351. Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth
Now, yes, Kamandi preceded Devil Dinosaur, but I couldn’t resist having the Last Boy be the Last Kirby entry.
Out of all the new titles Jack Kirby launched in the ’70s, Kamandi proved to be the most popular, lasting a whopping 59 issues (40 of which involved Kirby himself). What made it last so much longer than its Kirby-spawned compatriots? Of that, I can’t be sure– but the series must have captivated its audience with the usual Kirby panache– wild adventure, crazy ideas, and a constant sense of discovery.
The eponymous Kamandi was a young man raised in a bunker (“Command D”) after the Great Disaster which caused much of the Earth to be devastated, and evolved animal-men to take over the planet. When his grandfather (who, post-Kirby, was revealed to be an elder Buddy Blank, a.k.a. OMAC) is killed, Kamandi ventures out into the world, and finds himself the Last Boy on an Earth that’s like the Planet of the Apes writ large, with anthropomorphic animal men comprising the majority of the population, and most humans living as dumb slaves.
Over the course of his travels, Kamandi meets mad gorillas, tiger pirates, dog scientists, angry whales, gator-men, a steel-skinned mutant astronaut named Ben Boxer, and more. There’s also a classic story about a bunch of Superman-worshiping apes fighting over the hero’s invincible costume. It’s considered to be the finest issue of the run; you can read more about it here.
The series stands as a fine boy’s adventure that showcases the courage and determination of the remnants of mankind in the far future. In the way, it’s the spiritual brother of Devil Dinosaur– one takes place in the distant past, and one in the far future, but both are about man’s struggle to survive in a weird world.
Other creators later tied Kamandi into the mythos of OMAC, the Atomic Knights, and others. Crisis transformed the boy who would be Kamandi into Tommy Tomorrow. A few revivals and guest appearances have occurred over the years, but nothing particularly substantial. Kamandi may be lost to comic book limbo, but he’ll probably return one day. The premise is just too damn fun and exciting to lie fallow.
Currently, two expensive Archive editions exist, collecting the first 20 issues of the series. I’d love to see a Showcase edition of the material published, however– a cheaper edition for we poor, huddled masses! Anything to get Kirby’s brilliance out to a wider audience, I say. Who’s with me?
For more Kamandi info and other bits, visit Toonopedia or the interesting-but-sparse Kamandi.com. For a stirring essay about why Kamandi is the best comic ever, read this article by blog-pal Alex of Rocketship.
That, my friends, is the end of my Kirby coverage. The King produced dozens of other great comics that I either haven’t read or just haven’t talked about– lovely series like the Forever People, Kobra, the Eternals, Captain Victory, Silver Star, and many, many more, stretching back through the decades. His body of work was massive and his talent was infinite. There’s a reason he’s considered to be the greatest comicsmith of all time. Be sure to pick up one or two or six of the recent deluxe hardcovers of his work and leap into one of his many imaginative worlds. Anything else you want to know about Jack? Ask Mark Evanier, and buy his upcoming book(s) on the man himself.
What’s your favorite Kirby work?