Monday, June 26, 2017

0029: Surprisingly, It's Not About Cuba

The comic book was called "Xenozoic Tales", but it isn't too often that a small press, creator-owned comic gets optioned for a Saturday morning cartoon. On several occasions, creator Mark Schultz marketed the feature under the name "Cadillacs And Dinosaurs" because that pretty much sums up the visceral appeal of it if not the full premise. In a post-apocalyptic future, the Earth is overrun by vegetation while humans go underground to survive. When their descendents emerge centuries later, they find dinosaurs roaming around and have to rediscover forgotten technologies to survive.

The entire series was done in black-and-white, starting with a 12-page story in the Kitchen Sink anthology DEATH RATTLE #8 (12/86) which lead right into XENOZOIC TALES. After finishing 8 issues in two years, XT took the first of what would be several extended gaps in its publishing history. During that time Kitchen Sink published the first trade paperback collection, entitled "CADILLACS AND DINOSAURS", in the summer of 1989. It compiled that first story and ones from the first four issues, but in order of occurance. Remember, despite their difference in size, Marvel and DC were still relatively new at publishing their own paperbacks and hardcovers, but Kitchen Sink had been getting books into mainstream bookstores since the 1970's. Thus, the trade collection reached a larger potential audience than the comic, getting on shelves in counties that didn't even have comics specialty stores, let alone one that prominently displayed smaller publishers. And the comic wasn't sold at newsstands or convenience stores. Hence, more people came to know the feature by the name of its trade collection. Issue #9 followed the trade but #10 didn't come out until 1990, followed by the second trade, "DINOSAUR SHAMAN", collecting XT #5-8, in the fall.

Between the second trade and the resumption of the series, Marvel's Epic Comics imprint reprinted the first six issues of XENOZOIC TALES in color as a monthly series, but under the title CADILLACS AND DINOSAURS, since the Kitchen Sink series was still going on. #11 came out in 1991, #12 in 1992 and months later CADILLACS AND DINOSAURS 3-D #1 (07/92), with an ad for C&D Candy Bars! Since the 3-D comic processed one story apiece from XT#6 and 7, this meant that new issues were now coming out annually and that the next year, the biggest year of all for the feature, would be the first without a new issue. In the summer of 1993, the third trade was released, "TIME IN OVERDRIVE" at about the same time as a second edition of the first trade (with new cover art) was printed. In September the animated television series "CADILLACS AND DINOSAURS" began being broadcast on CBS Saturday mornings, lasting 13 episodes until it was replaced in the spring by "CONAN AND THE YOUNG WARRIORS", which also lasted 13 episodes. It spawned a line of Tyco Toys, including characters, dinosaurs, vehicles and playsets. Kitchen Sink even published a color comic: CADILLACS AND DINOSAURS SPECIAL TYCO TOYS EDITION in December reprinting a story apiece from XT #1 and 9. And while all of that activity was buzzing about in the fall of 1993, the album was finally completed.

In publisher TwoMorrows' "Modern Masters Vol. 15: Mark Schultz" (2008, pages 58-59), Mark Schultz tells an interviewer that he met musician Chris Christensen at a San Diego Comic Con sometime after Christensen had written the music for a vinyl picture disc of songs tied to Will Eisner's Spirit. He was also a fan of XT and the two agreed to work on a concept album as a companion to the comic. Taking their cue from the vehicle designs in the comics, they initially recorded covers of early rock standards and gradually wrote enough originals in compatible styles that the covers were eventually unnecessary. They started recording these in September, 1990 and finished in October, 1993. All the songs on the finished disc were co-written by Christensen and Schultz and in some cases with Robert Haimer ("Liturgy"), Don Wittsten ("This Land", "When You Come Back Home"), Scott Rosner ("Fracture") and one with Haimer and Bill Mumy ("Into The Vaults"). Mumy is probably best known as an actor (as Will on "Lost In Space" and Lennier on "Babylon 5") but has worked in music (with Haimer as Barnes & Barnes) and comics for years. He plays guitar on tracks 5, 10 and 12 (with Max Allan Collins on organ). Miguel Ferrer narrates the opening track, "Liturgy".

The overall effect is that of a very capable bar band; fine listening but only a few songs are all that memorable. It was made in the US by Graphitti Designs, better known for their T-shirts and high-end limited edition versions of books from other publishers. The good news for the curious is that it's now available for streaming from from nearly every outfit that streams music. It's about an hour long, with the highlights being "Liturgy", "Step On The Gas And Go", "Into The Vaults" and "Cadillacs And Dinosaurs". The CD was released in 1994 while Topps Comics was publishing a 9 issue series called CADILLACS AND DINOSAURS, presumably to ride on the success of the cartoon that had already been cancelled. The Topps series was written by Roy Thomas and featured a variety of artists but Schultz wrote only a bit of text and his art appeared only as bits and pieces reprinted within short articles. For their part, Kitchen Sink selected DEATH RATTLE #8 as one of three comics reproduced for their 25th Anniversary (the others were BIZARRE SEX #9 with the first Omaha story and Robert Crumb's 1972 THE PEOPLE'S COMICS). The year ended with a new issue #13, but #14 took another two years to come out (indicia dated October 1996, but reaching direct market stores in December). And that was it. Schultz stayed busy with other things but he hasn't been too quick to say the dinosaurs have gone extinct again. There's been a two volume compendium from Dark Horse and one volume from Flesk. Aside from collecting the Topps series, there's not much left to do with the existing material. Except listen.

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