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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"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!"

 

Same here.

 

There was a big push in the mid-late 70's and up to try and make DC more like Marvel, and that included everything being tied into ONE single continuity, even in cases where an individual series was clearly meant to stand alone in ITS OWN, SEPARATE continuity.  DC had a lot of them, and trying to "reconcile" them was a fool's errand. I guess they had a LOT of those working for them.

 

I've long felt that if LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES was allowed to have its own, separate continuity, it never would have gotten so F***** up from the late 80's-on up.  (And I'm sure a lot of people feel the same way about ALL-STAR SQUADRON.  Heck, after CRISIS, both OMAC and KAMANDI were considered as "never happened".  But of course they did-- the comics are still there.

 

One of my favorite DC minis a few years ago was BATMAN: DARK DETECTIVE by Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers & Terry Austin.  It was clear to me-- though MANY younger fans seemed incapable of grasping this-- that Steve was writing NEW stories set on EARTH-1.  That's right.  Not some Earth similar to "Earth-1", the REAL "Earth-1".  Which, post-CRISIS, had never not existed, had ALWAYS continued to exist, it's just DC had stopped writing new stories set there (by insistent EDITORIAL EDICT).  Insanely, DC editorial (no doubt led by Dan Didio) has expressed a firm desire to NEVER publish the 2nd half of the intended 12 issues... even though Paul Gulacy has offered to illustrate them.

 

I just don't get that. Thousands of "Esleworlds", yet they persist in NEVER doing any new "Earth-1" stories. Even the current LEGION, I understand, is on an Earth "similar" to the original while not ACTUALLY being the real thing. I mean... WHY NOT?????

Kamandi of the Caves sample strips can be seen here.


I haven't been able to find an account of what the premise of Kamandi of the Caves was going to be, but possibly Arkmanadas was going to be accepted into the cave tribe as Kamandi. If so, I think the strip's premise somewhat resembles that of "Tuk the Cave Boy" from Captain America Comics, set in prehistoric times. Tuk was a caveboy raised by primitive cavemen, but actually from a more advanced race. Unlike Arkamandas he had lost his parents too young to remember them, and he wandered with a Cro-Magnon man called Tanir.(1)  The Kamandi of the Caves strips have a character who may have been intended for the role of adult mentor figure, the caveman Roag. However, he has a wife and child, and I don't think he would've been depicted as leaving them behind to wander with Arkamandas/Kamandi.

 

Now, in this interview Infantino says he created "the idea of the kid alone in a post-apocalyptic world". If I'm right, this will not have been quite the premise of Kamandi of the Caves, so it could have been Infantino's contribution. An article in the Collected Jack Kirby Collector, online at Google Books, has a quote from an Infantino interview in Comic Scene Spectacular #6 in which Infantino said he "created Kamandi and plotted that for him [Kirby]," and didn't care about not getting creative credit because "As Editor, it was my job to create things." I doubt Infantino persistently plotted the series, but a plot contribution by Infantino could explain the similarities to Beneath the Planet of the Apes at the climax of Kamandi #1 (not only does Caesar's crowd worship the bomb, Kamandi tries to set it off as Taylor does his bomb in Beneath).

 

This post at the Kirby dynamics blog has images of what might be a proposal for the DC Kamandi while the feature was in development.

 

I think the claim that Kirby had not seen more than a few minutes of one of the Apes movies appeared in a Kamandi letters column.


(1) Their relationship reminds me of Kamandi's with Ben Boxer. At different points in Kirby's time on Kamandi Kamandi wandered by himself and with Ben.

The Kamandi presentation looks a lot like the POTA TV series with the Tigers replacing the Gorillas.

Weird thing about the warhead, Kamandi tries to destroy it because it's too powerful for Caesar to control yet at the end, nothing happens to it, the Tigers still have it and it's never mentioned again! More proof of an editorial "suggestion"?

As for OMAC, in his final issue (#8), he caught in a massive explosion and doesn't reappear until Jim Starlin's back-up in the last issue of Kamandi and continues in The Warlord, with a new costume, to boot!

Does he try to destroy it because he thinks it makes them too powerful? I interpreted him as out to commit an extravagent suicide.

Yes, so did I but the trigger was that the Tigers had this weapon of mass destruction and were using it to dominate their conquests. So if Kamandi wanted to end it, he was going to take them out with him. Perhaps getting rid of the Tigers would help the Humans rise again or some such notion.

 

I don't recall the implication that it helped them dominate their conquests in some way. I assumed they didn't know what it was (although Doc Canus does).

"As for OMAC, in his final issue (#8), he caught in a massive explosion and doesn't reappear until Jim Starlin's back-up in the last issue of Kamandi and continues in The Warlord, with a new costume, to boot!"

 

As it turns out, OMAC #8 was the middle of an intended 3-part story. So they cancelled the book at least 1 issue too early.

 

In 2002, David Morris & Dek Baker created their own OMAC #9, "IS THIS THE END OF OMAC?!"  It picks up exactly where Kirby's last issue left off and properly finishes the story.  As far as I'm concerned, that's the REAL sequel, and everything DC did with OMAC after Kirby "never happened".  The amazing thing was how, despite the art being a bit crude, both the art and especially the WRITING managed to capture the essense of Jack Kirby's style better than almost anybody I've ever seen over the years.

 

I wrote DC and suggested that if they ever collected OMAC in a single volume, they owed it to fans to include this episode-- even though it was NOT published by DC and done by a couple of fans.  But they didn't...

 

As published, the last panel of OMAC #8 was a non-Kirby paste-up. The original version said: "Don't miss the climax of the 'Skuba Incident!' It's a classic! IT'S THE WALKING DEAD! Unforgetable!"

The Secret Origin of Kamandi:

The Jack Kirby Collector #40 is the Kamandi issue. According to Mark Evanier: “Infantino was back in New York and speaking to Jack on the phone. They got to talking about the movie, The Planet of the Apes, which had come out a few years earlier and spawned numerous sequels (including a current hit) and quite a mechandising bonanza. As Jack explained it to us a few days after the conversation, Carmin said he’s inquired about doing a comic book based on the property and found the rights were either unavailable or prohibitively expensive…

“According to Jack, Infantino thought the time migth be right for something like Planet of the Apes, but asked Jack if he could up up with an idea similar enough to attract the Ape fans but no similar as to attract lawyers. Jack, of course, said yes. One of the great things about Kirby was his unshakeable belief in his own ability to create on any playing field. If you asked him if he could whip up a new western or a new war comic or just about anything, he always said ‘Sure’ and plunged into the task with gusto.

“I seem to recall that Jack had not seen any of the Planet of the Apes movies though he certainly knew the premise annd he may have read the novel on which the film had been based. As a starting point for the new comic book feature, he dug into an old art portfolio in the closet where he kept unsold, unused materials. There, he found about a half-dozen samples for an idead he’d once had for a newspaper strip entitled ‘Kamandi of the Caves.” The concept had been abandoned in the pencil stage but, Jack said, its time had come.

“He then began to describe the strip he had in mind, incorporating a few ideas that Infantino had said he’d like to see included. I recall thinking that apart from the name, what he was creating had very little to do woth the strip he’d just shown us. As it evolved later, it would move ever farther from that premise.”

Oddly, horses never get the chance to evolve. They remain beasts of burden though Kirby does introduce some talking burros later on.

I think you’re misremembering when the talking burro was introduced. Kirby’s premise was that only animals with appendages, not hooves, would evolve. (An intelligent snake was also introduced post-Kirby.) There’s an essay in one of the LOC pages which addresses this point. Similarly (as already noted), all that business of tying OMAC and Kamandi together was not Kirby.

The map at the end is a bit vague but Kirby does get to most of it!

He not only gets to it, but he also expands it to include the rest of the world!

Heck, after CRISIS, both OMAC and KAMANDI were considered as "never happened".

IIRC, post-Crisis, Kamandi and Tommy Tomorrow were ret-conned into being one and the same being, from two different timelines.

One of my favorite DC minis a few years ago was BATMAN: DARK DETECTIVE by Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers & Terry Austin.

Not to threadjack my own discussion, but a hardcover collection of all of Rogers’ Batman comic book work has been solicited for release this coming Wednesday. And speaking of my own discussion…

Issue #2: Kirby introduces Rats into his list ove evolved species. He also introduces Ben Boxer’s two friends, Renzi and Steve. All three can “fission” there bodies into metal (much like the X-Men’s Colossus would later be able to do). Ben Boxer explains: “It’s how my people survived the radiation disaster!--By exposing themselves to the rays in small intervals until they literally became--nuclear people!,” treating radioactivity as if it were an allergy. Their bodies also emit “invisible rays” which control their dirigible balloon. Yeah, right. Whatever.

Issues #3-5 occur in and around the city of Las Vegas, Nevada, and deal with the conflict between the Tigers and the Gorillas.

Issue #3: In an earlier post I speculated what a Jack Kirby The Planet of the Apes might have been like, and this all-ape issue is the closest thing there is to such a thing. Kirby’s double-page spread of his “Ape City” looks very much like the city described by Pierre Boulle in the Planet of the Apes novel, except that the pedestrian apes use “transit ropes” rather than “monkey bars” to traverse the streets.

 

New Character: It hardly seems worth mentioning the gorilla Chaaku since he doesn’t survive this issue.

Issue #4: Some fans would later complain that the meta-textual joke of Kamandi finding a copy of The Demon #1in the ruins fixes the “Great Disaster” in time, but if the “Great Disaster” should happen tomorrow, a copy of The Demon #1would be found among the ruins of my LCS, so maybe Kirby the visionary was foreseeing the rise of comic book specialty stores. :P

New Character: The fourth issue also introduces Kamandi’s friend and ally Tuftan the Tiger, son of Great Caesar.

Issue #5: The conclusion of the Tiger/Gorilla skirmish in Las Vegas give Kirby the opportunity to address the so-called “Generation Gap”:

Tuftan: Kamandi is incredibly intelligent for an animal! We can communicate with each other even as you and I, sire! You mustn’t…

Caesar: Shut up, Tuftan! We don’t communicate at all! In fact, I’ve long sensed a wide gap in the thinking of your generation and mine!

New Character: Kamandi’s “girlfriend” Flower. The most fantastic aspect of this issue, frankly, is that a boy Kamandi’s age would try to ditch a topless babe like Flower!

This is only my second time through Kamandi, and I must admit I’m enjoying it much more than the first even though only a few short years have passed. Kamandi is inarguably Kirby most popular 1970s DC series, although I must admit, the fact that I didn’t just finish reading his “Fourth World” epic this time around may have something to do with my more lenient assessment.

Here we go...  ALARMING TALES #1 / Sep'57 -- "THE LAST ENEMY!"

 

Enjoy...

http://cartoonsnap.blogspot.com/2007/10/more-alarming-1950s-kirby-s...

 

Looks like Kirby didn't need to read the POTA novel... this came several years before the novel!

Wow, that really looks like a Kamandi prototype! The cover of that issue looks familiar. I'm sure I've read that story (or one very like it) but I can't remember where. In TJKC #40 Evanier cites a 1957 story from Harvey's Amazing Tales as being similar in concept. Every story in that same, unidentified  issue foreshadows later work.

 

"The Cadmus Seed" presents early version of cloning factories later shown in Nick Fury and Jimmy Olsen;

 

"The Fourth Dimension is a Many Splattered Thing" presages the Nagative Zone from Fantastic Four;

 

"Donnegan's Daffy Chair" suggest a prototype for the Metron's "Mobius chair" from New Gods.

 

Jeff said: "An intelligent snake was also introduced post-Kirby."

In fact, no. Sacker, the conniving and capitalistic snake first appeared in Kamandi #12 and, IMO, is his greatest villain.

I hang my head in shame. This is only my second time through and I’m only up to issue #9 at this point. I thought the snake came later based on what I recall of the criteria Kirby set forth regarding which animals evolved and which did not. I’ll have to resort to the original comics to see if I can track that down.

ISSUE #6: Kirby throws races of intelligent Lions and Pumas into the mix of evolved species. He also introduces an animal mythology or history of a sort, the fabled “Land of Zuu.” All (or most) of the animal races sprang forth from the “United States of Zuu”: Washington Zuu, New York Zuu, Philadelphia Zuu, etc. This issue is also notable for the death of Flower (although Kirby does find a way to bring her back, after a fashion).

New Character: Sultin the lion.

ISSUE #7: Kirby’s take on King Kong. Kirby did a lot of old movie riffs in The Demon, but because of the giant ape angle, this one is better suited to Kamandi. The action shifts to the city of New Capitol, somewhere west of Washington, DC.

New Character: “Tiny” the giant ape. (Dies in the end in exactly the manner one would expect.)

ISSUE #8: Kirby introduces a race of intelligent Bears (poachers). Perhaps the action of the story has shifted to the “wild human preserve” (southern California/Mexico). It’s difficult to say without an exact reference. We know that “New Capitol” is west of Washington, DC, but not how far west. Presumably not too far, because the statue from the Lincoln Memorial is in evidence in this story’s museum (which also includes busts of “current” Presidents through Nixon. Maybe the ones from Ford on up were in the next room. :P )

Kamandi attacks a well-groomed and apparently pampered man on a leash, but the man turns out to be our equivalent of an attack dog. Interesting commentary on roles (and role reversals) here. On Kirby’s Earth A.D. (“After Disaster”), the animal species are much more likely to be sympathetic to “animal” (i.e., “human”) rights than, for example, the apes from Planet of the Apes.

In this issue, too, Kamandi reunites with Ben, Renzi and Steve (who thought he was dead) for the first time since they were separated in issue #4.

ISSUE #9: In an earlier post I mentioned that the Kamandi Omnibus contains three of my four favorite Kamandi stories. The first is issue #1, and the other two are #9-10. This story has some truly bizarre aspects! First, I’ll mention that Kirby introduces the race of Bats in this one. The double-page spread on pages 2-3 are, I think, the first of Kirby’s collages to appear in color, and never did reproduce well in black and white. The reprint from the Kamandi Archives looks the best I’ve ever seen one (up until this time, anyway), but the reproduction in this volume looks pretty good, too.

The four humans set a southerly course for their dirigible, from New Capitol to the “Tracking Site” in South America. The Tracking Site is a huge, hollow metal globe, magnetically suspended about the Earth. They cut the cables holding the basket to the balloon and drop inside. Then everything gets weird. First, they make a water landing, are picked up by a raft of androids, and taken to a staging area which is a replica of ship. All this is done in the name of preserving their “heritage” as descendants of scientists and astronauts. Kamandi is moved to salute the assembled androids waiting on “deck,” but his companions don’t “salute” until they report to the “NASA Mind” in the “eternal sanctum of mission control” and “feed” it the record of their journey.

If I were Kamandi, at this point I’d be contemplating how to get away from these yahoos as quickly as possible, even before it is discovered that Tracking Site has been taken over by the Murdering Misfit. The Misfit has a shriveled body with blue skin, but the top of his swollen head is orange. Dividing the blue and orange hemispheres of his head at the equator is a line of hair which defines the word “unibrow.” The Misfit is threatening to release Morticoccus, the ultimate germ, and when Kamandi tries to stop him, he inadvertently shuts down the defenses keeping the bats out. Because he’s a good guy, Kamandi attempts to save the Misfit by carrying him like a football.

IIRC, my favorite of issues #9 and #10 was #10, but I picked them both because it was a two-part story, yet all of the beats I remembered were from issue #9. Guess I’ll find out tonight.

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