Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth #29 (May, 1975)
Writer, Artist & Editor – Jack Kirby
Inker & Letterer – D. Bruce Berry
Idea Suggester – Steve Sherman
Cover Price: $0.25
I had absolutely no idea I owned this issue. I love little surprises like this… Was flipping through one of my DC bins for Kamandi stuffs, as Reggie and I are taking the Cosmic Treadmill all the way out to the Great Disaster this week for our segment on the Weird Science DC Comics Podcast (that’s Episode 91 for fellow time-travelers). Came across this iconic cover, and knew I wanted to discuss it here on the humble blog. My copy, sadly, looks as though it was used as a coffee filter (or worse)… but we can make this work!
We open looking over Kamandi and Ben Boxer’s shoulders… in the distance we see what appears to be… not a bird, nor a plane… but a man flying! Before we move on we check in on the Tablet of Revelation which tells the story of the new Arctic-Atlantic continent. Lucky for us it does so using “Comic Strip Terms”. We learn that this new continent was formed in the wake of the Great Disaster. The world split and fire spewed from its core. A man they refer to as “Mighty One” sprang into action and capped the flames with tons upon tons of rock. It is also said that the Mighty One died for his efforts. Oh, by the way… the Mighty One wears a cape and an “S” on his chest.
Suddenly the twosome are taken by surprise by a troop of Ape Men. The elder Ape takes one look at Ben… in his wacky “don’t cause a nuclear meltdown” costume and believes that the Mighty One has finally returned! He’s all “Huh?”, but Kamandi urges him not to be so quick to say anything. Great advice, kid! Moments later Ben gets clobbered by an Ape Man named Zuma.
The two tussle for a bit, despite the pleas for them to stop. Kamandi doesn’t want his buddy too banged up, and the Ape Men believe Ben to be the reincarnated
Superman Mighty One. Once the fracas dissipates, Kamandi asks the elder for some details on thi Mighty One… like, for instance… did he wear an “S” symbol on his costume… The elder is both surprised and pleased to hear such a question, and escorts the two humans to the three-stage “demonstration course”. The first part of the course is… get this, a slingshot. It sends prospective Super-Ape-Men into the air to see if they can fly. Wow! So that’s what our fellas saw during the open…
They watch a demonstration, which ends about as well as you’d imagine. Zuma is still being an ass, and challenges Ben to go for a ride. Kamandi, not being able to keep his mouth shut insists that Ben can fly without the aid of a catapult! In order to demonstrate this, he has Ben push his Cyclo-Heart patch and go full fission. So, to demonstrate his flight acumen… he changes his body to look like it’s made of steel. Wha? Okey dokey… if it’s good enough for the Ape Men… it’s good enough for me. One task down, two to go.
The next task is a demonstration of strength. Inside a stone arena stands… or sits, I guess… a gigantic boulder which they call the, heh, Daily Planet. Whosoever can move this rock, yadda yadda yadda. Zuma’s up first… and the poor goof can’t get the job done.
When it’s Ben’s turn, it appears as though he can’t move the boulder either. So he changes up his plan and uses his dense steel foot to crumble the ground beneath him a bit to put the boulder off-balance… which in turn makes it move. Ben’s not too shy about cheating, as he announces it straight away. This dude is pretty funny.
At this point, the Ape Men have seen enough to believe Ben Boxer is the reincarnated Mighty One. Zuma, however, is still being a jerk. He insists upon subjecting him to the final task… being faster than a speeding bullet!
Kamandi thinks this is a great idea, and I’m spit-balling here, but seems to really believe that somehow the Mighty One will come back because of this… it’s weird, he says he’s “worth all risk”. Suddenly the gatling gun starts blasting away… Ben pushes Kamandi out of the way just in the nick of time. When the smoke clears Ben lay there unharmed by bullets… which makes the Ape Men think he’d avoided them… rather than them bouncing off his steel skin.
The elder Ape Man is completely convinced now, and Ben unfissions to his flesh and blood form. They are led to the vault of the super-suit. It should come as no surprise that Zuma is still a massive tool… and as such, he rushes in pushing our human pals to the side so that he may take the suit himself. This is where we get our first look at the Mighty One’s familiar duds.
Zuma and Kamandi wrestle over Superman’s costume… while the others just stand around, I guess. Kamandi hurls a stone at Zuma causing him to drop the suit. As he recovers he
tugs steps on Superman’s cape… which ya just don’t do… I think there’s a song about it or something. Well Kamandi won’t stand for that so he yanks the cape causing Zuma to fall… into a lava pit. Sheez man, that’s hardcore!
After straight-up murdering an Ape Man, Kamandi goes running into Ben’s waiting arms to sob. Ben takes the costume and hands it back to the elder Ape Man for safekeeping, as he knows one day the true Superman will return.
Well, this one came out of nowhere… what a fun read!
I just love it when series’ tie into one another… having Kamandi as part of the DC Comics canon is really cool. I’m not sure if this was the first indication of this world being the actual DC Universe post-apocalypse… but, I couldn’t imagine anything being more striking than actually finding Superman’s costume.
I really dug the trials the Ape-men had to undertake in order to prove they were in fact, Superman reincarnated. Such a silly concept, but it totally works. “Leaping Tall Buildings” “Faster than a Speeding Bullet”… how cool is all that? The reference to the Daily Planet for the test of strength was a nice touch as well.
This issue tells us much about the Ape-People. First, they believe in reincarnation. I’m not sure how or why an ape-person would come up with that… but it’s a cool piece to the Kamandi puzzle.
It was pretty humorous how Kamandi kept getting Ben deeper and deeper into this asinine competition. I’m not sure what his motivation for doing so is… just bragging about his buddy’s powers? Trying to make the Ape-Man Zuma look foolish? Dunno… maybe Kamandi’s just a little jerk. Hell, he gets Ben out of testing his flight prowess, so I guess he’s not all bad.
Definitely had more fun with this than I thought I would. For whatever reason the entire Kamandi concept never really gripped me, but this was really quite good. If you’re on the fence about the character, give’m a look… I’m glad I did!