Age of Reptiles: Tribal Warfare is a 1993 Dark Horse comic created by storyboardist, novelist, and comic book artist Ricardo Delgado. The comic illustrates a prehistoric “gang” war between a pack of Deinonychus raptors and a family of Tyrannosaurus. Many of the animals Delgado uses are not from the same time period, however, he chose to include them for the reader’s familiarity. He has worked on such films as The Incredibles, Men In Black, Apollo 13, and Atlantis: The Lost Empire.
Coming back home from the Army, I discovered a trove of lost treasures from my childhood. One such treasure was this comic book. I was around seven or eight when my father bought me this book. The film, Jurassic Park, had kindled a deep love for dinosaurs within me and my father was trying to share his deep passion for comics with his then only son. I’m not sure if he thumbed through the book when I handed it to him to purchase. The world inside its printed folds was violent and bloody, a prehistoric era when the world was just giants and teeth.
Like so many of the comic books I picked up back then, I had chosen it because it had monsters and what are dinosaurs to a young boy, but the ultimate monsters. I had seen the proof of their existence in the atrium of the American Museum of Natural History and Spielberg had brought them to life before my very eyes. So I thought I would read a disposable comic about monsters, but wound up hoarding it for the last eighteen years.
When I found my copy, tattered and worn from the years, I reread it to see if my love for the book was born from the shifting fancies of adolescence or the deep-rooted adoration one has for material deemed formative. I can say with pride that is the latter. I had forgotten about the forewords from Ray Harryhausen(Jason and The Argonauts, Clash of the Titans) and John Landis(American Werewolf in London, The Blues Brothers), probably because I never read them. When I was a kid, I only cared about the material I loved, not the people who created it.
When I was a child, I walked away from this book with two lessons learned. The first was about the medium of comic books. I often judged what comics I wanted to read by the cover art. It didn’t matter what it was or who published it. If there was a monster or creature of some sort on the cover, I wanted to read it. This was the first time I ever walked away from a comic book thinking it was art.
The second lesson was about the different ways of story telling and how each medium could do it in different ways. There are no written words, nor thought bubbles. The story is told through the facial expressions and body language of the dinosaurs. Each dinosaur, even if shown once, is loaded with character. They all have their own goals and motivations. I was invested in the story and characters despite the lack of text. The art direction and each frame is composed much like the frame of a film. No frame, no matter how small, is wasted.
More books have come out in the series since Tribal War, though I’ve never read any of them. Tribal War for sure is worth a read. An Age of Reptiles: Omnibus is available on Amazon and a new title Age of Reptiles: Ancient Egyptians was released last year.