First Look at the New ‘Dinosaur Comics’ Book by Ryan North [Exclusive]
Dinosaur Comics — a webcomic featuring three dinosaurs, a house, a car, and a really tiny person — is one of our favorite webcomics, despite the fact that the art never changes. (Or perhaps… because of it?) And there are few things we know about its creator, Ryan North: He is very tall, he is Canadian, he has a penchant for rad t-shirts and he is about to put out his newest collection, Dinosaur Comics: Dudes Already Know About Chickens, on sale now at Topatoco. The book features an intro by Randall Munroe of xkcd, no less than three different indices, and a title referencing Ryan’s ingenious solution for Wikipedia vandalism. With the book soon to launch, we’ve got an interview with the man and exclusive images from his totally sweet book for your viewing enjoyment today.
ComicsAlliance: Does the new book pick up where The Best of Dinosaur Comics: 2003-2005 A.D: Your Whole Family Is Made Out of Meat left off?
Ryan North: Yep! That book was in black and white and only had selected comics from those years. This book is in GLORIOUS COLOUR and features every comic from 2006!
CA: What will it offer for your regular readers to enjoy, aside from the tactile pleasure of a printed volume?
RN: WELL. There’s all the comics, plus all three hidden texts that are on the website (the first book only had the title text). Archive text is above each comic in a colored band, which does double-duty in making individual comics easy to find (“I know it was a yellow one…” limits it down a lot more than “I know it had T-Rex in it…”). Email text is included as an index in the back (“Index Alpha: Suggested Email Subject Lines”), where it stands along side Index Beta (“Context-Free Punchlines”) and Index Omega (“An Actual Index For You To Use”) that’s a funny yet also useful index I wrote that’s unique to the volume. So for example if you’re looking for accidents, breasts (reference to) or chickens (dudes already knowing about) then you can use that index. It was actually a lot of fun to write and I’m particularly proud of the makeouts section, where I broke down makeouts into 11 different kinds, with comic references for each. Oh yes.I’d never written an index before, and it turns out it involves reading every comic and making notes of what’s referenced, and then building up an index from that. And when you add a new category, you have to go back and make sure you haven’t missed anything! It took a few days and by the end I had the complete contents of every comic in the book memorized and felt like I’d leveled up into some sort of walking superbrain, so it’s going to make me really sad when someone finds something unindex in the book.
Oh, there’s also an interview with me that was done at the same time the comics were made, with photos by Posterchild, Emily Horne and a free picture of Michael Dorn that I got off Wikipedia! INTRIGUED??
CA: I don’t know if you’ve ever read Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, but at one point a character is able to divine a great deal about about the personal life of an author by psychoanalyzing the way he constructed his book’s index and the themes he chose to highlight. What deeply hidden secrets will we learn about you from your indices?
RN: Hah! Oh man, well, there’s the already-discussed focus on makeouts which I guess is pretty revealing. I am going to say that says all you need to know about me. I may regret that statement. I took special care to include a “LIBRARIES and LIBRARIANS, you guys!” entry in the index, which I hope won’t be empty in future volumes. Librarians are awesome; I don’t care WHO knows it.
CA: Do you have any particular favorites that stand out from 2006 as you look back?
RN: It’s funny, because now that it’s been almost five years since I wrote these comics, I can look back and they surprise me: I’ve forgotten some of the phrases I used, some of the punchlines. So that’s nice, getting to laugh at my own jokes like that. And by “nice” I mean “pretty egotistical, I guess”!
I really like this one, because I remember I got a compliment from someone saying that it was their favourite Dinosaur Comic ever, and that sort of thing stays with you. And I was really happy with the comic about Wikipedia, the one my book took its title from: I got a message from the real Jimbo Wales about that one (he enjoyed it)! You can read that comic for free here.
You can actually read ALL the comics in the book for free here.
I give away the comics for free and then sell them in a book not for free on account of how I am THE WORLD’S TOUGHEST BUSINESSMAN.
CA: While the images in Dinosaur Comics obviously remain static, what kind of growth do you see in your work when you look back at your content from four years ago?
RN: Oh, there’s plenty of places where present Ryan would take Past Ryan aside and say “Oh, you should write this differently, this could be phrased better; stick with me kid and you’ll go far” but there’s also places where I’m surprised — and this is going to sound egotistical — but there’s places where I’m surprised at how good something is.
And that’s a great feeling, to look at something pretty sweet and say “That’s mine. I made that.” But at least for me, that “wow, I sure was pretty great!” sensation is always balanced out by an equal measure of “Wow, how come I don’t write like that anymore?” thereby allowing my emotional state to remain PERFECTLY UNMOVED.
CA: Each page in the book is going to line up with URL keys on the website. What exactly does that mean?
RN: The big idea here is that page numbers are basically arbitrary, but still pretty useful! So instead of starting on page “1”, the comics start on page “691”, which corresponds to http://www.qwantz.com/index.php?comic=691. So the URL that you use to reach a comic online maps directly to the page number in the printed volumes, and vice versa. It also means that you’ll be able to tear the covers off of future books and tape the remaining pages all together to form a mammoth ultrabook without needing to worry about page renumbering, which is always a plus in these situations.
CA: Anything else new and cool we should be on the lookout for in the future from Dinosaur Comics?
RN: There’s a whiteboard coming out very soon which I’m really excited about. It’s the one piece of merchandise I’ve wanted to make for literally years, but we could never find anyone who made non-crappy whiteboards. But this one is super sweet: it’s mounted on wood and as big as a placemat with the Dinosaur Comics pictures, no words, and ships with a custom whiteboard marker that I made too. I’ve already used my prototype to write comics on and it feels AMAZING. But it can also be stuck up on your fridge so T-Rex can remind your roommates that it’s their friggin’ turn to buy milk!
I actually think that’s a pretty in-character thing for T-Rex to do.