August 23, 2016

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All-Ages or Small-Ages #21 (Dinosaur Project by Natasha Alterici)



See all of the past entries of All-Ages or Small-Ages here.

There are a wide array of all-ages comics out there from the classic Archie comics, through the  Sonic the Hedgehog and Disney, all the way to the original properties such as Lumberjanes. You might look at one of these books and think that, as an adult, it doesn’t have much to offer you. As someone who has discovered a deep fondness for titles such as this, I’ve been surprised by how rich and complex the stories can be. All-Ages or Small-Ages? is a feature that takes a look at the books that fall under this banner and attempts to analyse whether or not their assigned label is apt; is it a book that you can read along with your children?

If you’re ever trying to sell me on something, tell me that it has a strong affirmation of self as its core concept and I’m already on board. Dinosaur Project is clearly a deep-seated passion project for its sole creator, Natasha Alterici. As part of its clustering of short stories, it contains a story where she pushes back against a neighbourhood bully telling her who she should be and it unexpectedly touched me. The rest of the stories follow a similar vein, coming together to create a brief, but incredibly poignant, anthology title that continues to claw at the edges of your mind like a hungry velociraptor after you finish the final page.


Each individual story in this issue has a concept that revolves around, as the title would infer, a dinosaur interacting with either a real or fantastical world. Some are told from the perspective of kids at play, while others are inspirational and quasi-metaphorical fantasy stories that are designed to tug at your heartstrings. Even though each story doesn’t last more than a few pages, the diversity of storytelling draws you in; there’s going to be a story here for every person, regardless of creed, background and, specifically for the purpose of this column, age.

As much as I was touched by every little tail that I was introduced to, I hold a very deep affection for the story that closes the anthology: Princess in the Time of Dinosaurs. Alterici captures the sense of innocence that accompanies childhood play, bringing the imagination into reality in a way that only serves to make it all the more entertaining to read. It’s easy to project a younger version of yourself onto these children as, with the perspective that age gives you, you can see exactly what it was about make-believe that made it so appealing to you when you were younger.

Alterici’s art style varies from story to story, switching slightly as the tone of the narrative demands it, but is always unquestionably appropriate. You’re drawn into the squished-down versions of the dinosaurs in the introspective Existential Tina but pushed right back out again in The Walk to admire the detail that Alterici is able to portray in her art. In the latter example, she uses colour to magnificent effect, guiding you through each panel and each page with a reverence and sense of wonder that only the most talented creators can imbue upon a reader.


The final third of the book is made up of various sketches and doodles that Alterici has constructed throughout the years. They range from immensely detailed, fully-layered paintings to a sketch in a notepad with a biro. While not strictly a comic in the traditional sense of the word, it’s a wonderful way to wrap up the, for lack of a better word, delightful nature of the rest of the book. It demonstrates how intensely and how extensively the concept has been brewing in Alterici’s mind and how much more she still has to give.

Combining humour with heart and mixing in a little bit of inspiration for good measure, Alterici shows off her talent and her range in this book. She is able to evoke dinosaurs in a contemporary and allegorical setting and then effectively transition to a picture of a baby tyrannosaurus rex in a Batman suit; it’s a talent that I honestly wish more writers possessed. In such a short space, Alterici has both taken me on a rollercoaster of emotions while also convincing me that she’s somebody to keep an eye out for in the future. There’s so much unbridled passion and demonstrated talent that there’s no question that you’ll immediately be convinced too.

Let me know if there's a comic that you think I should be checking out. I'm always on the look-out for some more hidden All-Ages gold. Contact me at mark@thegreengorcrow.com or head over to check out the podcast that I co-host You Know What I Like...? on SoundCloud.