Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Dinosaurs with Laser Vision!

"Dinosaurs of Space," published in Tales of the Unexpected #54 (October 1960), convinces me of something that I've suspected for years. Comic books are not works of fiction, but rather accurate historical documents. This must be true, because this story teaches us that there's an alien planet inhabited by dinosaurs with laser vision. I don't want to live in a universe that DOESN'T have an alien planet inhabited by dinosaurs with laser vision.

The story, written by Arnold Drake and drawn by Bob Brown, is a Space Ranger story. Space Ranger was a Captain Future-esque character, a futuristic cop who--along with the lovely Myra Mason and the shape-shifting alien Cryll, protects the galaxy from various evils.

This particular evil rears its ugly head at a zoo. A new exhibition of dinosaurs is advertised and the Ranger, Myra and Cryll check it out. But the dinosaurs prove to have laser vision and, when the zoo keeper forgets to give them their daily dose of tranquilizers, they zap their way out of their cages and go on a brief rampage.  After the Ranger's freeze gun fails to stop them, Cryll turns into a Mercurian Flamebird and uses super-heat to drive them back into their cages.

The zoo keeper explains that he bought the dinosaurs from an alien, who hadn't mentioned the laser vision thing.  This makes the alien a criminal--the story never properly clarifies the exact charge, but it's probably a "don't sell dangerous animals without an instruction booklet" law. Though the zoo keeper is the one who failed to slip the dinosaurs their daily dose of downers and he doesn't seem to get in any trouble at all.

Anyway, the Ranger and his crew backtrack the alien to a particular planet, where they then discover a jungle moon on which laser-dinos exist. A run-in with a laser-pterodactyl quickly ensues.

Once the Ranger manages to land, they encounter a gang of taming the dinosaurs with a suppressor ray. A scuffle follows in which  the suppressor ray is damaged. When a T-Rex attacks, the Ranger and Cyrll have to quickly figure out that it's a combination of heat and cold that works to drive off the dinosaurs.

The 9-page story feels a little abrupt--I think it was an idea worthy of at least a 12-pager (and a better description of exactly what laws the aliens were breaking). The end result is a rushed feel and a slightly unsatisfying conclusion.

But the concept makes up for flaws in pacing. There's a planet inhabited by dinosaurs with laser vision. It's out there somewhere. I know it is. I just know it.

Next week, Lois Lane becomes a gun moll.

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