Publisher: Image Comics
Art: Shaky Kane
Superhero comics have bogged themselves down in the dark & gritty for so long now that readers see anything with a smile on its face as suspicious and underground, which is why the ‘kids’ won’t be kicking down the caged doors of Forbidden Planet to pick up their copy of Cap’n Dinosaur by Shaky Kane (artist) and Kek-W (writer). This is a shame because that’s exactly who this full colour pop song of a comic should be appealing to.
Cap’n Dinosaur is a one shot adventure featuring the title character, a private detective with dino- centric powers and his Luna enhanced partner Honey Moon who’s powers are governed by the stages of the Moon (one of the best concepts I’ve heard in a while). The story follows this dynamic duo as they attempt to solve the mystery of a drowned man falling out of the clearest, bluest sky you could possibly imagine.
As is Kane’s style, the story is told with a minimal panel count. The opening page is a single illustration of vertigo inducing perspective followed by a Technicolor double page spread of the crime scene. The colour palette used plays an important part in highlighting the aesthetic elements of the story through out. This is a world where nothing is hidden, everything is laid out inviting you to go with it and enjoy the experience.
Kek-W’s direct and to the point dialogue combines with the art perfectly which drives the story at a blistering speed introducing characters like the nemesis Swami Midnite, providing him with a back story while alluding to a previous adventure all in the space of a single page. It’s not ponderous; it’s very light on its feet and immediate, moving quickly from one fantastic bad guy to another with Six Foot Frankenstein and his comrades being a highlight. All of which builds to a show down with master criminal Citizen Sputnik and an explosive ending.
The story dispenses with the maudlin melodrama favoured by artists and writers who still use their copies of Watchmen as a rule book on how it should be done and is all the better for it, even if a little more meat on it’s bones would have been nice.
The inspiration for Dinosaur’s rogues gallery (and the book as a whole) is hung on the hook of the mail-away ads that appeared in the comics of the Silver Age. Hypno-Disks, Miniature Polaris Submarines and of course Sea Monkeys were all once available to buy in the back pages of any comic book and all are featured here. It is this that makes the book both fun and frustrating.
A Cap’n Dinosaur comic that dealt with subverting something more ‘now’ would have been far more satisfying and perhaps more appealing to a wider audience. Comics about comics only preach to the converted while the Silver Age homage hamstrings Cap’n Dinosaur with nostalgia, the curse of modern pop culture. This book feels like it was made to be read then passed round amongst friends, not poly-bagged and collected by the type of old farts who’ll get the insider jokes.
Since I was first introduced to the work of Shaky Kane (way back) in the pages of Deadline Magazine, a recurring way of describing him has been as a psychedelic Jack Kirby (is it possible to be more psychedelic than Kirby?) or label him as Pop Art. Each seems respectfully disingenuous, with Cap’n Dinosaur and the recent ‘That’s because you’re a Robot’ the fact is Kane with his collaborators are producing what can only be described as great comics that regardless of any flaws they may have, entertain and delight in a way the faux realism of the superhero genre often fails to do.