I began reading dinosaur books in the late 1970s, and back then, we had a dinosaur called Brontosaurus: the iconic Thunder Lizard! But the beast I grew up with would be revealed, in my adulthood, to be a complete fraud. Brontosaurus was nothing more than a hoax perpetuated with the bones of the real animal: Apatosaurus.
Just like my generation needed to reconceive of dinosaurs as having feathers, lifting their tails instead of dragging them, and living as endothermic animals instead of exothermic reptiles, my generation accepted the disappearance of our beloved Brontosaurus.
But it seems we were wrong about being wrong. Recent examinations of the fossil record have shown both Brontosaurus and Apatosaurus were real animals: structurally similar, but differentiated by their skin. The Thunder Lizard has returned!
Author and artist Ted Rechlin couldn’t be happier about it. His graphic novel Jurassic puts Brontosaurus back in the spotlight. When a baby Brontosaur is separated from his mother, he gets swept up in a journey through the perilous landscape of a forgotten North America, encountering all sorts of species of dinosaurs Rechlin renders in gorgeously colored illustrations. Through the young Bronto’s eyes, readers take a tour that is both educational and exciting.
Despite a few violent dinosaur fights, Jurassic keeps the gore to a minimum, focusing instead on the drama. Rechlin doesn’t try for the existential terror of Jim Lawson’s Paleo andLoner, nor the biological brutality of Ricardo Delgado’s Age of Reptiles. But like those comics, Jurassic tells a thrilling story about animals in the natural world.
Just between you and me, the Brontosaurs may have been the main characters, but they were not the superstars of the story. That honor belongs to the incredibly awesome Allosaurus who rages through this book, a massive female fighting machine storming the countryside with a pack of smaller Allosaurs at her side. Rechlin renders her with savage, majestic beauty, and she totally steals the show.
Rechlin doesn’t get heavy-handed with his natural philosophy, but the final scene with the big female Allosaurus puts the entire story in a different light. Throughout the book, you sympathize with the baby Bronto’s separation from his mother, and you hope he will be okay. The female Allosaur and other carnivorous creatures are threats to our main character. But at the end of the day, the murderous Allosaurus is shown to be an attentive mother whose primary concern is feeding and caring for her own babies.
The interdependent struggle of all animals to survive, eat, and rear their young is a tale that echoes Jack London’s Call of the Wild and White Fang, and it’s a consistent theme in dinosaur comic books. Eat or be eaten. The triumph of Jurassic is how subtly Rechlin handles this theme and communicates it without getting excessively graphic.
Brontosaurus, Allosaurus, and many more dinos also appear in Rechlin’s coloring book Dinosaurs Live! This innovative work combines drawings of dinosaur skeletons, educational and entertaining captions like a comic book, and full-page spreads of the dinosaurs in all their fleshy and feathery glory.
Rechlin isn’t afraid to convey science in casual, conversational language that uses humor to memorable effect. You will learn from his coloring book, but you will laugh, too. Like Jay Hosler’s Clan Apis, which teaches about honeybees, Rechlin’s coloring book is strong on biology without being a stuffy textbook.
No, I can’t bring myself to color these beautiful pages. I would feel like I was defacing a black-and-white dinosaur comic book such as Epic’s Dinosaurs: An IllustratedGuide by Charles Yates, orTyrant by Steve Bissette. I might need a second copy so I can color the pages guilt-free!
Also on my wish list is Rechlin’s other full-color dinosaur graphic novel, Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Below is a list of where you can buy these books on Amazon, and with links to purchase directly from FarCountry Press, the distributor who kindly sent us review copies and images. FarCountry has many animal, nature, and history books, and other exquisitely drawn coloring books featuring flora and fauna of national parks.
Today’s gallery showcases the complete 1967 booklet “Sinclair and the Exciting World of Dinosaurs.” Another one of Sinclair‘s famous free dinosaur promos, this one’s packed with great paintings on every page.
Since 1967, paleontology has updated our vision of these magnificent creatures. In 2005, for example, we found evidence of feathers on the tail of a tyrannosaur. William Stout included this incredible update in his tyrannosaur mural at the San Diego Natural History Museum. Now we conceive of their tails not dragging heavily on the ground, but in far more alert and active poses. Still, these 1960s paintings are a lot of fun.
Thank you to reader Edward Dietrich who, in 2017, told me of an earlier printing of this booklet dated 1964, released for the Sinclair Dinoland exhibit at the New York World’s Fair, 1964-1965. He sent the following three images, which are that edition’s cover and two additional pages illustrating the exhibit.
Thank you to reader Mark Menendez who, in 2012, used the power of enlargement to find the artist’s signature in these images and identify him: Matthew Kalmenoff. The American Museum of Natural History says:
Matthew Kalmenoff (1905-1986)
“Kal,” as he was known to his fellow artists, was employed at the AMNH from the 1950s through the early 1970s. His work can be found in the Hall of North American Forests, the renovated Hall of North American Birds, and in the Small Mammal Corridor of the Hall of North American Mammals.
Reader Edward Dietrich adds that Kalmenoff also contributed color illustrations to a wonderful Golden Stamp Book book I loved when I was a kid: Animals of the Past. Thank you for reminding me off this forgotten treasure, and revealing its connection to the Sinclair booklet! Collectors and prehistoric animal enthusiasts can sometimes find this book on eBay and Amazon.
cover art by Charles McVicker
Smilodon! by Matthew Kalmenoff
Kalmenoff’s paintings from this 1970s book, along with black and white line drawings by Robert Gartland, appear to be recycled from a 1950s edition called The Golden Play Book of Animals from the Past Stamps. You can find scans of many of that edition’s interior pages and stamps at the blog Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs.
a page of Kalmenoff’s stamps from the 1950s edition
a page from the 1950s edition
Kalmenoff’s painted mosasaur stamp rocks my world. I want a wall-sized version. And how can you not love the Skull of Uinta Beast? It’s a doom metal album cover! This is a charming book even if it makes numerous outdated statements about dinosaur biology, such as depicting brontosaurs spending all their time in water. For a more current take on brontos, you’ll need Ted Rechlin’s awesome graphic novel, Jurassic.
WOW! If, after all that, you are dying to see more paleoart from Matthew Kalmenoff, you’ll dig his black-and-white drawings from the 1956 book, All About Strange Beasts from the Past (written by Roy Chapman Andrews). Yes, you can find it on Amazon. But for samples of the interior, visit DinosaurHome, where we got the following images. If you thought Kalmenoff’s “Skull of Uinta Beast” stamp was doom metal, then check these out!
No collection of pure dinosaur comics is complete without the mother of all dinosaur comics, Young Earth! Young Earth appeared in the golden age comic, Turok Son of Stone. Published first under the Dell imprint and then by Gold Key, Turok sees the light of day again in an archival reprint series by Dark Horse. We will share with you the complete original educational series of dinosaurs, prehistoric mammals, and other animals of prehistoric earth. Enjoy!
Today we share with you a complete collection of the black and white Dinosaur features from the inside covers of Turok Son of Stone, issues #1-69. That’s 15 pulse-pounding dinos in your face! Heck, we’ll even throw in a full color dimetrodon feature from one of the back covers. A must have for any serious collector of pure dinosaur comics!
Dimetrodon was not a dino but a pre-cursor, but he’s cool enough to make the grade here. Don’t believe the hype about him facing a T. Rex – dimetrodon was extinct by the Cretaceous period when T. Rex lived. We’ve learned a little more about the dinos since the 1950s!
Sweet splash panel by Romeo Tanghal for a Weird War Tales story featuring dinosaurs. You never knew dinosaurs were blue, did you? Tanghal did several splashes for the first page of Weird War Tales. All of them feature the skeletal figure of Death. They provide an introduction and framework for the story. They also set up the war comic as not being pro-war but as a critique on the violence and absurd fatality of war. Many of us remember Romeo Tanghal for his work on the Teen Titanswith Marv Wolfman and George Perez.