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.
Cap, I thank you for keeping the thread going while I was offline for a couple of days, but I honestly don't think I will be trying this new series.
"...his death and resurrection during last year’s Empyre."
Is that a spoiler? Well, no, not really. If I would have cared about it, I would have known about it. I might just seek out the issue in which Ka-Zar "died" just to file at the back of the longbox for closure. but listen to this...
"Back from the dead with a whole new terrifying set of powers,"
"Ka-Zar has new abilities, new needs…"
"...a whole host of horrifying new powers!"
That doesn't sound very "Ka-Zar to me.
We're about to enter a fascinating phase of Ka-Zar the Savage... "fascinating" in the sense of a car accident, as a top tier title slips to the point I was almost happy to see it canceled. Of course, I would have been happier if they'd made it better, but I'll do a post-mortem after #34 and look at the future of where this discussion might go next.
KA-ZAR THE SAVAGE #27:
Joining regular inker Armando Gil is new penciler... Armando Gil!
THE STORY BEHIND THE COVER: For the second month in a row, editor Danny Fingeroth has written an editorial inside the front cover regarding the cover. Armando Gil provided the wraparound cover for this issue as well as penciling and inking the interior. Fingeroth loved it, but editor-in-chief Jim Shooter felt that it was too detailed (a lot of detail appears on the back cover) and that it wouldn't reproduce well at a smaller size once color was added. Fingeroth talked Shooter into letting the cover run as is and letting the readership decide (the only time I know of in which shooter did not get his way in a dispute). Fingeroth solicited opinions and I dutifully wrote a letter. Mine was not published, and I can see now why.
Fingeroth's editorial was about the cover only, and I provided a detailed analysis of the entire issue. I was ambivalent at the time because Armando Gil used as many panels per page as, say, George Perez and, even on Mando paper stock, they did not reproduce well because many of the individual panels were the size of postage stamps at regular comic book dimensions. I read #27 now on slick paper in large omnibus format and it looks great! What it reminds me very much of today is Jack Katz's First Kingdom, a comparison I would not have been able to make in the '80s but can make now in the Golden Age of Comics.
For many years I held #18 as the gold standard of this series, but now I might single out #27 as the single issue I would recommend. It would depend on the reader, though; #18 is the beginning of the storyline and #27 is the end. It has a kind of "soft" ending, though, in that it sets up things to come. I didn't used to consider this the end of the story, but I now think it's a good point to end the story begun in #18 before the series itself takes a precipitous drop. I'm not going to summarize this issue because there's too much going on. Suffice it to say that both Ka-Zar and Shanna were cured of their respective ailments by highly unusual ancient Atlantean science.
I may cover more than one issue today since I took a couple of days off.
KA-ZAR THE SAVAGE #28:
Bruce Jones is out the door, and I wish I knew the circumstances under which he left. Mike Carlin (the series new writer) is credited with "script,from an idea by Bruce Jones." Armando Gil pencils again, and his surprise inker is Mike Mignola.
The story is bookended with scenes of Sep and/or Leanne. In the opening, Sep has exhausted Atlantean technology when a mysterious voice offers to help him restore Leanne. Pangea is being rocked by tremors due to the impending eruption of Mt. Flavius. A council is held and Dherk puts forth a plan to set off an explosive at a ket point to divert the lava flow. He cannot set the charge himself because the heat would disrupt his mechanisms, and Buth has a broken leg. That leaves only Ka-Zar and Shanna who are familiar with the tunnels beneath the volcano, but Ka-Zar doesn't appear to even be listening to the debate. He doesn't have a better idea, so they decide to move forward with Dherk's plan.
Ka-Zar and Shanna are on the brink of a big change in their relationship, but it could go either way. At one point, Ka-Zar drops his "notes" from the meeting, and it was all doodles about Shanna. Also wrapped up in the paper was a ring, and they become engaged against the backdrop of an erupting volcano. After the danger has passed, Dherk finds Sep mortally wounded. Before he dies, he tells Dherk that Leanne is in the hands of Belasco.
KA-ZAR THE SAVAGE #29:
This is the big Ka-Zar/Shanna wedding issue.It always seems to be overlooked in discussions or articles or discussions, but it was a pretty big deal at the time. the page count was expanded from 30 to 48, and it received newsstand as well as direct sales distribution. Mike Carlin is still credited with "script," so I imagine many of the details had been worked out with Danny Fingeroth in advance even though Bruce Jones received no formal "plot" (or "idea") credit. This issue also marks the last time we will see Ron Frenz and Armando Gil on the series.
Belasco's plan is to make Ka-Zar and Shanna the "Adam & Eve" of a new race of demon-spawn. His plot ties in with X-Men/Magik continuity, and many unexplained "coincidences" from the issues leading up to the wedding are revealed as part of Belasco's plan. Shanna's step-daughter Leila is also a pawn in his scheme. A new race, the water-dwelling Gorhan Tubani, are introduced. They are making war on the surface dwellers because of the lava flow Dherk unknowingly redirected at their city. The wedding itself is somewhat anti-climatic, and the issue would have been done-in-one but for the set-up of "Pangea War II" next issue.
Belasco first appeared in the X-books in Uncanny X-Men #160, where he was depicted as a guy with magical powers who rules Limbo. It came out the month of Ka-Zar the Savage #18. This issue came out a week before the start of the Magik mini, where he was the villain and which told the story of Illyana's time in Limbo. Dates from DC Indexes.
I once had a look at Claremont's workload at some point and got the impression he must have worked ahead at times. He was very busy in this period. So it could be the Magik issues were already all written at this point (or rather plotted, as I'm sure Claremont scripted them from the art). The doubt the timing was a coincidence.
KA-ZAR THE SAVAGE #30:
Think how much Ka-Zar's creative team has changed over the last half dozen issues: a new editor (Danny Fingeroth), a new writer (Muike Carlin), new pencilers as of this issue (Mary Wilshire and Ricardo Villamonte) and a new inker (Carlos Garzon). Next issue introduces the new "permanent" art team. Carlin is still playing in Bruce Jones' toybox and is still credited as "scripter." Inspired by the "Story Behind the cover" editorial in #27, several people sent in cover ideas of their own and the best four were published in this issue (and now immortalized in omnibus format).
I'm going to try to finish this off today. I slowed my pace because I thought my previous discussion might have moved too fast for participation, but that seems not to have been the case.
KA-ZAR THE SAVAGE #31:
The final creative team is in place, including new regular penciler Paul Neary (with John Beathy filling in for inker Carlos Garzon). Uniquely, the entire creative team, including the colorist and letterer, hand-signed the credits page. If the title hadn't been cancelled in another three issues, penciler Pual Neary would have driven me away. Around this same time, Neary had also taken over Captain America from Mike Zeck, and that did (among other factors) drive me away. Two of my favorite titles had transformed into two of my least favorite. Years later, I encountered some of Neary's older work and founf it to be far superior to his work on Ka-Zar and Captain America. Similarly, his more recent work is far more to my liking. Why he chose to illustrate these two titles in such an unattractive "blocky" style is an artistic choice I will never understand.
I think it is with this issue that Mike Carlin finally comes into his own as Ka-Zar writer (and, in fact, the first he is credited as "writer" rather than "scripter"). Whereas this issue's tale is still set in Pangea, tonally and stylistically it is much more similar to the previous Ka-Zar series. At the end of the previous issue, Ka-Zar had been banished from Pangea. #31 follows up on that, with a group of hooded Pteron rioters burning Ka-Zar and Shanna in effigy and setting fire to their dwelling place. Ka-Zar calls for an investigation of these incidents, but it is blocked in council by... the Pterons. (Sound familiar?)
The political climate is leading to a second Pangea War, which leads Dherk to relate the events of the fist Pangea War centuries ago. Although Mike Carlin did not invent Pangea, he provides a detailed origin of both Pangea as well as the Savage Land in this issue. the story ends with the re-introduction of Parnival Plunder, the Plunderer and Ka-Zar's brother (see above for discussion of all previous appearances).
KA-ZAR THE SAVAGE #32:
This issue strikes me as much more of a "Plunderer" story than a "Ka-Zar" story. Parnival Plunder arrives in search of his share of his "inheritance" (the "anti-metal" discovered by their father) and charms the pants off Shanna (not literally). The story is punctuated by little vignettes drawn by Marie severin based on old sit-coms (I Love Lucy, Leave It To Beaver, The Honeymooners, The Flintstones) decades before WandaVision.
KA-ZAR THE SAVAGE #33:
Parnival Plunder's hired native hands unearth the "Motyla bone," one grasps it and disappears. Just before Parnival is ready to abscond with his stolen booty, he decides to kidnap Shanna as well. He makes his way ouot of the Savage Land by raft through a tunnel, but Ka-Zar heads him off by going overland. The men on Parnival's ship shoot at Ka-Zar and Shanna. Parnival tries to save her, but loses his footing and disppears beneath the ice and drowns. In a scene that still sticks with me, Ka-Zar discovers his brother's body floating against the underside of the ice.
#33 also includes a TV Guide parody which would have been more fitting last issue. TV shows include: Ka-zar Knows Best, I Love Shanna, Leave It To Ka-Zar, The Honeysavages, Tree's Company and The Savage Zone. No doubt this is one of those "special features" Fingeroth touted a couple of months back when Ka-Zar went bi-monthly. Speaking of Fingeroth, he announces the series impending cancellation and spins it that it's "not fair... to keep our magazines from being distributed as widely as possible." Supposedly all three were to "re-emerge in several months in all comic outlets," but more on that next time.
Whoops. I failed to mention that Shanna picked up the Motyla bone at the end of #33 and disappeared to "heaven" (according to the natives), followed quickly by Ka-Zar and Zabu. Also, that TVG parody did appear in #32, not #33.
KA-ZAR THE SAVAGE #34:
Ka-Zar, Shanna and Zabu have all been transported to the "Nuwali planet of Tomriv in the Lenra Galaxy," but this issue has reamined a true Mopee for 37 years now and I'm reluctant to break that streak by discussing it further here. I will say that the issue's one big development is the revelation that Shanna is pregnant. At the end of the main story, Ka-Zar is swept off to the "Land of Cancelled Heroes" (already dealt with in depth on page eight of this discussion). Last issue Danny Fingeroth assured readers that all three recently-cancelled "direct distribution" titles would return in new newsstand series in a few moths. Whereas that proved to be true for both Moon Knight and Micronauts, despite Ka-Zar's own assertion "I WILL BE BACK!", it would be another 13 years before Ka-Zar was again awarded his own series, by which point I had pretty much stopped caring. From this point, Ka-Zar bopped around as a guest-star in other Marvel series, such as Avengers #256-257, Iron Man #202 and X-Men Annual #12 (all dealt with on page nine of this discussion).
POST-MORTEM: Where to pinpoint the decline of Ka-Zar the Savage? Was it the new editor (#25)? Bimonthly status (#26)? the departure of the series original writer (#28)? The final departure of the series artists (#29)? Was it the new artist (#31)? Market forces? Or was it a combination of these factors? When I think of Ka-Zar the Savage, the issues that come to mind are #1 all the way through #27. #28-30 floundered around trying to find a new direction. #31-34 were okay, but #31 is skippable ans I will probably never read #34 again (at least not the main story).
FUTURE OF THIS THREAD: There is still a volume's worth of material to be slotted in between Marvel Masterworks v2 and the omnibus, and that volume hasn't even been solicited yet. I may decide (at some point in the future) to read the 1997 series without waiting for it to be collected. Who knows? I may even return for that Ka-Zar, Lord of the Savage Land series in September. (Nah!)