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Dinosaur Comics comics

Comics using the format of Ryan North’s Dinosaur Comics

When I was a high-schooler, I greatly enjoyed Ryan North’s formalist Dinosaur Comics; I was impressed by how much he could do within the strict limit of his template, and I tried my hand at a few comics. Re-reading them, I wish I had been more careful about the spelling & formatting, but they hold up better than most of my juvenilia.


Our ontological status is a fascinating field, with direct relevance to modern debates over birth control! / Wait—philosophy that is relevant‽ // According to pro-lifers, a human life is ensouled and given personhood when two gametes fuse. // But what about a fusion that is half-human and half-mouse? It is possible. Or 3/4 mouse and 1/4 human? Or so on? Where do you precisely draw the line, ‘cause no human is completely pure of other species’ DNA or infections. Their ‘obvious’ standard is not really, it seems! // Or, what about regular cells? Each has the potential to become a human! Is it a sin to scratch oneself? // T-Rex, you are not require to use heroic efforts to force a cell to become or be something it would not normally! If it cannot do it itself, it is not human. / By that logic, you’d let old people die! // Your logic is best. / Ontologically, this is a victory. // (What is a person if not genetics and chemical arrangements, then?)

(See my later essay, An Abortion Dialogue for more on this line of thought.)

So, I was reading yesterday that copyright is logically wrong because anything can be stored as numbers, which are obviously non-copyrightable. // But I disagree! You also need to know just how to interpret those numbers! // Whatever do you mean? / You can, for any arbitrary interpretation, store what information you want; but that means you can conversely store anything in an arbitrary number if you have the correct interpretation! The burden can fall on the data or on the interpretation! Information does not discriminate! // But… T-Rex, you are just nailing more nails into copyright’s coffin. / Whoops! // Well, you could avoid copyright by shifting all the information into the interpretation—so the obvious solution is to refuse interpretation a privilege immune state, an simply copyright the interpretation when the data is arbitrary, and vice-versa! // I am in awe of your genius! / Thanks! But the foregoing should not be construed as moral support for copyright! I really like my free music—Vive le Napsters! // (Arbitrariness would be determine by Kolmogorov length, dummy. Obviously.)

See Copyright.

1: I shall be discoursing on E-Prime today! That is a variant on English which removes the exceedingly deceptive verb ‘is’! I can only hope the other T-Rexes will agree to talk about it in a somewhat temporally coherent way! / 3: Do it! / 6: Sorry! // 2: Fine. But you owe me, hear? ‘Is’ conveys the false dogma of unchanging reality, which is bad. // 3: Oh come on, I’m trying to score with Drociemus here—after all this time, I think I’ve a chance. / 3: All right. ‘Is’ also leads one to think that there is some mystical ‘essence’ indwelling on objects. This is a thing which can never be truly describe, because you can only apprehend the illusionary appearance. // 4: Screw you, T-Rex 1! I’m doing my own thing! I’m tired of always playing along with your idiot ideas! I’ll do what I want! // 5: ! / U2: Hey T-Rexes! Using regular English is perfectly acceptable here, as we are all static images! The only dynamicism here is what the reader injects! // 6: Utahraptor 2 is completely right! Thanks for making us all look stupid, T-Rex 1! This whole thing was vaguely unsatisfying anyway. // (An Inquiet Disquisition on Linguistics)
The Territory is not the Map! / I am not actually a dinosaur! // Shocking, eh? // T-Rex, you certainly seem like a dinosaur to me! / There is no ‘a’! Look closely—there are six of me! // Furthermore, we are merely crude cartoons of dinosaurs! / My abstracted world is rocked! // T-Rex, do you suggest that our abstractions do not necessarily reflect reality and may well lead to erroneous conclusions? / Essentially, yes! // Hear what I’m saying? / Of course not! No one has actually spoken!

(See also Watchmen.)

I’m off to the market! But wait! Why am I even going? I nee a purpose, a super-goal, a ‘Meaning of Life’ (MoL) if you will! // But I don’t know it, nor do I even know if it exists! Should I even bother? / But T-Rex, the payoff, if you find it, is truly enormous, and the cost of failure, is by definition meaningless! You can’t lose! / Of course, Drociemus! Once again, your cool voice of rationality dispells doubt! // Well, T-Rex, you still don’t have the MoL, so what good is all your fancy reasoning? // Well, knowing this I can maximize future odds of success by being economically successful, by educating myself, by supporting tolerance and the free exchange of ideas, by being altruistic… / Eureka! I’ve just derived modern ethics from first principles! / (Pretty clever, but how do you top that?)
‘They are fiction’, is the answer.

Inspired by M.C. Escher’sDrawing Hands” lithograph.

Ah, I love the smell of iconoclasm in the morning. Smells like… logic. / Today, I destroy ‘free will’! // And I shall prove it with some thought-experiments—‘gedankenexperiments’ to be fancy (and we must! We must!) // Drociemus, suppose you came upon a plate of fresh pie and a plate of rotting maggots smeared in dung; which would you choose? / Why, the pie of course! Every time! / Every time? So you would then be predictable, lacking free will, no? / Repugnant as that statement is to me, yes. // Utahraptor, would you prefer to live in a desert or penthouse? / Penthouse, duh! Every time! // So we always pick what appears to be the most desirable choice in any situation! We are predictable and deterministic! Free will is an incoherent illusion! / But doesn’t that leave us mindless automatons in a cold unfeeling cosmos? // !! Uh, this only holds if you don’t know you are being predicted, if you o, free will is back! / Hurray for free will! / (He’s wrong, you know)
Know what I don’t like? Well, I’ll tell ya! That Copenhagen interpretation of Quantum Mechanics! It really irks me, and not in a good way! // Weird, man! Throwing out the elegant unitary evolution of the wave-function, and introducing arbitrary ‘observations’ really sticks in my craw! // Besides, requiring ‘observations’ before the wave-form can collapse leads straight to Wigner’s Friend’s Paradox & Von Neumann’s Catastrophe! So it is mathematically & philosophically repugnant! / But Utahraptor—that forces you to accept the Tegmark multi-verse interpretation, in which every possible probability does happen! And that is not testable and falsifiable! // To the contrary! If we regard ourselves as random samples from the multiverse, we can engage in anthropic reasoning! / Eh? // Well, if we are random, we are likely a ‘mediocre’ common life-bearing universe. So we check for improbability under those constraints, and if positive, evidence against; exceptionalness is evidence against multiverse / But ours is not exceptional! Here’s how! // Being smart and clever, it is likely I’d be the main character. It would be exceptional if an idiot like T-Rex were important. So I can with high probability say we inhabit a multi-verse! / I heard that! / (And We’re not talking ‘Verse’ as in Poetry.)
I have just discovered a marvelous proof of the intrinsic goodness of man—err, dinosaur-kind. Unfortunately, this panel is too small to contain it! // Consider: We can say that goodness pertains to creating and badness to destroying. // Also, it is far easier to destroy than to create. A final thing: this also applies to weapons and tools, or creation and destruction. With me? / Seems reasonable… / So, if we are more good than bad, we will create more than we destroy. If equal, likewise equal creation/destruction. And if more bad, then we will see more destruction. // We know that bad>good leads to destruction. That is not empirically true! If bad=good, we will see destruction anyway because of weapons’ efficacy. // Only good>bad matches our observations of a world with more created things than destroyed things. So man—err, dinosaurkind must be more goo than bad! / Marvelous, T-Rex! But what if our current situation is an anomaly mankind hasn’t got around to destroying yet? // Hm… I was going to give mankind the secrets of immortality, but not I’m not so sure! / Oh well! // (Are you tired of logic yet? Well, I’m not.)
Plato is best known for his theory that ideas possess an objective existence, residing in the metaphysical realm of the Ideal! Any mundane object can be seen as but an ‘Instantiation’! // He believed the closer to the Ideal, the better! With information theory, we can see this was but a cultural prejudice! // Hmm, T-Rex, sounds like one of your trademark complex and bizarre ideas—tell me, how much time do you spend thinking these up to annoy us with? / On the contrary, an Ideal is provably simpler than a complex Instantiation! This is because an Ideal specifies nothing more than the minimum boundary conditions // T-Rex, Ideals are unobservable, and hence unfalsifiable! Come, join the Logical Positivist side… / No!! I’ll show you the Ideal Dinosaur Comic! // But first, a practical note: just as the Ideal is more parsimonious than any Instantiation, the formula generating every possible universe is simpler than any arbitrary universe! / So Occam’s Razor compels us to adopt the multiverse theory‽ My conceptual universe is rocked! // Precisely! And now—the Ideal! // (The One True Platonic Dinosaur Comic)
I am feeling too much the Untermensch, I can’t get no self-respect! // According to Hegel, I need some ‘Thymos’, which is acquired through battle and wreaking destruction which sounds easy. // Having read a few Nietzsche quotations, and acquired some ‘thymos’, I now feel fully qualified to become an Ubermensch and cast off the shackles of slave morality! / Oh—oh—how un-Christian! // I see you’ve the camel and lion stages down pat. / Huh? // In Also Sprach Zarathustra: ’The spirit becomes a camel, the camel then a lion, the lion, finally, a babe. // A hot chick‽ Eeww! Being an Ubermensch apparently isn’t all it’s cracked up to be! // (An unfortunate misunderstanding; now T-Rex shall never be self-actualized.)
When you take the idea of Infinity and apply it to Reality, you get results that are sooo weird! // HOW WEIRD‽‽ / Uh… Pretty weird. // Example: in an infinite universe, any pattern is guaranteed to appear an infinite number of times. Since every possible version of me, T-Rex, is finite, it logically follows there are an infinite number of T-Rexes! / The horror! The horror! // So? That is not a particularly novel idea. / Listen longer, my friend! // Consider: consciousness jumps from aware-moment to aware-moment, continuity flowing from instant to instant, with memories filling in the gaps—we can conclude that our consciousness jumps between the infinite bodies and consciousnesses in an infinite universe, thusly we are immortal! // An interesting theory; care to test it? / …No, not really. // (Thanks to Greg Egan and his wonderful book, Permutation City)
People are so silly an illogical: they’re always running around weeping: “O, the world is subtracted from—cry ye hearts of stone” // Why can’t they see that there is no subtraction; only augmentation—that is, addition? // If, T-Rex, you are referring to how all the natural numbers can be built by taking the null set, the set of the null set (=1), the set of the set of the null (=2) etc… // Or how multiplication is simply a form of addition, or how subtraction is addition of negative numbers, or division actually minusing exponents… // Well, we’d simply not be impressed. In fact, we’d be downright insulted that you’d think such elementary arithmetic to be new or educational to us. Good day. // They reject me! Oh, I am augmented by minus infinity! // (Everybody do the lambda!)


You know what’s really popular and hip, just totally ‘in’? / St. Anselm’s Ontological Proof, that’s what! // It’s like this: God is perfect in every way. Obviously, not existing is imperfect, and so he must exist! QED. // That’s absurd, T-Rex, even absurder than Tertullian’s proof from absurdity. The Universe is imperfect, and to create it God must have been imperfect, so by definition it is more perfect for him to not exist then! / Besides, you can prove anything’s existence with that proof, like say… a Utahraptor. // [Greetings, T-Rex. I am the Perfect Utahraptor.] // [How are you?] / Oh, I’m fine. / [Really? No cosmic questions you want answered?] / [Very well then, I must relieve suffering elsewhere!] // I could have handled that better. //(Why, oh why, are we debating theology?)
God came to me in a ream last night. And he told me to spread the dogma of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. // Now time to go tell those sinful heathen dinosaurs! // Drociemus, hearken to my words! I bring you news of—/ T-Rex, I already believe that the IC is a silly dogma perpetuate by Marist cultists, and is obviously a resurgence of the Great Mother myth. // I too disagree! The point of the IC was to provide a sin-less womb for Jesus, no? / Well, yeah. // So if Jesus required a ‘clean’ womb, why didn’t Mary? Or her mother? Or her grandmother! Besides, to hold so reduces Marry to little more than a tool! / Well… STOP SHAKING MY FAITH! // I fin this whole missionary thing strangely unsatisfying! // (Today, we mock religion! Ha ha! It’s all in good fun!)
Check it, check it! Big T-Rex and Jesus-man are in a house! // The aura of Messiah-hood is all the bling-bling I need! // Jesus in the house! / What‽ For you to claim to be our lord is both impossible and sacriligious—a new low even for you T-Rex. / Oh is it, Drociemus? Is it? // It is a dogma that anything can be transubstaniate, and my friends, I am indeed some thing! So I got a priest to o me! // Y’know, I haven’t been to Mass lately—but I believe you, T-Rex. Would you mind if I took a salvation-sized bite out of you? / Eek! // Later… / Yeah! Yeah, that’s right, that’s how the Son of Man lays the smack down! Run, ya deophage! // (That last word could as well have been ‘deicide’. Whatever.)


I grow weary of governing my kingdom; obscene power, luxury, wealth an ease bore me now. // I shall divide my demesnes into weak divided thirds according to my daughters’ flattery prowess // Later… / I have no daughter! / Oh, now I am ruined, as I have utterly nothing besides my betrothal to the fabulously wealthy king of France. Ruined! // Oh, would that I had known before that the volume of flattery does not necessarily indicate their true feelings! // I’faith nuncle, thou’rt a fool superior even to I, of which it is my profession and upbringing. But battle approaches. I leave you to your fate. // Still later… / D’oh! // (There was also something about Edmund and Edgar, but I ran out of sp-)
It’s a weekday, I’ve nothing to do… I shall embark upon a quest for the most Holy Mail! // Come, my Knights of Spamalot! // Miss Robin! Let us sally forth to embattle the hideous gerbil with those big gnasty teeth that Bob the Enchanter told us of! / Why can’t we just live and let live? // Puff!…Puff!…I beat the Slightly-Black Knight, out-thought the antiquities professor, and lost Miss Robin to those teeth! Those hideous teeth! What next? / HALT! // Answer these to me these questions three! What! is your eye color? / Orange. / What! is an Asian swallow? / A bird. / What! Is the capital of Kyrgyzstan? / I was just there! Bishkek. / Right. Off with you now. // At last! the most Holy Mail! / Darn—bills. // (Elsewhere in the multiverse…)
Ohhhhhhhhhhhh! // There’s water in the basement and I don’t know what to do! // If the basement keeps on flooding, then I’ll certainly be blue! / The water heater’s leaking and my showers are all cold! / I wouldn’t mind so much, but it makes me feel so old! // Ooh, boo on the last line of your song, my friend! / Boo? // Yeah! The story was holding together pretty well until you got to that point, but cold showers make you feel old? Not really! They wake you up, mostly. / On the other hand, I thought “feeling blue” tie into the water theme well! // Thanks for your thoughts! / Hey, anytime! / “BEST FRIENDS FOREVER”
Time to pun-ctuate my normally unwitty day. I’ll blow those pun-ks pun-ctilious minds—with the power of wordplay! // You could say… I’ll pun-ish them for not being verbally adept. // Well, look who comes! Our own local pun-dit! / Well, look who comes! If it isn’t Mr. Pun-gent! / Did she just turn the tables and cell me smelly? // Hey you piece of pun-k; back off of I’ll pun-t you into next week! / Your puns’ pun-yness is exceeded only by you and the tea which you brew! // Ouch! My sense of superiority in verbal and concocting matters has been… pun-ctured! // (Even in defeat, he cannot stop being punny.)


See following text for transcripts of the 8 haiku.

The haiku:

Blue can of steel
What promise do you hold?
Salt flesh so ripe

Little slab of meat!
In a wash of clear jelly;
Now I heat the pan

In the cool morning
I fry up a slab of SPAM -
A dog barks next door.

Ears, snouts, and innards
A homogeneous mess.
Pass another slice!

Highly unnatural
The tortured shape of this "food"
A small pink coffin

Slicing your sweet self
salivating in suspense -
Sizzle... Sizzle... Spam!

Pink beefy temptress -
I can no longer remain

Staunch defenders we,
Poetic connoisseurs of the
True deliciousness


Allosaurus and I were arguing yesterday, when we made an amazing discovery! // “Polygamy” does not mean having multiple wives! It means multiple husbands as well! // T-Rex, does this mean we no longer have a polygamous marriage? / Not necessarily! If Utahraptor is both male an female, we are saved! // Oh! Uh hi, my dumpling… / I know what you want to ask. // And…? / Yes. Yes, I am. // Awesome! Our polygamous marriage is saved! Yet I suspect henceforth our sex will be strangely unsatisfying! // (A comic imitating Ryan’s obsession with Sex)
God spoke to me in a dream last night. He appointed me supreme ruler o’er all the Earth. / I did not. // Shut up, God. Anyway, time to view my domain! // T-Rex, stop! What are you doing‽ / Exercising despotic power as God’s regent on Earth. Why? // Oh yeah? Prove it! / Alright. // SHAZAM!! // That was strangely unsatisfying. / [In case you didn’t realize, Utahraptor got disapparated.] // (A New Oracle for the Ages!)
[Thinking] Great! That’s an awesome opening line for picking up Goth chicks! You’re a genius, T-Rex! // Now, to finally get some! // Hey, Drociemus—I’m Goth. / Really? What kind? / There are kinds beyond depressed? // Certainly, my antique chum! // F’er instance, you might be an Ostrogoth—or maybe a Visigoth. Or a White Goth, or perhaps one of the Crimean Goths… / Obviously I am one of the Green Goths! That settles that! // Strange… I can’t decide whether to brutally slaughter my foes, delight in their entrails, and use their skull as a drinking vessel; or bid farewell to this vale of tears, leaving naught but a solitary suicide note poetically berating the mutability of being. // (Goths were confused as to whether they were Germanic or Slavic. How Goth…)
Je m’appele Tyrannosaur Roi! // Je parle francais quand je suis un superb villain! Hoh ho ho hoh! // Mort! Mort! / Sacre blue! Sacre brun! Oh! // Bonsoir madame, c’est temps mourir! / D. T. Roi, c’est moi! // Eh! Eh! Mon arche enemie—Chouette Raptor! / Bien! Maintenant aller a va Phantome Zone / (T-Roi is zapped) // Zut! Tres zut! // (Voici karma pour vous!)
I must obey the inscrutable exhortations of my soul! // It’s T-Rexing time! // What are you doing, T-Rex‽‽ / I must obey the inscrutable exhortations of my soul! // Why? Why? Why must you do these horrible and hurtful things? // I must obey the inscrutable exhortations of my soul! / Oh. Alright—we’ve all got to obey that different drummer sometime. // Well, Soul—what now? // (Alternate ending: the Soul says ‘I dunno, man.’)
Utahraptor killed my mother and raped my father! Or maybe it was the other way ’round. Either way, I want Revenge! // See the steely glint in my eye! // Teach your ways, Master! / Well T-Rex, I would teach you my secret unstoppable techniques, but it’s my nap time—even masters get old. / Nuts! // Aha! Utahraptor, we meet again! / About that whole slaying thing—I’m really sorry. / ‽ / I really shouldn’t have slain your father and raped your aunt or whatever. I’ve repented and now live a life dedicated to peace. Call me! // That was strangely unsatisfying. // (Everybody was not Kung Fu Fighting!)
Hey—the cookie jar is empty! // Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar? // Drociemus stole the cookies from the cookie jar! / Who, me? Couldn’t be! / Then who! // Utahraptor stole the cookies from the cookie jar! // Who, me? Couldn’t be! I’m allergic to chocolate, you know that. / Good point. Then who? / T-Rex stole the cookies from the cookie jar! // Whom, me? Couldn’t be! / Then who? / Er… D’oh! // (They had the most delicious dark chocolate Hershey kisses in’em too…)
I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take it anymore! // I’ve borne too much, for too long! Now, I’m gonna say what I’ve felt for a long time! // Listen up! I’m fed up with how you always ignore my ideas and raise your self-esteem by lowering mine! No more! / Hey-! // Utahraptor—you always have to criticize me all the time, but do you ever have anything constructive to say? NO!!! // I realize now that you two aren’t true friends, an that we have a toxic co-dependent relationship. You only hurt me, so go away! / Alright. // Guys? Guys‽ / choke / I was only kidding! // (Also, Hedgehog’s Dilemma. Man, those mammals got it tough.)
Hello, kitty. // Greetings, kitten. // Yo, feline! / Keep it real, Kool-Kat! // What shakin’, Cat? // I extend to you my favorable intentions in a spirit of peace and felicity, small furry mammal. // [sigh] / I must confess, I simply do not understand the billion-dollar appeal of ‘Hello, Kitty!’ // (Will we never be able to say the simple phrase: “Goodbye, Kitty”?)


Today, on Sixty Dino-minutes, we venture deep in the sordid underworld of fan comicers! Viewer discretion advised! // What makes them tick? What drives them to appropriate another’s work for their creative expression? Stay tuned! // What would you like to tell us, ‘Gwern’? / Well, I really, really hate the awkward tempo, in which Drociemus is given like only one line, which is ridiculously little—/ No time! We’ve got to go! // Ryan North, what’s on your mind? // I’m not too happy about how my audience expects me to write either high philosophical absurdity, or low crude sexual humor. Why can’t I do both? Why not Plato & Sex, existentialism & s—? // Ha ha! Those crazy fan comicers! Everyone knows you can’t improve on the original! / Well, that’s a wrap! I’m T-Rex, for DINO, and good night! // (“How’s that exuberance taste?” “Insubstantial!”)
Today, we shall learn how to make a totally excellent Dinosaur Comic! // But before we know how to go right, we must know how not to go! // Avoid repetition! Nothing is more boring and as bad as repeating the same sequence of words or pictures! / Perhaps one should also steer clear of mindless foils who do nothing but agree with the protagonist! Such are weak an insipid! // Plots should not have a single meaningless action! / Senseless aggression is offputting! // Shun pretentious postmodern games like meta-comics and irony! Avoid worn-out jokes and cliches like the plague! / Say it, brother! // Irony sense—Tingling! // (How not to make a Dinosaur Comic)
It’s been one week since Ryan and T-Rex reduced Utahraptor to cryin’ / Six days since Drociemus claimed his soul was dyin’ / And she wasn’t ain’t not lyin’ / Five days since we met the evil twin Bryan // But hold it, Ryan North / Watch this little short / Hope I avoid a copyright tort! / T-Rex has mad philosophical goods, / he’s from da hood! // Change your world-view, indeed he could! / He’s a rampaging madman / Stop him if you can / Shredder’s a huge fan! / See his polyamory? / Kinda scary / T-Rex’s so sexy / You’ll have to sign a wavier for paternity! // Your brain looks & starts tickin’ / You flip through the pages in syncopation! / Dinosaur Comic’s a sensation / No time to look at another // Holy cow—you see it last week? / There was this one freak / who kicked T-Rex’s idea inta next week! / In da beginning and da end / T-Rex’s all alone / sadly waiting for the non-existent phone /—C’mon, Ryan, toss’im a bone! // He’ll never get that dame / It’s a great shame / We’re all to blame / But what the hey? Y’all, keep on playing that game / just keep at playing out this game / a lot like Krazy Kat this is… / Hmm, this whole tribute is strangely unsatisfying. // (In Tribute to the Grand High Mugglewump of absurdism)
Quotes from Buttercup Festival, another old favorite of mine.
Man, I can’t see a thing. / So, how can you hear me? Simple, I am using the ultra-cool artistic technique Negative Space! / Audacious! / T-Rex to whom are you speaking? There is no one there! / There’s a perfectly logical—Whoops! I think I’m about to trip on something! // How can you use Negative Space when everything is negative? Another—Uh oh! // But seriously Utahraptor, you’ve got a point there. I’ll try and be more artistically honest. I’ll use the negative version of white! // // (A Dark and Controversial Night)
T-REX, PLAY COUNTERSTRIKE LATELY? / NOO!! Geez, how many times must I tell you, I don’t like your kin of games! I like Tetris and Age of Empires, that’s all! // SO I WUZ BEING PWNED BY BRYAN, A TRULY EXCELLENT DOOD. THOUGHT I’D INTROUCE U / Hi—I’m Bryan South, Ryan North’s evil twin. // GAAH! Drociemus, now there are three disembodied voices! / Four, actually. / What? // Yeah, four sides to a square. Hey, introduce yourself. // Wassup, Big T? I’m Ian East, Ian as in “Eye”. Wanna play some Halo 2, or maybe Risk? / Begone! I have no truck with FPSs or Turn-based strategy games! // Well, at least now I have independent confirmation I am not hallucinating the voices. I can talk to God with no worries now! Right, God? / God? / I WILL LISTEN, T-REX. IT WILL BE MOST ENJOYABLE> // (“God?” “YES?” “Are my marbles ever coming home?”)