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.
KA-ZAR THE SAVAGE #7: Ka-Zar has a highly symbolic dream and spends 17 pages (including a double-page spread) relating it to Shanna. Then Shanna spends three pages helping him interpret it. The first page of the story was spend arguing about their respective relationships with Leanne and Dherk. I had forgotten how much their relationship progressed throughout the course of this series. Kudos to Mssrs. Jones and Anderson (co-plotters)! This plot was quite unusual for the day. Maybe I'll read Moon Knight next.
KA-ZAR THE SAVAGE #8: Ka-Zar wants to explore Dherk's laboratory. the first thing they discover is that Dherk's body is missing. Then they find a video tape library which details the history of Pangea, but one of the tapes is missing. It starts with a map of the Earth as it appeared in 12,000 B.C. The Savage Land is a natural anomaly (as we have always been told), but Pangea is a resort/amusement park constructed by the ancient Atlanteans. They also conducted genetic experiments in the Savage Land and turned it into a pre-historic "Jurassic Park." Now their technology is beginning to fail, and Antarctica's natural climate is beginning to encroach upon Pangea.
They encounter many dangers while exploring Dherk's lab, including a robot guard which tries to kill them. They also find a partially constructed Shanna android. Eventually, they meet Dherk himself... at least they think it's Dherk until they find the missing tape. the tape reveals how the malfunctioning robot, "Mother," took Dherk's body and transferred his mind into a robot duplicate of his body. Mother then set about creating a duplicate "Shanna" as well. Once Dherk realizes that he himself is an android, he gives up his romantic aspirations toward Shanna.
Man, I had forgotten how good this series is!
Yikes! I almost missed a day.
KA-ZAR THE SAVAGE #9: As good as this little action yarn is (again, co-plotted by Jones and Anderson), it is a mere prelude to what come next. As the story opens, Ka-Zar, Shanna and Dherk are putting the finishing touches on the repairs to the environmental machinery. Shanna accidentally releases a genetically engineered griffin which soon grows to gigantic proportions. they track it to Aerie shalan and meet up with Buth and Dephine (who is injured by the griffin) again. the Aerians have invented mechanical wings for Ka-Zar and Shanna so they no longer have to ride skites. Ka-Zar, Shanna, Dherk and Buth pursue the griffin to Mt. Flavius, Pangea's only active volcano. They drive the creature into the volcano, which erupts, revealing a doorway above which are emblazoned the words: "ABANDON HOPE ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE."
KA-ZAR THE SAVAGE #10: This is the first "direct distribution" issue. It was this storyline which inspired me to read Dante's Inferno. When one of my friends noticed what I was reading he asked me why, and I said. "Guess!" He said, "Knowing you, there was probably some obscure allusion to it in a Three Stooges short." (That actually wasn't a bad guess.) I remember some comic book writer saying something along the lines of, "If my story inspires just one person to read the original source material, I will consider it a success." I don't think it was Bruce Jones in reference to Ka-Zar the Savage/Dante's Inferno, but it might have been. I definitely remember applying that sentiment to this case.
The paperback edition I was reading had few, if any, illustrations. Years later, I bought a comic book adaptation which included the Gustave Dore illustrations, but it was woefully incomplete. Much more recently, I bought the first 20 or so issues of Cerebus in Hell? in which the Aardvark accompanied Dante and Virgil through the underworld and realized just how many of the Dore illustrations I had never seen. Shortly after that I found a profusely illustrated on clearance that i rellay must get arounf to reading someday (soon).
Shanna took 16 college credit hours studying Dante alone (odd for a veterinarian?) and served as their guide. #10 also included a single-page autobiography comic of Bruce Jones ("Rocketman") and one of Brent Anderson ("In the Beginning" or: "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Comics"). It also included Anderson's original (rejected) cover of #1 as a pin-up.
KA-ZAR THE SAVGE #11: The ship's log of 24 year-old Captain Dante Alighieri is found. It presents a much less fanciful version of events than he would later put forth in his epic poem and introduces the character of the sorcerer-priest Belasco. At the end of the issue, Ka-Zar comes face-to-face with the immortal Belasco himself.
TALES OF ZABU: This issue also begins the "Tales of Zabu" back-up feature by Bruce Jones and Gil Kane ,which traces the origin of the sabre toothed cat from his birth up through his earliest (i.e., pre-X-Men #10) adventures with Ka-Zar. Gil Kane reportedly loved drawing wildlife, and it shows here. the feature runs in most issues through #26, but I probably won't have much else to say about it.
KA-ZAR THE SAVAGE #12: This issue provides details of the origin of the demonic Belasco. His objective is to complete a ritual which will bring the Elder Gods he worships through the dimensional plane to Earth. He is defeated by Ka-Zar, but this is not the last we will see of Belasco. Not only will he appear in future issues, but Chris Claremont appropriated him to the extent it seemed as if Belasco were eappearing every month in one title or another. This story does not as closely resemble the plot of The Inferno as I had remembered (which is probably just as well).
Continuity note: Marvel Fanfare #1 is released the same month as Ka-Zar the Savage #12. Ka-Zar's appearance in MF #2 definitely takes place prior to KTS #1, but the placement of his appearance in MF #4 remains problematic at this point.
KA-ZAR THE SAVAGE #13: The story is titled "'Til Death Do Us Part" and begins with shanna and Ka-Zar discussing marriage. shanna is willing, but Kevin is reluctant. Then, an accident sends Shanna down a swift river. She is drawn underwater through a complex system of tree roots, an Ka-Zar, unable to follow, is forced to follow overland.
She is rescued by Mele, a member of the race of Pangean "monkey people." Mele is a widower and has a young daughter. Shanna doesn't speak their language not they hers, but Mele and shanna quickly form a bond, and she and the daughter become attached as well. Back in their village, Shanna observes the way of life. The women stay home and cook while the men go out and hunt. She even observes a wedding ceremony.
While Ka-Zar makes his way through thorny growth, it is clear Mele is falling in love with Shanna. Shanna has some broken ribs from her ordeal and is content to stay in the village, for now, while the men-folk hunt. One day, the hunting party comes back with a casualty: the young groom. A pyre is prepared, and the bride throws herself on it. Shanna learns that, in this culture, when a couple weds it is for life, and when one dies the other kills him or herself as well. (The reason Mele didn't kill himself when his wife died is because they had a young daughter.)
Days pass, and Mele proposes to Shanna. she knows what's going on, but there's still that language barrier and she gets away without answering. One day a pterodactyl flies off with Mele's daughter and he in inconsolable. With both his wife and daughter gone, Mele decides to commit ritual suicide. Realizing her relationship with Kevin is going nowhere, Shanna accepts Mele's proposal and they are married in a simple ceremony.
On there wedding night, Ka-Zar comes crashing through the trees with Mele's daughter in his arms and asks, "Does this belong to one of you?"
Sorry for so much plot summary, but this one's all about the plot.
KA-ZAR THE SAVAGE #14: I had my doubts that Marvel could present an adult love triangle (without turning one of the participants into a Skrull or a Goblin Queen or whatever, anyway), but I had forgotten about Ka-Zar the Savage. The language of Mele's people is Macha, and Ka-Zar knows it. Mele means "modest one," and he is so likable that he and Ka-Zar quickly become good friends. It is later that same day, Mele and Shanna's wedding day, at dinner, when Ka-Zar finds out that Mele and Shanna have been married. the next day, on a ritual hunt, Ka-Zar and Mele have a long talk.
"You don't fool me for a moment, Lord Kevin Plunder. You're still in love with Shanna, aren't you? You're in love with my wife... Ka-Zar, I love Shanna very much, but I want you to tell me the truth--is there something between you two or not? It's better in the long run if we're all honest with each other." Later, there is an accident and Mele falls on the poisoned tip of Ka-Zar's spear. Ka-Zar admits to Mele that he's in love with Shanna. Mele asks Ka-zar to take care of Shanna and his daughter, then dies in his arms.
CLIFFHANGER: Mele's tribesmen come upon the scene and, when they discover Mele has been stabbed by Ka-Zar's spear, assume Kazar murdered him to be with Shanna.
TALES OF ZABU: The last installment drawn by Gil Kane as Kevin Plunder enters the story on the last page.
KA-ZAR THE SAVAGE #15: Armando Gil penciled and inked this issue over Brent anderson's "thumbnail layouts." Shanna is spared the ritual suicide because of her step-daughter, Leila, but she is expected to execute Ka-Zar after his trial. Instead of beheading him outright, she cuts his bonds in the hope that Mele's people will think killing him is combat is part of her "outsider" ways. They engage in mock combat, but when they try to break and run for it, the are surrounded. Shanna grabs Laila and puts a knife to her throat. She has grasped enough of the Macha language to explain to Leila they mean no harm. Leila trusts them, but when they get ot the outskirts of the village, Leila decides her place is with her own people. Ka-Zar and Shanna return to the Savage Land.
TALES OF ZABU: With the addition of a new artist, Val Mayerick, the POV shifts to Maa-Gor of the swampt people. His story goes up to the point #14's left aff, and resolves it.
KA-ZAR THE SAVAGE #16: This was my first issue of Ka-Zar the Savage. It's actually a pretty good jumping on point. As the story begins, Ka-Zar, Shanna and Zabu are re-entering the Savage Land after spending the first 15 issues in Pangea. There was just enough of that to whet my appetite for more, but not so much that it put me off the story. I don't remember how long it was after this point that I decided to collect all the backissues, but it wasn't long. This issue and the next are by the guest art team of Ron Frenz and Armando Gil. the story itself deals with a meteor which fell to Earth in the hunting ground of the Awakilius pygmies. I'm not going to spoil the story but, by the end, Ka-Zar has come to the realization that his loves Shanna.
It is after this issue, at the very earliest, where Marvel Fanfare #4 can occur. Honestly, Marvel Fanfare #2 & #4 should both occur before Ka-Zar the Savage #1, except there is a panel or two in #4 that places the action after Ka-Zar returns from Pangea, which was still an ongoing story at the time of #4's release. But it just doesn't make good storytelling sense that one issue of Marvel Fanfare occurred (for the X-Men) between issue #2 and #4, but fifteen issues of his own mag passed for Ka-Zar. This is not the only time Fanfare's editor Al Milgrom tried (unsuccessfully) to sandwich an inventory story into then-current continuity, but it was the first.
KA-ZAR THE SAVAGE #17: The monthly mail plane crashes and the pilot is killed. Ka-Zar and Shanna salvage the latest Thrilling Detective (for him), the latest National Geographic (for her) and the pilot's handgun. They settle down to eat some stew and read, but the mushrooms Shanna used were hallucinogenic, causing Ka-Zar to think he's a pulp detective and shanna to think she's a gazelle. the two hallucinations overlap, but Ka-Zar is carrying that gun. This stoy gives Bruce Jones the opportunity to write in the style of Mickey Spillane.
KA-ZAR THE SAVAGE #18: Whereas I liked #16 and #17 when i first read them back in 1982, I loved #18! This is the first issue of the storyline that made Ka-Zar my favorite character for a time. For quite some time I held #18 in reserve should anyone ask me to recommend a comic book to read (which never happened, BTW). It is the first issue of the series to sport a wraparound cover, the hallmark of direct distribution. It also featured the first in a series of "photo-torials" (or fumetti), which weren't very funny but did provide fans the opportunity to see what some of the behind-the-scenes creators looked like.
The story is by the Ka-Zar team supreme of Bruce Jones, Brent Anderson and Armando Gil, and begins with Ka-Zar showing Shanna the multi-level bungalow he's been building in secret. It is built over a hot spring and has indoor running water as well as an elevator. He symbolically carried her across the threshold, and he even built extra rooms and they begin to discuss the prospect of having children. Their bliss is short-lived, however, as Ramona Cortland soon enters their lives.
A plane flies overhead bearing a botanical expedition consisting of Dr. Cortland (in his 60s), Ramona (in her 20s), assistant Norm and hired man Charlie. At first they assume Ramona is Dr. Cortland's daughter, but she ends up being his wife. Personality conflicts abound. Ramona is passive/aggressive toward Shanna, and makes a play for Ka-Zar. She even invites him to return to New York with them. Tensions between the two women escalate, eventually leading to a scuffle in which Ramona's handgun discharges accidentally and Ka-Zar is shot between the eyes!
The bullet is lodged in Ka-Zar;s brain, and Dr. Cortland says the only doctor who can save his life is in New York City, to which Ramona replies, "Well... I guess Ka-Zar's coming to New York after all." the next page foreshadows the newspaper headline "SAVAGE LOOSE IN BIG APPLE" over a picture of Ka-Zar running amok.