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Comic Book / Flesh

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Flesh was one of the early stories written for 2000 AD by Pat Mills, and borrowed extensively from Mills' earlier work for Action, Hookjaw — although not to the extent of a follow-up story called Shako.

The first, and most popular, arc of Flesh told the story of greedy ranchers from the far future using a time machine to travel back to the Cretaceous period, where they farm dinosaurs for their meat. Eventually, the dinosaurs overpower the time-travelers and kill them all, predominantly a malevolent female T. rex named Old One Eye.

The second arc was set during the Triassic period, and featured a similar premise in which people have once again traveled back in time to hunt prehistoric animals. This time, though, the animals in question are fish and marine reptiles. This arc also brings back a character from the first one, in the form of human villain Claw Carver, as well as introducing a new prehistoric threat— the giant nothosaur Big Hungry.


Other stories in the series have been published more recently, most of them focusing on the same Cretaceous setting as the original arc.

Tropes Include:

  • An Arm and a Leg: Claw Carver previously lost a hand in a fight with a Deinonychus. He replaces it with the dinosaur's claw.
  • Anachronism Stew: In the earlier issues, the dinosaurs come from various time periods and very few of them are actually from the end of the Cretaceous, when the series is supposedly set.
  • Animals Not to Scale: Big Hungry, the villain of Book 2, is downright humongous for a Nothosaurus. He's stated to weigh 50 tons! Even the largest real life nothosaurs would have barely reached one ton.
  • Anti-Villain: Both Old One-Eye and Big Hungry qualify. While they serve as antagonists to the human characters, they both have relatable backstories that make them more than just bloodthirsty monsters— Old One-Eye wants revenge against the humans who destroyed her food supply, while Big Hungry likewise wishes to kill the person who killed his babies.
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  • Artistic License Palaeontology: Leaving aside instances of the work becoming outdated, there are a lot of things the comic gets just plain wrong. For example, none of the dinosaurs depicted in it lived in England. And out of them, only Tyrannosaurus, Triceratops, and Alamosaurus were actually present at the very end of the Cretaceous. Most of them are actually North American, but the African Ouranosaurus is inexplicably thrown in too. Additionally, pterosaurs and marine reptiles are regularly referred to as dinosaurs.
  • Casual Time Travel: Played with. Time travel is heavily regulated; Certain periods of history, such at the 20th century, are off limits to time travellers. This doesn't stop rogue Trans-Time employees from running illegal safaris back to the Cretaceous era for extra profit.
  • Cattle Punk: The series practically oozes this.
  • Double-Meaning Title: "Flesh" can refer both to what dinosaurs are hunted for, and to what the human characters inevitably become thanks to said dinosaurs.
  • Downer Ending: Book 2 doesn't end well for anybody (except, perhaps, Big Hungry). Peters ends up drowning trying to return Atlantis Station to the 23rd century, Claw Carver gets eaten by Big Hungry, the rest of the crew end up eaten by Nothosaurs or drowning when the station goes down. JM Grose survives, but is stranded on a tiny lifeboat 200 million years from home. Peters' attempt to bring the station back doesn't even count as a Heroic Sacrifice, as all he succeeds in doing is dumping Atlantis station into the ocean in some random time period drowning any potential survivors, where it becomes the legend of Atlantis and diverting Big Hungry to Loch Ness.
  • Dumb Dinos: The dinosaurs are portrayed as instinct-driven and unintelligent, but are incredibly violent in the case of the predators and still dangerous.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Claw Carvers backstory in the Hand of Glory arc reveals his first murder was a Serial Killer who had tortured and maimed his mother. The female protagonist of the Texas arc is his daughter, whom he adored whenever he was home with her.
  • Expy: The Chronocide arc features a Tylosaurus nicknamed "Bloody Mary", characterized by a harpoon embedded in her jaw, making her essentially a prehistoric version of the titular shark in Hookjaw.
  • Eye Scream: Old One Eye wants to kill the dinosaur hunters in part because one of them, Anti-Hero protagonist Earl Reagen, gouged out one of her eyes, hence the moniker.
  • Feathered Fiend: Book 1 had "furry tyrannosaurs" living to the north of the Trans-Time base, possibly the first feathered dinosaurs of any kind to appear in popular fiction. The more recent issues have added feathered dromaeosaurs as well.
  • Food Pills: People in the 23rd century live on these. Trans-Time's operations subvert this trope by hunting dinosaurs to bring people actual meat and fish to eat.
  • Future Copter: In the newer issues, TransTime operates these.
  • Gaia's Vengeance: Several characters in Book 1 remark that the mass dinosaur attack on the Trans-Time base could be considered this. The villain of the Chronocide arc considers himself to be this.
  • Genre Shift: While there is a Western motif in the original strip and the modern stories, Book 2 was set on a giant sea platform where Trans-Time runs its fisheries operations, giving the strip a Moby-Dick feel.
  • Giant Spider: A colony of huge spiders lives underneath the Trans-Time base, and like everything else in the comic, they find humans delicious.
  • Gorn: Definitely lived up to the Action! standard for graphic violence.
  • Green Aesop: It's hard to believe, but it's there. The comic was written specifically as a satire of modern-day depletion of Earth's resources. See Humans Are the Real Monsters for more.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: Inverted with the female rancher Stand Alone Sally, well-known for detesting men.
  • Humanlike Animal Aging: Old One Eye is 120 years old, but real tyrannosaurs rarely lived for more than 30 years.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Arguably the point of the comic. The dinosaurs are pretty nasty in their own right, especially Old One-Eye, but the author never misses an opportunity to remind us of how greedy and selfish the humans are. The collected edition even includes a fake advertisement for Trans-Time dinosaur meat, which ends with author commenting that "the biggest monster of all is the one sitting at the table!"
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: How "Nailbomb", a minor character in the Texas arc, dies, courtesy of a Quetzalcoatlus.
  • Informed Species: A forgivable case, given when the comic was written, but still worth mentioning that the Deinonychus and Spinosaurus in Book 1 bear no resemblance whatsoever to the real animals. Big Hungry the Nothosaurus in book 2 also counts— ironically, with his crocodile-like snout, tailfin, and massive claws, he looks more like a real spinosaur!
  • Kaiju: Big Hungry probably qualifies—he's big enough to bite a submarine in half!
  • King of the Dinosaurs: Old One-Eye is regularly shown to be the undisputed ruler of her prehistoric domain, and even the other tyrannosaurs are afraid of her.
  • Legacy Character: Old One Eye's would-be usurper son whom she killed and ate would be reincarnated via a cloning process, going on to terrorise the Cursed Earth in the Judge Dredd arc of the same name as Satanus. After that, he'd go on to be a pet to the son of Nemesis the Warlock.
  • Lightning Lash: Several characters use a weapon called "electric-whip".
  • Make Wrong What Once Went Right: The villain of the Chronocide arc wants to use a disease to wipe out humanity before it can become a threat to the planet.
  • Mammoths Mean Ice Age: Downplayed. During the Chronocide arc, mammoths are mentioned but never shown.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: It would be a lot easier to name the species that aren't misplaced in the early volumes. The TransTime Base in Book 1 is located in England, but none of the dinosaurs shown are from there.
  • Named After the Injury: Old One-Eye is a female T. rex named after her missing eye, which the human protagonist gouged out.
  • Never Mess with Granny: Old One Eye, who is over 120 years old and still the main human-munching machine during the course of the series. Even when she was 80, she was still vicious and powerful enough to kill and devour one of her own sons who thought to challenge her for dominance.
  • New Old West: Straddles the line between this and Space Western, seeing as how the 'verse has an old west theme to dealing with dinosaurs.
  • Nature Is Not Nice: An important theme of the series, as it was in Hookjaw and would go on to be in Shako.
  • North Is Cold, South Is Hot: There are furry tyrannosaurs living to the north of the Trans-Time base, while Spinosaurs come from "the deserts of the south".
  • Panthera Awesome: The Chronocide arc adds saber-toothed cats to the mix of prehistoric animals featured in the comic.
  • Phlebotinum Killed the Dinosaurs: They were hunted to extinction.
  • Prehistoric Monster: This is the default way the dinosaurs are depicted.
  • Ptero Soarer: The pterosaurs seen in Book 1 and Book 2 are among the least accurate in all fiction— leathery bat wings, long tails, crests, teeth, and able to carry people off in their claws. Later issues have pterosaurs that are more in keeping with modern knowledge.
  • Raptor Attack: A rare pre-Jurassic Park example, featuring Deinonychus as the token dromaeosaur. Claw Carver once got in a fight with one and replaced his hand with its claw.
  • Scary Scorpions: The giant underwater scorpions from Book 2. They're considered The Dreaded not only by the Trans-Time workers, but also by every other creature in the sea, including Big Hungry.
  • Seldom-Seen Species: At the time Book 1 was originally released, the Deinonychus would have been this, since it would be more than a decade before raptors truly became Stock Dinosaurs. Alamosaurus, Deinocheirus, and Ouranosaurus also appear in Book 1. Book 2 contains more, such as Askeptosaurus, Tanystropheus, Mixosaurus, and Nothosaurus. Notably, none of the animals in Book 2 are technically dinosaurs.
  • Sinister Minister: Preacher Sunday, a crazy preacher who constantly rants about how the Cretaceous is actually hell and, oh yes, is actually a serial killer who murders the girlfriend of one of the protagonists.
  • Space Whale Aesop: Of the "don't destroy nature, or nature will destroy you" variety. This is most evident in the first and second arcs, where Old One-Eye and Big Hungry deliver karmic death to the greedy humans.
  • Spoiled Brat: One of the guests on the Trans-Time Dino-Express is a bratty kid who clearly doesn't appreciate his parents taking him on a vacation millions of years in the past. He ends up as dinosaur food.
  • Stable Time Loop: Humans hunt/eat large modern-day animals out of existence, thereby necessitating the need to invent time-travel and do the same to the dinosaurs living in the Late Cretaceous, reducing their numbers beyond what is ecologically sustainable and paving the way for mammals to take over, leading to the evolution of humans who go on to hunt/eat large modern-day animals out of existence, thereby necessitating.....
  • Stock Dinosaurs: Book 1 has Tyrannosaurus, Deinonychus, Styracosaurus, Triceratops, Parasaurolophus, and Spinosaurus. Although, at the time, both Deinonychus and Spinosaurus were actually Seldom-Seen Species. The Chronocide arc adds the mosasaur Tylosaurus and saber-toothed cats.
  • Stock Unsolved Mysteries: The extinction of the dinosaurs, the lost city of Atlantis, and the Loch Ness Monster are all caused by Trans-Time mucking about in the timeline.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Surprisingly averted for Big Hungry, who initially seems like an aquatic answer to Old One-Eye, but who quickly diverges into a very different character.
  • Your Size May Vary: Present in most of the dinosaurs, but especially egregious with Big Hungry, who may appear anywhere from the size of an orca to the size of Godzilla.