Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Predicaments of "Dinosaur Comics"

Ryan North's kangaroo kicking thang.

There are interesting questions raised by Dinosaur Comics.

Longtime readers know that the real story is not about the dinosaurs. It's about this guy North, and how long he can keep it up. The drama is the author on high wire, improvising away. The absurdity of it warms up the audience, making many gags seem funnier than they are.

One challenge is that the personalities of the dinosaur actors must be fluid. T. Rex is menacing, fey or whimsical, depending on the day's scheme. For readers, this means that a memory core dump is required, removing yesterday's arrangement to make room for a new one today.

The effect is that North is telling an anti-story, in which character development and plot are impediments to the strip.

This lends a slightly sadistic, reality TV aspect to the spectacle.

We know from the New Yorker caption contests that for single panels, at least, the fall off in quality is very rapid beyond the best few. This is why the competition is not to come up with the most captions, but the funniest.

If the real drama is North's endurance, then the day he quits, the anti-story ends with an anti-climax: the answer, my friend, is 2,000, or 3,300, or 10, 243. That's how many strips could be made from this art. Twinkling in cyberspace will be a legacy of dinosaurs, still hard-pressed to reconcile their expressions and movements with their scripts, penned by a muse who stood by them until that horrible green burned a hole in his retina.