On his Facebook page, Bozeman illustrator and author Ted Rechlin describes his new book as an “epic dinosaur adventure graphic novel.”
The book is “Jurassic,” recently released by Farcountry Press in Helena, and it concerns the virtually nonstop adventures of a yearling Brontosaurus adrift in a world teeming with dangerous predators. Rechlin said he doesn’t know of anyone else making graphic novels about dinosaurs.
“As far as I can tell,” he said, “I’ve got the field pretty much to myself.”
At nearly the same time, Farcountry also published Rechlin’s “Dinosaurs Live!”, a coloring book packed with detailed information about more than 30 Mesozoic creatures.
Rechlin, a 30-year-old native of Massachusetts, came West in 2004 to study fine arts at the Montana State University Bozeman, “and I haven’t left Montana since then, basically.”
He said he’s been doing illustrations professionally for more than 10 years. His first job was with DC Comics, “doing trading card sets with all the different heroes and characters they have.” He also worked with Dover Publications and did dinosaur illustrations for museum gift shops and museum websites.
Then, he said, “I kind of got the bug to write and draw my own books.”
The first book he wrote and illustrated was “Changing of the Guard: The Yellowstone Chronicles,” which looked at the animals and landscape of Yellowstone National Park 70 million years ago and today. Follow-up books included “Epsilon: A Yellowstone Wolf Story” and “Silvertip: A Year in the Life of a Yellowstone Grizzly.”
Those books were produced by traditional publishing houses, but for his next book, “Tyrannosaurus Rex,” Rechlin said he wanted to work on his own and produce the book himself. So he and his wife, Anne, established their own imprint, Rextooth Studios, and then partnered with Farcountry Press to do the marketing and distribution, an arrangement he has preserved with “Jurassic” and the new coloring book.
Rechlin has been drawing and telling stories since the age of 3, but he thinks his fascination with dinosaurs began even earlier than that. “If I didn’t start before I was 2 years old, I’d be surprised,” he said.
As he got older, he said, he developed a similar fascination with the outdoors and with wildlife, which is part of what drew him to Montana. His early books were informative, year-in-the-life stories about animals, but with “Bears” and “Tyrannosaurus Rex” he began experimenting with more of a narrative.
He decided to go all out with “Jurassic,” creating a strong storyline with plenty of excitement. Rechlin said it has been described “as kind of a mix of nature documentary and an action-adventure story.”
He didn’t aim it at children, he said, but since so many children share his fascination with dinosaurs, “kids are going to love it anyway.” And despite all the predation and fighting, “If a kid can handle a documentary with a lion eating a wildebeest, they can handle this book, I think.”
His obsession with dinosaurs shows in another way. He decided to make the hero of “Jurassic” a young Brontosaurus because for decades, paleontologists thought Brontosaurus was a species of the closely related Apatosaurus, but then in 2015 the new consensus was that Brontosaurus was a genus separate from Apatosaurus.
As Rechlin says in a foreword, “The Brontosaurus is back. The thunder lizard has returned.”
Rechlin said he has read so much about dinosaurs that he just writes from memory, then goes back afterward to make sure he got all the details right. Despite his best efforts, though, as with Brontosaurus, scientists are always amending their views. When his T.rex book came out, for instance, the creatures had feathers on their bodies and lips over their teeth.
In just the past few months, he said, three major papers have concluded that both those characterizations were wrong.
“With dinosaurs, so much of it is guesswork,” Rechlin said. “It’s kind of like being wrong by degrees with extinct animals. You want to be the least amount of wrong that you can be.”
Rechlin is working on a book about Lewis and Clark and a Montana coloring book, but he knows he’ll be doing more books about dinosaurs.
“Oh, yeah,” he said. “There’s plenty of material for me to work with.”