In 1978, Marvel comics published Devil Dinosaur, a story by Jack Kirby about a red Tyrannosaurus Rex and his caveman-like friend, Moon-Boy. The series itself was short-lived, but come this fall, the world will once again be introduced to the adventures of Devil Dinosaur — and this time, his companion won’t be a caveman named Moon-Boy, but instead, a pre-teen super genius named Lunella Lafayette…otherwise known as Moon Girl.
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur is Marvel’s newest female superhero, and at the helm of the book are writers Amy Reeder (Madame Xanadu, Batwoman) and Brandon Montclare (Rocket Girl, Fear Itself: Fearsome Four), artist Natacha Bustos (Strange Sports Stories), editor Mark Paniccia and assistant editor Emily Shaw. According to Shaw, the genesis for Moon Girl came from a simple conversation between the creative team, when they realized Marvel had a limited number of characters that all ages could relate to.
“Mark and I were talking about how whenever people come in with young kids, or even just for Mark’s own kids, we don’t have that many publications that we can give to people that have that broad reach,” Shaw explained to EW. “Generally, we’re skewing a little bit older with a lot of our titles and we wanted to create something that adults and kids could really love, like a Pixar feel. That’s where the tone jumped off for us.”
Added Reeder, “Brandon and I were talking about co-writing books with Marvel, and we were really interested in doing something that would be a lot of fun, and that gravitated towards something that wasn’t made yet or wasn’t a main character or popular character for awhile. I like that idea because you get to do a lot with those types of situations. You get to put a lot of creativity into it, and have your voice heard. You’re not quite tied in to all the events. So that’s something that attracted us.”
Creative freedom is also what excited Montclare about the project. “There’s definitely a cool factor with some of the obscure characters, just because it’s so fun to work on,” he said. “It’s great to work on Wolverine or Spider-Man or stuff like that. But like Amy said, when someone’s not watching too closely what you do, it’s also just creative freedom for cool stuff. You can do stuff that really motivates you, rather than giving another great Spider-Man story that feels like all the other Spider-Man stories.”
For Shaw, working from an editorial perspective, it was Reeder and Montclare’s enthusiasm for the book that made them the perfect fit. “What really attracted Mark and I to the original Moon Girl pitch was how Amy and Brendan came to this world,” she said. “The character lives in this world where people don’t really get her…that her brain just works a little differently than all of the other kids her age really resonated with us, and that idea of feeling sort of isolated and on your own during that very early time of life we thought was really compelling, and could really resonate with a lot of readers. That’s what really gave the story its heart at the beginning.”
“I think even immediately, when Mark was talking bout the possibility of a Moon Girl, in my head I had a character that I thought, ‘I would really like to draw something,'” said Reeder, who likened Lunella’s character to that of a “female Inspector Gadget — only this time, she also knows what she’s doing. Moon Girl is definitely a type of personality that I had in my mind for a long time, that hopefully people can identify with in different aspects,” she admitted. “We all feel isolated or left out at times. So it’s been a joy to try to create something like this.”
The original Devil Dinosaur book took place on an alternate universe where dinosaurs co-existed with caveman humanoids. But one of the biggest things Marvel’s creative team is looking forward to is the opportunity to bring those adventures into modern life. “What’s really cool is to be able to put a Tyrannosaurus Rex in modern day New York City and also juxtapose with a little girl,” Montclare said. “You’re going to have a 30-foot dinosaur interacting with a three-and-a-half tall girl…I can’t think of any other book that’s kind of like that, where you have these kind of crazy things that are going to be very different to work on. But if everyone can pull it off, it’s going to be a unique type of storytelling.” So will that unique type of storytelling bring different monsters to Manhattan during Lunella’s adventures?
“There’s no specific plan — you definitely have to make room for a battle of the monsters: King Kong versus Godzilla, that kind of thing. And there are some flashbacks to the original dinosaur world, so you’ll get a flavor of that.” Montclare emphasized that those flashbacks, however, are most likely the extent of the references to the original series.
“There won’t be a hidden easter egg, but Moon-Boy is going to be in it at least for a little bit,” he teased. “And one of the things that comes back in time along with Devil Dinosaur will be these bad boys, these killer folk, these Kirby-created cavemen. We keep the kind of cartoonish-ness of it, but it should be very cool because they’re going to be a legitimate menace living up to their name, but they’re going to have an experience in modern times that changes them.”
Like Kamala Khan, Sam Wilson, Jane Foster (as Thor), and Miles Morales, Lunella joins a list of superheroes that aim to make a difference in the lives of all types of readers — something that Bustos is “tremendously honored” to have a hand in as the book’s artist. “I also feel a great responsibility, as I’m sure Amy and Brandon do…it’s great to be a part of the creation of something which can mean something special to so many people,” she said. “I myself have come up against this dilemma (I’m half Afro-Brazilian and half Chilean besides being Spanish) of finding few or no cultural references, especially in Spain, a country where there is isn’t any community comparable to the African American community in the states. You end up ironing out your differences and you need to work hard on this aspect to be able to continue maturing as a person.”
“For decades now, we have seen more independent publishers taking a gamble on diversification, but always within the underground scene,” she explained. “It’s really important that the mainstream throws up new references like these and it’s an honor to be a part of that change that Marvel is bringing to the comic book creative landscape. A greater number of readers are looking for characters they can identify with, and above all, with the aim that any reader, whatever their background or lifestyle, is capable of transcending their own identities to see themselves in a mirror of entertainment for 20 or 30 minutes without any difference.”
While Moon Girl’s adventures will be front and center, Shaw sees the unlikely team’s relationship as “the core of all the adventures that they go on. Ultimately, all of this is about their relationship and how they’re going to learn to work together as a team, but also how Devil Dinosaur teaches Moon Girl how to relate to other people so she’s so in her head,” said Shaw. And according to Panicca, Lunella’s struggle to fit in may be a little more complex than that of a normal teenage girl.
“Something that’s hallmark of a Marvel Hero is that they’re gifted with a power they may see as a curse,” Paniccia said. Their hero’s journey is to discover how to use it to help others. Lunella is a little genius with grand plans on going to big schools, but she’s got an Inhuman gene, unpredictable alien DNA inside that—once triggered—could take her life in a wildly different direction. She’s determined to control that change. I think that speaks to struggles we all experience as kids and will make her story resonate with young and older readers alike.”
“Emily and Mark very strongly want this to be a book that tells you a bit about her life, that shows her in school, that shows her interacting with people,” said Reeder. “It’s not all about the Marvel continuity. It’s about people, and that’s something that I’m really excited about it. It’s something that I actually didn’t expect working for Marvel, but I’m super excited about it, and I thin people are just going to love it. It’s going to have a lot of heart because it’s all coming from a good place.”