The first character called "Ka-Zar" came from the pulps, but when Martin Goodman decided to publish comic books, he moved that character over to his very first, Marvel Comics #1. The first Ka-zar was a boy whose parents' plane crashed in the African jungle when the boy, David Rand, was only three years old. His mother, Constance, died shortly after of the fever, but his father, John, lived until he was killed by hostile natives when David was about 12 or 13. He learned to communicate with the animals and blah, blah, blah... When Lee and Kirby revived the character in 1965 it was a complete reboot, but it was the pulp adventures of Ka-Zar which inspired young Kevin Plumber to... but wait. I'm getting ahead of myself.
There has been talk on this board, from time to time, of someone starting a Ka-Zar discussion for as long as I have been a member. The 80th anniversary of the first appearance of the comic book version of the first Ka-Zar seems as good of a time as any to finally do so. Some of the earliest comics I acquired as backissues were the "King-Size" Ka-Zar reprint series and the issues of Marvel Tales reprinting the issues of Spider-Man in which Spidey met Ka-zar. when I was in high school I read Ka-Zar the Savage, and when I was in college I began collecting his early appearances, previous series and reprints via backissues. One of the latest of the early appearances I acquired was his very first from X-Men #10. Up until that time I had been pronouncing his name as I had since I was a child: Kuh-ZAR.
As the story opens, Ka-Zar is back in the Savage Land without explanation. A stranger has been captured by the Swamp Men and is being taken to sacrifice. Juman sacrifice is against Ka-Zar’s law, and after he rescues the man, Ka-Zar explains, “Many times has Ka-zar walked among your people! But ever does he return to his hidden jungle!” The man introduces himself as “a scientist of some renown” and Ka-zar tells him about “the mystery of the glowing cave.”
As a scientist, Bruce Banner is able to identify the glow as a “strangely shielded type of atomic radiation” as well as the purpose of the machine emitting it, to gradually alter the Earth’s rotation on its axis, which has already begun to cause all manner of natural disasters. He is also able to determine that any force used against it will speed up the action f the device, destroying Earth in seconds, but he thinks he can reprogram it. Just then, the Swamp Men attack and banner Hulks out.
An argument ensues and the Hulk knocks Ka-Zar to the ground, stunned. Zabu misunderstands and leaps to defend his master. Ka-Zar recovers and tries to reason with the Hulk, but Ka-Zar uses the Hulk’s trigger word (“Banner”) and the Hulk attacks. Hulk crashes through the wall of the cave and crashes to the river below. Soon all three are fighting in the water. Meanwhile, around the world, the effects of the machine are being felt.
Back in the Savage Land, a giant, four-armed statue called Umbu comes to life, fulfilling a prophecy of the Swamp Men that any attack upon the machine would be defended by Umbu. Legend has it that the machine and the statue were left behind by aliens. The Hulk tosses Ka-Zar and Zabu into the jungle where Ka-zar is knocked unconscious, found by the Swamp Men and taken for ritual sacrifice. Ka-zar awakens suspended by his four limbs over a fire pit. He manages to free himself, but by the time he fights his way back to the cave, Umbu is immobile. The Hulk has reverted to Banner and is lying on the ground with no pulse, apparently dead.
But his body is still warm. Ka-zar rushes into the jungle for rare herbs and plants, but by the time he returns, Banner’s body is gone! There is an indentation in the grass where his body was, and it is surrounded by strange circular “footprints.” Ka-zar follows the footprints into the outside world, but there is no sign of the body, or whatever left the footprints, to be found.
MARVEL SUPER-HEROES #19:
First, look at that cover by Barry Smith and Herb Trimpe. Their Kirby-school styles complement each other perfectly, and this would not be the last time they would work together.
Second, I almost presented this story out of publication order because it begins in England and ends in the Savage Land, but ultimately I chose not to. At first blush, the story seems to account for Ka-Zar’s return to the Savage Land, but it doesn’t really. It has some other problems as well. It is written by Arnold Drake and the interior art is by George Tuska.
The story begins with Ka-Zar breaking up a fox hunt hosted by his brother, called “Edger” throughout this story. (Maybe his name is Parnival Edgar Plunder.) We learn that Kevin has renounced his inheritance (largely because his brother has been feeding him lies) and that Edgar, again Lord Plunder, has been paroled (even though last time we saw him he had escaped prison and was still at large). The estate is located in Derbyshire.
Parnival/Edgar is playing host to Marlowe, his and Kevin’s father’s best friend, and his daughter Vanessa. Apparently, Kevin’s half of the anti-metal medallion is back in the Savage Land. (Perhaps he left it there after Hulk #111.) Ka-Zar becomes fed up and returns to the Savage Land, but it’s uncertain how he gets there. He doesn’t take the Pluderer’s submarine because he himself follows Ka-Zar in it. Once there, the Plunderer conspires with Mordrees, the leader of the tribe of Golden People.”
Quor, an alien, supplies Sagyr, the leader of the “Reptile People,” with a weapon to fight the Golden People. Ka-zar fights the reptile people and the Plunderer fights the Golden People. (Wait a minute… aren’t they supposed to be his allies?) Marlowe is fatally wounded in the battle, but scribbles a message in the sand: “Your father was a man of peace—Plunderer lied.” Unfortunately, the Plunderer find the message before Ka-Zar does and erases most of it with his boot. When Ka-Zar finds it, all it says is, “Your father was…”
This story could have been a lot better than it was.
One day in the Savage Land Ka-Zar encounters four of the X-Men he met once before: Cyclops, Marvel girl, Beast and Iceman. They are making too much noise fighting a tyrannosaurus rex while he is trying to track a group of Swamp Men who have captured on of the Water People. Ka-zar asks them to keep it down and they fight. Zabu puts a stop to that, and the X-Men follow Ka-Zar.
The Swamp Men are being led by a mutant named Equalibrius, whose power induces vertigo in the jungle lord. The X-Men pitch in and save Ka-Zar, but one of the Swamp Men escapes. Ka-Zar tracks him and the X-Men continue to follow. They hear the sound of pipes playing, and a reptile appears out of the hot springs. The X-Men battle the reptile while Ka-Zar takes out the Piper. Once the Piper has been defeated, the reptile loses interest and goes away.
Then they see the Angel, who had not accompanied them to the Savage Land, flying overhead. They debate whether or not it really is the angel while Ka-Zar opines, “He who waits for the cobra to speak… shall never hear the babbling brook!” then takes off after him. The Angel had followed the rest of the X-Men, but was attacked and injured by a group of pterodactyls. He was rescued and nursed back to heath by a man called the Creator. The Angel explains that the Creator is like Professor X, and is in the Savage Land to help a group of mutants he has discovered.
They will soon learn that the “Creator” didn’t discover the Savage Land mutants, he created them from Swamp Men by tapping the power of the south magnetic pole. They are referred to as “neo-mutants” or “mutates.” [NOTE: In the MU, the word “mutate” is not a verb but a noun. It has the same meaning as “mutant” in reality, but it is used to differentiate mutants who are artificially created from those who are born.) A battles ensues between Ka-Zar & the X-men and the mutates Gaza (a blind giant who can “see” mentally), the Man-Frog, the four-armed Barbarus and Brainchild.
Another mutate calls a pack of wolves, but Zabu deals with them. Then the Creator reveals himself to be (wait for it)… Magneto! Then he reveals his ace-in-the-hole, the mutant Lorelei who puts the X-Men and Ka-Zar under her siren spell. Her power has no effect on Marvel girl, though, who defeats Magneto and sets off an explosion which apparently kills him. With Magneto’s equipment destroyed, the mutates return to their original forms. Cyclops mentions that they’ll be “happier” that way, an opinion Ka-Zar questions. For a comic book that a lot of “outsiders” took comfort in, this note struck false with me when I first read it and it strikes false with me now.
#62 was the best-selling of all the Neal Adams issues, and with that cover, it’s easy to see why.
Jeff of Earth-J said:
#62 was the best-selling of all the Neal Adams issues, and with that cover, it’s easy to see why.
That is a fantastic cover! Kind of a combination of X-Men #10 and Daredevil #12.
Disclaimer: I am presenting Spider-Man #103-104 slightly out of publication order. Once I get to the Astonishing Tales era I don’t want to disrupt the flow, but Ka-zar’s encounter with Kraven the Hunter in Spider-Man #103-104 definitely takes place after Astonishing Tales #1-2. (Also, I liked the idea of reading a Gil Kane illustrated story back-to-back with a Neal Adams one.)
Roy Thomas’ two-month stint spelling of Stan Lee on Spider-Man #101-102 turned into a four month one, and he found himself stuck for a story idea. Penciler Gil Kane suggested a story based on King Kong, and Thomas ran with it, casting J. Jonah Jameson in the Carl Denham role, Peter Parker as “Jack Driscoll” and Gwen Stacy as “Ann Darrow.”
As the story opens, Jameson is holding a staff meeting. The Dailey Bugle is in trouble, losing a lot of its readers to television. Jameson’s attention is attracted by a guide named Calkin being interviewed on the Dick Cavett Show. Calkin’s story is that his camp in Antarctica was attacked by a large monster, and he drew a sketch. Jameson speculates that the monster must have come from the Savage Land, and quickly organizes an expedition to “scoop” the television coverage.
He wants Peter Parker to accompany him and Calkin as photographer, but he also invites Gwen Stacy for a little sex appeal. Soon after they arrive at their destination they encounter the monster (who wears clothes and speaks some sort of alien language). By the time Ka-Zar enters the story, the monster has already knocked Peter off a cliff into the river below and carried Gwen away. Peter is presumed killed, so Ka-Zar sets out to rescue Gwen.
We soon learn that the monster is an alien whose has crash-landed on Earth and who is under the control of Kraven the Hunter. Kraven has set up shop in the Savage Land and has kidnapped Gwen to become his mate. Meanwhile, Peter has switched to Spider-Man and has set out to rescue his girlfriend. Unfortunately, he becomes trapped in quicksand and, with his web-shooters jammed, he cannot extricate himself.
Luckily, Ka-Zar finds and saves him while searching for Gwen. The two pool their resources, Spider-Man luring Gog away while Ka-Zar rescues Gwen. Spider-Man’s plan was to give Gog the slip then double back to help Ka-Zar, but Gog proves too hard to ditch. Gog gets into a fight with a passing t-rex, but Gog wins. Meanwhile, Ka-Zar fights Kraven. Eventually, Kraven falls off a cliff to certain death. Spider-Man lures Gog to the quicksand pit where Gog drowns. Ka-Zar returns Gwen to Jameson and Calkin’s camp, then Peter returns (claiming he was saved by landing in a tree but had been knocked unconscious), all without being (by anyone but Ka-Zar) as Spider-Man. They return to the Antarctic base without having taken any pictures of Gog.
Okay, now that the preliminaries are over, it’s time to pick up the pace. But first, before I get to Astonishing Tales (and Ka-Zar Masterworks Vol. 1), I’d like to mention one black & white magazine-sized comic slightly out of order…
SAVAGE TALES #1: Savage Tales was, I think, Marvel’s first attempt at a non-Code-approved b&w magazine (not including Spectacular Spider-Man a couple of years earlier). It featured tales of Conan, Ka-Zar and the very first Man-Thing. Spotty distribution killed it, although a second issue was prepared but not published. (Keep that in mind.) the first Ka-Zar story was about a man and his unfaithful wife wjho came to the savage Land seeking “vibranium” (anti-metal, actually), and the second was a fantasy story about a beautiful interdimensional queen and a race of lizard men.
Now on to ASTONISHING TALES.
Astonishing Tales was one of two “split-books” launched in 1970 (the other being Amazing Adventures). I had forgotten how good these early issues were! In addition to Jack Kirby on the “Ka-Zar” side, the “Doctor Doom” side featured art by Wally Wood. Barry Smith took over for Kirby, and Gene Colan took over for Wood. But I’m getting ahead of myself (and I’m not going to be dealing with the Doctor Doom stories in this discussion in any case).
The first Ka-Zar story was by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and featured Kraven the Hunter coming to the Savage Land and capturing Zabu. (This is the first meeting of Ka-Zar and Kraven as mentioned in Spider-Man #103-104. In issue #2, Ka-Zar follows Kraven to New York City for their second battle, but Kirby’s art came in right around the time of his resignation from Marvel, so Lee turned the scripting over to Roy Thomas. Kirby also introduced the Petrified Man (later called “Garokk, the Sun God”), which surprised me the first time I read it (as a backissue). I first encountered Garokk in X-Men (also as a backissue) and thought he was designed by John Byrne.
In #3, the feature was turned over to Gerry Conway and Barry smith, who lasted for four issues. Conway and Smith introduced Zaladane, Priestess of the Sun God, formerly a sailor who, 500 years before, found himself shipwrecked in the Savage Land where he drank an elixir which granted him immortality, but also slowly turned him to living stone. #3 also introduces the native Tongah, who will go on to become Ka-Zar’s friend and companion. Zaladane launches a holy war, but ultimately Garokk puts a stop to it, but succumbs to insanity. Zaladane keeps switching sides. She shows Ka-Zar how to defeat Garokk (dip him in a pool of elixir water), but then betrays him to the pool’s guard beast. Tongah and Zabu route the beast (which kills Zaladane, but not before she switches sides… again), and Ka-Zar defeats Garokk.
#6-7 is a two-parter about the mad god Damon and his lost love Lelania. Part one is by Conway and Smith, but Roy Thomas and Herb Trimpe finish it off. We learn that Tongah’s wife and child have been killed, but his sister (Tatia) and little brother (Emuel) are still alive. A glowing bauble causes Tatia to “psyche merge” with Lelania’s corpse, who brings Damon this senses. Back in England, Conway introduces a rain-soaked stranger looking for Kevin Plunder in #6 and who decides to go to the Savage Land in #7. If you don’t know who this character is already, you may be surprised when her identity is finally revealed.
#8 is the last in the split book format. Thomas continues to write (or co-write) the next several issues. He and Herb Trimpe made a conscious decision to emulate Edgar Rice Burroughs for this next story, “The Battle of New Brittania,” about German and English soldiers trapped in the Savage Land since WWII. It begins with a plane crash. In the plane are the girls from issues #6-7 (now called “Barbara”) and her fiancé, Paul. The Germans are redirecting lava from the volcanoes to super-heat the water surrounding the island where the English live. It ends on a cliffhanger which won’t be resolved until #10 because of the “Dreaded Deadline Doom” (that’s four months later because Astonishing Tales is bi-monthly).
Also in #8 is a back-up story about the Link brothers, Damion (a cop) and Joshua (a criminal). They’ll turn up again in #17. #9 is the out-of-continuity story originally intended for Savage Tales #2. Barry smith is back for #10, in which the battle gets well and truly underway, with the Germans flying atop Pleisosaurs and the English riding Archaeopterx. The respective leaders perpetuate the war their sons are fighting because it’s the only way of life they know.
Gil Kane joins Roy Thomas in #11 for the long-awaited “Origin of Ka-Zar!” (which means “son of tiger” we are told). Paul and Barbara are still around, but we don’t learn anything more about them, although we do learn why Maa-Gor is the “last of the man-apes” and why he and Ka-Zar hate each other so. Basically, Maa-gor killed Kevin’s father (as well as Zabu’s family), and Ka-zar caused an avalanche which wiped out the rest of Maa-Gor’s tribe.
#12 is a story-within-a-story in which a new framing sequence (by Roy Thomas and John Buscema) surrounds the second Man-thing story, intended for Savage Tales #2 (by Len wein and Neal Adams). The Neal Adams pages are presented in black and white (with hues of yellow and light blue captions) because they are reproduced from un-inked pencils. Barbara Morse and Paul Allen are given last names and revealed to be government agents (SHIELD, as we will learn). Ka-zar accompanies them to Miami to search for the missing Ted Sallis (now the Man-Thing) who vanished from the project attempting to re-create the super-soldier formula which turned Steve Rogers into Captain America. Ka-zar is kind of sweet on Barbara, who apparently tried to contact Ka-Zar for his tracking abilities in the first place. This last point is never spelled out, but I’m sure the idea to graft unused Savage Tales material was not intended by Garry Conway when he introduced the character was back in #6 a year ago (bi-monthly, remember?). Doctor Calvin (another scientist associated with the project) takes a shot-gun blast to the back.
In #13, Paul is revealed to be an AIM spy, and Barbara, a SHIELD scientist, was assigned to keep an eye on him. Their being engaged was part of her cover, freeing her up to become Ka-Zar’s romantic interest. I’d be willing to accept that her being a scientist is part of her cover, too, but this plot point is maintained for the rest of her appearances. Have you guessed who she is yet (or who she becomes)? With this issue, Man-thing’s transition from b&w magazine to color comic is complete.
Issue #14 is a reprint of the Ka-Zar story from Savage Tales #1… with the art toned waaay down.
#15 is by Mike Friedrich and Gil Kane. Ka-Zar follows Barbara (with this issue, “Bobbi”) to New York City. It’s somewhat out of character for him to voluntarily go to the big city, but with Paul out of the picture, he’s interested. Ka-zar runs afoul of small-time drug dealer “The Pusher” and his man Vinnie. Vinnie, as it turns out, is Dr. Calvin’s son. The irony is, she needs his support to recover, but the shock of finding out he’s a criminal may kill her. Friedrich treats us to dialogue such as this introduction to a flashback sequence: “Mindwatch: the death’s-edge life-before-the-eyes number. Dig.”
Rich Buckler takes over art chores in #16 as the Pusher (wearing a strength-enhancing vest) beats Ka-Zar, then Vinnie. Ka-Zar recovers and beats the usher. Then Vinnie (whose real name is Percy) and his mother share a hospital room. Dr. Calvin recovers.
And that’s it for Marvel Masterworks Ka-Zar Vol. 1 (which also includes Marvel Super-Heroes #19, BTW). My question is this: do you prefer it when I cover one issue per post, or when I “pick up the pace” to include an entire volume?
No input? That's okay. At least I'm getting some views so I don't feel as if I'm wasting my time. this particular volume is atypical, anyway, in that it comprises a bi-monthly split book. No "decompressed storytelling" here! If a subplot or a supporting character is not dealt with in every story, that's at least four months the writer expects the reader to keep it in his head... and longer than that in cases of "Dreaded Deadline Doom" (which has already struck this title twice).
When/if I do "pick up the pace," I expect it will look like my recent reviews of Daredevil and Captain Marvel Masterworks over on "What Comics Have You Read Today?"