This post originally appeared in October of 2011. A bit of news: The second volume of the Jack Kirby Kamandi issues, collecting the rest of his run, is scheduled to be released later this year.
To some degree, reviewing the Kamandi Omnibus Vol #1, released last week, is almost pointless. I have all of the Jack Kirby written/drawn issues of the series (indeed, even the 19 issues after he left with issue #40 plus the 2 issues never released but collected in the Cancelled Comics Cavalcade. Yes, I’m a BIG fan of Kamandi!) and I pretty much know the book backwards and forwards.
Yet seeing the first 20 issues all together in one volume, I recognized something that hadn’t really occurred to me until they were read all together: This was Jack Kirby doing comic book versions of movies. Many movies.
The primary movie source material is obvious: Kamandi, the first issue of which was released in 1972, borrowed quite a bit from the then very popular original Planet of the Apes movies. Indeed, there were many back in the day who dismissed this series out right because of the fact that it borrowed so heavily from those movies. The series, after all, featured a “boy” in a post-apocalyptic world where animals (including, of course, apes!) were sentient and humans were viewed as lower life forms. The cover to the first issue of the original series also had strong echoes to the ending of the original Planet of the Apes, at least with regard to that famous statue present at that movie’s end, you will also find references to, among others, the original King Kong, The Andromeda Strain, Ben Hur, Westworld, various Gladiator movies, etc. etc. And if you look beyond that, you’ll also find references to then hot topics such as Watergate and the then very hot topic of pollution. Unlike other series Jack Kirby was working on at the time, Kamandi appeared to be Mr. Kirby taking a fictional look at the things that currently interested him.
And it is so much fun.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: While Kamandi may not be the very last work of Mr. Kirby, it was certainly his last sustained successful comic book work. I know he made several books and series afterwards, but none, in my opinion, were as entertaining as this one. If you’re a fan of Jack Kirby, you’d be crazy to ignore this incredible series.
I’m not sure when Volume 2, collecting the last 20 issues Mr. Kirby did, will be released, but I’ll most certainly be picking it up. While the series lost steam toward the end of Mr. Kirby’s run and the very best stories, in my opinion, are in this first volume (of those, my absolute favorites are found in issues #9 and 10), the second volume will certainly be a must buy for me. Sadly, Mr. Kirby faced many obstacles when he chose to leave Marvel in the late 1960’s. Much of his work was derided by fans and it wasn’t until toward the end of his life that fans began to once again appreciate what it was he brought to the comic book field. I’m pleased that DC Comics has decided to reprint all his 1970’s works, including the various New Gods issues, Omac, The Demon, and Jimmy Olsen.
And while I can understand that the Kamandi reprints will end with Mr. Kirby’s last issue, I’m such a fan of the series that I wish they’d offer a third volume that features all the rest of the stories in the series. Regardless, Kamandi Volume 1 is well worth your time.