The Pterodactyl Hunters in the Gilded City
by Brendan Leach
Brendan Leach‘s latest comic is called The Pterodactyl Hunters in the Gilded City. It explores what what life would be like if pterodactyls survived into the last century.
Why, they would terrorize mankind of course and must be destroyed. Though it is implied that the pteros might have feelings or relationships with other pteros, it is not apparently accepted that they are sentient, thus the Dinotopia-like dream that we would befriend or tame and ride them was never explored by these people. Any response to the pteros seems to be universally charged by anger or fear. The pteros eat people, so they’ve simply got to go. Nobody is bargaining for their survival. Not even science.
I’ve done a little reading on modern-day pterosaurs sightings, partly because a friend of mine swears that she saw three of them flying in the sky as a child in northern Minnesota. If everyone else actually believed they exist today, I’m pretty sure the reaction would be something like in this comic. A group of killers would be assembled — called “hunters” in Leach’s comic — and their one objective would be to spot and shoot pteros, regardless of their proximity to humans or buildings.
To kill pteros in Pterodactyl Hunters, the hunters alight in hot air balloons and shock the pteros with explosives before eventually harpooning them. This seems to be sufficient to almost completely wipe out their entire species. At the opening of the comic, in 1904, there are only two pteros left in the whole world.
The story focuses on a single family of hunters that has been in the business of destroying pteros for many generations. It’s a real obsession for them, which is something the youngest son seems to resent. The family is made up of two Irish sons and one father who is elderly and no longer hunts. The mother was apparently taken by pteros. The young son is a spotter in a watch tower. His job is pretty easy and doesn’t seem to carry much responsibility. His older brother, however, is a hero to the city of New York. He is the golden boy of the modern Ptero Patrol and this also causes some friction between the brothers. He gets all the glory, and is excellent at his work with the bomb lance, but at the expense of his sympathy and carefulness. He has become one-sighted with his goals, and his younger brother begins to question his older brother’s compunction, really, to a fault.
This is a really gorgeous and unique story. The front and back cover use a little bit of color, but everything inside is black and white accented by lovely and well-applied ink washes. I believe this project was part of Leach’s M.F.A. thesis at the School of Visual Arts and it’s truly excellent work. The comic is 36-pages long on newsprint. The comic incorporates the use of the paper in such a clever and useful way, it doesn’t feel gimmicky at all. It feels like the perfect means of delivery for a story so rooted in history, antique ideals and sensationalism.
I’m not even kidding you, this comic is FREE. You need to pick one up. Apparently they’re available at Desert Island Comics and Spoonbill & Sugartown Booksellers in Brooklyn, NY. You could also contact the artist and send $2-3 shipping to receive your copy by mail. I hope he sends bulk orders. I really want to buy up a bunch of these for my cryptozoology-obsessed friends.
- Sarah Morean