Saturday, October 17, 2009

Astonishing Tales #17: "Target: Ka-Zar!"

Download Astonishing Tales #17

Ka-Zar was a jungle lord before Martin Goodman ever published a comic book. Borrowing all but one letter of his name from Tarzan, Ka-Zar appeared in a short-lived Goodman pulp magazine containing short novels that chronicled his African adventures. The stories were credited to Bob Byrd. When the Funnies, Inc. shop added Ka-Zar to the group of characters they put together for Marvel Mystery Comics, Ben Thompson, borrowing as best he could from Tarzan newspaper artist Burne Hogarth, drew the feature.

The first adventure repeated the origin story first told in the pulp. Little David Rand's parents crashed with him in the fierce African jungle. His mother died, and David and his somewhat crazed dad lived on in the wild to become a sort of father-and-son Tarzan team. They made friends with the animals and David—after learning lion lingo—became especially close to a mighty lion named Zar. After his father was murdered by an evil renegade emerald hunter, David more or less moved in with his lion chum and took to calling himself Ka-Zar, which means "brother of the lion." Billed as the "guardian of the wild Belgian Congo animals," he spent a good deal of his time shooing unscrupulous white hunters out of the jungle. Eventually he became more involved with current events and was "successful in destroying Nazi and Fascist fortresses in the jungle." Ka-Zar's jungle was a somewhat spartan place, and few if any women found their way into his domain. He took his leave after Marvel Mystery Comics #27 (January 1942).

A brand new Ka-Zar, reinvented by Stan Lee, first popped up as a guest in X-Men #10 in 1965. This time around, the Lord of the Jungle was actually a British lord named Kevin Plunder. He had grown up in a tropical kingdom known as the Savage Land that was said to lie "buried far beneath the frozen wastes of Antarctica." Like the earlier holder of the title, this Ka-Zar had blonde shaggy hair and wore nothing more than an animal-skin loin cloth. Unlike his predecessor, he spoke like the Johnny Weismuller movie Tarzan.

After many guest shots and team-ups, including appearances in Daredevil, Spider-Man, and The Hulk, over the next few years Ka-Zar earned a permanent berth in Astonishing Tales. He appeared in the first twenty issues, beginning in 1970. Lee and Jack Kirby did the original stories, followed by Gerry Conway and Conan artist Barry Windsor-Smith. The jungle man moved into titled Ka-Zar in 1974, where he first met up with the feisty Shanna O'Hara, a Sheena lookalike who operated as Shanna the She-Devil. Their initially antagonistic relationship blossomed into a romance and eventually they were married. Ka-Zar was benched in 1977, but returned along with his mate in 1984. In addition to an occasional domestic spat, his life was further complicated by his evil brother Parsival, who sullied the family name by doing vile deeds as a villain known as the Plunderer. He returned once more to the jungle in the late 1990s, with Andy Kubert doing the illustrating.


Script: Mike Friedrich
Pencils: Dan Adkins
Inks: Frank Chiaramonte
Letters: John Costanza

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