Every Monday here at iFanboy, we look at comics’ greatest characters and stories and try to imagine what they’d be like in film or television. From the story concept to the people in charge and all the way down to who’d play who, we do it and we call it Comic Book Casting.
Independent Comics in the 1980s were a bumper crop of exciting, esoteric ideas that had nothing to do with the Big Two and everything to do with adventure and fun. Amongst those vibrant stories was writer/artist Mark Schultz pulpy adventure strip Xenozoic Tales. It told a story of a far-flung 26th century where humanity comes out of a 600 year life under the earth to find their once-decimated Earth now flush with pre-historic life such as dinosaurs, monsters and bizarre human/animal hybrid creatures. In this future technology is as bizarre as magic, and those who know their way around a workshop and a wrench are seen almost as magicians — and for the mechanic named Jack Tenrec, his magic is in bringing classic cars back to life.
Xenozoic Tales came out off-and-on through the 1980s and 1990s, but gained a second life when CBS turned the comic into an animated series named after the book’s sometimes-used byline, Cadillacs & Dinosaurs. Although it was toned down to be more kid-friendly at the time, Cadillacs & Dinosaurs earned a new group of fans that have turned the series, now 20 years old, into a bit of a c ult hit.
In this week’s Comic Book Casting, we look at Schultz’ paleolithic pulp story and picture what it’d look like on the big screen.
It’s Indiana Jones meets Jurassic Park with classic cars. What’s not to love?
Taking the name Cadillacs & Dinosaurs, this movie would get straight to it and show a post-apocalyptic world being pulled back into primordial times with dinosaurs and strange flora and fauna retaking the world. The last bastion of humanity would be a straggling group of survivors, carved up into stray pockets of humanity full of rebels and warlords fighting for a piece of the pie. Jack Tenrec, a blue-collar mechanic making classic cars work off of dinosaur guano instead of oil, becomes an unlikely hero fighting for the common man amidst tyrannical warlords and vagabonds on the harsh American plains. Oh yeah, and he has a pet allosaurus named Hermes.
The thrust of the story would be Hanna Dundee falling into his life and pulling him into the struggle inside the City of the Sea, one of humanity’s last pockets of life, and a band of vagabonds led by Hammer Terhune. It’s a story living off the big special effects of dinosaurs ala Jurassic Park, but with a pulpy tongue-in-cheek adventure take astride classic cars.
I need Steven Speilberg from the early 1980s — the Indiana Jones era director. With no time machine available, instead I’ll take the next best thing: Neil Marshall. Marshall, who directed the excellent UK cult films Dog Soldiers and The Descent, currently finished a stint directing episodes of Game of Thrones and uniquely qualified, capable, available and seemingly affordable to make this work without spending out for a modern-day Cameron, Bay or Spielberg. Marshall also has some serious chops, making films as a teenager using Super 8mm ala Spielberg and Abrams and being in love with genre filmmaking.
Jack Tenrec – Timothy Olyphant: Timothy Olyphant is a working man’s actor, working his way up from the bottom all the way to the great role of Raylan Givens in FX’s Justified. Although he’s tried and failed to be a successful leading man for movies, I’d give Olyphant a shot to try once more as Jack Tenrec in Cadillacs & Dinosaurs. He can do action but he’s no action star ala Stallone; Olyphant is blue collar, as is Tenrec.
Hannah Dundee – Felicity Jones: Hannah Dundee is a character carved straight out of classic pulp novels and comic strips, and I think someone like Felicity Jones could give her the sex appeal but also the substance to make it work.
Hobb – Silas Weir Mitchell: Hobb was one of my favorite parts of Xenozoic Tales, and Silas Weir Mitchell of Grimm and Prison Break fame would be great to voice this role. He’s a great secondary character actor, and his voice can cut through those special effects and really make this Grith a standout character.
Hammer Terhune – Simon Baker: Hammer is a proper prick, and The Mentalist‘s Simon Baker is uniquely qualified to play that “better than thou” type with aplomb. Although he hasn’t done any action work per se, I think Baker could really rise to the challenge to play this flamboyant poacher in Xenozoic times.
Governor Wilhelmina Scharnhorst – Margo Martindale: As one of the cheif rulers of the City on the Sea, Scharnhorst is quite the despot — but with good intentions. I’d love to see Olyphant’s Justified co-star Martindale rise to the challenge in this, exploring the character and making her more than just defacto antagonist for this tale.