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Get that boy some pants! – Kamandi #2

August 20, 2010

Kamandi may be my favorite title from Jack Kirby’s DC oeuvre. I like what the New Gods (mainly Darkseid) became in later years, but Kirby’s original take on them never really grabbed me. Don’t get me wrong — it’s good, but it doesn’t separate from the pack for me. Kamandi I like quite a bit (in spite of the perpetually half-naked male lead) and readers from back in the day must have agreed with me — it’s the only DC Kirby work that really had any legs and the only one that he was actually able to hand off to successor writers and artists.

They’re always enjoyable reads. The post-apocalyptic Earth after the Great Disaster was well-matched with Kirby’s fertile aptitude for creatures and machinery. The various now-sentient animals that populated this new Earth were quite wonderful, and it seemed like Kirby went to the zoo one day and just developed a checklist of what animals he would gift with the powers of reason and speech and good and evil.

Enter Doctor Canus:

I love dogs, and I love talking dogs even more, and I love talking doctor dogs even more, but everytime I read Professor Canus’ name I think of this (somewhat disturbing) commercial parody:

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This second chapter of the Kamandi saga is chock full of Kirby goodness (with helpful inks from Mike Royer). In “Year of the Rat!” we early on learn the true nature of Ben Boxer:

He and Kamandi make their escape from the Tigers (with the help of kindly Doctor Canus) and travel through an underwater New York City:

They soon fall into the clutches of big ugly rats. I guess it makes sense that grimy rodents would take over a New York City that’s been submerged and devoid of humans — hell, with the cockroaches they almost run the place today. Kirby does a nice job designing the rats, making their eyes beady and their fur so matted and ugly you can almost smell the damn things. Their crass dialogue helps too:

They’re definitely not cute and cuddly like Rizzo and his compatriots:

Though at least they’re not working in the kitchen and swimming in the coffee — you have to give them that.

There might be an element of the Skeksis from The Dark Crystal in Kirby’s rats (or maybe that should be vice versa):


Ben and Kamandi rescue some of Ben’s buddies and Kamandi joins up with this small group of fellow humans. That’s the simple summation of the rest of the story, but it belies the pleasure of this particular comic, which is watching Kirby slug away unfettered at the height of his powers. Here’s a few final words from the King himself about the end of the world:

It’s always fun to read some pseudo-scientific speculative kookery.

Whatever. The Apocalypse never was never more fun than when it flowed from Jack’s pen.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 21, 2010 6:13 pm

    I certainly know of Kamandi from various guest starring roles, but I never read his actual comic. Was there ever any goofy explanation why such a variety of critters gained sentient intelligence (and all grew or shrunk to human proportions)?

    • August 22, 2010 1:28 am

      If I recall correctly, the animals changed through the synergistic effects of 1) a drug developed before the Great Disaster that amplified animals’ mental abilities and 2) that miracle cure-all, radiation.

      Radiation — “The wonder drug that works wonders.”

  2. August 24, 2010 12:49 am

    “The Apocalypse never was never more fun than when it flowed from Jack’s pen.”

    True that!

    I enjoyed Kamandi when I was a kid but really have enjoyed rereading them as an adult. I probably like Kirby’s Omac just a little better, but Kamandi was a fine example of Kirby’s unbridled imagination. I’m hoping to review the first five issues sometime in October; I’ll make sure to link out to this review if I do. A very enjoyable read!


    • August 24, 2010 1:12 am

      I look forward to reading those reviews. The first issues of the series are certainly some of the best, with Kamandi coming to terms with this strange new world that he finds himself in.

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