Ryan North’s Dinosaur Comics, reviewed by Justin

Enter the ferocious Tyrannosaurus Rex. A merciless beast, he surveys his territory, smashing houses and stomping helpless passersby. Soon, he is confronted by the equally vicious Utahraptor. The two engage each other with lightning speed. In the end, only the mighty T-rex remains. This happens every day in Dinosaur Comics.

It’s a comedy.

Most webcomics are hard to stuff in a nutshell, because they’re not beholden to any of the conventions print comics have established; however, Ryan North’s Dinosaur Comics (aka Dino Comics) is especially difficult. In basic terms, each Dinosaur Comic is exactly the same as the one before it in terms of art and panel design – only the dialogue is different.

One would imagine North running out of ideas for this unique (yet restrictive) concept after a few weeks, but Dinosaur Comics have been running hilariously consistent five days a week for over a year now. In fact, it’s unintentionally become a mockery of established newspaper comics like Garfield, which have fallen into a repetitive "paint-by-numbers" cycle, despite their years of potential development. Dino Comics, on the other hand, has developed its characters particularly well given the circumstances.

Dino Comics‘ cast (in order of importance) is as follows: T-Rex, Utahraptor, a pint-sized dinosaur named Dromiceiomimus, a log cabin, a car, and a woman in a cowboy hat. The house, car, and woman are more like scenery than anything else, but the background is plain white, and when you’re working with the same same panels daily, even the scenery gets a chance to shine. Nobody really knows how modern-day objects went back in time, or whether the dinos are rampaging in the modern day, but there’s an unspoken implication not to think about it too hard.

While Dino Comics has no "plot" to speak of, T-Rex is clearly the main character of the comic, with Utahraptor his main rival and foil. Around half of all Dino Comics feature T-Rex adopting some sort of bizarre, egocentric mindset to live by, with Utahraptor showing up just in time to deflate his incredulous friend (only for T-Rex to come up with another wild philosophy the next day). The other half of Dinosaur Comics takes the cast into alternate realities or implausible plotlines that never resolve before the next day’s comic. Ironically, Dino Comics‘ "universal reset" allows it to be unpredictable because North never needs to tie up loose ends – one day T-Rex obsesses over buffets, and the next he’s an aspiring porn star.

There’s not much to say about the art of Dino Comics, for reasons previously mentioned. The main characters are largely static-looking and resemble clipart (something along the lines of Max Cannon’s Red Meat or David Rees’ Get Your War On). The tiny dinosaurs have a pixelated, aliased edge to them, as does the font. While the best argument for the art is its minimalism, it nevertheless blends well within its own page, and isn’t painful to look at.

Dino Comics is well-suited online, and takes advantage of the medium in small ways. Every comic has a "second punchline" embedded into the Alt Text field, and the website has a small army of fan comics and guest strips (most of which use North’s own "Same Comic, Different Text" process — patent pending).

All that said, this is Dinosaur Comics, as "in a nutshell" as it gets: it’s really an entertaining, charmingly unpretentious comic, and worth checking out for anyone.

Check out tomorrow’s comic in particular. I hear a Tyrannosaurus Rex goes on a stomping rampage and faces off against a Utahraptor!

Justin W

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