In 2020, the Earth is shaken by upheavals and disaster. Mankind retreats underground, hiding in shelters, waiting for the end, kept alive by the mechanics working on the machines. So dependent are the survivors on the mechanics that they become a cult, a religion.
450 years later, mankind emerges to find a world that should not exist, filled with animals and plants from all ages of Earth's history. A world where dinosaurs hunt sabertooth cats and pterosaurs wheel above oceans filled with trilobites. Welcome to the Xenozoic age.
The world first appeared in Death Rattle
#8 in a short story called Xenozoic!
which introduced the characters and concepts. This was rapidly spun off into its own series under the name Xenozoic Tales
, which premiered in February, 1987 and ran through issue 14, published in October 1996. Never officially canceled, creator Mark Schultz (not the Christian singer) still insists he'll be getting issue 15 out at some point. Don't hold your breath. Issue 14 didn't show up until two years after issue 13, largely due to the lushly detailed artwork Schultz drew. It's somewhat better known under the label "Cadillacs and Dinosaurs", which was the title of the first trade and rapidly supplanted the actual title in the minds of many fans.
The series focused on Old Blood Mechanic Jack Tenrec, who seeks to protect mankind against another catastrophe by working with the environment instead of against it. He also enjoyed working on classic cars, buried in the underground chambers with humanity during the long retreat from the surface. He lives in the City In the Sea (the remains of New York, now mostly submerged), protecting people from dinosaurs and dinosaurs from people and driving his precious ancient cars (modified to run on dinosaur guano) around the nearby deserts.
Alternately working with and against Jack is Hannah Dundee, ambassador from the city of Wassoon (Washington, D.C.), who has come to the City In The Sea for hidden reasons. While Jack is the Nature Hero
, Hannah is the pragmatic type, believing in scientific explanations. Together, they struggle against poachers, corrupt politicians, and the wilderness while coming ever closer to understanding the mysteries of their world, including the sentient, reptilian Grith, who apparently knew far more than they ever let on.
The series was popular enough to have several spin-offs
, usually under the Cadillacs and Dinosaurs
label, including a Saturday morning cartoon by Nelvananote
, an RPG setting, two video games (an arcade Beat 'em Up
and a visual novel for the Sega CD
), and even comics published by other companies during the lengthy gaps between issues of the main title.
Contains examples of:
- After the End: The basic setting.
- And Man Grew Proud: Whether the Old Blood Mechanics story of what caused the end is true or not is a matter of debate.
- Animated Adaptation: It's based on a comic book, it's got dinosaurs, what better to do with it than put it on Saturday Morning?
- Artistic License - Paleontology: It has to be admitted. Not because Schultz didn't know better, but because he very consciously chose to discard it to make a better story. Schultz dinosaurs, at least in the later issues, are actually very well-researched and as accurate as he could make them.
- Barbie Doll Anatomy: Used in the dream sequences when Hannah ends up unclothed. Jack gets the Scenery Censor treatment.
- Applied Phlebotinum: The world's random mix of wildlife from all different stages of earth's history is explained by a mysterious substance found in some meteorites that "speeds up evolution".
- Art Evolution: Mark Schultz' skill at drawing improves dramatically between the first Death Rattle story and the last issue of the series. Unfortunately, there's an inverse relationship between his skill drawing and the length of time between issues.
- Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: That's the second biggest harvestman I've ever seen.
- Bare Your Midriff: Hannah a majority of the time.
- Berserk Button: Don't abuse the dinosaurs while Jack's watching.
- Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Different names have developed for the dinosaurs (slithers), which makes sense if you assume that dinosaur books weren't a priority inclusion in the underground shelters. Examples include tyrannosaurs (shivats), allosaurs/deinonychus (cutters), triceratops (macks), and pterosaurs (zekes). Inexplicably, every isolated city seems to have independently used the same names. Averted in the case of mammoths which are called mammoths.
- Cool Car: Modified to run without gasoline. Any car that has to outrun charging styracosaurs is automatically cool.
- Cool Pet: Hermes, Jack's pet "cutter" (which looked an awful lot like a Deinonychus or a Velociraptor) in the cartoon.
- Hermes is a "cutter" but what dinosaur that is varies. In the comics and the cartoon, he's portrayed as an Allosaurus; in the toy line and the video game he's a Deinonychus, probably to cash in on the Jurassic Park 'raptor's popularity.
- Dreaming of Things to Come: Well, dreaming of things that are currently happening, but which the characters are unaware of, at least.
- Dream Sequence: Used at least twice.
- Egomaniac Hunter: Lord Drumheller.
- Evil Poacher: The primary antagonists for the early part of the series, especially the Terhune family.
- Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: For obvious reasons.
- Executive Meddling: According to Schultz himself, another reason why the cartoon died early. The suits wanted it to be a Turtle-killer, and Nelvana was trying to break away from making cartoons made for older audiences at the same time, leading to problems. And then there were concerns over adding Hannah to The Merch, since the suits thought that female characters belonged in the pink aisle only.
- Fat Bastard: Gorgostamos, Scarnhorst, Hammer Terhune. I sense a Aesop about overconsumption...
- Fur Bikini: Hannah wears a fur-one-piece swimsuit at one point. It is, however, a swimsuit, not her typical clothing.
- Green Aesop: Talk to an Old Blood Mechanic, any Old Blood Mechanic.
- Hot Scientist: Hannah, arguably. She never is seen actually doing anything scientific, but she represents science as a positive force in the series.
- Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: Drumheller plays this with Jack as prey.
- I Take Offense to That Last One: Hannah is particular about how she is insulted.
- Licensed Game: Both an RPG and two video games, one of which was an arcade side scrolling Beat 'em Up by good ol' Capcom and is considered a classic in its genre. The other is a visual novel for the Sega CD is which less well remembered.
- Lost Technology: Less advanced than most lost technology, but still lost, including an atomic bomb...
- Lower Deck Episode: The backup stories not only allowed the comic to be filled-in with a faster artist, but gave some screen time to people besides the main characters (both minor and just new).
- Misplaced Wildlife and Misplaced Vegetation: Justified by the Applied Phlebotinum. As long as you don't think about it too hard.
- Mother Nature, Father Science: Hannah and Jack both invert and subvert this.
- Mysterious Protector: The Grith, to Hannah.
- Nature Hero: Jack Tenrec has some elements of this, as do most of the other Old Blood Mechanics.
- No New Fashions in the Future: And don't ask where Hannah gets pants that fit her that well.
- Not Good with People: Jack. In fact, it's his Achilles heel throughout the series.
- Orphaned Series: *sniff*
- Pulp Magazine: Not an actual pulp adventure, but clearly influenced by them.
- Ragnarok-Proofing: Miles and miles and miles of Earth have been wiped clean of any sign humanity ever existed, continents have been reshaped, and the sea level has risen. But New York's skyscrapers are still standing, despite having all the lower levels soaked.
- Raised by Wolves: Hannah finds a child who was raised by the Grith and doesn't understand other humans.
- Rule of Cool: Oh, come on, Cadillacs AND dinosaurs! In the future! After the apocalypse!
- Scenery Porn: Mark Schultz drawing style is so detailed by the end of the series it can take several minutes to absorb each panel.
- Schizo Tech: Justified in that the 20th century technology is recovered from the vaults.
- Science Is Bad: Jack's opinion. Hannah disagrees in a good way, Scarnhorst disagrees in a bad way.
- Stock Dinosaurs: Averted, many, many types of dinosaurs are used in the series, beyond the commonly known few.
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: Hannah and Jack.
- In the cartoon series, yes. In the comic, Drumheller hunts Jack because he wants Hannah, and he caught Jack and Hannah doing the nasty (this is shown on-panel). This comes several issues after a story in which they spend the night in a tent together, and the narrator of that story says in no uncertain terms that not only were they having sex then, but that it's pretty well-accepted among their friends and acquaintances that the two run off and go at it whenever the mood strikes them. The series doesn't clearly define the boundaries of the relationship, but sex is certainly not where the tension lies for those two.
- The Voiceless: The Grith do not speak, but communicate with humans using Scrabble tiles. It's also implied they have some kind of telepathy. Neither does the human child they raised.
- Weird Moon: Earth picks up an extra moon after the cataclysm.
The Cadillacs and Dinosaurs arcade game contains examples of:
- Car Fu: The third stage allows the player to get into Jack's Cadillac and mow enemies down.
- Combat Pragmatist: Like most games of the genre, the player can make use of bats and knives if dropped by the enemy. Unlike most games of the genre, guns, grenades and bazookas can be utilised as well.
- Competitive Balance:
- Degraded Boss: Lash T. and Wallace become frequently-recurring sub-bosses later in the game.
- Expy: Recurring enemy Buldge looks very similar to Blanka.
- Even Evil Has Standards: The second stage's boss, the Butcher, is considered to be a loathsome nutjob even by the other bad guys.
- Evilutionary Biologist: Dr. Fessenden has this as his M.O. He thinks that a fusion of human and dinosaur DNA is the next step in human evolution.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: In some stages, the enemies will wake up Shivats (Tyrannosaurs) to attack you. Unfortunately for them, the Shivats are just as happy to attack the bad guys as well as the good ones.
- Mad Scientist: Dr. Fessenden, the Big Bad.
- Palette Swap: As traditional in this sort of game, you see a lot of reused, color-swapped sprites for the more powerful enemies.
- Skippable Boss: During the fight with Tyrog, it's possible to kill the flying organism part after it detaches from a dead host, avoiding the second and/or third stage of the fight.
- Unexpected Gameplay Change: The third stage has you driving a car and mowing down the sort of enemies you'd normally fight mano-a-mano.
- The Virus: The third-last boss, Tyrog, is initially a small, flying organism, but when it latches onto a person it mutates them into a huge, vicious monster. Worse still, killing the mutated victim doesn't immediately kill the main Tyrog organism.
- Was Once a Man: Many of Dr. Fessenden's experiments involve this.