Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Kamandi - Forbidden Planet!

In the twenty-fifth issue of Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth Jack Kirby sends his bond-haired hero on arguably his weirdest adventure yet. In the course of the preceding issues  Kamandi has bounded all across the North American continent and beyond but always in the upper reaches of that continent has been a territory mysteriously labeled "Dominion of the Devils". We met a "Devil" in some earlier stories, and it turned out to be an enormous grasshopper Kamandi bonded with.

Now in this story Kamandi and Ben Boxer prepare to leave Ben's comrades Renzi and Steve behind as well as the oddball cadre of Flim-Flam and his trained humans. The duo use a giant Eagle to fly over a great barrier into this unknown territory. The Eagle is injured and dies in the attempt but does get them into a new land filled with giant plants and giant insect life. Attributed to a Greenhouse Effect the land once known as Canada has become a wild jungle filled with teeming life of all kinds. Not least among these are the Leopards who work for Sackers Department Store. They are in this land to capture what they can and kill what they can't. Needless to say Kamandi and Boxer have other ideas.

Kamandi and Ben Boxer also find the offbeat Captain Pyper, a member of a European army of British Bulldogs who have affected the dress and style of the British Cavalry as seen in the classic poem "Charge of the Light Brigade" by Tennyson.

He and his capable ally an Aborigine which is in fact a giant mutated Ant, help Kamandi and Ben Boxer escape the rapacious Leopards working for Sackers and the two end up effectively conscripted into his foreign force, with Kamandi assuming a role akin to the famous Gunga Din.

Kamandi finds that three armies have used a land bridge to travel from what was once Europe into this area formerly known as Canada.

The three forces are part of the Nations of Atlantic Testament Orders (N.A.T.O.) and are comprised of the Bulldogs which affect a British feel, Wolves which speak French, and Apes which have a Prussian cast to their dress and style. They are battling the Leopards for control of the Dominion of the Devils, and the resources there. After a great battle among the forces both Kamandi and Ben move on.

Kamandi and Ben Boxer see a flying Ape. They then find the Tablet of Revelation which tells the story of "The Mighty One" who looks very familiar to regular DC readers. A cult of Apes worship this Mighty One and have devised tests which attempt to approximate the powers he was reputed to have in order to detect who might be a worthy to gain control of the mantle of "The Legend".

Ben and Kamandi get drawn into these tests competing with an Ape named Zuma. The tests are to be flung up, up and away into the air by catapult, lift a great stone dubbed "The Daily Planet", and survive a hail of gunfire by being faster than a speeding bullet. Kamandi finds a familiar red and blue suit and knowing who the owner was leaves it for his eventual return.

Finally begins one of the weirdest Kamandi adventures yet. Kamandi and Ben Boxer take refuge in what they believe to be a small bunker but which is in fact a legit U.F.O.They found by the Pilot who takes them in tow and they travel quickly and far.

When they escape the craft they find themselves a junk yard of time with artifacts from across the whole of human history sprawled in the sand. Apparently these things are being sent through a vast door in space. Boxer and Kamandi find themselves on an airplane of the dead headed into the maw of this door but the activation of a briefcase nuclear device causes the doorway to abruptly close stranding the Pilot wgi confronts Kamandi and Ben but loses cohesion since it is a creature of pure energy when his suits is torn apart. Kamandi recovers only to find that Ben has changed dramatically.

Clearly Kirby is redirecting the series now, having entered the Dominion of the Devils he has exhausted the parameters of his original map of the post-Great Disaster world and must reach beyond it for more. Cleaving off Kamandi and Ben Boxer is smart as it reduces the cast and makes the adventures quicken in pace and style. Now we have the two most interesting characters in the series entering some truly startling new landscapes. The inclusion directly Superman is in keeping with Kirby's work since coming to DC, but it does specifically link the world of Kamandi with the larger DCU. With the U.F.O. adventure Kirby seems to want to expand beyond the limits of the post-Apocalyptic setting and get into some other sci-fi tropes. I'm not sure how effective it is, but we'll discover more next time.

More to come.

Rip Off


  1. Hi Rip
    Do you own those Omnibuses? I'm curious whether the reproductions you've shown are from these or your comics from the 70s? I love these here, but wonder if they are re-coloured as a lot are these days
    BTW did I say, great series. It's reminding me how exciting those times were!

    1. I own the complete series and I own the omnibus volumes for ease of reading. Any images I've used in this series are either from the GCD or gleaned from the internets. The coloring is bright in the omnibus editions and it was altered I know in the Fourth World stuff, but I'm less certain about these Kamandi issues.

      Rip Off

    2. And let me add, thanks for the kind words. Doing these reads with the knowledge I'm going to cobble up some kind of report like this makes me pay more attention, and I agree those were heady times for comics fans. The Silver Age gets the glory, but the Bronze Age had an array of tastes as broad as any period in the hobby.

      Rip Off

    3. There was a period beginning in the early 70's when it seemed as if the hegemony of the superhero was over. At the same time the Comics Code seemed to be receding as well. I think these things encouraged a search by publishers, large and small, for new themes and new forms. Sword and Sorcery seemed like a genuinely new direction at the time and there was a re-imagining of long lost genres like horror and westerns. You had publishers like Byron Preiss and Heavy Metal experimenting with graphic albums and the rise of Ground Level players like Star Reach. Marvel started looking into Treasury size,magazines, digests and process color. It was great to see these efforts to extend the possibilities. What was even more exciting was that you had a new crop of talent that was excited about the potential of the medium working alongside some of the best creators of the Silver Age, many of whom were still active. Steranko, Windsor-Smith, Wrightson, Kaluta, Simonson, Chaykin and others joined Kane, Toth, Wood,Ditko, Kubert and Kirby. For something called the Bronze Age, there was an awful lot of gold.

  2. I've only got about a quarter of the Kamandi issues (acquired several years back), including the first eight, because I was never really into the character when I was a lad. In fact, it may be that the only issue I ever bought back then was #29 (got a replacement some time ago), because that cover is just too intriguing to resist. I'll have to acquire those Kamandi Omnibus volumes before too long. Great post.

  3. Rip --

    Not to interrupt what is a great looking post -- Kamandi has long been on my "to read" list, and I find this further encouragement. But I did think you'd get a kick out of a comment you left on the BAB four years ago. You are a prophet, friend!


  4. Thanks for the replies. I think this may be an easy way of getting the stories again. Funny how I've held off for so long!


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