Dinosaurs Attack! is a trading card series by Topps, released in 1988, and containing 55 cards and 11 sticker cards. The card series was created as a follow-up to the successful trading card series, Mars Attacks!, and was similarly intended as an homage and a parody of 1950s B-movies.
The "story arc" of the card series is that a scientific time-travel experiment has gone horribly wrong, transporting dinosaurs of many varieties from their prehistoric world to modern times. The dinosaurs immediately wreak havoc upon mankind and chaos reigns as the scientists work to reverse the time-travel effect. In the end, the Supreme Monstrosity, patron deity of the dinosaurs (nicknamed "Dinosaur Satan" by some fans; just look at him!) intervenes, trying to stop the scientists. The lead scientist, Elias Thorne, sacrifices himself to the Supreme Monstrosity so his wife, Helen, can succeed and send the dinosaurs back to their own time, tearing the animals apart in the process.
The series is best known for its incredibly violent content and blood-spattered artwork. Scientific accuracy is, needless to say, not to be seen here. The old Dinosaurs Are Dragons and Prehistoric Monster tropes are brought out in full force and in a more extreme way than ever before. The whole series was very clearly going for Refuge in Audacity writ large.
Despite the company's hopes, Dinosaurs Attack! did not achieve commercial success. Tim Burton was planning on making a movie, but dismissed it when a slightly less obscure dinosaur movie was released. Instead he made Mars Attacks!!
Eclipse Comics intended to release a three-part miniseries based on the cards, but ended up only releasing the first issue; IDW eventually republished that issue and had four new issues made to finish the series.
Note: The images in the cards aren't necessarily Not Safe for Work, but they can get very, very gory, to the point where it's hard to believe they're from a kids' series. You will get odd looks if you view them at work.
This card series contains examples of:
- Artistic License Paleontology: Everywhere. This was probably deliberate, though, since the whole point of the cards was to be a throwback to B-movies of the 1950s, most of which were similarly inaccurate.
- Ascended to Carnivorism: All of the herbivores. Well, except Trachodon.
- And Knowing Is Half the Battle: The backs of the stickers contained "The TRUTH about" a given species of dinosaur, with accurate facts (well, accurate for the time, anyway) to contrast with its portrayal on the cards.
- That said, they still contain some information that was erroneous even for the time (namely calling Dimetrodon a dinosaur, and Trachodon was already a dubious genus by the eighties).
- Anyone Can Die: And how...
- A Wizard Did It: It's strongly implied that The Supreme Monstrosity is the one responsible for the dinosaurs' unnaturally violent behavior and for giving all of them a taste for human flesh.
- Big Bad: The Supreme Monstrosity, as he's the one who caused the attacks to begin with.
- Big Creepy-Crawlies: Manhattan has become a prehistoric swamp where giant prehistoric dragonflies shred women's scalps because they are attracted to hairspray. Also trilobites are deadly, fleshing eating monstrosities.
- Black Comedy: Oh Hell yeah.
- Blatant Lies: The card showing the Soviet army battling a giant Dimetrodon is accompanied by a newspaper article that's clearly meant to be false Soviet propaganda rather than a "truthful" account of what happened.
- Bloodier and Gorier: If you can believe it, the comics are actually even more violent than the cards!
- Chronoscope: The dinosaurs were originally brought to the present day by a malfunctioning "time-scanner" experiment.
- Comic-Book Adaptation: As stated in the heading, a three-issue miniseries was originally planned by Eclipse Comics back in 1991, but was canceled after only the first issue was published. In 2013, IDW Publishing republished the single issue of the Eclipse Comics run and made four new issues to finally finish the story.
- Deadline News: One of the cards displays the anchors who have been framing some of the action being attacked. The back of the card is "technical difficulties, please stand by."
- Death of a Child: Not even children are spared of the carnage wrought by the dinosaurs.
- Dinosaurs Are Dragons and Prehistoric Monster: Like whoa. Every species, regardless of diet and mannerisms in Real Life, has come to the present to Kill All Humans. And they are going to do this in the most horrifically violent ways imaginable. And of course, eventually the series involves what can only be described as Dinosaur Satan (see immediately below).
- Dumb Dinos: A reptilian alien describes the dinosaurs as violent, evil, and stupid beasts who lack human souls and reason. Their behavior doesn't exactly prove him wrong.
- Eats Babies: The Parasaurolophus are especially fond of this.
- Eldritch Abomination: The "Supreme Monstrosity." A satanic entity who first appears merely as a glowing pair of eyes, and later as a massive demonic dinosaur, and is implied to be the one controlling all the dinosaurs attacking present-day Earth, he is quite possibly the most horrifying character ever created for a line of children's cards.
- Fate Worse than Death: We get to see what happens when a time-traveling dinosaur suddenly occupies the same space as a modern human. Also, the eventual fate of all the dinosaurs.
- Gentle Giant Sauropod: Probably the single biggest aversion in pop culture history. All of the sauropods—as with practically every dinosaur—are flesh-eating monstrosities.
- Gorn: Lots of it
- Herbivores Are Friendly: Both played straight and subverted. On the one hand, most of the herbivores in the series are depicted as violent and aggressive. On the other hand, they're also shown as having Ascended to Carnivorism. The only one that actually is depicted as an herbivore, the Trachodon, really is friendly (or at least non-violent).
- Heroic Sacrifice: Poor Elias.
- Her Heart Will Go On: Helen, as a direct result of the above.
- Hollywood Atheist: In the comic book adaptation, Elias Thorne is said to have forsaken his belief in God after his brother Jordan died, though he gets better after his encounter with the "Supreme Monstrosity" and is even reunited with his brother when he dies.
- Hope Spot: There were a couple cards where the humans won.
- Not just a couple; in one card, the Russians managed to dispose of a Dimetrodon. In another, a group of wrestlers manage to hold their own against a dinosaur.
- Hot Scientist: Elias' wife, Helen.
- Just Before the End: Dinosaurs are attacking all over, and yet still the trains are running on time, people are going to work, and the newsroom is still reporting.
- Kill All Humans: The goal of all the dinosaurs and other creatures. Trachodon is the exception, although it still causes damage.
- Lizard Folk: A "humanoid dionsaur" calling itself a "saurian" appears in a dream to provide helpful exposition.
- Monumental Damage: Oh yeah! Between battling dinosaurs destroying the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Big Ben being pummeled by some giant lizard, pterodactyls pecking the eyes out of Mount Rushmore and a plesiosaur constricting the Statue of Liberty with its neck, it seems no monument is safe from the Prehistoric Monsters!
- Never Mess with Granny: An old lady manages to protect her home from rampaging dinosaurs by shooting them with a shotgun.
- Ptero Soarer: Pteranodons apparently really love destroying anything patriotic for some reason. For reference, they eat the president and his first lady, and then go on to nest in Mount Rushmore and feed tourists to their babies.
- Predators Are Mean: If the dinos killing people aren't herbivores who have been Ascended to Carnivorism, then they're carnivores who have been switched into Kill All Humans mode despite the fact that they wouldn't be interested in eating humans to begin with. This includes Elasmosaurus (a fish-eater), Pteranodon (also a fish-eater and possibly an occasional scavenger) and even Tyrannosaurus rex itself (humans would most likely be far too small and bony for it).
- Raptor Attack: Averted. Since these cards came out before Jurassic Park, there are no dromaeosaurs to be seen. Though what seems to be a Deinonychus is seen on the package art (aka the page image).
- Razor Wings: A Pteranodon slices off a man's head with its wing. Somehow.
- Reptiles Are Abhorrent: It's nice and subtle about it too. Once more, with feeling: Dinosaur Satan. Also, around the middle of the storyline, an alien appears in the dreams of the lead scientist and helpfully informs him that Humans Are Special and have souls while dinosaurs merely get by on being "savage," "wicked and terrifying." No, seriously.
- Seldom-Seen Species: While none of the named dinosaur species are terribly obscure, a few appear that aren't exactly primary stock, such as Polacanthus and Gorgosaurus.
- Shout-Out: One can see references to Gorgo, Reptilicus and Rhedosaurus among the depicted creatures.
- Stable Time Loop: "Elias and I hoped to learn why the dinosaurs were wiped out of existence 65 million years ago. Well, we've finally discovered what annihilated them... We did."
- Tele-Frag: One poor guy had the misfortune of being in the same spot as a manifesting tyrannosaur and as fused into its belly as it materialized.
- Temper-Ceratops: All of the dinosaurs in this series are vicious killers, and Triceratops is no exception. In its most memorable appearance, it charges into a wedding and spears the bride and groom on its horns.
- Token Good Teammate: The Trachodon seems to be portrayed as this compared to the other dinosaurs. It is correctly shown as a plant eater and, additionally, is the only dinosaur that isn't killing a human on its sticker. The one time it does cause a human to die, it's completely by accident.