In Jurassic League, a book that’s so out-there brilliant in its concept, it’s surprising it’s taken this long to get it, we’re presented with a vision of the world’s greatest heroes and villains reinterpreted as dinosaurs, living and fighting together in larger-than-life scenarios.
You’re going to want to read Jurassic League. Seriously, if you haven’t picked it up, I don’t think we can be friends. But all that said, if you want to spot a dinosaur on Earth-0, you really don’t need to travel across the multiverse. Unlike our own Earth, dinosaurs are alive and well in the world of Gotham and Metropolis…as long as you know where to look. Consider this a field guide to the best places to have a dinosaur encounter in the DC Universe.
Somewhere in the South Pacific is an island where the age of the dinosaurs never ended. There are a number of theories on why this is. Some believe it to be a place in a constant state of temporal flux. Some say it’s a gateway to the realm of Skartaris on the Earth’s surface. Either way, Dinosaur Island is most storied as the backdrop of The War That Time Forgot, an incident where military forces on both sides of World War II found themselves stranded on the island. There, axis and allied soldiers were forced to contend not just with each other, but the native dinosaur population.
Batman, Superman, Hawkman, the Birds of Prey, and many other heroes have also had adventures which have taken them to Dinosaur Island over the years. Notably, one very early appearance of Dinosaur Island in 1946’s Batman #35 depicted it as an amusement park of animatronic dinosaurs—one of which Batman would keep as a centerpiece of his Batcave to this very day. (However, whether that amusement park was the same Dinosaur Island, or an entirely different island inspired by the live dinosaur-inhabited original, is a matter of speculation.)
The realm of Skartaris, a fantasy setting of swords, sorcery and living dinosaurs, is where former US Air Force pilot Travis Morgan calls his home—now known better in his new life as Warlord. Like the subterranean landscape of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, Skartaris was once believed to exist at the planet’s core. More modern stories (a Batman Odyssey or two notwithstanding) reinterpret this “hollow Earth” society as a separate plane of existence from Earth entirely, but one accessible through certain passageways beneath the Earth. Believed to have been colonized by early Atlanteans, Skartaris appears to be an enormous valley where the sun never sets, and high adventure is always the order of the day.
As readers of the current adventures of Wonder Woman are well aware, the Amazons were not the first residents of Paradise Island. In addition to mysterious ancient societies still being uncovered, Themyscira was home to beasts prehistoric as well as mythological, from pterodactyls to megalodons. A young Diana grew up alongside these ancient animals, befriending and challenging them as part of her rites to maturity. In Phil Jimenez’s work on Wonder Woman in the 2000s, it’s suggested that these dinosaurs are refugees from Skartaris itself, emigrated through one of several passageways between that realm and our own.
The ancient aquatic beasts we find in fossil records, it turns out, never went away. They’re just lurking in depths yet undiscovered by man. The people of Atlantis know these plesiosaurs well and have lived among them for thousands of years. Considering what we now know about the origins of Skartaris, it wouldn’t be a stretch to theorize that this connection between Atlantean society and dinosaurs may have something to do with their presence on Skartaris.
About a hundred miles east of the Tunguska River in Russia, and a mile below the surface, the Justice League of America once found themselves in a place called the Valley of the Monsters—a place of giant carnivores known and unknown to pre-history, and home Makson, a Tarzan-like plane crash survivor who grew up among the dinosaurs. Whether or not this underground dinosaur preserve is connected to Skartaris as well remains a matter for speculation.
A question mark-shaped archipelago home to at least one gigantic T-Rex, Superboy and Wonder Girl once found themselves forced to settle their differences on Mystery Island while searching for their missing teammates. As they discover, the island is connected through an underground passage to Dinosaur Island, on the opposite side of the world.
On a flight to Mexico City in Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane #9, Clark and Lois’s plane is attacked by a pterodactyl which grounds them in a prehistoric valley where dinosaurs and cavemen live alongside each other like something out of The Flintstones. While there, one of the native prehistoric men of the valley tries to marry Lois, as that was the sort of thing that happened in comics at the time. Our heroes make their escape when Clark impresses Lois’s suitor with a lighter he happened to be carrying in his pocket. (Which raises an even more troubling question than men and dinosaurs living together… Does Superman smoke?)
The Dinosaur Zoo
In one of the many adventures of the Silver Age Task Force X, the original Suicide Squad encounters the wreckage of a perfectly preserved prehistoric biome “in a desolate area, ringed by high mountains.” Although apparently abandoned for many years, the evidence appears that some alien culture attempted to preserve the dinosaurs before their own demise.
Where one alien culture failed, another succeeded. In The Wanderers #12, we learn of a dinosaur preserve on the remote planet of W-23 which survives all the way to the 30th century. Unfortunately, by then, the lingering effects of radiation have caused the genetic diversity to fail among the preserved species. In response, the United Planets contacts Aviax, a member of the Wanderers who can transform into any bird, to…well, help propagate the endangered species. We wish we could say it’s not what it sounds like, but it’s exactly what it sounds like.
So, what have we learned, dino-fans? It’s that if you live in the DC Universe, dinosaurs can be found on just about every continent. But if you don’t, then the easiest place to find DC dinosaurs today is at your local comic store. Make sure to pick up Jurassic League now, before copies of the first issue go extinct!
The Jurassic League #1 by Daniel Warren Johnson and Juan Gedeon is now available in print and as a digital comic book.
Alex Jaffe is the author of our monthly "Ask the Question" column and writes about TV, movies, comics and superhero history for DCComics.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexJaffe and find him in the DC Community as HubCityQuestion.