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 or the wrestler) 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 Cadillacs and Dinosaurs by Capcom and a visual novel The Second Cataclysm for the Sega CD), and even comics published by other companies during the lengthy gaps between issues of the main title.
In 2015, Mark Schultz released Storms At Sea, an illustrated novella which is not directly connected with Xenozoic Tales and is set in what appears to be an alternative twentieth century. But in a trope of Recursive Canon, the characters in Storms find a prediction warning of the world becoming exactly as shown in Xenozoic, including the causes of this dire future to come.
Contains examples of:
- After the End: The basic setting.
- Amazon Brigade: Big Red and her all-female biker crew in "The Wild Ones". Subverted in that the reason it's all-female is because a mystery disease wiped out the men in their population when they were still underground as opposed to them actively shunning men. Not that this keeps Big Red and her crew seeing the men they do encounter (i.e. Jack and co.) as the weaker gender and expendable breeding stock.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: That's the second biggest harvestman I've ever seen.
- Barbie Doll Anatomy: Used in the dream sequences when Hannah ends up unclothed. Jack gets the Scenery Censor treatment.
- Bare Your Midriff: Hannah a majority of the time.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: Between Jack and Hannah. Argue Like an Old Married Couple? Check. Have sex with each other in several issues? Check. Go back to old-married couple mode in the issue following—if not just the later in— the one they just had sex in? Check.
- Betty and Veronica: Very thinly implied with Jack as the Archie caught between Hannah and Gov. Dahlgren. Who is the Betty and who is the Veronica depends on which woman's point of view you take. There's also the briefly explored but much clearer love triangle between Hannah (Archie), current partner Jack (Betty) and ex-lover Lord Baclutha (Veronica).
- The Topps Comics storyline entitled "The Wild Ones" toys with this between Jack (Archie), Hannah (Betty), and Big Red (Veronica).
- 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 Tyrannosaurus (shivats), Allosaurus/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.
- Both Sides Have a Point: While Jack is correct in that over reliance on industry and technology will simply repeat the errors made that caused the Cataclysm in the first place and that generally make the Earth a toxic place to live in any case if allowed to progress unchecked, his opponents' contend that over reliance on the mechanics to the point of fanaticism and completely shunning technology designed to make human survival easier isn't necessarily a good thing, either.
- Cool Car: Modified to run without gasoline. Any car that has to outrun a charging mammoth, Brontotherium, or Styracosaurus is automatically cool.
- Cool Guns: Lovingly emphasized are the large holsters with large revolvers worn on nearly everyone's hip all the time.
- Cool Pet: Hermes, Jack's pet "cutter". 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.
- Corrupt Politician: Gorgostamos and Scharnhorst. Nock, already questionable, becomes more of one after Scharnorst is elected. Hannah forewarns Jack when he seeks Wassoon asylum that her own leaders are constantly power-playing against each other and shouldn't be trusted. Averted with Dahlgren, who sympathizes with the Old Bloods, and Toulouse, who simply wants what's best for the City and its people but is easily manipulated because of this.
- Crouching Nice Guy Hidden Jerkass: Gov. Nock starts out as a nice enough fellow, but gradually shows his opposition to Jack, Hannah's presence, and the Machinatio Vitae as the series goes on, to the point that he sycophantically sides with everything Scharnhorst says and does. Everything.
- Likewise, Gov. Gorgostamos seems sympathetic to helping Hannah reach a peaceful resolution with Jack by meeting privately with him. It's a ploy to get Gorgostamos close enough to assassinate the mechanic.
- 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 Balclutha.
- Evil Poacher: The primary antagonists for the early part of the series and in the cartoon, especially the Terhune family.
- Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: For obvious reasons.
- Fat Bastard: Gorgostamos, Scarnhorst and Hammer Terhune are prominent villains, and all morbidly obese. I sense An Aesop about overconsumption...
- Fiery Redhead: Big Red from "The Wild Ones". Notable because nearly every Caucasian woman portrayed in the series is an Aloof Darkhaired Girl, Hannah notwithstanding on the aloof part.
- 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.
- Hero's Classic Car: Jack is a mechanic who enjoys restoring classic Cadillacs (which by this point are over 400 years old) and uses a red 50s era one to get around a dinosaur infested jungle.
- Hot Scientist: Hannah is a downplayed example. She is never seen actually doing anything scientific, but she represents science as a positive force in the series.
- Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: Hannah's jealous ex-lover, Lord Baclutha, plays this with Jack as the prey.
- Hypocrite: Jack openly opposes nearly all technology, seeing it as an evil that endangers the natural balance. However, he has no problem resurrecting mid-20th century gas guzzling cars that certainly contributed to pre-Cataclysmic Earth's pollution for his own enjoyment. To be fair, he's refurbished them to run on "slither guano", as in dinosaur excrement, of all things.
- I Take Offense to That Last One!: Hannah is particular about how she is insulted. Not that reminding her about the rest of the insult is a good idea.
- 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.
- Lizard Folk: The Grith, who apparently have been living in hiding beneath Earth's surface since the Mesozoic Era.
- 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).
- Manipulative Bitch: How Scharnhorst goes from being a lowly Mole(not that kind, but a person who keeps the ancient literature and artifacts safely tucked away in underground vaults) to being one of the City's governors.
- 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.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: When attempting to speak on Mustapha's behalf during the gubernatorial election, Jack lets his temper get the better of him and launches into an angry tirade against Mustapha's less than scrupulous competitor, Scharnhorst. This ends up swaying the other three governors to elect Scharnhorst, which in turn leads to Jack being incarcerated (and forced to seek asylum in Wassoon after he's sprung) and Scharnhorst calling open season on the City's Old Blood population.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: According to Word of God, Jack and Hannah have been designed with slight inspiration from classic Hollywood stars Burt Lancaster and Barbara Stanwyck, respectively.
- 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* As of the last issue, we see Jack forced to seek asylum in Wassoon where he plots with its leaders to retake the City in the Sea by force, while the other Old Bloods organize a resistance to Scharnhorst's environmentally destructive policies.
- Prehistoric Monster: Averted. The dinosaurs and various other prehistoric animals are treated as normal animals and part of the setting.
- Pulp Magazine: Not an actual pulp adventure, but clearly influenced by them.
- Ragnarök 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.
- The Resistance: After Scharnhorst's rise to power, the Old Bloods form this to slow down her agenda of wiping them out and attempting to conquer nature, which they fear could lead to a second cataclysm.
- 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.
- Tyrannosaurus rex: The shivats.
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: Hannah and Jack.
- In the cartoon series, yes. In the comic, Baclutha 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.