NERVOUS REXMedium: Comic books
Published by: Blackthorne Publishing
First Appeared: 1985
Creator: William Van Horn
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When Pacific Comics went bankrupt, in 1984, publisher Steve Schanes used his newfound freedom from cloying debt to found a new publishing company, Blackthorne. Blackthorne specialized in
properties that were easy and inexpensive to acquire, such as newspaper strip reprints (including a reasonably good Dick Tracy series) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles knockoffs. But it also did an occasional gem of original material, and Nervous Rex (no relation to the Dennis the Menace supporting character) was one of them.
Cartoonist William Van Horne created the series, which lasted ten bimonthly issues (September, 1985 through March, 1987). Like Russell Myers, creator of Broom Hilda, he used a style clearly inspired by George Herriman's Krazy Kat, without being a slavish imitation. Van Horne, who had made his living for decades in commercial art and children's book illustration, had earlier come to the attention of the comics community with a couple of minor series in Critters, a funny animal anthology published by Fantagraphics Books.
Rex (short for Rexford) was a tyrannosaurus by species, but a very small specimen — a fact his wife, Dearie, didn't consider a sufficient reason for not asserting his alleged authority as king of the dinosaurs. But like Jiggs of Bringing Up Father, all Rex wanted to do was hang around with his pals, Vast Ronald (a brontosaurus — oops, that is, apatosaurus) and Forkie (a part-time hoopsnake). Most stories concerned Rex's ongoing attempts to placate Dearie's temper or, failing that, at least avoid her.
Nervous Rex was fairly well received by readers, but two things kept it from remaining in print — the fact that then, as now, it was hard for a non-superhero comic book to make it in the direct market (in fact, Blackthorne Publishing folded just a couple of years after Nervous Rex did), and Van Horne's growing occupation with more high-profile (and lucrative) comics. Today, he busies himself with stories about Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge for the European market.