Sunday, 13 June 2010

Kamandi #13. A day at the races.

Kamandi #13, A Day at the races by Jack Kirby

I suppose it's typical of Jack Kirby that, given the chance to do Planet of the Apes, he gives us Planet of the Everything, in which virtually every living creature is now more intelligent than human beings.

The one exception is Kamandi, the last boy on Earth. Whether he actually is genuinely the last boy on Earth or not, I'm not too sure. It's bad news for the human race if he is, as it suggests it's heading for extinction.

In Kamandi #13 it's the title character who's in danger of extinction as he's forced by leopards to enter a horse race in which the human contestants have to kill each other to win a cake. Needless to say, this being Kirby, somehow Kamandi manages to find himself riding the race on the back of a giant grasshopper.

Jack Kirby, Kamandi #13

It's a tale that throws into sharp relief Kirby's strengths and weaknesses. The strengths being his happiness to use any idea that pops into his head and an ability to keep the tale rushing along. The weaknesses being his traditional lack of interest in characterisation, structure and dialogue. On the strength of those weaknesses, I shouldn't like this issue which is, in plotting terms, a noticeably straight and slight thing but, like  The Eternals, it's a strip whose detached-from-our-reality nature makes it perfect for Kirby, and I definitely have to get my hands on more of the things when the chance comes up.

Jack Kirby, Kamandi #13

As a kid, I always subconsciously got an image of how an artist looked from how the people in his stories appeared. Thus, I had the idea that Jim Aparo was square-jawed and gritty and that Don Heck looked like an old-style movie star. It was a bit of a shock, then, to see how my favourite artists really looked. Jack Kirby was - along with John Buscema - one of the exceptions to this rule, as, when I finally got to see a picture of him, he actually looked just like I expected him to. Which brings me to the panel to the left. Is it just me or does it look suspiciously like Jack Kirby in a blond wig? Coincidence? Me imagining things? Or was it a deliberate policy of Kirby to get himself in his stories from time to time?

1 comment:

Lorenzo said...

The entire 'Mr Sacker' story is one of my all-time faves of Kirby's later period - great art and great story, and while I agree Kirby's dialogue was always klunkier than, um...a very klunky thing, I strongly disagree that this story lacks characterisation & structure. Quite the opposite, in fact! I this whole 4-issue "Sacker Company" story arc (running from #11 to #14)is beautifully structured, taking us from Kamandi's capture at the hands of the leopard pirates' & incarceration upon the nightmarish pirate ship which is full of fear as they have captured a live "devil" (later revealed to be the gentle 'Klik-Klak', who almost steals the show, especially in an uncharacteristically - for Kirby - poignant death scene), to the slave pens where 'animals' (i.e: humans) are pampered only to be used as fodder for The Sacker Company's gladiatorial races. I feel the characterisation is also deftly handled, from the oily oligarchal snake Sacker (kitsch, but it works!), to the bullying Bull Bantam & the gentle Spirit whom Kamandi tries to protect, even to incidental characters in the hard-bitten crowds who gather for Sacker's blood-sport. All quite brilliant, imho! Um - so there - LoL! Love your blog, btw, even if I disagree with you on occasion - ahem! :-)

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