This is not a review but a discussion. I hosted a Kamandi discussion once before, but enough time has passed that another one is in order. The Kamandi Omnibus reprints issues #1-20 (the first of two reprinting Kirby’s entire run) and is a great value in comparison to the two previous “archive” editions which reprinted the same issues. Plus, the art is much, much better suited to this non-glossy stock, my favorite format. And, this volume contain three of my four favorite Kamandi stories ever.

From what I have read (somewhere), supposedly Jack Kirby had not seen Planet of the Apes by the time he started this series, but I find it hard to believe that someone associated with it had not. It’s not just the ruins of the Statue of Liberty on the cover (and the double-page splash on pages 2-3) which makes me say so; it’s also that a group of leopards in issue number one worship an atomic bomb. That similarity to Beneath Planet of the Apes is too spot-on to be entirely coincidental (not to mention that one of the tigers is named “Caesar“).

The new POTA movie and comic book and prose novel have all put me in the proper frame of mind to re-read Kamandi at this time. Kamandi is not POTA, but it is (as they say) “an incredible simulation.” One could almost imagine Kamandi to be POTA by pretending the various animal species are all various tribes of apes. They’re not, b ut it’s fun to imagine Kirby doing 40 issues of POTA continuity! It could almost fit… almost.

The splash page explains: “HIS NAME IS KAMADI! It may seem like a strange name to you--but actually it is a sort of dramatic tribute to the people who once populated Command “D”, the last section of a large underground bunker complex!” Because Kamandi later returns to this bunker complex and one of the doors is plainly labeled “Command D”, I would have preferred it if Kirby hadn’t decided to make the significance of Kamandi’s name so explicit.

The first issue introduces species of intelligent wolves, tigers, leopards and dogs (as well as feral humans). Main characters include Caesar (a tiger), Dr. Canus (a dog), and Ben Boxer (a mutant human). It helps if one doesn’t think too hard about Ben Boxer’s body chemistry. He is “radioactive” (also described as a “natural atomic pile”) and has a “cyclo-heart” (also described as an “atom smasher”). A disc on the chest of his uniform acts as a “damper rod” which he must continually press in order to “control radiation leakage.”

Finally, the issue ends with a map of North and South America, indicating where Kirby intends to take the series in the future.

On a personal note, I have to be very careful where I’m situated in the room relative to my wife when I read this volume. I remove the book’s dust jacket when I read, and the front cover of the book itself features a head-shot of Kamandi. If there’s one character Tracy hate the very look of more than Archie Andrews, it’s Kamandi.

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Legend has it Carmine Infantino was the one who wanted to do a "Planet of the Apes" comic real bad, but Marvel already got the license. So he asked Jack to do something LIKE Planet of the Apes.  As always, anytime Kirby takes inspiration from something, he's creative enough to make his own version very different, and usually, MORE ENTERTAINING than the original.  That Carmine has had the unmittigated nerve to claim that HE "created" Kamandi speaks volumes of the kind of arrogant mindset that apparently still permeates DC editorial.

 

Kirby, of course, had done TUK, CAVEBOY way back in CAPTAIN AMERICA #1, and a newspaper strip proposal which didn't sell way back in the 50's called "KAMANDI OF THE CAVES". But more to the point, and spookier, he did a story called "THE LAST ENEMY" which appeared in ALARMING TALES #1, which involved someone time-travelling to a future world taken over by a variety of intelligent animals (dogs, rats, etc.). Not only is the premise rather similar to KAMANDI, but the story pre-dates Pierre Boulle's novel MONKEY PLANET by several years! No way to prove or disprove this, but some have suggested the possibility that PLANET OF THE APES may have been inspired by a Jack Kirby comic in the first place.

 

That aside, I read the novel back in the late 60's and have always felt the movies-- INCLUDING the 1st one, which so many consider a "classic", as vastly inferior to the novel. The main thing is, it's TOO DAMN DOWNBEAT, DEPRESSING and HOPELESS.

 

I'll take Kirby anyday.

I don't have the time to comment right now but I loved Kamandi. It was one of the great books of the 70s and may be Kirby's most over-looked masterpiece. Let me reread them to get my thoughts together. Quickly though, while there are POTA overtones to it, I can't see Kirby directly imitating other works but he could expand on them! Besides gorillas were never the main emphasis in Earth A.D.

Irony: I have only read ONE issue to date of KAMANDI-- the last one, which ended on a cliffhanger that was never followed up on.  I bought it for Jim Starlin's OMAC in the back.

 

In later years, I came to feel that Starlin's OMAC was a misguided abomination-- as was every single version that followed it. This may be because once I read Kirby's OMAC, it became my favorite of his early-70's works.

 

On the other hand... I absolutely love THUNDARR THE BARBARIAN (with Ookla The Mok and Princess Big Boobs!!).  Never mind that Steve Gerber created the series and Alex Toth designed the 3 main characters (and nothing else). the whoe show looked, felt and even "sounded" like Kirby (if that's possible, and I think in this instance it is). It cracked me up when someone opnce suggested Thundarr might really be Kamandi-- all grown up.

 

The Statue of Liberty appears in the 1st episode of THUNDARR, too... (and comes to life!)

 

 

"Ookla! Get Ariel to safety! I'LL handle the rats! After all, there can't be more than FIFTY of them...!"

Thank you, gentlemen. That's what I meant by "discussion."

I will say that Kirby’s (1970s) style was one of the first I recognized, but I didn’t associate him with his own name; I though of him as “that guy.” In fact, if I were to have compared his style on FF in Marvel’s Greatest Comics (which I read) to his earlier work in Marvel Collector’s Item Classics (which I acquired as back issues) , I would have though those issues were drawn by two different artists. It wasn’t until researching a term paper in college that I first internalized that the FF reprints as well as his ‘70s DC and Marvel output were all drawn by “that guy.”

I though "Ookla the Mok" was a band.
A band named after that character.
Seriously, I didn't know there was a character named "Ookla the Mok" and always wondered where the band got it name. (Now I know!) Uh... was there also a character named "Princess Big Boobs"?
No, there was a princess, and I forget her actual name, but that's just our Henry, being the irrepressible scamp that he is. ;)
Speaking as one "irrepressible scamp" to anothder, no doubt. ;)
I seem to recall hearing somewhere that "Ookla" was a gag on "UCLA", but I don't if it's true or not.
One of Ookla the Mok's album's is titled "Oh, Okay, L.A."

"there was a princess, and I forget her actual name"

 

"Ookla! Get Ariel to safety! I'LL handle the rats! After all, there can't be more than FIFTY of them...!"

 

http://www.google.com/search?q=thundarr+the+barbarian&hl=en&...

 

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_HGHxpUhDKRs/STWHxxtwGVI/AAAAAAAAB-c/TxiJg...

 

http://space1970.blogspot.com/2011/09/thundarr-barbarian-1980.html

 

My thoughts/observations on Kamandi #1 (N'72)

  • The movie Planet of the Apes was only four years ago and it ended with the Statue of Liberty. Kirby begins with it, as if saying "Yes there is some influence but wait and see what I do with it!" He gets the comparison out of the way quickly and moves out in another direction.
  • Visually Kamandi is similar to Angel from the 50s Boys' Ranch and young Thor from Tales of Asgard.
  • Kamandi is essentially a time-traveller here. Raised in a secluded bunker, he grew up on tales of mankind's triumphs and achievements. In this, his first trip outside his home, he is shocked to find the crumbling and destroyed remains of his heritage.
  • Humans are treated as "animals" at times and capable of speech when necessary.
  • The death of Kamandi's grandfather reminded me of the murder of Kala, Tarzan's ape-mother. It is a tragic event that forces Kamandi to venture alone without the one person who loved him.
  • In Kamandi #50 (post-Kirby), it is revealed that Kam's grandfather was Buddy Blank AKA OMAC. That does not mean that it's Buddy who is killed here and frankly it's hard to fathom that OMAC's world became Kamandi's in two generations!
  • The Wolf Looters who invade the Bunker and murder his grandfather are the Big Bad Wolf, destroying Kam's world.
  • He must now kill to survive, and we feel the pain in that decision.
  • Trying to find safety, he runs into a war between the Tigers, led by the impressive Great Caesar, and the Leopards. He saves Caesar's life and is captured as a "pet".
  • Technology is quite the mystery here. There are motorized vehicles yet the Tigers ride horses. There are artillery and firearms galore. Caesar even has a LASER! But as to how these devices are fueled, powered and reloaded, nothing is explained.
  • Oddly, horses never get the chance to evolve. They remain beasts of burden though Kirby does introduce some talking burros later on.
  • Kamandi, never the sharpest dresser, get a fancy new outfit but he quickly discards it.
  • The Tigers worship the atomic warhead as a symbol of their power, perhaps they value warfare and empire. It's similar to the Mutants in Beneath the POTA but different as well.
  • Kamandi wants to blow them all up, including himself. His new world is a nightmare and he wants nothing more of it.
  • He is stopped by Doctor Canus, the top dog-scientist, who recognizes him as something more than an "animal".
  • Strangely Kam's ability to speak raises few eyebrows. Imagine the reaction if a chimpanzee really started a conversation!
  • Canus introduces Kam to mutant Ben Boxer. Handsome, rugged, smart, he would be the hero in any other story but here he is Kamandi's friend, father-figure and hope in one space-suited package.
  • BTW, Ben was the only other Kamandi character to get an entry in DC's original Who's Who.
  • Kamandi breaks down, weeping in gratitude and relief, "I'm NOT alone! I'm NOT alone!" Powerful stuff.
  • The map at the end is a bit vague but Kirby does get to most of it!

Opinions? Corrections?

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