I was tempted to type “Crackles” with a “K,” but then I’d be in a “Oops, my title spelled out KKK scenario,” and have to deal with all sorts of awkwardness.
Phew, now that we’ve gotten through that potentially awkward hypothetical scenario, on to Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth by Jack Kirby.
It’s a scenario we’re all familiar with. Intelligent, humanoid animals ruling over a planet in either a dystopian future, alternate timeline, or distant planet. But has there ever been a moment when someone in the human refugee/uprising group totally blows it for everyone because they’re allergic to animal hair? Like “Guys, we have to be absolutely silent, these FerretMen have amazing senses” and then the fat guy sneezes? I don’t think there has. So nobody steal it, it’s going in my epic poem (I’ve decided to pursue writing epic poems now–they’re making a comeback), The FerretMen Cometh! (FerretMen® Paul DeKams, 2012)
But anyway, if this feels like a familiar scenario, it’s partially because DC Comics saw how people were loving up on Planet of the Apes, lost their bid at acquiring a license, and asked Kirby to come up with something similar. Full details here, but the gist of it is, Kirby didn’t rip it off, but was following DC’s mandate to…rip it off.
But we’re presented with a different hero than Planet of the Apes. Kamandi isn’t an astronaut transported to the future, but he has grown up isolated from the world around him, in a bunker with his grandfather. He’s sent out into the world to reclaim it. And what a world. Kirby opens things EPICALLY. With a splash page introduction to Kamandi, and a double page look at a sunken New York City. You know immediately that you’re on earth and things…THINGS. HAVE. GONE. TO. SHIT.
Kirby quickly intros the reader to Kamandi’s world when Kamandi returns to his compound to find that his traps have been set off, leaving the attackers and his grandfather, dead. But one remains, and he’s as shocked by Kamandi, a talking human, as Kamandi is by he, an upright talking wolf. Yup, talking wolf. We’re on a planet ruled by animals, peoples.
So Kamandi whups the wolf spectacularly, with agility, fighting skills, and the classic comic mainstay, throwing a power line into the water that the villain is standing in. This results in the first instance of “Kirby Crackle” in this comic. Look at that…it’s…it’s wonderful. “Kirby Crackle” is the way that Kirby chooses to show immense displays of energy, explosions, and cosmic things in general.
Now, in your modern comic book, all this action would take up an entire issue. And justifiably so. A lot has occurred. BUT. This is a comic from the 1970s, written and drawn by Jack Kirby. So Kamandi also saves a tiger from assassination, is taken in as a bet, tries to blow up an atomic bomb, yes, TRIES TO BLOW UP AN ATOMIC BOMB, and befriends a talking dog doctor and a human astronaut that isn’t Charlton Heston.
So, if you like the Planet of the Apes films, if you like Y: The Last Man, you should READ THIS COMIC. It’s 99 cents per issue on Comixology and about $30 on Amazon for a purty, purty hardcover. You can also, of course, buy it in stores, but you’ll pay a smidge more. I’ve only read the first issue so far, but plan to read and review more, so I hope you’ll join me.