Monday, June 4, 2012

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Rourke's Tyrannosaurus

This is a Rourke title I've been looking forward to covering here for a long time, and what a pipin' hot slab of coelurosaur meat it is. It's Tyrannosaurus rex, the favorite dinosaur you're too good to admit is your favorite. You feign interest in ornithopods, act like you like your theropods small and feathery, pretend that basal sauropodomorphs warrant more than a cursory glance. All the while, the itty bitty T. rex on your shoulder whispers in your ear: "You're mine, and you know it."

Rourke Tyrannosaurus

This is the seventh Rourke Publishing title we've covered in this series, so by this point, I reckon you've got the gist of what they're about. Tyrannosaurus dates to 1981, and was written by Angela Sheehan. This is the first of these posts to feature the work of George Thompson, an illustrator who suffers from the problem of sharing a name with a currently working, younger George Thompson, rendering him nigh-ungoogleable. So, on to the illustrations themselves. They're... eccentric.

For instance, our title character has a little of that stuff that drives country music superstar Trace Adkins wild.

Rourke Tyrannosaurus

When not proudly displaying that sumptuous derriere, Tyrannosaurus is searching for food, scaring every living thing in the vicinity away.

Rourke Tyrannosaurus

Except, of course for Triceratops. At this point, the two are contractually obligated to exchange blows whenever in each other's vicinity; like two aging wrestlers, they don the spandex and work up a passable substitute for the intensity of their classic battles. Don't be fooled by the wound Tyrannosaurus sports for the rest of the book: it's stage blood.

Rourke Tyrannosaurus

Poor, hungry Rexy also tries for a bit of hadrosaur flesh... only to find these early ancestors of the Water Horse instead, a pity. There's some pretty strange choices made here; yes, the Parasaurolophus are, like the menace lurking in the background, rendered in classic man-in-suit posture. Their snouts are bulbous instead of that distinctive wedge shape. But oddest of all are those creepy human-like hands. There's also the minor point of Parasaurolophus being known from strata several million years older than T. rex, but... those hands. Those horrifying hands.

Rourke Tyrannosaurus

Suddenly skinny, our hero comes across a Struthiomimus raiding a nest - also bearing a bizarre set of hands - and when it flees... the rex doesn't eat the free meal of eggs left behind. Ours is a choosy tyrant.

Rourke Tyrannosaurus

Luckily, a more suitable meal for the king arrives: the titanosaur Alamosaurus, as noted in the last Rourke post, also displaced from its time. As usual, the predator goes straight for the sauropod's neck, but this one seems a bit more freaked out by this turn of events than some previous appearances of the meme.

Rourke Tyrannosaurus

Most amazingly... he finishes the whole thing! That entire sauropod is in Rex's belly. Though the Rourke titles tend to adhere to the more reasonable, evidence-based views of the young Dinosaur Renaissance, this take on T. rex is clearly based on the old "ancient monster" mode, with a capacity for gluttony unmatched in the animal kingdom. "When he woke he might be hungry again." Really?

Rourke Tyrannosaurus

In the book's closing section, we get a nice heaping helping of obsolescence. These sections of Rourke books usually put the book's story into scientific context, based on the latest research. Thirty years on, it shows its age.

Rourke Tyrannosaurus

Tyrannosaurus as a carnosaur, not a coelurosaur! Gwangi-esque Allosaurus! Naeve Parker style skulking Megalosaurus! Best of all, the inanity of "The flying reptiles, the pterosaurs, could not really fly." Brilliant.

Previous Rourke books featured here:
Ankylosaurus (Bernard Long)
Brontosaurus (Colin Newman)
Iguanodon (Bernard Long)
Triceratops (John Francis)
Pteranodon (Doreen Edwards)
Allosaurus (Doreen Edwards)

Funny story: I scanned this book in and stitched the spreads together... because I'd missed that Terry Thielen had already added them to the Vintage Dinosaur Art Flickr group last year. C'est la vie.

10 comments:

  1. I also notice that the Tyrannosaurus roars before trying to catch the Struthiomimus.

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  2. Oh my lord, those Parasaurolophi! Those snouts! Those HANDS! I can't compare them to anything but the Freak Deer: http://adventuretime.wikia.com/wiki/File:Freakdeer.gif

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  3. Love the derriere shot of the critter; with the dragonfly so nicely placed, it makes me wonder if it's actually a dinosaur version of My Little Pony, with a magical mark on its hindquarter.

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  4. I tried very hard to find something that wasn't wrong in the Triceratops illustration (my favorite bizarre traits being Rex's heinous neck muscles and the ludicrous angles of Trike's snout and horns)...

    ... but the best thing about it is that Trike isn't tail-whipping Rex right on the neck as a bonus.

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  5. That second last pic supports my belief that sauropods were much more highly pneumaticised than we currently think, and in fact were mostly air, which explains how the T. rex was able to eat a whole one. Stay tuned for my soon-to-be self-published paper on how some sauropods had near-neutral buoyancy in air, which neatly answers Brian Ford's claim about sauropod footprints not being as deep as he thinks they should be.

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  6. "The flying reptiles, the pterosaurs, could not really fly."

    Yet in the plates they are shown flying in areas where there is nothing for them to glide from :-P

    I love the excuse for their lazy approach to adding birds: 'nobody knows anything about Cretaceous birds, so we just stick some modern birds in' (flamingoes, really?).

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  7. "For instance, our title character has a little of that stuff that drives country music superstar Trace Adkins wild."

    That reminds me of the T.rex in "The evolution and ecology of the Dinosaurs". What is it w/vintage dino art & big-bootied tyrannosaurs?

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  9. How funny we actually chose the same pages! (your scans are much better than mine). I remember this book vividly from my childhood. The wet looking skin of the dinosaurs. Their skin looks so thin and rubbery!

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