As I said in closings last weeks WATN? the subject of this weeks piece would be one that isn’t purely derived from another more popular character or characters and I think to a degree I have succeeded to an extent [I’ll get to that]. It is also one where I didn’t need to dig out much unread material to cover because as a kid I devoured these books since they were cheap and packed with the kid of over the top, fourth wall breaking humor akin to Lobo or as the kids on the street would prefer Deadpool.
You see after the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles proved a smash hit for a small print comic about anthropomorphic animals in the 80’s it started a trend and the more cynical of you out there will see a link and there are some off the back of my head Dinosaurs for Hire was first printed in black and white before later moving to color, There was four of them and the teams adventures centered around a human female but that is where the similarities end and each of those similarities is dubious.
So lets take a look at the best Dinosaur mercaneries to ever grace comics the Dinosaurs for Hire;
Week 13: Dinosaurs For Hire, Ain’t no park gonna hold these Dinosaurs
Who were they?: Debuting in 1988 Dinosaurs for Hire were a group of mercenary aliens, Yes aliens!… Presumably alien abduction, genetic seeding or divergent evolution created their race though it was never really stated in the comics nor was their planet shown it was just referenced now and again that they crash landed here. Among their ranks was Archie a T-Rex in the mold of a stereotypical action movie ‘shoot first ask questions later’ badass, The Magnum PI Hawaiian shirt wearing Triceratops called Lorenzo and a gruff eye patch wearing and bazooka toting Stegosaurus name Reese who worked black ops (indiscreetly) for Professor Tyrell a female scientist who did everything from repair the Dino’s human sexbots to getting them out of warzones. There was the initial first volume of comics which was under the Eternity label (later to become Malibu) the dinosaurs would undertake all manner of work which would see them take on the gritty action movie type bad guys like drug and gun runners or gangs to the more outlandish like samurai and vampires. During its first black and white run which it has to be said really showed off the pencil work beautifully, there was less emphasis on crossovers or parody covers and may seem a little rough compared to its later volume but was definitely a gem.
Then Enternity was changed and morphed into Malibu, which saw Dinosaurs for Hire return with volume 2. The writer and creator Tom Mason again brought the same sense of humor into the title but also had the team joined more often by a new Dinosaur of their species a Pterodactyl named Cyrano. I will admit it was the Malibu run that brought to my attention as a kid but as an adult looking back I’m more swayed toward the volume one black and white issues but not by a large margin most Malibu issues had the kind of inappropriate humor, bewbs and bums that the 90’s were oh so known for in comics. On top of this you had the kind of irreverent fourth wall breaking humor that writers strive for today. In my mind Dinosaurs for Hire was certainly a book ahead of its time. But sadly as Malibu tried to plot there comics in line with the way the market at the time was it became all about the crossovers in later issues and I am not convinced Dinosaurs for Hire work as anything other than self-contained unless more care was taken, Malibu also bought into the videogame market which led to the creation of a Dinosaurs for Hire game for the Genesis and featured a lot of the same kind of humor so if that appeals to you then hey fire up the emulator. Indeed the title was certainly one of Malibu’s standout titles until the later move towards crossovers and even at that the publisher was still in a healthy position and then things got complicated with the Dinosaurs for Hire being cancelled as Malibu put more focus on establishing a shared universe with its Ultraverse before months later being gobbled up by Marvel and the series creator and writer Tom Mason departing the company.
What have they done recently?: This is the VERY tricky part it is assumed that as part of Malibu comics before the company changed hands to Marvel that Dinosaurs For Hire would be included, assumed but never confirmed. However given that in the time since Marvel bought Malibu comics till now that the creator hasn’t taken them elsewhere it would be a safe bet to say they were included in that deal. But that deal was a toxic one adding to the hole that brought Marvel to bankruptcy since the bought out anything and everything that wasn’t nailed down in the 90’s and Malibu had pioneered digital coloring at that point as well as having a stable of characters they were building up to set them up as an Image or Valiant type of company. So with that in mind it seems as though Marvel simply bought them out to stop potential competition and to gain digital coloring technology with the characters being the last thing considered. If the rumors of the deal made have any credence then the deal was for the company but any use of characters would require 5 percent of sales to go to original creators, Hence why there was an initial lukewarm crossover with the Ultraverse line but none of other characters made it into say the X-Men or Avengers on a regular basis because a loss of 5% would be very costly.
Details of the deal remain cagey with people citing Non Disclosure Agreements for any party but Joe Quasada was quoted as far back as 2005 by Newsarama as saying “Let’s just say that I wanted to bring these characters back in a very big way, but the way that the deal was initially structured, it’s next to impossible to go back and publish these books.
There are rumors out there that it has to do with a certain percentage of sales that has to be doled out to the creative teams. While this is a logistical nightmare because of the way the initial deal was structured, it’s not the reason why we have chosen not to go near these characters, there is a bigger one, but I really don’t feel like it’s my place to make that dirty laundry public.”. A cagey response to say the least and he cites a phantom other reason, Could this simply be cold feet from the first time Marvel dipped it’s toe in that pond?
What can we expect next?: I wouldn’t hold my breath for Dinosaurs for Hire to show up in the Marvel January solicitations… that is for sure. But if the rumors are true and the lack of Malibu characters is due to the sum of five percent of sales then it seems a fairly odd stance to adopt since companies like Dynamite and IDW are shredding it with licensed titles which presumably have a similar rate of return to creators if not larger. If they only fielded interest first and there is interest as one only has to look at how Valiants characters have burst back onto shelves and are growing in fan interest or failing that approaching the creators of the most desirable Malibu titles with offers to buy outright wouldn’t hurt if the alternative is not exploiting IP’s that could be lucrative. It just seems as though more thought has been given to chasing up Marvel Man rights than cleaning up their own back garden, And as well regarded as the Moore/Gaiman run was it was only one title not a company wide line of them. But again this is all based on whispers and hearsay and even at that more mention is given to the Ultraverse line of Malibu comics than with others such as Dinosaurs for Hire. If only we could be told what exactly the problem is, who knows if a decisive public stance was made on where Marvel stands with Malibu’s characters fan support could certainly get the balls rolling.
Obviously Dinosaurs for Hire is out of print BUT are fairly prevalent on Ebay with original art, ashcan copies and regular issues going relatively cheap so there is no excuse not to get an issue or two as a taster and has a zany vibe that a lot of funnier titles today use so hasn’t aged that much, feel free to me up with your thoughts on the