My friends at Hilobrow are running a really fun series of posts about comic book legend Jack Kirby. It's called Kirb Your Enthusiasm, and each essay is by a different person analyzing a panel from a Kirby title. Posts so far include Douglas Rushkoff on The Eternals, John Hilgart on Black Magic, Gary Panter on Demon, Dan Nadel on OMAC, and Deb Chachra on Captain America.
I lucked out and got to write about Kamandi.
In the summer of 1977 Jack Kirby came to Colorado to make appearances at the three different Mile High Comics stores -- in Fort Collins, Boulder, and Denver. At the time I was 16 years old and worked after school and on the weekends at the Boulder store; I fell asleep thinking about Kirby and woke up in the morning thinking about Kirby. I'd become an instant fan upon discovering Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth. Before Kamandi, I read Richie Rich and other Harvey titles, but had zero interest in Marvel or DC comics, which were exclusively about superheroes and seemed as ridiculous to me as spectator sports.
Kamandi was different from any other comic. It was about an ordinary boy, with no special powers or skills, surviving on his own in a crazy world taken over by intelligent, bipedal mammals. The series came on the heels of Planet of the Apes -- a movie I watched over and over again in the theater -- and Kamandi was like an improved extension of that world. So when Kirby came to Colorado I was the first in line at all three stores. I hung out at the signing table from the minute he arrived until he left the stores in the evening.
I remember three things about his visit:
1. On the first night, somebody asked him what role Stan Lee played in the writing of the Marvel titles that Kirby had illustrated. Kirby answered, "He didn't do anything. I did the whole damn thing." A few minutes later, he noticed that someone was holding out a small tape recorder to record his answers. He said, "What are you doing! Gimme that." When the guy handed him the tape recorder, Kirby removed the cassette and stuck it in his back pocket. He then handed the recorder back to the guy and said, "Don't do that!"
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. Come and hear Mark speak at the ALA conference in Chicago on July 1.