Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Kamandi - This Island Earth!

The Kamandi saga, Jack Kirby's most successful financially at DC in the 70's, continues in the sixth issue with the story "Flower".

Flower is a young human girl who Kamandi chanced upon in the previous issue and who was sent along with him when he was given a truck by Prince Tuftan and sent into the desert.

The pair are waylaid by Sultin and his Lion Rangers who snare the wild humans in an effort to take them to their suburban zoo exhibit.

The Rangers seem genuinely to care for the humans they take care of as opposed to the Pumas who operate as poachers. It is two of these poachers who kill Flower in an effort to make off with her and give Kamandi his second great loss of the series.

In the next issue Kamandi is still in the hands of the Lions and learns much more about their culture which is referred to at the United States of Lions, and is in fact a network of cities and such evolved from the zoos of various large cities.

The Lions have a relatively advanced culture and the zoos they maintain are part of that. In one of those zoos is Tiny, a giant gorilla who is the object of worship by the less sophisticated Apes and an attempt to free Tiny goes awry and he escapes but not before making Kamandi his "toy". In an homage to the great King Kong Kirby offers up a delightful tale with Kamandi in the Fay Wray slot.

By the eighth issue Kamandi is effectively Sultin's pet, but of course Sultin realizes there is more to this young animal.

When the two visit the city we get a glimpse of how ancient human culture has been absorbed into the new animal regime and when Kamandi gets into a fracas with a pet human trained as a security animal, he falls afoul of the authorities and Sultin sees it's time to sneak him out of town. He does, gives him a gun and they part with respect for one another. But quickly Kamandi runs into trouble with some Bears fresh out of  hibernation and only the timely arrival of Ben Boxer and his team save the day.

Reunited with Ben Boxer and the other two members of his team (Renzi and Steve), Kamandi goes with them to their home base called Tracking Site.

It's a splendid place in Central America, a great sphere in the image of Earth itself which used anti-gravity to elevate into the sky. Unfortunately the Great Disaster interrupted its mission and it hung in the sky since, an island of sorts from the chaos of the world below.

Ben Boxer's team are assaulted by giant Bats, but they manage to get inside Tracking Site only to find that it's now as dangerous to them as the Earth itself since the only other inhabitant, a mutant named "Misfit" seizes control of the base.

In issue ten we learn of Misfit's plan to release a deadly bacteria into the atmosphere of Earth which will cleanse it for him and the mutants like Boxer. He is clearly mad, isolated and unique among all other creatures and his scheme is destined for destruction all around.

The Bats attack the base and Misfit has to call upon Ben and his mates to help fend off the threat. Kamandi then attempts to stop the threat of the deadly plague but fails. Boxer and his men have to destroy Tracking Site by sending it on its long delayed mission into deep space.

They activate the systems, gather up Kamandi and barely escape as the base along with the attacking Bats and Misfit leave the atmosphere. Misfit is killed by the very bacteria he releases which also kills the Bats, but its deadly mission ends there in the solitude of space.

With these issues much of the continent drawn by Kirby in his map from issue number one has been explored, but there are a few regions left. Next time Kamandi goes to the Dominion of the Devils. 

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  1. Flower seems an archetype in some ways, a primitive fantasy figure that Kirby may have encountered by reading the Bounty Trilogy or seeing Mutiny on the Bounty in the theater, where Clark Gable finds romance with a primitive island girl. There is also the childlike Weena who the protagonist of the Time Machine meets. I'm sure Kirby had seen the George Pal production in the sixties. There have been many romantic stories about civilized "superior" white men finding and rescuing a wild, primitive flower in an exotic world, who then becomes devoted to him. It must be a pretty potent fantasy; it was all over popular entertainment and still pops up from time to time. More recently we've had more able and intelligent females joining our heroes (or being our heroes) in adventures on other worlds. It's much more engaging... to me, anyway.

    1. I thought of The Time Machine too. The parallel which smacks me quickest though is Nova from the actual PotA movies, the feral girl Taylor falls in love with and who eventually speaks. Clearly Kirby didn't want to encumber his hero with a sidekick so offed she must be.

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