Saturday, April 30, 2011

Kamandi: The Story

Kamandi is an American comic book character, created by artist Jack Kirby and published by DC Comics. The bulk of Kamandi's appearances occurred in the comic series Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth, which ran from 1972 to 1978.

Kamandi is a young hero in a post-apocalyptic future. After a huge event called "The Great Disaster," humans have been reduced to savagery in a world ruled by intelligent, highly evolved animals.

Publication History
DC editor Carmine Infantino had tried to acquire the license to make Planet of the Apes comic books but when this failed to happen he asked Jack Kirby for a series with a similar concept. Although Kirby had not seen the films he knew the rough outline and he had also created a very similar story, "The Last Enemy!", in Harvey Comics' Alarming Tales that predated the original Planet of the Apes novels. He also had an unused comic strip he created in 1956, called Kamandi of the Caves. So Kirby brought all those elements together to create Kamandi. Although his initial plan was to not work on the comic books themselves, the cancellation of Forever People freed him up to do so.

The Series
The Kamandi series was launched in October–November 1972. It was written and drawn by Jack Kirby through its 37th issue, in January 1976. Kirby also drew issues #38 through #40, although they were scripted by Gerry Conway. Kirby subsequently left DC, but the series continued, initially written by Conway and drawn by Chic Stone. Later issues were alternately written by Paul Levitz, Denny O'Neil, David A. Kraft, Elliott S! Maggin, and Jack C. Harris, with art by Pablo Marcos, Keith Giffen, and Dick Ayers. It was canceled during the "DC Implosion" of 1978, despite respectable sales figures. The final published issue was #59, cover-dated September–October 1978. Two additional issues, completed but not released, were included in Cancelled Comics Cavalcade #1 and #2.

Entering the DC Universe
During Kirby's run on the book, Steve Sherman indicated in the letters column that the series was connected to Kirby's contemporary OMAC series, which was set sometime prior to the Great Disaster. The only explicit connection to the DC Universe occurs in issue #29, where Kamandi discovers a group of apes who worship Superman's costume, and who speak of legends of Superman trying and failing to stop the Great Disaster. The story leaves it ambiguous whether the legends are true (although Kamandi believes Superman was real) and whether the costume is indeed Superman's.

Various non-Kirby stories tie the series more explicitly to the DC Universe. In Brave and the Bold #120 (July 1975), Kamandi meets a time-traveling Batman. Superman #295 (January 1976) establishes that that the costume seen in issue #29 was indeed Superman's, and that Earth A.D. is an alternate future for Earth-One, distinct from that of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Issues #49-#50 of the series establish that Kamandi's grandfather was the elderly Buddy Blank, hero of the OMAC series, and features a brief return of OMAC's satellite ally, Brother Eye. Kirby's Kamandi story in Cancelled Comic Cavalcade #2 guest stars The Sandman and establishes that Kamandi is Jed Walker.

The 1975-1977 Hercules Unbound series and OMAC backup stories in Kamandi and Warlord tie OMAC to both the storyline of Hercules Unbound and to the Atomic Knights, indicating that the Great Disaster was the atomic war of 1986 that precipitated the events of the latter. DC Comics Presents #57 (May 1983) indicates that the events of the Atomic Knights stories were a fantasy in the mind of Gardner Grayle, but DC Comics Presents #64 and Crisis on Infinite Earths make clear that both OMAC and Kamandi still existed in an alternate future of Earth-One.

In the wake of the Crisis on Infinite Earths, the Great Disaster did not occur, and the boy who would have become Kamandi instead became Tommy Tomorrow.

In the aftermath of the Infinite Crisis, a bunker named Command D has been built under the ruins of the city of Bl├╝dhaven.

In early 2007, DC Nation house ads showed a partial picture of Darkseid and mention a "Great Disaster". Additional DC promotional art for the series Countdown show the Statue of Liberty in ruins, similar to Kamandi #1 (although later, Dan DiDio revealed that the Statue's appearance in that teaser ad was a reference to the Sinestro Corps War). Throughout 2007, DC Comics contained continual references to a coming Great Disaster. In Countdown #31, Buddy Blank and his unnamed blond grandson are introduced into the storyline. As of Countdown #6, The Great Disaster is in its early stages on Earth-51 due to the outbreak of a virus, which is causing humans to develop animal like features, and animals to develop humanoid features. In Countdown #5, the virus claims Earth-51's Buddy Blank's daughter, but his grandson is safe. Una, an alternate Earth's version of the Legion of Super-Heroes Triplicate Girl, gives him her Legion flight ring, which he uses to safely get him to Cadmus' "Command D" facility, which was used to control Brother Eye, and has the defenses necessary to protect them from the virus' victims. As he settles in, he hopes that his grandson can forgive him for making him "The last boy on Earth."

Comments from Grant Morrison at 2007's San Diego Comic-Con International indicated that Kamandi (The Last Boy) will appear on the last issue's last page of DC's Final Crisis, mirroring the appearance of Anthro (The First Boy), on the first page of the first issue. This eventually did not come to pass, with Anthro as an old man appearing instead.

In Countdown: Arena #2, an ape Starman from Earth-17 mentions he is attempting to form a truce between the forces of Kamandi and Ben Boxer, indicating a second variant Kamandi Earth, unlike Earth-51. Kamandi, by Dave Gibbons and Ryan Sook.

Final Crisis
Kamandi is seen in DC's Final Crisis limited series, a sequel to the earlier Crisis on Infinite Earths and Infinite Crisis. In the first issue he appears in what seems to be a time distortion, asking Anthro, the "first" boy on Earth, for the weapon the New God Metron gave him, a reference to the series' opening scene in which Anthro, like Prometheus, is given knowledge in the form of fire. He makes another appearance in the second issue as one of the captives of the evil New Gods (alongside Batman), warning the detective character Dan Turpin that they are making slaves of them. In the final issue, he appears on Earth-51 after it has been reconstructed.

Kamandi returns to New York and to the bunker where he was raised by his grandfather to honor his death, as he does every year at this time. He meets up Prince Tuftan and they fight their way out of a horde of rats, bravely looking for food and supplies. Rescued by Doctor Canus in a blimp, Kamandi and Prince Tuftan ride to the city of the apes in an attempt to aid the tiger army. Great Caesar has been captured by the apes. When Kamandi sees the ape chasing a girl below, he jumps out of the blimp, swinging down on a rope, in an attempt to rescue her. Prince Tuftan follows and both get captured by the apes. The apes blow up the blimp. Kamandi and the girl manage to escape while Prince Tuftan is taken to be executed along with his father. Along the way, Kamandi, the girl and Doctor Canus meet up with the remnants of the tiger armies and are joined by Lion Rangers. Using information found under his old birth place, the Command D Bunker's data base computer, Kamandi and the other animal allies find pre-Disaster weapons and vehicles, to raid the apes living in the city of Sintin—remnant of Washington D.C. In the battle to rescue King Caesar and Prince Tuftan, the girl is shot by a gorilla sniper. She dies, but not before she gives Kamandi her locket and tells him that humans—possibly intelligent humans like him and her—exist somewhere in the South of North America.

Fictional Character Biography
In the eponymous series, Kamandi is a teenage boy on a post-apocalyptic Earth (which the textual narrative describes as "Earth A.D. (After Disaster)") that has been ravaged by a mysterious calamity called the Great Disaster. The precise nature of the Great Disaster is never revealed in the original series, although it "had something to do with radiation." (In the series' letter column, Jack Kirby and his then-assistant Steve Sherman repeatedly asserted that the Great Disaster was not a nuclear war, a fact confirmed in issue #35.) The Disaster wiped out human civilization and a substantial portion of the human population. A few isolated pockets of humanity survived in underground bunkers, while others quickly reverted to pre-technological savagery.

Shortly before the Great Disaster, a scientist at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Dr. Michael Grant, developed a drug called Cortexin, which stimulated the reasoning abilities of animals. During the Great Disaster, Grant released the experimental animals affected by the drug, and dumped the Cortexin itself into the stream created by a broken water main. In the ensuing days, animals escaping from the National Zoo drank from that stream and became affected by the drug.

By Kamandi's time, an unspecified period after the Great Disaster, the affects of Cortexin and the radiation unleashed by the Great Disaster itself had caused a wide variety of mammals, including gorillas, tigers, lions, cheetahs, leopards (all descendants of escaped zoo animals), rats, dogs, wolves, and kangaroos to become bipedal, humanoid, and sentient, possessing the power of speech. Others, including dolphins, killer whales, and snakes, developed sentience, but retained more or less their original size and form. The newly intelligent animal species, equipped with weapons and technology salvaged from the ruins of human civilization, began to struggle for territory. (Horses were apparently not affected, and serve as a means of transportation in the technologically impoverished world of Earth A.D.)

By this time, most surviving humans are bestial, with very limited reasoning ability. Most have only the most rudimentary ability to speak, although they can be trained. (The precise cause of the loss of reasoning ability is ambiguous in the original series.) The animals treat humans as beasts, using them for labor or as pets.

Kamandi is the last survivor of the human outpost in the "Command D" bunker near what was once New York City. ("Kamandi" is a corruption of "Command D"; it is unclear if Kamandi ever had any other name.) Raised by his elderly grandfather, Kamandi has extensive knowledge of the pre-Disaster world, thanks to a library of microfilm and old videos, but he has spent most of his time inside the bunker, and is unaware of the state of the world outside. When his grandfather is killed by a wolf, Kamandi leaves the bunker in search of other human outposts.

He soon discovers that the only other intelligent humans left on Earth are Ben Boxer and his friends Steve and Renzi, a trio of mutants genetically engineered to survive in Earth A.D. He also makes a number of animal friends, including Dr. Canus, the canine scientist of Great Caesar, leader of the Tiger Empire, and Caesar's teenage son, Tuftan. Later additions to the cast included the alien woman Pyra, the girl Spirit and the consulting detective Mylock Bloodstalker(loosely based on Sherlock Holmes) and his associate Doile (named for Holmes' creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle); Bloodstalker is, appropriately, a bloodhound. Even the most sympathetic animals, however, are nonplussed by Kamandi and Ben's ability to speak.

Kamandi and his friends set out to explore the world of Earth A.D., in hopes of one day restoring humanity to sentience and civilization.

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