The hypothesis that at least some species of dinosaur might have displayed feathers was proposed since the discovery of Archaeopteryx, but it wasn’t confirmed until sometimes in the 90s when fossils were discovered with preserved feathers. Now it is a largely accepted fact and the paleontologists are trying to figure out what were the uses of the feathers(hint: they are pretty awesome). I guess we can thank Steven Spielberg and his Jurassic Park for the prevalence and even ubiquity of featherless dinosaurs in our popular culture. And the fear that once covered up dinosaurs might somewhat like angry, bity, rawry chickens. Which might be the case, but as this XKCD* strip attests, dinosaurs can only become cooler.
In comics, as late as of 2010 we can see Bane riding a naked, scaly T-Rex-like dinosaur on the cover of Secret Six #27. But last year gave us a glimpse of a promise that this constant streak of unscientific and inaccurate portrayal of the majestic beasts could come to an end.
The first times that a I noticed a feathered dinosaur was in the Indestructible Hulk arc titled Agent of T.I.M.E.(a play on the X “Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.” trope). Waid began his run on the title with the premise that Bruce Banner would “lend” the Hulk to S.H.I.E.L.D. (the super-spy organization from the Marvel Universe) to use as a sort of living bomb if they supplied him with resources and staff to be able to achieve his intellectual potential otherwise squandered as a constant fugitive. And as Hulk runs tend to do, the starting premise was soon forgotten. Hulk beat-up some villains, helped avert an Atlantean invasion of the surface world, traveled back in time, met up with an younger Thor and fought some ice giants. The series somewhat got it’s foothold when Matteo Scalera came on board for a small arc involving Daredevil and for most of the aforementioned Agent of T.I.M.E. one where he drew knights and cowboys and, of course, feathered dinosaurs(although I like the Mukesh Singh dinosaur on the cover of Indestructible Hulk #12 a lot more. And Speaking of Mukesh Singh, he was the illustrator for Liquid Comics Dinosaurs vs Aliens comic which featured not necessarily feathered dinosaurs, but rather dinosaurs wearing feathered headsets not unlike the native americans) when the Hulk was thrown into the timestream together with a floating robot hosting Bruce Banner’s mind in order to stop the Chronarchists from ruining history. The Chronarchists being a metaphor for the writers and artists and editors of comic books in general and Hulk in particular. So, this comic might want to tell us something by pulling the Hulk in each issue through a genre and setting that is classically appealing to young boys in a story that already has a metafictional premise. Or Waid just wants to indulge his inner child.
Another happy surprise regarding reptiles with plumage came at the end of the year with The Midas Flesh, the first comic from Boom Box, the new Boom! Studios imprint aimed to make more “experimental”, creator-owned content. There is nothing experimental about The Midas Flesh, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good comic. The first issue follows two plotlines. One spun around King Midas from planet Earth, although not really our Earth and the way he ended up turning the entire planet into gold. On the other thread we meet-up with Cooper, who happens to be a dinosaur, Joey and Fatima a crew of space-faring rebels trying to find a way to defeat an evil empire about which not much is know. And it has a feathered dinosaur scientist as a character. Being done by Ryan North, Braden Lamb and Shelli Paroline, the team responsible for the always enjoyable Adventure Time comics, it is no surprise that the first issue announced the series to be a worthwhile one, but what surprised me was the fact that the team stretched themselves even more in regards to sequential storytelling, when usually and sadly, people nowadays tend to put a lot more effort into making their corporate owned comics a lot more interesting and comicy than the ones they are actually invested in, lest they pass up the chance for an adaption because their characters and vistas were to wildly designed and the appeal of the story came more from the way it was told and not from the high concept it flaunted around. The Midas Flesh does scenes that unfold on multiple planes, uses wordplay to link places and characters, panel-borders to focalise the action, they play up with the design of the page in interesting and non-ergodic ways that build up the amount of information that can be found, use colored lines to play with light without over-rendering the images. While not being a great comic it is a joy to read. Also, Ryan North is paying his dues for strip after strip portraying the dinosaurs as simply scaly in his clip-art webcomic: Dinosaur Comics.
And these are not the only titles that will put the popular culture on the right track as the newly rebooted Turok: Dinosaur Hunter by Greg Pak and Mirko Colak will also feature some dinosaurs endowed with feathers. Although not all the artists responsible for the covers got the memo. Well, we all know that the north-american comics industry lives in the early nineties.