DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL
Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth #43
Published monthly, thirty cents, July
Cover artist: Ernie Chua (Chan)
Editor: Gerry Conway
In 1970 Jack Kirby left Marvel to work at DC. To Marvel fans, it was akin to Eisenhower defecting to the Soviet Union. To DC fans, it was as if Chairman Mao sought US asylum at Disneyland.
Jack Kirby is to comics what Babe Ruth is to baseball – he affected everything that came after him and even non-fans have an idea who he is (Stan Lee fits that analogy better, most likely, but it fits Kirby, too!). He created or co-created Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, the X-Men, Darkseid, the Forever People, Mister Miracle, the New Gods, the Challengers of the Unknown, the Eternals, Devil Dinosaur, the Demon, Machine Man (to name a few) … and Kamandi.
Kamandi ran for 59 issues from November 1972 through October 1978 and was cancelled during the DC Implosion – a line-wide cancellation of dozens of titles during a major sales slump. Unfortunately it happened only a few months after DC’s advertising blitz hyping new comics, format and price they called the “DC Explosion”.
Jack Kirby was the writer/artist/creator of the series through #37 and continued as artist until issue #40 (these were issues already penciled when he left).
DC comics tried to obtain the rights to a Planet of the Apes comic. Marvel won that battle and turned it into a successful magazine for a few years and an unsuccessful color reprint comic for a few months. But Kirby had another idea – in fact he had a similar Apes story in an Archie Comics science fiction anthology magazine even before the original POTA novel! A Great Disaster decimated humanity. It was not a nuclear war per se, but did involve lethal radiation inundating the earth. The humans remaining became bestial –with intelligence and reason at animal levels.
Just before the Great Disaster, a drug was developed that gave animals human-level intelligence. The experimental animals were released and the drug dumped into the water supply. The resultant radiation and “poisoning” of the water supply gave rise to animal civilizations. They use the remaining humans as slave-labor and beasts of burden.
A young boy did survive, though, locked in a bunker labeled Command D. He was raised by his grandfather (who was later retconned into the original OMAC) and learned of pre-Great Disaster civilization of humans. When his grandfather was killed by a wolf, Kamandi (his real name, if he had one, was never disclosed) left the bunker to discover the fate of humanity.
By the time of issue #43, Kamandi befriended mutant Ben Boxer – the closest thing the series had to a superhero. With his “atomic power”, Boxer can transform his skin into solid metal. With his formidable natural strength, he is a powerful ally. Dr. Canus is a bipedal intelligent dog with extra-ordinary intelligence. Arna becomes Kamandi’s love interest as of this issue. She (and presumably all humans of her “tribe”) age quickly and her character dies of old age in issue #51.
“A Connecticut Mutant in Great Caesar’s Court”, Gerry Conway & Marty Pasko ( w ), Chic Stone and Mike Royer (a).
A hot-air balloon takes Kamandi, Dr. Canus and Arna from California to the remains of Nashville, TN – home of a clan of tigers! Upon landing, Dr. Canus (apparently) betrays the two humans who are nearly captured. They escape and hide in a jewelry store. A romance between Kamandi and Arna begins…
Mutant Ben Boxer is condemned to death by Great Caesar, so he transforms into his all metal form and battles his way out of the compound. He runs past the jewelry store and escapes with Kamandi and Arna out of the city. They are then attacked by leopards! To be continued…
“Tales of the Great Disaster: Homecoming”, Gerry Conway ( w ), Pablo Marcos (p), Bob Smith (i).
20 years after the Final War, Urgall the gorilla returns to New York City and is attacked and bitten by rats before finding his home tribe.
He has been in Washington, where apes call themselves “Representatives” and enslave the humans still clinging to life in the “Capital Dome”. Urgall helps a human and is himself enslaved as punishment. They dig up old relics, including the Lincoln Memorial.
Urgall is inspired by the newly-discovered remains and he escapes and becomes convinced that “all men are created equal” – including rats and humans. Urgall tries to free one of his tribe’s human slaves and is banished from his tribe and home.
The Time Capsule (letter page): comments for Kamandi #38 – shortly after Jack Kirby went back to Marvel leaving only penciled pages behind: Tim Corrigan, Rochester, NY (positive), Mike White, Mackinaw, IL (positive) and John Elliot, New York, NY (positive)
Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry
Images used are copyright their respective holders and reproduced here under the “fair Use” doctrine of 17 USC 106 & 106a for the purposes of criticism and comment.
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