"This explanation is very like that of the recent movie Rise of the Planet of the Apes. “Art imitates art.”"
Why not? As several people pointed out to me, Pierre Boulle's novel was somewhat similar to a story Kirby did several years earlier.
I should really compile a list of all the (AHEM) "coincidences" where something in movies was almost IDENTICAL to something Kirby did YEARS earlier.
#16 was a great issue and it showed whoever the dominant species on Earth is that nothing is guaranteed. It also gives hope to mankind and, more importantly, Kamandi that humanity may rise again. OTOH, it's a perfect example of the Frankenstein Theory in action that any science can be turned against its creators.
BTW, in World's Finest #259 (N'79), an Earth-S version of cortexin was retconned into the origin of Mister Tawky Tawny, the Talking Tiger! Another late 70s appropiation of a Kirby Koncept!
INKERS: I need to back up a little bit here. The last couple of issue have been inked by D. Bruce Berry (with a much finer line that that used by Mike Royer). The credits for issue #16 read: “Inked by mountain-climbing Mike Royer with a helping hand from D. Bruce Berry” and represent Royer’s last work on Kamandi in Omnibus Vol. 1. In his introduction, Royer writes: “Back then I had to letter a complete book in less than two days and ink three pages a day! I would guess that I hold the record as an inker for keeping up with Kirby’s prolific creative output, though of course I could not sustain this level indefinitely. A hint of the toll that working to Kirby’s pace demanded can be found on page 349, in the credits for issue #16… ‘Mountain-climbing’ Mike Royer, after eight days in the wilderness, stood almost 15,000 feet high atop majestic Mt. Whitney in the Sierra Nevada range, filled his lungs with crisp, icy air and said, ‘Do I really need to be wotking this hard?’”
ISSUE #18: This issue begins with an action sequence: Kamandi, chased by gorillas, escapes down a chute and reunites with the Gofer People. It turns out that Kamandi was providing a distraction so his new friends could loot the gorillas’ camp. The machine maintained by the Gopher People (which Kamandi discovered at the end of last issue) serves no apparent purpose… until it suddenly breaks down and a giant worm attacks! It’s always fun to guess at Kirby’s inspirations. By all accounts he was a voracious reader, but he also evidently watched a certain amount of television. I see equal measure of Dune’s Sandworms and Star Trek’s Horta in this issue’s giant worm.
Meanwhile, the Apes have set an explosive trap for the Gopher People, and Kamandi inadvertently leads the giant worm right into it. It eats the ammo and explodes, and Kamandi steals a land rover from Sgt. Ugash, the leader of the Ape troops. Earlier in this discussion I wondered what a Kirby Planet of the Apes might look like. I think these "all-ape" issues are pretty much it.
ISSUE #19: The Apes pursue Kamandi to the city of Chicago, which has miraculously survived the Great disaster. Once there he is met by a group of human gangsters who take him to a roaring ‘20s-style speakeasy. They decide to “bump him off,” and he flees right into the hands of the Apes. Caught in a crossfire between Ugash and a gangster named Gentelman George, Kamandi escapes harm, but Ugash shoots Gentleman George in the face. Much to the surprise of both Kamandi and Ugash, the ganster rises…
Cliffhanger: …and is revealed to be an android robot!
Speaking of Kirby’s sources of inspiration, I’ve got to believe he must have been watching syndicated Star Trek reruns around the time he was putting together this issue and last. #18 seems based in part on “Devil in the Dark” and “Chicago Saga” in #19-20 seems equal parts “A Piece of the Action” and “Shore Leave.” I’ve got to admit I didn’t fully appreciate the weirdness of “apes vs, gangsters in Prohibition-era Chicago” when I first read these stories a few short years ago.
Digression: I remember the cover to this issue very well from when I was a kid. I didn’t buy it, but I’m sure I saw it on the spinner rack of the Droste Drug store. The cover was featured in a house ad that month, so I might remember it from another comic I bought that month, but I remember seeing it in the drug store specifically (as opposed to Ahmann’s Newstand).
ISSUE #20: Kirby gives Ugash the line, “Get your paws off of me you… ANIMALS,” before the robotic cops go all Rodney King upside his head. Kamandi and Ugash later escape their cell, only to find the entire city of automatons frozen in their tracks. They all suddenly come to life when the unlikely pair enters a courtroom. Kamandi ditches Ugash, but later finds him again as he is being taken to be executed by electric chair. Kamandi doesn’t think it’s right that even Ugash should be killed by robots run amok, so he lifts a gun and fires it to attract the attention of Ugash’s troops, who have been searching for him.
In the confusion, Kanandi makes his way “behind the scenes” and discovers the computer running the whole mechanical works. As he leaves, he passes a sign which reads: “You are leaving CHICAGO-LAND, the fully automated LIVING MUSEUM.” The final full-page panel shows Kamandi overlooking “Monster Lake”(from the map in issue #1), under which the real city of Chicago lies submerged. And that’s a good place to end this volume (and this discussion0 until the release of Kamandi Omnibus Vol. 2.
I’ve got to admit I didn’t fully appreciate the weirdness of “apes vs, gangsters in Prohibition-era Chicago” when I first read these stories a few short years ago.
I doubt it's humanly possible to fully appreciate that level of weirdness.
And that’s a good place to end this volume (and this discussion) until the release of Kamandi Omnibus Vol. 2.
Well, if you don’t mind me flogging the horse a bit more...
I don’t have all of these, but it looks like the plot is quite repetitive in each issue as Kamandi escapes, goes on a rampage and is brought back ‘to heel’. It makes you wonder why Sacker gives him so much freedom after he does it the first time, even when Kamandi refuses to agree to Sacker’s terms. Of course, Sacker probably needs the best candidates for the race itself, which is obviously an unusual event. The idea of the participants bringing sidearms along makes it a pretty ludicrous race too.
But on the score of Sacker’s illogical leniency, I was satisfied with that shock ending to issue 15. Sacker just wanted Kamandi to run in the race, and was well aware that he was too ‘untamed’ to be useful beyond that. The ending was artistically satisfying, but also horrifically chilling. Not just that our intrepid young hero came so close to being humanely destroyed, but also with the deliberate nod to what had been done in the Nazi concentration camps. Kirby does manage to inject these ice-cold doses of reality into his whacked out fantasies.
There doesn’t seem to have been a lot of event for 4 issues, but I think the series benefitted from the space the readers got to see Kamandi interact with a steady cast for a while. Bull Bantam is a great name. At once the tough Alpha Male, and also a preening, crowing midget rooster. Wiki tells me Bantam denotes breeds of chicken which are bred to be 1/5 to a ¼ of the size of their normal counterparts!
There is some kind of despair running through this series, sometimes manifested in a refusal to let writerly sentiment interfere with what would realistically happen to people in a world like this. Both Flower and Klikklak were loyal and innocent victims of the cruelty and barbarity of Earth AD. I hated seeing Klikklak die here.
Because of the kind of post-apocalyptic adventure tale this is, we get recurring characters to protect and help the hero along the way, but within the terms of that, Kamandi is alone. He loses Tuftan to run into Ben’s team and then is on his own for a while and then meets Tuftan again. In comics terms, that’s the equivalent of being despairingly alone...
The King said:
In developing my animal characters, I find myself relating to them with astonishing ease. Once they have acquired human qualities and names, they become real people, friends and enemies, some to be scorned and others to be respected. It seems to me that all of us have been doing this for centuries, forgetting that these creatures are merely animals. From the largest to the smallest, they seek only to survive as best they can. In the scale of things, they are as important to our well being as we can be to theirs. Let’s not make them the Kamandis of our world.
Perhaps this aspect of Kamandi only snuck up on Kirby as he became more immersed in the story he was telling, but these tales turned out to be a powerful means of putting us in the shoes of the animals we so horribly mistreat all the time.
‘From the largest to the smallest, they seek only to survive as best they can.’ Kirby had a big heart, full of empathy.
It also occurs to me that humans are treated less as pets or animals throughout the course of this series as they are slaves.
I knew when I read the start of that sentence that I was about to read something insightful, and this is! How the animals treat the humans is very like how slavery has often been justified and rationalised by those benefitting from it. (It’s the same kind of thinking that stated that women had no souls. How can something you own have a soul?) One letters page says that what we read as sentences that Kamandi hears the humans speaking, only comes across as meaningless grunting to their captors. None so deaf as those that will not hear... Note that the cleverer animals Kamandi meets take it in their stride that he can talk. It’s not that big a shock to them.
The Watergate Tapes. Sometimes Kirby is so out there that there’s just nothing to be said. I must read this one again soon.
A humorous scene involves Kamandi taking a bath while singing “Yellow Submarine” which, he explains to Dr. Canus, his grandfather told him was written by a group of Beetles.
It’s funny how my comics reading and ‘real life' intersect sometimes. Just this morning, I was playing some video clips of ‘Yellow Submarine’ on You-tube for my two year old, and then this afternoon we were listening to the radio and different Beatles songs came on. I told her that it was the same band playing that sang Yellow Submarine.
“That’s the Beatles!” I told her.
She laughed as she responded: “That’s not Beetles playing music!!”
I am going to have to reevaluate my favorite issues of this series, because #16 certainly deserves to be counted among them.
I’d agree. Great issue. Even without the important insights into the backstory, this is a powerful stuff, well told. The parallel narratives trick is clever, and works really well.
It’s very cinematic. I haven’t seen Rise of the Planet of the Apes yet, but I’d imagine the more they lifted from this issue, the more powerful the movie would be!
For a so-called kids comic, Kirby keeps the horrors coming. In issue 17, we see that some humans have devolved into troglodytic little mole-men who only understand the words 'good' and 'bad'.
The real horror is in issue 20, when Ugash is about to be executed in the electric chair. He's not a nice gorilla - not that there seem to be many nice Gorillas in Earth AD - but what happens to him is just horrible. It's chilling that he doesn't know why the automatons are trying to put him in the chair, but we do. And then it's worse when he realises that his life is about to be snuffed out like a light. Kirby put real feeling into that sequence. The fact that Ugash is such an unlikeable brute, but we are still aghast at what might happen to him says much for Kirby's craft, and for the real engagement he must have had with the subject. There seems to be an attitude to capital punishment coming through. A state kills people with the same heartlessness and lack of feeling that the automatons try to do here.
The stark cold way Kirby presents the horror of it is an echo of what almost happened to Kamandi in the gas chamber. It's the inhumanity of it Kirby conveys so well. Treating humans like objects or just animals. Looking at the gas chamber sequence in issue 14 again, Kirby seems to have modeled the inside of the room on what the dormitorys of the concentration camps were like, with the rough wooden bunkbeds on top of each other like that.
Kamandi seems pretty unrelenting, doesn't it?