It's funny how the mind works...I can't remember where I put my keys half the time but I still remember, over thirty years later, the first time I saw and issue of Kamandi. We were in my best friend Barry's loft, which we built in the rafters of his parent's garage. We were probably 11 or 12 years old and we generally spent our Saturday nights during the summer camping out in that loft and reading the comics we had just bought that week. Barry was mainly a DC guy while I was a Marvel fan. It worked great since we rarely spent our hard-earned quarters buying the same comic and would share each other's books. When I saw Kamandi, my first thought was that it looked like Thor with out the helmet. I wasn't a big fan then but with age comes maturity.
As I began collecting Silver Age Comics my appreciation for Jack Kirby's art grew. Today, I consider Kamandi to be Kirby's last GREAT work in comics. Jack worked for many years after leaving Kamandi but even the most ardent Kirby fan would have to admit that by the 80's, the "King" had lost a step or two. But Kamandi was Jack's baby...he wrote, penciled, and even edited the title, with Mike Royer and D. Bruce Berry handling the inking chores. Kamandi was a post apocalyptic title, heavily influenced by films such as Planet of the Apes. In this future, animals have become intelligent and humans are considered the wild beasts. Tribes of talking tigers, apes, lions, dogs, and more, all vie for supremacy while humans are not unlike cattle.
Kamandi is an oddity, intelligent, and able to use technology, he is feared and hunted by the intelligent animals. Kamandi Archives Volume 2 collects issues # 11 - 20 of the original series, all in glorious re-mastered color and looking better than ever. Kamandi's initial adventure has him found adrift in the sea by a band of leopard pirates and sold to the Sacker Corporation. Sacker run an arena that combines racing beasts with gladiatorial combat. Kamandi frees a giant insect known as "the devil' and looking like a mutated grasshopper. The devil will be his mount in the contest in a winner take all battle.
In issues #15 - 18, Kamandi and his tiger companions are captured by the Ape tribe who, in a twist of irony, perform scientific experiments on their human test subjects. Kamandi will have to somehow rally the humans to overthrow their captors and free themselves.
Crazy characters? You bet! Jack was letting his imagination run free. There's a lot of inside jokes in the book, such as references to Watergate that might be lost on younger readers but will evoke some chuckles from older fans. Jack was at his best with his dynamic action scenes and there's action aplenty in this book. Kamandi is a great piece of 1970's nostalgia and a book that is truly different than anything else produced during the era.