Tag Archives: dinosaurs

Zoobooks

I was talking to a friend about paleoart a couple weeks ago. We were talking about how the first thing you absorb about something is generally what establishes your head canon and makes it hard to change. I realized that a good portion of mine came from two-page spreads in Zoobooks like this one:

This one credited to Michael Woods.

If you aren’t familiar with Zoobooks (most everyone is, right?) that really is a shame because they were, for the lack of a better word: awesome.  My original set was from 1988 or 89 and looked like these:

Being so far from a public library were the heaviest influences on wildlife information outside of my grandfather’s set of encyclopedias which still had Eisnhower as president. He often complained that he never received the yearly updated issued “yearbooks” that were to come with it, but it never bothered him enough to follow up on it. The Zoobooks were so great that my mother decided that it was worth another year’s subscription. What we got was the “new” first runs. So I had basically the same issues but with different title arrangements and colors, and it looks like they’ve changed a few more times since then:

Clockwise from top left: 1994, 1996, 2000, 2005

About six years ago they came up again and I started tracking them down online. There are several series now covering species from endangered animals to animal wonders. I wanted to get some good scans of the ones I remembered so vividly–Wild Horses, Elephants, and Rhinos, to hang in our nursery.

Wild Horses spread by Michael Hallet

When I started digging through the many ebay lots I had accumulated I realized I had several years of one issue, but was still missing the Wild Horses, which is currently shipped and due in the end of the week.

Elephant families by Barbara Hoopes

Doing what any historian would do, I pulled the 90s and 2000s copies of “Elephants” to see if anything had really changed besides the covers. Artwork remains the same, some text changes and is rearranged on the page, along with the inclusion of an “activity sheet” in the post-Zoobooks-I-had years. Oddly enough as the years progressed the tone of the text seemed to change from a more matter of fact to a more “can you find… in this” sort of thing. It is also interesting as layouts change that the 2005 edition more closely resembles the 1994 text on this particular spread.

Text changes through time. Moving from the top back: 1994, 1996, 2000, 2005.

Many of these wonderful pieces were painted by San Diego Barbara Hoopes. You can learn more about her at her website Barbaraambler.com. Outside, or, rather inside the special family spread the art also captured the skeletal and musculature of the animals as they moved, fought, or ran. That was probably what I remembered first, with the full herds being a close second.

The elephant one in particular stood out for me because I haver never forgotten the tie to the cyclops story and the images that were used in my issue of Zoobooks years before I would ever read Adrienne Mayor’s The First Fossil Hunters that idea that real things could have influenced mythology and stories was there, and I guess I never really grew out of that because all the #PaleoPopCulture I spew around on twitter and the Paleo Porch facebook page is basically a modern version of that. 

I imagine that there are similar subtle changes across the issues, but the only other one I have multiple copies of are the dinosaur issues.

clockwise from top left: 1985, 1992, 1999, 2004

Not only was this particular issue set on providing a foundation for all things dinosaur the issue I had, and luckily one of the ones here, include the “new” theory about the impact event leading to the extinction of the dinosaurs. Which I suppose will be my version of the “when I was in elementary school they taught continental drift as a theory” story that my mentor prof always tells.

1985 and 2004 text versions of a theory.

The Dinosaur editions had a huge four-page pull out, with two, three-page on the backsides:

The Dinosaur issues lead into a complete separate series called “Prehistoric Life.” it was a series of 10 books with a Family Activity Book inside a hard plastic slip case.

The Family Activity Book has issues 2-9 on the cover for a nice grid. “Book One” was “Life Begins”  and spans through to “Book 10” “Mammals Part 2.”

I don’t know who Bishop was, or what they taught, but I can tell you someone absconded with their class copy of “Book Ten” because I don’t have a complete set. I have also tracked one of those down to complete that set. The activity guide is a mixed bag, that utilizes a lot of metal coat hangers. There were some pipe cleaner dinosaurs, some quasi-potatoman-mammals, and a pterosaur kite.

I will eventually do an entire post dedicated solely to the Prehistoric Zoobooks but it was the originals that had the gorgeous wild horses, extinct elephants and rhinos that really sent me to digging out the box and going back through these.

Zoobooks is still around in this .com world, now part of Ranger Rick’s National Wildlife Federation, and branched into a couple age groups (Zoobies, Zootles, and Zoobooks) and a dinosaur specific run. Available in print and e-subscriptions.

They even have a regularly updated wildlife blog easily accessed through the site. If you want to get your kids, nephews, nieces, grandkids, friends’ kids, or anyone a gift they will really enjoy, a subscription here will keep on giving all year long.

There are some things coming I will come back and add to this later from the Wild Horses and the Prehistoric Book Ten, when I try to focus solely on the Prehistoric Zoobooks for a future post, until then I will close with a sampling of the 9 books that I have in hand and just clicked off at random with my phone while going through them at the kitchen table. The art is amazing, and the setups are clever, look for the scuba diver avoiding the dunkleosteus and the woman wearing (and crashing) the hang-glider with the pterosaurs. You know, I’ll probably end up getting myself a subscription to the ZooDinos now, just to see if it expands on the Dinosaurs issue or the Prehistoric Life series.

Summer at the Museum

I was originally just going to throw some fun screen grabs from these early time machine  Phineas and Ferb episodes up on the Paleo Porch facebook page and be done. While going through the episodes for the shots though I noticed there was more to say and show about the museum than just the “back-in-time-with-dinosaurs” trope.

Backing up a bit, if you haven’t watched Phineas and Ferb before, or in a while, you should add it to your queue because it is well written , clever, and even the angular animation style is less offensive than its contemporaries.

The time machine arc here actually spans two episodes across two seasons. The first one, episode 21 “Out of Time” aired over 10 years ago now (!) has them fixing the time machine in the museum and going back in time.  The establishing shots and setup are great though:

Gags, and chronologically challenged fossils aside, the backgrounds and the animation inside this museum are great. They really capture the essence of the Natural History Museum as it exists in our collective consciousness. Who wouldn’t love to see a hall of gadgets through the ages permanent exhibit?

Once they get the time machine working and end up in the past, chaos ensues in the predictable manner, what is brilliant is the continued cuts to the modern ichnology display at the museum as it changes from alterations (altercations) in the past/it’s present.

Now, if you are into your dinosaurs you are thinking that a T-rex really gives away the geography of the show, but I am going out on a limb here and considering that this T-rex is actually called a “Tri-State rex.”

Once Phineas recognizing the track, their problems are all but solved. Taking a stick he quickly draws out a message to the others at the museum. Be thankful that there is a time travel section in the Fireside Girls Handbook. 

Isabella and the troop arrive to save the day, only the Tri-State Rex comes back too. This is a longer clip as it wraps everything up, and if you aren’t familiar with the series the talkshow/secret agent cut will be a little confusing, but just roll with it, because “Fossils. *da, duh, dahn.*”

Again, just taking a few seconds to stop in on the interior of the museum as it rolls under a chase scene, and it is a great collection, even if the fish, pteranodon, and protoceratops thing (and the coprolite?) are a threepeat run sequence.

One of the best things about this show was how well the writing meshed across its entirety. Not just within an episode but across episodes and even seasons. It was built as a coherent universe and the obvious and subtle running gags really play in to reward the viewer. The “It’s About Time” episode arcs all the way into early season two  when the time machine comes back into play plot and in “Quantum Boogaloo” we  see the museum and the Tri-State area 20 years in the future.

Something quietly reassuring that the museum of the future, which we are halfway to now is pretty much the same.

In the end, not only was this a fun museum/dinosaur/time travel episode. It was one of the best written time-travel stories written for any medium. It doesn’t complicate itself with 473 different paradoxes, it plays out well in the 22 minutes the episode was given, and ties in pretty seamlessly with itself the following year and a half later when the second episode aired.

Science Comics

They exist, and the one I am going to tell you about here is positively amazing on both counts.

IMG_6878

If you have been following along with my arc into the madness that is doctoral work you will remember me being greatly aided in sanity by getting back into comic books. Like all things I have tried to absorb everything that is going on in the world thereof and have started following many comic book artist and writers on twitter (Fun fact: many of them are super interactive on social media). They share rants and works in progress (WIP), sketches, updates, previews, and a host of other things.

Twitter is how I found out about the Science comics series. I can’t remember who retweeted some of the art from it (I tried finding it, but my twitter feed is almost as bad as my Facebook overload) and I started tracking it down.

I am trained in paleontology (Eocene, not dinosaurs specifically) and have since moved into the History of Science to study the history of field explorations centered around paleontological madness. I do this on several public fronts which means I get a lot if dinosaur stuff sent my way. I try to keep up with the news and share it through the Paleo Porch Facebook page as well.

IMG_6885

I also run a traveling museum of sorts filled with replica dinosaur claws, mammoth teeth, scale skulls, etc. so I am constantly looking for ways to share this stuff with others. This is one of the first reasons I fell in I’ve with :01 First Second’s Dinosaurs Fossils and Feathers. 

I ordered it as soon as I could, and since it is for repeated scientific research, sprang for the hardcover. When I started reading it,  it got even better. Not only was the comics explaining dinosaurs it was explaining how we came to understand earth’s distant geological past. When I got to the folklore explanations I was settled on sharing it with everyone I knew that had kids. For adult versions see Adrienne Mayor’s Fossil Legends of the First Americans and The First Fossil Hunters: Dinosaurs, Mammoths, and Myth in Greek and Roman Times

IMG_6879

Then, it got even better. For anyone with more than a passing interesting in the people that shaped what we have come to know as geology there are recognizable names: Smith, Buckland, Mantell, Owen, Cope, Marsh, etc. that form the mental Mount Rushmore of early Paleontology. Or at the very least the most famous (or infamous) accounts in the Bone Wars. They are all here, and they are all described and drawn beautifully.

IMG_6880

Following the standards was great and it was looking good enough to suggest to some close colleagues as well, I was just waiting to see if the author (MK Reed) was going to fall prey to the age old Owen complex problem. I cannot tell you how delighted I was (and am) to say that she absolutely did not. In fact Reed blasts Owen for the self-absorbed force of will that he was. If I had to pick a single panel in this entire graphic novel to sum up how accurate the history of science is it would be this one:

IMG_6881

because in reality Richard Owen was a butthead of the first order.

The writing is superb and clever and Joe Flood‘s art flows with it unimaginably well.  Dinosaurs Fossils and Feather is filled with not only science but that science’s history as well, and not just the well known history either. Of course the double page spreads of Mary Anning in the Field, of the Crystal Palace, and Roy Chapman Andrews are all prints I wish I had in my office but they include an enormous swath of paleontologist rarely discussed outside hard science circles. Seriously, how many of you know the story about the Transylvanian paleobiologist Franz Nopcsa? Really, see? There you go, he is in this book, in comic form, which hides his tragic ending, but highlights his contributions to geology.

IMG_6882

Alfred Wegener is here too! They could have chosen to talk about how he was mostly correct eventually and now we know how brilliant he was, but there is another personal favorite panel of mine included that shows why he was dismissed.

IMG_6883

Really, how could a meteorologist (scientific, not TV forecaster by the way) dare think about the continents. Incidentally there is a much anticipated (by me and more than a few other historians of earth science) book about Wegener that is out this year too called Alfred Wegner: Science, Exploration and the Theory of Continental Drift that will be as close to a complete look at Wegener as we will likely ever see.

Get this book. Get it for yourself, get it for your kids, get it for your friends’ kids. The writing is brilliant, the art is stunning, the science is excellent, and the history is fantastic (not just for graphic novel standards but for history standards). If only it were at all possible to have full biographies of each of their included players done in this same tone and style.

IMG_6884

I have highlighted only a few great things about this little book. There are many, many more. If I must be hard pressed to find something to complain about, or to point out as a shortcoming, I should choose to saw that I wish this book was a larger format so the pages and art would be larger. 

I will end with a final snapshot merely because I have portraits of E.D. Cope and O.C. Marsh hanging in my study at home which would benefit from these more stately bone crests.

FullSizeRender 3

DinoSkulls

The Indiegogo campaign has come to an end. The perks and goodies have been mailed, and the money transfer has been “initiated.” The Paypal donations have already cleared and that is what I purchased the perks, the cases, and paid for the shipping with. There was enough to put in a quick order for a few pieces before they disappeared. The Carnotaurus was discontinued with only 3 left in stock, so I wanted to act quickly. They also offer damaged skulls for a fraction (about 1/3) of the regular price. So, I ordered one of each that they offered. At most it would just be a little gluing. I will highlight the first shipment for the Paleo Porch Mini Mobile Museum:

The package as it was delivered. Well packed, I might add. 
Three boxes=3 skulls

Opening the Carnotaurus first

These are really high quality replicas. 

Scaled down for super-easy transport

They even come with very nice little stands with their names and scale size on it: 
Here is where the fun begins: How badly would these be damaged? They didn’t say:

The deinonychus was missing a few (4) teeth, as you can see, and was now a two piece. 

I learned about Duco cement at University taking my Archaeology course. This stuff is fantastic for nearly any type of medium you need to reattach and it works brilliantly on resin. 

 
The jaws, being good little levers were heavier on the end so I had to employ a bit of spacering and rubberbanding. 
The Brachiosaurus was another story. The jaw was separated from the skull, just as the deinonychus was, only it was missing many, many more teeth. Both from the lower jaw:
and the upper: 

This actually let me realize just how good these casts are. Brachiosaur teeth are notably described as “peg-like” or “pencil-like” and these are. All of them. But, they each have the flattened wedge shape on the inside. That made it only a little easier. 

Also, the don’t simply get smaller from the front back. They vary in size all along the tooth row. 
There was a lot of checking and double checking. 

Some progress:
Upper was a bit easier, or that is to say went quicker. 

I am still not 100% certain they are all in the correct “sockets” but they look pretty good

Required the same advanced techniques for holding things together . It was here I realized there is a great opportunity to market DragonSkull shoes. They would still look better than crocs
Once all the teeth were in and the jaws were rigged into place
 it was just a matter of the Duco setting up. Total time to get 
 to this point about 2 and a half hours. 

With the jaws being so heavy on the ends and needing pressure in all the right places, I was worried that the Duco might not make it. Shouldn’t have worried though, once the bands and spacers were in the right places it was just a matter of time. Now that the Duco has completely cured, the glued joints are stronger than the regular resin pieces. 

 They may have come out of the boxes completely different, a few hours of work and dry time, there isn’t that much difference in the finished products. And now you have the first three skulls in the Paleo Porch collections. These three and a few teeth and claws will be at the Pioneer library meeting this Thursday and Friday to potentially negotiate workshops at all 10 libraries in their system during summer vacation. I think it is a fitting sample of what the Paleo Porch Mini Mobile Museum will have to offer 
More to come as I work with retailers to get more bang for buck. I will update as new orders arrive and new workshops get planned, check back here for more updates!