What do you get when you combine guns, souped-up cars, dinosaurs, a muscular dude and a hot chick? You get a teenager’s fantasy called Xenozoic Tales by Mark Schultz. Who would have thought that a little black and white comic series from a small publisher would have blown up into a major franchise? Even more strange is that the original series was never even completed. This series would go on to have a cartoon show and even its own arcade game. Later the franchise was renamed to the much more friendly (and awesome) title Cadillacs and Dinosaurs.
The story is that a great cataclysm destroyed the Earth and made it uninhabitable. To survive, humans lived underground for a long period of time. When they resurfaced without information, they discovered a new and mysterious world with, you guessed it, both Cadillacs and Dinosaurs existing together. A new dark age combined with remnants of technology is the backdrop of Xenozoic Tales. The reason for the cataclysm is a mystery at first, but later is implied that humans destroyed the Earth by their own hand. In a last-ditch effort, scientists created a sort of genetic soup that would quickly rebuild life and evolution at a tremendous speed. This is why Cadillacs and Dinosaurs exist at the same time.
The two main character are Jack Tenrec and Hannah Dundee. Jack is a sort of shaman, a believer in preserving the Earth and preventing another cataclysm. He believes changing it, even by simple survival tactics like farming or building cities, would lead to another disaster. Some of this he knows from a mysterious lizard-like species called The Grith, who have mental powers but cannot physically speak any language. In a twist of irony, Jack’s hobby is restoring Cadillacs, retrieving the parts from old warehouses. He has his own garage and fellow mechanic who keeps him company.
Hannah Dundee is an ambassador from the city of Wassoon. She spends a lot of time with Jack, trying to learn as much as she can. She can read ancient languages, is an expert at fishing, and tries to keep the peace between cultures. Both Jack and Hannah are familiar with things like navigation, animal tracking, and handling guns.
The appeal of Xenozoic Tales is due to its adventure stories. Whether it’s exploring the terrain or dealing with politics, there’s a ton of stories involving dinosaurs, guns, and shenanigans. But most of all, the reader is waiting for Jack and Hannah to hook up, to see the inevitable outcome of two gorgeously drawn people spending all of their time together. Jack will sometimes be shirtless while Hannah will be wearing skin-tight pants. It’s hard not to picture the two of them consummating their relationship. After some earlier issues of them flirting, it does eventually happen. However it happens near the end of the comic’s run, indicating that perhaps there was no direction left for the story.
Mark Schultz’s artwork at times is exceptional. His earlier work evolved from a caricature style to something more like what Alex Raymond would do. His pen work is out of this world, rendering the shine of a woman’s hair as if it was crafted by an angel. The same goes for his rendering of clothing and anatomy, which becomes more apparent throughout the series of comics. Xenozoic Tales was originally black and white, which made it easy to see the fine detail of Schultz’s work. However if you are someone who insists on reading your comics in color, The publisher Epic Comics (an imprint of Marvel) had six issues colored at the expense of being able to observe its fine penmanship. It’s awesome all around, so be sure to read it.