Every Sunday morning we showcase a classic comic cover, complete with compelling commentary, for your cordial contemplation. It’s the Classic Comic Cover Corner!
Kamandi #32 – August, 1975
Cover Art by Jack Kirby
Last Thursday was the 97th birthday of the late, great “King of Comics,” Jack Kirby. To celebrate the occasion we wanted to showcase one the prolific creator’s most incredible covers, but with hundreds of historic masterpieces to choose from, it’s no easy task to pick just a single comic.
Kirby created and/or co-created some of the most iconic characters in all of comicdom (see The Avengers, The Hulk, Fantastic Four, Galactus, Silver Surfer, Captain America, X-Men – to name just a few), but one of my favorites has always been one of Kirby’s full-on creations, Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth, and on the cover of Kamandi #32, the “King” himself even makes an appearance.
Kamandi survives “The Great Disaster,” protected in a bunker called “Command D” (hence his name), and is cast into a post-apocalyptic world where intelligent, talking mutant animals, including lions and tigers and bears (Oh my!), now rule the planet and feud against each other, just like humans.
I always thought of the Kamandi books as a crazy cross between Tarzan and Planet of the Apes, with plenty of original Kirby-esque sci-fi aspects thrown in to boot. In fact, Kirby caught some grief, back in the day, by some who claimed that Kamandi was rip-off of the Planet of the Apes franchise, but the roots of the “Last Boy on Earth” predate the POTA story by several years.
Kamandi is actually more reminiscent of Kirby’s original story, “The Last Enemy,” which appeared in Harvey Comics’ Alarming Tales #1 in 1957 (six years before Pierre Boulle’s La Planète des Singes (Planet of the Apes) novel was published in France. (You can read the “The Last Enemy” comic story at cartoonsnap.blogspot.com.)
It’s debatable as to whether or not Kirby ever even saw the “Apes” films, but I think it’s pretty clear that he was at least partially influenced by them, and DC comics certainly sanctioned the comic because of POTA’s popularity in the early seventies. Regardless, if you read Kamandi you’ll agree that it is one of the most fun sci-fi stories in comics’ history, with layers of original madness that the “Apes” movies could never have even dreamed.
Now, back to this comic. You gotta love the old-school corniness of the cover text describing the story in this book. If you were perusing the 7/11 comic stand back in 1975, how could you possibly resist this plug? “A Big Spine-Tingler, with – Gorilla Commandos and A Thing From Space!” (which is a giant sand-creature who helps the hero defeat the gorillas.)
This comic also contained a short biography of Kirby, “Jack Kirby – the Man with a Pencil,” by Steve Sherman, complete with black & white photos of the writer/artist/legend. This “Giant” issue also had a reprint of Kamandi #1 (with his origin story) and a map of the Earth after the “Great Disaster.” That was a lot of bang for your 50-cents, even back in 1975.
Kamandi would make for an awesome film if it was in the right hands, but I guess we’ll probably have to wait to see if Warner Bros. and DC can get a grip on their Justice League film franchise first. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope it’s not a “Great Disaster.”
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