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Kamandi : The Last Boy


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Though Jack Kirby is most commonly known for his early work at Marvel comics in the 60s creating characters such as The Incredible Hulk, Thor, The Silver Surfer, and The X-Men (as well as his creation of the Fantastic Four and Captain America), it was actually after he'd alreadly split with Marvel on less-than-friendly terms and went over to competitor DC comics that he really started some of the work that earned him a reputation as a genius: books such as Etrigan the Demon, The 4th World Saga, OMAC, and The Losers quickly showed the depth of his abilities.


Now his most interesting and esoteric work still wouldn't come until 1975 when he split with DC on even less friendly terms and returned to Marvel and made things like The Eternals, the Celestials, Machine Man, and Devil Dinosaur and Moonboy. However, during his time at DC he created what many Kirby-ites consider to be his best book: Kamandi the Last Boy on Earth.




The origin goes like this: It was 1970 and the world still had Planet of the Apes fever. The then-editor of DC was unable to acquire the rights so he asked Jack Kirby to create something that was similar but wouldn't get them sued. He hadn't seen the movie but he got the basic idea and it just so happened that Jack had already done a comic about a world where humanoid animal men had risen up and dominated humanity that predated Pierre Boulle's novel Monkey Planet by half a decade.


Kirby did what he was told, making a workable Planet of the Apes comic that wasn't actually a Planet of the Apes comic and had references to a lot of other popular science fiction films, most notably one issue was a straight-up King Kong story. BUT Kirby took things way past what anyone would've thought. You see in the first issue, he posted up a map at the end:




Kirby did 37 issues (though he drew 39 of them) and it's really hard to pinpoint what makes the comic so great but I'll try and explore some of the concepts which I find interesting. Kamandi is a boy that has grown up in a bunker with his grandfather, his name is actually a pun as the bunker he was raised in is known as "Command D." If you've followed Kirby's work up to this point you realize the man has a fondness for giving things silly names, especially if they're bad-ass.


Some mutants break into his vault and his grandfather is killed and Kamandi makes his way out into the world. He meets up with some Tiger people who rule over the area he's currently in. They are a savage warrior race that worship an undetonated warhead, I do not know if Kirby intentionally stole this plot point from Beneath the Planet of the Apes but I will say this bit of insanity seems a lot more organic in a Kirby book than it did in that movie.


The series chronicles Kamandi's various misadventures as he travels through America post-disaster (it's never flat out said what caused the world to end as such but nuclear war was obviously a contributing factor) and meets an interesting cast of characters, most notably Ben Boxer a member of a race of humans who have adapted to live in extreme radiation by emitting extreme amounts themselves. They have several "super-powers" and wear protective suits to keep themselves from hurting others. I'm not really selling this properly but Ben Boxer and his people are one of the more charming elements of the book.


In a similar fashion to Taylor (the protagonist of Planet of the Apes), Kamandi is a bit of an arrogant dick. His grandfather firmly remembers the time before the war and so he's very aware that the ruling races were pets and food before the disaster and has no inclination to see eye to eye with them. Of course, Kamandi's youth helps give this point a softer blow and it feels more organic than Charlton Heston's arrogant astronaut. While Kamandi's always quick to be insolent to those who consider him an animal, he also works alongside many of the more civil mutants (most notably a group of "animal rights activist" lions who put Kamandi and a girl he's traveling with into a human sanctuary to keep them safe from poachers, one of the more interesting story arcs of the early issues)


But getting back to that map, it's very obvious from the get-go that Kirby had a wealth of ideas for where to take the series and the map helps push the idea that this book and this world are filled with endless possibilites. It's a vibrant and colorful yet bleak and dark world that feels as fantastical as it does dystopian and apocalyptic. Kamandi's journey never feels repetitive or formulaic and it's just a fun book to read. It would make a great TV show (in a perfect world Bruce Timm would've done it) and you can see Jack brought some of the sensibilities of Kamandi over to his artwork on Stever Gerber's Thundarr the Barbarian (Fucka some He-Man and Thundercats, Thundarr is vastly superior to both.) And have I mentioned the fucking artwork?




Jack Kirby has always been an example of how even early comic books (notorious for weak art) could be great, but Kamandi is easily the most beautiful thing he's ever drawn. The art in this book is top notch and I really wish DC had treated him better so he could've stayed on for the whole run. I encourage everyone to read the first issue and more than likely get hooked by what I consider to be one of the best Post-Apocalyptic stories ever told (and I am a connoisseur of such things.)


EDIT: Goddamn it Hondo's, I fixed that typo in the title already. Would somebody with mod-powers spell that right, please?

Edited by Iambaytor
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When I saw this thread, for some reason I thought it was in the movie forum and my heart skipped a beat.


Well written breakdown man. Artistically, I always liked Kirby's DC work more than his Marvel. Around the early/mid '70's, he just goes INSANE.

I don't want to get the thread too off track, but quick tangent.

I picked up Justice Inc #3 out of a 25 cent bin when I was a little kid. Maybe 6 or 7. Just a random book (like they all were when I knew fuck all about comics). It scarred me.




There were all these monster gangsters, which is cool, but it was also really disturbing to me. Years later I finally made the connection. There was always this "where else have I seen this style?" in the back of my head. Sure enough, it's fucking Kirby. I bet he twisted a lot of childhoods in the generation before ours.

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If they did a Kamandi movie it would probably based on this piece of shit. I think Mark Millar on massive amounts of cocaine could've turned out something better. I would really love a new Kamandi series but all signs point to nobody being able to do something that doesn't blow.


Kirby could really go dark when he wanted to, and he could just use some of the stupidest fucking designs and make them work, like Morgan Le Fay's afro. Seriously, how can I abide that fucking thing?


I passed up a Kamandi action figure a few years ago when it was part of one of the DC action figure sets they have at Wal-mart, I've regretted it ever since. He'd look great on a shelf between my Etrigan and Jonah Hex figures.

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goddamn, yeah this sounds pretty advanced for its time...i dont know what concept id had in my head before that breakdown but it read more like the kind've golden age Marvel Man stuff that said title fucked with. that's pretty compelling and its really cool to see a branch-out from the cape & tights stuff into hard sci-fi during that era...i can kinda see why it's treated like a gem.


time to download the run & sit on it (like MM!) until baytor/loggins shame me into reading, heh. +1 for a fantastic OP.

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