CADILLACS AND DINOSAURS (aka XENOZOIC TALES)Medium: Comic books
Published by: Kitchen Sink Press
Creator: Mark Schultz
First appeared: 1986
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Many toons are based on what Hollywood calls "high concept" — an expression of 25 words or less that gives you a good idea of what the series is all about. "Little boy doesn't speak in words, but only in sound effects (Gerald McBoing-Boing). "A couple of guys are so sickeningly polite, they fall all over each other and can't get a darned thing done (Alphonse & Gaston). "Man has extraordinary
powers and uses them to help people, having exciting adventures as he does" (Superman and any number of his super-heroic imitators).
In one respect, at least, Cadillacs & Dinosaurs is a good example. In fact, it's pretty much a title-tells-all situation. It's about Cadillacs and dinosaurs, and that's it. But how creator Mark Schultz got both Cadillacs and dinosaurs into the same series isn't the sort of thing that can be explained in 25 words or less.
The series takes place several hundred years in the future, after a mostly-undescribed ecological upheaval resulted in the resurgence of many formerly-extinct species, especially large and exciting ones such as dinosaurs. How did extinct species come back to life? Hard to say — but it should be noted that it's at least consistent with some pre-Darwin theories attempting to explain fossils, which hypothesized grand life cycles affecting world-wide ecology over millions of years.
Whatever. It had dinosaurs.
And Cadillacs. Handsome, strong, adventurous Jack Tenrec, adept in the ancient art of automobile mechanics, was the hero. Technology had generally been set back by the upheaval, but bits and pieces of it survived here and there, including the fleet in Jack's large garage, which leaned heavily toward Jack's own favorite model — those big ol' mid-20th century Cadillacs, which he acquired and restored with alacrity. Oil wasn't being refined anymore, but he was able to modify them to run on dinosaur guano. "You get used to the smell," he observed, which can also be said of gasoline.
Romance potential was provided by Hannah Dundee, who came to Jack's locale ostensibly on a diplomatic mission, to persuade Jack to stop chasing criminals into his neighbors' territory. She also had an educational mission, to teach farming methods. Her third mission wasn't publicly known — it was to raid the carefully preserved local library for any knowledge she could get out of it. She and Jack had a complicated relationship where they were sometimes allies and sometimes at odds. If you saw it on TV, you'd expect them to be an "item" by about the third or fourth season.
Cartoonist Schultz introduced the scenario in a 12-page comic book story titled "Xenozoic!", which appeared in the eighth issue (December, 1986) of Death Rattle, an anthology of non-series science fiction, fantasy and horror. The word "xenozoic" is constructed like the names of geological eras such as paleozoic ("old life") and mesozoic ("middle life"). Parsing it out yields "strange life". The publisher was Kitchen Sink Press, which started in underground comix, publishing the likes of Skip Williamson's Snappy Sammy Smoot and Jay Lynch's Nard 'n' Pat, but by '86 had branched out into mainstream masterpieces like The Spirit and Steve Canyon.
"Xenozoic" moved immediately into a regular series of its own. Xenozoic Tales #1 had a cover date of February, 1987. It didn't come out as often as most comic books from major publishers, because Schultz, a meticulous illustrator with a style heavily influenced by such EC Comics stars as Al Williamson (Flash Gordon) and Wallace Wood (T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents), didn't churn out the stories on a rigid monthly schedule, and he chose to do the main story in each issue. (He did, however, let some of the back-page stories be drawn by Steve Stiles, whose work also appeared in Anarchy Comics and Commies from Mars.) Still, 14 issues came out between 1987 and '96, with a 3-D edition in 1992. The blurb "Cadillacs and dinosaurs", which was eventually to replace the title, was first seen on the cover of the second issue.
The first Xenozoic trade paperback, which collected issues 1-4, plus the Death Rattle story, was published under the "Cadillacs & Dinosaurs" title. It came out in 1989 and remained in print for several years. In 1991-92, Marvel Comics' "Epic" imprint, which published creator-owned properties such as Groo the Wanderer, reprinted Xenozoic stories in a six-issue mini-series, again using the "Cadillacs & Dinosaurs" title. That was also the name of the video game, which came out in 1992.
By that time, "Cadillacs & Dinosaurs" was more-or-less the title everywhere but in the original Kitchen Sink series. So when CBS aired 13 episodes of it in 1993, naturally it was titled Cadillacs & Dinosaurs. The series was produced by Nelvana Ltd. (Eek! the Cat, Beetlejuice), which was named after one of Canada's first superheroes. Jack's voice was done by David Keeley, who isn't known for other voice work; and Hannah's by Susan Roman, who is also heard in Care Bears and Robocop.
The TV series was adapted back into comics by Topps, the bubble gum (and, consequently, card) manufacturer which also did comic books in the 1990s, adapting such properties as The Lone Ranger and Xena, Warrior Princess. In addition to some artwork by Schultz, this series contained the work of Roy Thomas (Infinity, Inc., Iron Fist), Dick Giordano (Friday Foster, Sarge Steel), Rich Buckler (Deathlock, Reagan's Raiders) and others. It lasted nine issues, February through November, 1994.