Of course, while it's important to take a moment to honour Dixie Doug (as his little known country-and-western alter ego* is named), we're really here for the artwork; it's Vintage Dinosaur Art, after all, not The Fantabulous 1980s World of Dougal Dixon (although that sounds like it has potential, you know). Steve Lings was on illustration duty for BaDD, although the cover looks like it might have been painted by a different artist. Bernard Robinson aficionados will note that the sauropod's body is copied from his painting of Apatosaurus (described by Darren Naish as "very rotund"), but the artist has improved upon it with a helter skelter neck and slightly amused facial expression. The children depicted in the bubble serve to represent the reader(s) for size comparison purposes inside the book, which is fortunate in that we never have to look that closely at their freakish faces again.
Dating from 1987, many of the dinosaurs in this book are quite 'modern' in appearance; this T. rex, for example, has huge (if slightly odd-looking) muscles and birdlike feet complete with tarsal scutes. The tail might be on the ground, but the posture's definitely leaning more towards the horizontal.
Other theropods fare similarly; Deinonychus, Dromiceiomimus (or is it Ornithomimus?) and Compsognathus, while conspicuously scaly (or is that warty?) by modern standards, are nevertheless depicted running at full pelt. Being tiny, the Compsognathus is being threatened with an enormous magnifying glass, presumably to reduce it to a charred husk that can be ground up and sold in buckets with a side order of fries and a Diet Coke, please. Lings' Baryonyx is low slung, but not quite a quadruped, as it was frequently depicted in the late '80s. He also manages to avoid falling into the trap of giving it a freakish hand, with one giant hook surrounded by a cluster of tiny vestigial digits, as others did back in the day.
By way of contrast with the theropods, the sauropod spread is decidedly retro, with a miserable bunch of bland-looking, tail-dragging schlubs. At least Opistho...Opisthocoeli...this one livens things up by rearing and adopting a face that's all, "Look ma! No hands!"
BaDD invents non-technical names for each key dinosaur group, the better that kids can remember them. This way, ankylosaurs become the 'welded dinosaurs' ('cos they're fused, see?), while ornithopods become the, er, 'two-footed plant-eaters'. The Iguanodon appears to take after a John Sibbick piece, but we all know what you're looking at, you dirty scoundrel. As if having a tacky gag stuck to its head wasn't enough, Tsintaosaurus just had to go and look so damn sad about it. It's like it's anticipating your reaction. Poor Tsintaosaurus; the resonating chambers are hypothetical, and there's no reason that they always have to be inflated in that way, and yet people keep on making it a literal dick head (see also: this toy).
Since I've been told off about this before, I feel obliged to point out that BaDD features a decent overview of dinosaurs' skeletal features and possible lifestyles, and - since the book is all about sleuthing - posits questions on why animals may have evolved certain features. Note the question on 'duck-bill' hands - the answer is quite revealing of how dinosaur books in the time had one foot in the pre-Dino Renaissance past:
"A duck-bill's paddle-like hands would have helped it to swim."Wouldn't it have helped to not have the hand be so narrow? Oh, whatever.
Lings is a good artist, but his approach to ceratopsians is a little odd, and may be informed by the work of John McLoughlin, who believed (as recently discussed) that the animals' frills would have been anchored to their backs by ludicrous amounts of muscle, rendering them spiny-shouldered neckless wonders. Hence the flat-headed Styracosaurus we see here, and a similar Triceratops elsewhere.
Of course, it's not all dinosaurs in BaDD - those pesky 'other' Mesozoic animals make their contractually-obliged appearances, too. The plesiosaurs are pretty good, all things considered, boasting retracted nostrils, eyes in the right sort of place (ish) and even vertical tail fins. This might also be the cheeriest Kronosaurus ever committed to paper. Why, he's even encouraging kids to have a go at making their own plesiosaur out of plasticine and string. However, the book doesn't mention that you will also require a palaeontologist on hand to give you a slap on the wrist whenever you start snaking the neck around. There's no arguing with biomechanics.
Pterosaurs pop up too, with the obligatory Burianesque Pteranodon joined by an alarmingly purple Quetzalcoatlus. We're out of Pin Headed Nightmare Monster territory by this time, but the azdharchid still looks a little strange, what with its stick-thin arms and capsule-shaped body.
There's also the fact that the Pteranodon are apparently clinging to a sheer rock face upside-down, but that's cool. Careful analysis of highly compressed JPEG photographs of Pteranodon fossils has revealed that they possessed gecko-like pads on their hands and feet. It's not mentioned in Mark Witton's book 'cos he doesn't know nothing about pterosaurs, that guy.
As is par for the course in a 1980s book, Archaeopteryx is featured alongside the pterosaurs as a 'Mesozoic flying animal', although it is nevertheless noted that birds are thought to have evolved from dinosaurs. This is a classic 'wings...but with hands!' rendition of the animal, although you've got to love that colour scheme. Wild.
It's quiz time! Yes, there is a little irony in including an '80s-tastic Spinosaurus in a lineup like this, given that a great deal of its anatomy has, indeed, been completely made up (albeit by scientists making educated guesses, rather than Ray Harryhausen - see below). The ineffectual four-fingered hands and grinning 'carnosaur' fizzog are just fantastic. It seems to be waving hello. I wouldn't be taken in.
And finally...the two imposters in the quiz. On the left we have a gliding ankylosaur with theropod hands, a concept so gloriously silly that Hasbro even made a 'genetic mutation' toy out of it (oh yes they did). On the right we have the titular creature from The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, which is a beautiful thing to crowbar into a 1980s children's dinosaur book. His characteristically cheerful expression makes me wonder if someone's made a toy out of him - preferably, a plush toy. If not, someone needs to work on it, post haste. Go on, Internet, don't let me down.
*This is a complete lie.