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Dinosaurs Attack! is a trading card series by Topps, released in 1988, and containing 55 cards and 11 sticker cards. The cards tell the story of dinosaurs transported through time into the present day through a freak accident and wreaking havoc on Earth. The series is notable for its graphic violence and gore, intended to evoke memories of the successful Mars Attacks trading card series of 1962.
The Dinosaurs Attack! trading cards were created as a follow-up to the successful trading card series, Mars Attacks. Like Mars Attacks, Dinosaurs Attack! was intended as an homage and a parody of 1950s B-movies. While Mars Attacks was a parody of alien invasion movies, Dinosaurs Attack! was inspired by monster movies such as The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and Godzilla.
The storyline of the card series is minimal. They tell the story of a scientific experiment gone horribly wrong, transporting dinosaurs of many varieties from their prehistoric world to modern times, where they wreak havoc upon mankind. Most of the cards show a different scene of the dinosaurs causing chaos and death across the world. Some of the cards show the scientists working to reverse the time-travel effect. In the end, the Supreme Monstrosity, patron deity of the dinosaurs (nicknamed "Dinosaur Satan" by some fans due to its resemblance to the popular culture depiction of Satan) intervenes, trying to stop the scientists. The lead scientist, Elias Thorne, sacrifices himself to the Supreme Monstrosity so his wife, Helen, can succeed and send the dinosaurs back to their own time, tearing the animals apart in the process.
The artwork is intended to be shocking and graphically bloody, with one card showing schoolchildren being eaten by an Allosaurus, a Stegosaurus devouring a police officer while its spiked tail gouges out the eye of another and a Pteranodon tearing apart the President of the United States. The cards also contain gross inaccuracies in their depiction of dinosaurs. For instance, in one card, trilobites are portrayed as "flesh-eating worms" that attack humans. In reality, the trilobites consumed mud for nutrients. Also, a Dimetrodon is depicted as dwarfing St. Basil's Cathedral, several herbivores as flesh-eaters, and other various dinosaurs as being almost Kaiju-like. In fact, one can see references to Gorgo, Reptilicus and Rhedosaurus among the depicted creatures. Trachodon is the exception; it is correctly portrayed as a plant eater and is never seen directly causing death (it does, however, indirectly cause death when startling one man so badly he shoots another by accident). Additionally, it is the only one on the eleven stickers to not be killing a human (instead, it is trying to eat a streetlight).
Despite the company's hopes, Dinosaurs Attack did not achieve commercial success. Tim Burton was planning on making a movie, but dismissed it when Jurassic Park was released. Instead he made Mars Attacks!
On March 31, 2013, IDW Publishing announced that for the series 25th anniversary, they would be reprinting the one issue of the Eclipse comic, and finishing the story in a 5 part mini series debuting in July.
Throughout the cards, a small number of recurring characters were present, usually appearing as a name or a picture on a few of the cards.
Elias Thorne - One of the head scientists on the Timescanner project, he and his wife Helen were (presumably) the last humans on the space station Prometheus. While attempting to reverse the Timescanners ability to materialize dinosaurs on Earth, they were attacked by a large 'Demon' Dinosaur. Thorne sacrificed himself to the beast, giving his wife time to start the reverse on the Timescanner, sucking the dinosaurs back to where they came from.
Helen Thorne - The wife of Elias Thorne, she helped him build a mechanism to reverse the Timescanners effects. However, a large demon like dinosaur attacked, and killed Elias. Helen was able to throw the switch to the mechanism, triggering the reversal of the Timescanner, sucking dinosaurs back to the past. Helen narrates the back of the final story card, telling that how she and Elias only wanted to know what killed the dinosaurs. She concludes that the reason the dinosaurs were wiped out were because of us.
Anchorman - This unnamed anchorman appeared on the back of several cards, interviewing attack survivors. He first appeared interviewing a group of rock stars who were attacked by a group of dinosaurs who ate their colorful hair. He later interviewed a man who accidentally shot his friend while fishing, after being startled by a grazing Trachodon. The Anchorman is later killed on another card when a Dinosaur invades the newsroom and eats him, while his assistant runs off. Throughout his first appearances, the Anchorman seemed skeptical of the events.
Mitchell Stevens - The Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Army, he is never actually seen on any of the cards. Rather, he appears on the back of all the cards that look like a report being addressed to the military, with Stevens being the sender.
General Frank Manchester - General Frank Manchester was put in charge of U.S. Army operations after the death of the previous commander, who is ripped in two by a pair of dinosaurs (according to the front of the card in which Manchester first appears). While Manchester is only mentioned on the back of one card, he is later seen on another card, crushed by a theropod, his entrails strewn on the ground around him. It is affirmed this is him by Mitchell Stevens' report on the other side of the card.