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.