Born in 1917 as Jacob Kurtzberg, Jack Kirby is recognized as the most important person in comic book history. One could make a good argument that the title belongs to Carl Barks, Robert Crumb, Stan Lee, or Wally Wood. They are all inarguably giants of the comic book world. But take a look at the characters Kirby created or co-created over a career that spanned nearly 50 years: Captain America, Sandman, The Fantastic Four, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Ant-Man, The Avengers, The X-Men, and the Silver Surfer. Who else can boast of such a star-studded stable of comic book characters, all of whom are global household names? Only Kirby!
My favorite Kirby character is one of his less well-known creations, at least among the non-comic-book-reading public. I was 12 years old when I discovered Kamandi in early 1973 at a friend's house in Boulder, Colorado. He had the first three issues of the comic. The first issue's cover showed Kamandi paddling a life raft through a flooded and abandoned New York, with the Statue of Liberty tilted like the tower of Pisa. It was a rip-off from the ending of Planet of the Apes, the 1968 movie that was (and still is) one of my favorite films. Nevertheless, the image was powerful and exciting. I opened the comic book and started reading.
I read all three issues twice that afternoon, sprawled on my friend's living room floor. It was the greatest thing I'd ever read. Kamandi was a teenager, the last surviving human on a post apocalyptic Earth now under the control of different animal species that behaved, dressed, and walked like humans: dogs, tigers, wolves, rats, lions, and apes. Kamandi wandered from place to place, fighting for his life, trying to survive in a world filled with "beasts that act like men!" and "men that act like beasts!"
Before Kamandi, I didn't really like comics. After Kamandi, comics became the most important thing in my life for years. They are still important to me, and Jack Kirby is still my favorite comic book artist and writer.
This book contains scans of the original art from six early issues of Kamandi: 1, 2, 5, 6, 7 and 9, along with the covers and some pencil sketches. The art is reproduced full-size, as Kirby drew it, which is why the book measures 12 x 17 inches. The book is part of IDW's fantastic Artist's Edition library, which features high-quality scans of original comic book art. From IDW's web site:
While appearing to be in black & white, each page has been scanned in COLOR to mimic as closely as possible the experience of viewing the actual original art—for example, you are able to clearly see paste-overs, blue pencils in the art, editorial notes, art corrections. Each page is printed the same size as drawn, and the paper selected is as close as possible to the original art board.
The photos here show how large this book is compared to the comic book. (I bought this copy of Kamandi in 1973, the day after I read the comics at my friend's house, from Mile Hi Comics in Boulder. When I was 16 I met Kirby and he autographed the issue on the front page.) It was a treat to re-read these and see details of the art for the first time. Going through this, I re-experienced the excitement of reading Kamandi on my friend's living room floor all those ago.
Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth – Artist's Edition
by Jack Kirby
2015, 160 pages, 12 x 17 x 1 inches
$100 Buy a copy on IDW