Sixth in a series of posts, each one analyzing a single panel from a Jack Kirby-drawn comic book.
In the summer of 1977 Jack Kirby came to Colorado to make appearances at the three different Mile High Comics stores — in Fort Collins, Boulder, and Denver. At the time I was 16 years old and worked after school and on the weekends at the Boulder store; I fell asleep thinking about Kirby and woke up in the morning thinking about Kirby. I’d become an instant fan upon discovering Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth. Before Kamandi, I read Richie Rich and other Harvey titles, but had zero interest in Marvel or DC comics, which were exclusively about superheroes and seemed as ridiculous to me as spectator sports.
Kamandi was different from any other comic. It was about an ordinary boy, with no special powers or skills, surviving on his own in a crazy world taken over by intelligent, bipedal mammals. The series came on the heels of Planet of the Apes — a movie I watched over and over again in the theater — and Kamandi was like an improved extension of that world. So when Kirby came to Colorado I was the first in line at all three stores. I hung out at the signing table from the minute he arrived until he left the stores in the evening.
I remember three things about his visit:
1. On the first night, somebody asked him what role Stan Lee played in the writing of the Marvel titles that Kirby had illustrated. Kirby answered, “He didn’t do anything. I did the whole damn thing.” A few minutes later, he noticed that someone was holding out a small tape recorder to record his answers. He said, “What are you doing! Gimme that.” When the guy handed him the tape recorder, Kirby removed the cassette and stuck it in his back pocket. He then handed the recorder back to the guy and said, “Don’t do that!”
2. On the second night, Kirby and his wife went to see Star Wars in the theatre with the owner and the manager of Mike High comics. I was jealous that the owner hadn’t invited me to go. The next day the manager told me that Kirby had remarked that Darth Vader looked a lot like Darkseid, Kirby’s Fourth World supervillain.
3. On the third and final day, at the Fort Collins store, Kirby said to me, “You should come out to Thousand Oaks sometime and visit. I have a teenage niece who would be interested in you.” (I never did make the trip out to Thousand Oaks. I was a pest, but not that much of a pest.)
A few months ago, I got hold of the PDFs of all the Kamandi back issues (I don’t feel guilty for having downloaded them, because I bought each and every single copy of Kamandi from the newsstand.) I stuck them on my iPad and read them to my seven-year-old daughter. I didn’t know if she would be too young to understand and enjoy the comics, but it turned out that she understood enough to ask me to read them to her every night before bed. One of her favorite parts of the series was about an army of gorilla-hating tigers, led by the Great Caesar — first seen in the panel shown here from Kamandi #1 (October 1972).
Like Jane, my teenage self was thrilled to follow Kamandi’s adventures with the truculent felines, and to see a friendship blossom between Kamandi and Tuftan, the Great Caesar’s teenaged son. This would make a terrific movie, I thought as I read the comics to Jane, but I hope one never gets made.
2011: KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (Jack Kirby panels): Douglas Rushkoff on THE ETERNALS | John Hilgart on BLACK MAGIC | Gary Panter on DEMON | Dan Nadel on OMAC | Deb Chachra on CAPTAIN AMERICA | Mark Frauenfelder on KAMANDI | Jason Grote on MACHINE MAN | Ben Greenman on SANDMAN | Annie Nocenti on THE X-MEN | Greg Rowland on THE FANTASTIC FOUR | Joshua Glenn on TALES TO ASTONISH | Lynn Peril on YOUNG LOVE | Jim Shepard on STRANGE TALES | David Smay on MISTER MIRACLE | Joe Alterio on BLACK PANTHER | Sean Howe on THOR | Mark Newgarden on JIMMY OLSEN | Dean Haspiel on DEVIL DINOSAUR | Matthew Specktor on THE AVENGERS | Terese Svoboda on TALES OF SUSPENSE | Matthew Wells on THE NEW GODS | Toni Schlesinger on REAL CLUE | Josh Kramer on THE FOREVER PEOPLE | Glen David Gold on JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY | Douglas Wolk on 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY | MORE EXEGETICAL COMMENTARIES: Joshua Glenn on Kirby’s Radium Age Sci-Fi Influences | Chris Lanier on Kirby vs. Kubrick | Scott Edelman recalls when the FF walked among us | Adam McGovern is haunted by a panel from THE NEW GODS | Matt Seneca studies the sensuality of Kirby’s women | Btoom! Rob Steibel settles the Jack Kirby vs. Stan Lee question | Galactus Lives! Rob Steibel analyzes a single Kirby panel in six posts | Danny Fingeroth figgers out The Thing | Adam McGovern on four decades (so far) of Kirby’s “Fourth World” mythos | Jack Kirby: Anti-Fascist Pipe Smoker
2014: KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (typefaces): Matthew Battles on ALDINE ITALIC | Adam McGovern on DATA 70 | Sherri Wasserman on TORONTO SUBWAY | Sarah Werner on JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | Douglas Wolk on TODD KLONE | Mark Kingwell on GILL SANS | Joe Alterio on AKZIDENZ-GROTESK | Suzanne Fischer on CALIFORNIA BRAILLE | Gary Panter on SHE’S NOT THERE | Deb Chachra on FAUX DEVANAGARI | Peggy Nelson on FUTURA | Tom Nealon on JENSON’S ROMAN | Rob Walker on SAVANNAH SIGN | Tony Leone on TRADE GOTHIC BOLD CONDENSED NO. 20 | Chika Azuma on KUMON WORKSHEET | Chris Spurgeon on ELECTRONIC DISPLAY | Amanda French on DIPLOMA REGULAR | Steve Price on SCREAM QUEEN | Alissa Walker on CHICAGO | Helene Silverman on CHINESE SHIPPING BOX | Tim Spencer on SHATTER | Jessamyn West on COMIC SANS | Whitney Trettien on WILKINS’S REAL CHARACTER | Cintra Wilson on HERMÈS vs. HOTDOG | Jacob Covey on GOTHAM.
2013: HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (old-school hip hop tracks): Luc Sante on “Spoonin’ Rap” | Dallas Penn on “Rapper’s Delight” | Werner Von Wallenrod on “Rappin’ Blow” | DJ Frane on “The Incredible Fulk” | Paul Devlin on “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | Phil Dyess-Nugent on “That’s the Joint” | Adam McGovern on “Freedom” | David Abrams on “Rapture” | Andrew Hultkrans on “The New Rap Language” | Tim Carmody on “Jazzy Sensation (Bronx Version)” | Drew Huge on “Can I Get a Soul Clap” | Oliver Wang on “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” | Douglas Wolk on “Making Cash Money” | Adrienne Crew on “The Message” | Dart Adams on “Pak Jam” | Alex Belth on “Buffalo Gals” | Joshua Glenn on “Ya Mama” | Phil Freeman on “No Sell Out” | Nate Patrin on “Death Mix Live, Pt. 2” | Brian Berger on “White Lines (Don’t Do It)” | Cosmo Baker on “Here We Go (Live at the Funhouse)” | Colleen Werthmann on “Rockit” | Roy Christopher on “The Coldest Rap” | Dan Reines on “The Dream Team is in the House” | Franklin Bruno on The Lockers.
2012: KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (Captain Kirk scenes): Dafna Pleban: Justice or vengeance? | Mark Kingwell : Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | Nick Abadzis: “KHAAAAAN!” | Stephen Burt: “No kill I” | Greg Rowland: Kirk browbeats NOMAD | Zack Handlen: Kirk’s eulogy for Spock| Peggy Nelson: The joke is on Kirk | Kevin Church: Kirk vs. Decker | Enrique Ramirez: Good Kirk vs. Evil Kirk | Adam McGovern: Captain Camelot | Flourish Klink: Koon-ut-kal-if-fee | David Smay: Federation exceptionalism | Amanda LaPergola: Wizard fight | Steve Schneider: A million things you can’t have | Joshua Glenn: Debating in a vacuum | Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons: Klingon diplomacy | Trav S.D.: “We… the PEOPLE” | Matthew Battles: Brinksmanship on the brink | Annie Nocenti: Captain Smirk | Ian W. Hill: Sisko meets Kirk | Gabby Nicasio: Noninterference policy | Peter Bebergal: Kirk’s countdown | Matt Glaser: Kirk’s ghost | Joe Alterio: Watching Kirk vs. Gorn | Annalee Newitz: How Spock wins