Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Animal Planets!


I've been waiting to do this for a long time and this summer seems a propitious time to get it done. Kamandi is arguably Jack Kirby's most successful comic book for DC. When Kirby famously migrated to the publisher in the early 70's after enormous success at Marvel there was much anticipation but the sales (according to official reports at the time at least) did not match the expectations. The "Fourth World" books were cancelled with Mister Miracle being the last of those to survive, The Demon came and went, and other Kirby concepts were either one-shots or met with limited sales success. All save for Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth!


When the young Kamandi (named after the bunker in which he lived most of his life called simply "Command D") emerged into the wild world of a post-apocalyptic future he met challenges and dangers immediately. Most were from the weird beast-men which roamed the planet in the wake of mankind's failures. Apes, Tigers, Lions, Rats, and more such creatures found sentience and took hold of a bizarre civilization which weirdly mimicked the human one which had preceded it. Kamandi was all alone, not the last boy exactly, but certainly unique in his own way.


I came late to the adventures of Kamandi, leaving DC about the time Kirby's New Gods epic ended its run, but I was aware of it on the stands. I got a few issues here and there, but only a few. Years later I put together a complete run, reading them as I got them. But I've never read the series through, front to back, and I'm eager to do just that. So look for brief reviews of the Kirby issues (forty in total) on Saturdays and Wednesdays. I hope to do five issues in a block, but we'll see how that works out.


The Kamandi series by Kirby was clearly and intentionally inspired by the success of the 1968 blockbuster sci-fi film Planet of the Apes which spawned four sequels, a few TV shows and eventually even comics and more. It was a phenomenon, the sci-fi shocker which tapped into the pop culture of the day and the marketing which tagged along with it. People look back on the 70's and see it these days through the lens of Star Wars, but that science fiction lightning didn't strike until the end of the decade.


In the 70's Planet of the Apes ruled. I'm far from a PotA completist, but I have gathered up the movies a few times and giving them another look should be a ton of fun. I hope to do that this month and write up a proper review for each. And I hope to take a look at the 70's spin-off television show too, which I've never seen all the way through and which I just picked up few days ago on dvd. If time permits, I might even get around to the new Apes movies, which offer a different look at the classics. These are well known to most folks and anyone venturing here certainly has their own opinion, and I'm eager to hear what you have to say.


Meanwhile in June the "Favorite Covers" feature will showcase comic covers which have featured the Statue of Liberty. Lady Liberty is an obvious iconic choice for artists who want to make a quick visual comment and she has shown up on covers throughout the history of the form. Kirby used her to give us an immediate notice that Kamandi's brave new world was in disarray. The statue famously supplies the essential clue to end the original Planet of the Apes movie with a potent irony.

It should be a fun summer with Kirby, Heston, Royer, McDowall, and much much more.

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6 comments:

  1. I discovered Marvel comics thanks to the Planet Of The Apes TV show. Episode 1 of the TV show was broadcast on British TV on Sunday, October 13th 1974 and #1 of Marvel UK's POTA weekly went on sale the following Saturday, October 19th. I'd never heard of Planet Of The Apes before but I was instantly hooked by the TV show - talking apes, wow !! And thanks to the POTA weekly I was introduced to Marvel's other comics too. By the way, there were 14 episodes of the POTA TV show but in America only 13 were broadcast while in the UK all 14 were broadcast. I was bitterly disappointed when the show was cancelled but at least we still had the weekly comic which lasted till 1977.

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    1. I was never much of a follower of the PotA comics here, but I know about the Marvel UK ones, lots of action-filled covers. I just got the TV shows and look forward to watching them, I've only seen a couple.

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  2. Well, here's a subject very close to my heart! Looking forward to these posts.

    There are a few precursors to Kamandi worth bearing in mind: the Kamandi of the Caves newspaper strip proposal and "The Last Enemy" from Alarming Tales are often mentioned, but also the High Evolutionary and his "New Men" in Thor with their updating of The Island of Doctor Moreau. Kamandi also owes his birth to Carmine Infantino's attempt to get the rights to POTA, which ties in with his well-documented enthusiasm for primate, gorilla, and detective chimp characters. A lot of the similarities between POTA and the opening of Kamandi are due to Carmine's influence.

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    1. "The Last Enemy" is scheduled for tomorrow in fact. I haven't done anything on the New Men yet, but maybe. I touched on them several months ago when I was looking at Warlock and the High Evolutionary then.

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  3. I get the Edmund Hamilton “Discount Books” catalog (HamiltonBook.com). Right now they’ve got DC’s: Kamandi Archives Volume 2 (issues 11-20 ) for $14.95 (regular price $49.99). The color/hardcover I believe…Seems like a steal to a cheapskate like myself so, I’m ordering a copy this Friday when I get paid (but just passing this along as a good-natured fyi here at the Dojo.)

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    1. Thanks. Those Archive volumes have always been handsome books and I wish I'd been savvy enough to plug into them instead of some of the lame comics I followed in the 90's. I'll check out that website.

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