is fully on the mechanical dinosaurs themselves created by Stan Winston and his team in Building a Better Dinosaur.

We all know how the film led the way in its use of computer graphics, but what can’t be forgotten are the wonderfully lifelike creations that the cast actually got to interact with. As a huge fan of Jaws (which gets a humorous mention here), Jurassic Park always felt like a descendant of that original mechanical predator movie and this brief write-up is an interesting look at how they were created and operated. It’s just a shame it doesn’t contain any accompanying design or set photos of the details covered in the text.

The back cover is a double whammy of information on Dark Horse’s range, beginning with a subscriptions page and then a colour advertisement on the back. The company was making real inroads into the UK comics market, bringing international comics to our shores on bigger, better quality paper, chock full of strips and features. It’s unfortunate that the whole market was shrinking rapidly and ultimately there wasn’t much time left for the imprint and its titles. But we’ve got plenty of issues of this comic to go so we’ll not get bogged down with endings just yet.

For now, we’ve got a bit of a wait until the next issue. As explained last time the comic’s schedule was changing. Initially releasing on the last Thursday of each month, this issue came out a week early for some unknown reason and then from September onwards it would be out on the last Tuesday of every month. With all this jumping back and forth is it any wonder the comics checklist didn’t have a finalised date?

So Alan and Lex will have to stay completely still all the way until Tuesday 28th September 2021 and the review of Jurassic Park issue four! Will it be worth the wait?