Jack Kirby is one of the most influential comic book creators that ever lived. He helped define and design many of Marvel Comics greatest characters and did his fair share of writing and creating at DC Comics as well. One of the series that he wrote and drew for DC was Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth. Like something right out of a Twilight Zone episode or an untold chapter of Planet of the Apes, this series placed a young human warrior in a world controlled by animal men that see him as nothing more than an intelligent pet.
I’ve been feeling very nostalgic towards old comic books lately, so I thought that I would recommend something to people who want to read some of the classic old stories by creators like Kirby. Kamandi does feel like a lot of science fiction from the 70’s, but the artwork, colors, and pulp science fiction tone make it a fun read even by today’s standards. The dialogue and thought balloons are very of the time, but the story still moves forward at wonderful pace and the character designs are fun and vibrant.
Kamandi is a character that hasn’t penetrated the general pop culture sphere. He’s appeared in episodes of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and in various comic book mini-series and events, but has never really come back into play. The chance to do an out of continuity character set in a futuristic world with animal rulers would be a great story to reboot for DC’s New 52, though I’m not sure if the character would move as many books with young viewers.
On the other hand, one of the things that are great about this character and story is that he’s one of those survivalist young men who will do anything to survive in a horrifying world where people worship atomic warheads. Is it something that needs to be read or is incredibly groundbreaking? No, not necessarily. But it is a change up from regular superhero comics, especially for 1972 when the character was first published.
Kamandi is one of Kirby’s own original creations, and if you haven’t delved into Kirby or the history of this comic book creation machine than you’re doing yourself a disservice. Just studying his drawing style or his dynamic poses is worth the trouble or downloading old issues on digital comic platforms. I was able to pick up the first issue of the series for only 99 cents, so for less than a cup of coffee you can read a piece of comic book history.
I was honestly pulled in by the iconic cover, which I hope to find as a poster sometime in the near future.
Ken Porter also writes comic books with his latest being “Ink Ribbon” from Visionary Comics.