Monday, January 30, 2012

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Yet More Dinosaurs!

Today we'll be revisiting the wonderful early '90s world of Dinosaurs! magazine (do check out my first and second posts on it if you haven't already - for background if nothing else). Once again, I have primarily opted for the quirky and/or historically interesting, and it's for the latter reason I present...a FEATHERED DROMAEOSAUR!?!

















Unsurprisingly, this (at the time) startling image appeared in the penultimate issue of the magazine (103) in 1995. Sculpted by Ulrich Zeidler and Susanne Henssen, this model was inspired by a Greg Paul illustration that outrageously depicted Velociraptor with feathers, instead of the super-cool Jurassic Park version that was obviously way cooler and better and badass and this just looks like a chicken and and *throws toys out of pram*.

Of course, this Velociraptor looks decidedly under-feathered these days, lacking the 'wings' that it should possess. Back in 1995, however, this model blew my mind. I wasn't persuaded by the idea of feathered dromaeosaurs back then (being a Jurassic Park-loving child and all), but I thought its highly realistic appearance was very cool. And I still do. It's a remarkable and prescient achievement for the time.

At the end of the article, the anonymous author commented
"If only we could go back in time! Then we could see if Velociraptor were a feathery beast like this model, or the scaly brute of Jurassic Park."
Fortunately there was no need for time travel in the end (or indeed cloning based on DNA fragments). And that's why palaeontology is awesome.

Such was the nature of Dinosaurs! magazine that, in the same issue as the wonderful Zeidler/Henssen model appeared, we were also treated to the following abomination.






















Shudder. This giant-headed freak was lucky to avoid the Terrible '90s Dromaeosaur Face-Off...

Returning to art that was ahead of its time, Dinosaurs! had to be one of the first publications anywhere to feature restorations of the strange crested theropod Cryolophosaurus. Formally described in 1994, Dinosaurs! first featured an illustration of it that very same year.

















It might only be a head, but you can't fault their rapid response to a new discovery - surely beyond the call of duty for a kids' magazine. Equally, while the crest may be a little off, the shape of the head is close to more modern restorations as opposed to the 'allosaur' look that prevailed for a while. The illustration used when the animal was profiled (in issue 101 (1995)) does depict a more allosaur-like head, but also - remarkably - correctly-orientated forelimbs, rather than the 'bunny hands' look that was still prevalent at the time. While this magazine's art might have been of a wildly varying standard, the creator of this piece - James Robins - certainly knew what he was doing. Only the scale diagram brings the strangeness on this page.























Regular readers will remember my featuring a book entitled If Dinosaurs Were Alive Today last year, which was a glorious cavalcade of Photoshop failures featuring ugly, ugly dinosaurs (and plesiosaurs, and pterosaurs). In its later issues, Dinosaurs! magazine had a pop at very similar 'what if' themes, but - in an age before photo manipulation became easy and cheap - actually hired illustrators to produce images based on their unlikely scenarios, and therefore did a much better job. In 1994.

Here, for example, is an illustration from an article looking at how nonavian dinosaurs might be domesticated and put to work if they lived with us today, in which a policeman (probably from the Met) is struggling to prevent a slavering Deinonychus from brutally murdering a 1980s-style genero-crim. Something worth noting: at the end of this article, the author admits that it's actually incredibly unlikely that a nonavian dinosaur would have sufficient brainpower to be trained like this, thereby essentially admiting that the whole thing's an excuse to print awesome illustrations of policemen restraining their pet raptors.


















Speaking of dinosaurs as pets, Dinosaurs! tried that one too. Here we see a girl playing with her 'cuddly' Compsognathus, while one of them raids the goldfish bowl.

















In its 92nd issue, Dinosaurs! posed an important question - could (nonavian) dinosaurs survive today? This resulted in the only illustration I've ever seen of a giant tyrannosaur facing off against a rhinoceros. I only wish they'd drawn it cowardly running away as described in the text.






















Previously, I mentioned that on one occasion 'Dr David Norman of Cambridge University' (for it was he) answered a rather amusing question in his 'Ask the Expert' column - namely, who the victor would be in a fight between Tyrannosaurus and Smilodon. Happily, I've found the issue in which it appeared.






















I also found the issue in which he said this:








...Well, neither did a lot of people in 1994.

And finally (until next time), here's a Tylosaurus with a good ol' sea monster fin lunging at some pterosaurs. Enjoy.


20 comments:

  1. I'm quite sure James Robins is still illustrating dinosaurs today! Unless I've mistaken him for another. The style looks remarkably like his. I will go and check...

    The restrained police raptor illustration is really quite brilliant, in spite of the lack of feathers.

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  2. I want to animate that Deinonychus dancing to a jaunty soundtrack.

    The "What If" section reminds me of Robert Mash's "How To Keep Dinosaurs," which, now that I think about it, is another good example of how not to use CGI to make fantastical scenes. The first edition (which I had growing up) was full of neat paintings and drawings for dinosaurs interacting with the modern world (and would make a good entry for this series). The new edition is mostly illustrated by ugly, unconvincing, CGI/photo blends.

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    1. I'm sad to report that my more-recent edition of _How to Keep Dinosaurs_ is indeed made up of terrible CGI eye-scorchers.

      Ah, "Dinosaurs" magazine. Just when I think you can't get any stranger, you REALLY do.

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  3. Riojasaurus and giraffes? haha. Why every comparison ends up in a clash of the titans?

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    1. I'm surprised they didn't go for a sauropod. I guess that'd be too unfair...

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  4. Ah...the noslagia...

    In the what if part, I was expecting you to post the demolishing Ankylosaurus or the Oviraptor/Citipati chasing a little dog, they were even more memorable than this Deinonychus imo.


    Despite the inacuracies and all, I gotta admit that I always loved that first Cryo picture.

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  5. I find the idea of Deinonychus being involved in law enforcement to be quite magical. As for the Compsognathus, its seems like it would sooner be eating out of a garbage can than playing with a child...unless that child was covered in gravy.

    www.itsbraintime.blogspot.com

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  6. @Marc Vincent

    This is 1 of those posts that gives me a lot to say, so sorry if I go on too long.

    "Unsurprisingly, this (at the time) startling image appeared in the penultimate issue of the magazine (103) in 1995. Sculpted by Ulrich Zeidler and Susanne Henssen, this model was inspired by a Greg Paul illustration that outrageously depicted Velociraptor with feathers, instead of the super-cool Jurassic Park version that was obviously way cooler and better and badass and this just looks like a chicken and and *throws toys out of pram*."

    That might be 1 of best Velociraptor sculptures I've ever seen, 2nd only to Rey's ( http://www.luisrey.ndtilda.co.uk/html/custom.htm ). If I didn't know better, I'd say it's a real mounted animal (as is the case w/all the best non-avian dino sculptures).

    "Something worth noting: at the end of this article, the author admits that it's actually incredibly unlikely that a nonavian dinosaur would have sufficient brainpower to be trained like this, thereby essentially admiting that the whole thing's an excuse to print awesome illustrations of policemen restraining their pet raptors."

    That was probably based on brain size. Based on brain structure (See Walsh & Milner 2011), eudromaeosaurs probably had the intelligence for pack hunting. However, what'd be even cooler is if eudromaeosaurs were used by hunters/falconers in place of hunting dogs/raptors, respectively (especially given Fowler et al. 2011).

    "Previously, I mentioned that on one occasion 'Dr David Norman of Cambridge University' (for it was he) answered a rather amusing question in his 'Ask the Expert' column - namely, who the victor would be in a fight betweenTyrannosaurus and Smilodon. Happily, I've found the issue in which it appeared."

    While I never considered Norman 1 of the greats in dino paleontology (I.e. Ostrom, Bakker, etc), I at least considered him 1 of the decent. However, the above quote is making me re-think my opinion of him. Seriously, he had the nerve to give Bakker carp for speculating in "Raptor Red" ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raptor_Red#Reception ) after answering said question the way he did? His answer's about as ridiculous as "the fight between the grizzly and T-Rex" in this book (maybe even more so, given how far we had come by 1994): http://homepage.mac.com/doubtboy/AnimalGhosts.html

    "I also found the issue in which he said this:"

    That's 1 of the reasons why Norman isn't considered 1 of the greats in dino paleontology (at least some of whom predicted non-avian feathered dinos).

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  7. @Hadiaz I completely agree about the quality of the sculpture. It's simply stunning. (Just in case you didn't get it, all the stuff about scaly raptors being cooler was sarcasm...)

    I don't think it's fair to criticise Norman based on statements about feathered nonavian dinosaurs that he made in 1994. I'm sure he's revised his opinion by now. I just thought I'd pick up on that to be mean ;)

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  8. Is Norman still publishing anything? It's like he's completely disappeared from the radar. Just curious. I know he was big on Iguanodon and kin.

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  9. @Tyrannosaur He certainly is - http://www.esc.cam.ac.uk/people/academic-staff/david-norman (List of publications linked to at the bottom of the page)

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  10. You are hereby cited for abuse of the word "vintage".

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  11. You obviously haven't seen my many other 1990s-related posts...thankfully

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  12. I'm pretty much dead, here. In Brazil those magazines, aka the covers of my childhood, only got to Chirostenotes' cover, edition 78. Do you actually own all of them down to the 104th?

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    1. Indeed I do. Issue 104 is an index for the rest.

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    2. I can't measure if the abuse/absurdity of my asking if you have scanned all of those issues tops my unsurmountable need to lay my eyes onto this newly discovered gap in my nostalgia.

      So I will just awkwardly and pussinboots-y ask: have you?

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  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  14. Chromatic Faun - No, I'm afraid I haven't! That's quite a task. In fact I have scanned very few entire pages at all - mostly just bits and pieces (as above).

    No doubt I will revisit this magazine series again, but next time I was planning to use the Michelin I-Spy Dinosaurs from the early '90s (once again stretching the definition of the word 'vintage' - although a lot of the art in there is much older).

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    1. I don't know if you share the same passion/nostalgia-blindness, but I reckon Graham Rosewarne's work quite gorgeous, and this magazine is perhaps the best display of it out there (the internet being the worst). I guess he deserves some prints on your following posts.

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  15. I agree. Graham Rosewarne was the best regular contributor to that magazine.

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