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.
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CHECK OUT “Cosmic Debris: Kirby in the ’70s,” a series running in tandem with “Kirb Your Enthusiasm” at the 4CP gallery of comic book details | Kirby cutaways and diagrams collected at the Comic Book Cartography gallery | Joe Alterio’s Cablegate Comix and HiLobrow posts about comics and cartoonists, and science fiction | The Jack Kirby Chronology | scans of rare 1940-50s Kirby comics at the Digital Comic Museum | Joshua Glenn on the New Gods generation
POSTS IN THIS SERIES: 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 | Danny Fingeroth figgers out The Thing |