Cadillacs and Dinosaurs
May 27, 2009

Between the years 1987 and 1996 writer/illustrator Mark Schultz composed 14 issues of comic brilliance called Xenozoic Tales. I struggle not to sound trite when describing Mark’s visual art and storytelling. I find when rereading Xenozoic Tales, for instance, I get stuck on certain beautiful panels that leave me just shaking my head in awe. In the early 90′s Xenozoic Tales was adapted into an animated TV series. Between 1993-94 the rebranded Cadillacs and Dinosaurs cartoon ran for 13 episodes. Saturday morning cartoons mean toys and Tyco was the one to pick up the license (for better or for worse.)

In my opinion the cartoon did a reasonably good job sticking to the spirit of Xenozioc Tales in that most episodes brought home some valuable lessons regarding concern for our living world. Some episode plot points were pulled directly from the pages of the comic, ie – the issue "Foundling" directly influenced the episode "Wild Child" (written by Marv Wolfman.) Having memorized the visuals of much of Xenozoic Tales I would be tickled when the cartoon would mimic an iconic scene. For instance, Hanna Dundee writing in the boat:

 

 Or the overhead shot of Jack Tenrec confronting the governors in their meeting room:

 

Unfortunately, Cadillacs and Dinosaurs only made it one season. CBS had scheduled it in a bad slot: 11 a.m. – the time when many local affiliates would switch over to local programming. CBS also had the Winter Olympics that year and often bumped Cadillacs and Dinosaurs. But it seems the real nail in the coffin had to do with something action figure collectors understand well – the toys were not on the shelves when the show debuted.

Although a couple months late Tyco did produce a decent initial offering: 6 figures, 4 dinosaurs (although most were kit bashed from the Dino Riders line,) 3 vehicles, and a playset. I remember Mark telling me once that the best thing to come from the toy line was Jack’s Cadillac. Because the car was a representation of an actual Cadillac Tyco had to have General Motor’s approval! The rest of the toys are average fare for the early 90′s. Each figure has plenty of muscle and a standard 5 points of articulation.

 

The cartoon itself did a much better job staying true to the characters as Mark Schultz drew them in Xenozioc Tales. Mustapha’s Pittsburgh Pirates hat is replaced with a yellow doo-rag and Jack goes sleeveless to show off a tattoo. Hanna, thank goodness, retains most of her striking style.

The toys stray somewhat further. Jack is pretty close to model, but Mustapha is given a mechanical leg for Pete’s sake! The Hanna Dundee figure is the biggest disappointment in the line. Apparently, Tyco (like many other toy companies) thought female figures were a bad investment and Mark had to fight just to have Hanna included in the line. Tyco included her but you could be forgiven for not realizing it. I don’t remember Hanna having her hair pulled back once throughout the entire cartoon, but the figure has her hair in some kooky French braid. This in itself ruins the figure. Her signature white pants with black stripe are a sickly pale blue. She’s given a huge black wrist band and an overall manly demeanor. What a travesty for one of comic’s sexiest ladies. I never got the "Jungle Fighting Jack" figure because I just can’t bear to see my hero wearing a yellow wife-beater and camo pants.

 

The bad guys stray more between the comic and cartoon but this is understandable (although Mark’s design of Hammer is downright awesome.) The Terhune brothers actually don’t last very long in Xenozoic Tales. Wrench suffers a particularly memorable death and Hammer only graces one issue. Unless I’m mistaken only these two show up in the comic. The cartoon includes a third brother: Vice. Tyco produced figures of him and Hammer. One would think that their cartoon get-ups are crazy enough but Tyco goes the extra mile by adding face tattoos/scars and funky designs on their pants.

 

Not to be overlooked are their accessories. To be fair, the massive, spring-loaded "guns" are reminiscent of those used by the characters in the cartoon. Hanna can be seen with her crossbow and Jack actually did cart around a weapon that looks like the silver thing below. The villains have the best stuff, though. I guess chainsaws and wrenches are pretty common but how many figures do you have that came with a bear trap?

 

I’ve seen a second wave hinted at but know of nothing definite. So I’ll go ahead and give you what I wish had come next. If we were to get 5 more figures this would have been a cool line up:

1) Governor Toulouse
2) Wilhelmina Scharnhorst
3) Kirgo
4) Gorvernor Dahlgren
and . . .

 

5) Hobb the Grith! 

 

The influence of this small and perhaps obscure toy line is greater than meets the eye. I recall Mark telling me about a conversation he had with Todd McFarlane. Todd was interested in having action figures created based on the Spawn comic series and so consulted with Mark about his experiences with the Cadillacs and Dinosaurs toys. Seeing what happens when others are given reign with your creation Todd decided to launch McFarlane Toys and do it himself, so to speak.

 

The Cadillacs and Dinosaurs cartoon referred often to the philosophy Jack and other "old blood mechanics" adhered to called the "machinatio vitae" (machinery of life.) This is basically a respect for the fragile balance that needs to exist between Earth and its inhabitants. Package those important messages together with Dinosaurs and 50′s era cars and you’ve got a cartoon that is worth a damn. So for those who own the rights: why no DVD set yet? 

 

Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann
Action figure anthropologist, Professor Cantina Dan Neumann has been a scholastic contributor to the online community studying the complex world of parumplasticus populus {little plastic people} since the turn of this millenium. His primary focus is the visual cataloging of species exhibits through photo-journalism.
Read other articles by Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann.

 

 

 

8 Comments »

  • Jeff Cope says:

    I loved Xenozoic Tales, and enjoyed the C&D toon for what it was. I’ve got a couple of the figures lying around somewhere…but remember being pretty disappointed in them.

    But, dang, if y’all have never read the book….find it. Dark Horse did some nice editions some years back. Long out of print. Don’t know if there’s any of the series currently in print…

  • bnjmnrlyr says:

    I would so love a DVD set of the cartoon as well as a new hardback edition of the comic. Both are long overdue in my opinion.

  • fresh monkey says:

    I’m talking with Mark right now about getting the film rights,cause I think this would make a fantastic feature. If you have an in with him please put in a good word for me.

    • CantinaDan says:

      Bill, I agree it would make a sweet movie. I would hope Mark is seriously involved in the script, though. I could see the fantastic storytelling and character development getting lost in a bunch of eye-popping dino sequences! I don’t hold any sway with Mark but I will certainly bring it up when I speak with him next. Regardless, stay tuned for a follow up to this blog…

  • Lt. Clutch says:

    Mark’s art was such a refreshing throwback to the days of Alex Raymond and Hal Foster. Beautiful stuff! It’s a shame that the toy line couldn’t be revived nowadays with sculptors like Art Asylum or the Four Horsemen working their magic on it.

    • CantinaDan says:

      Totally agree.
      Jack Tenrec is often referred to as an “Old Blood Mechanic.” I think of Mark as an “Old Blood Illustrator.”

  • Hellpop says:

    Also a big fan of the comic. I never saw the cartoon, but I did have the Hannah and Jack figures for a while. I guess having terrible figures beats having no figures at all (Nexus, I’m looking at you…).

    Mark did an interview with CBR recently and reiterated that he does plan to wrap up the story at some point. I believe that he mentioned reprint plans, but I don’t remember with whom. It’s not Dark Horse; BTW, those trades that they did fetch a pretty penny on the back market, so if you find them, buy ‘em.

    Xenozoic Tales is one of those comics (the Rocketeer is another) that should really have a bigger mainstream appeal, because the quality is just so damn good. I think anyone could pick this up and be sucked right in, at least to the visuals. The scripts are pretty darn good, too.

  • Monte says:

    The animated series slipped by me, and all I knew of the toys was that someone customized an Ash figure using Jack Tenrec as a base and sent a photo of the results to Toyfare ten or so years ago; I never even knew it started as a comic.

    Having now seen some art samples, I’d love to read it. If The Rocketeer is even roughly equivalent, I might have to seek it out, too.

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