Monday, February 28, 2011

Back Issue Alphabet: K is for Ka-Zar #3 (1974)

Ka-Zar #3 (Mike Friedrich, Don Heck, Mike Royer)

For anyone not in the know, Ka-Zar is Marvel’s version of Tarzan, but instead of an ape named Cheeta, Ka-Zar has a sabre-toothed cat name Zabu. And instead of Africa, Ka-Zar lives in the Savage Land, Marvel’s version of The Lost World.

The cover is... vibrant. A giant bald guy wearing Renaissance fair boots is punching a tree and shouting while Ka-Zar and Zabu leap at him. Also, there is a woman with a ripped blouse staring directly at Ka-Zar’s loincloth with a horrified expression. Who ripped her blouse? Who messed up her face? Will she actually appear in the comic (spoiler alert: not really)?

Ka-Zar #3: Night of the Man-God (as opposed to the “might of the Man-God” which was mentioned on the front page) is full of everything that made comics ridiculous in the 70s, almost all of which is encapsulated on the splash page:

Walls of exposition boxes describe the actions occurring on the page. Characters speak exposition out loud. Blue infoboxes explain things that occurred in other books. Ah, 70s mainstream comics.

I’m going to nitpick like crazy for a second here, taking apart the narrative box which mentions “a murder minded snake”:

1. Law . the killing of another human being under conditions specifically covered in law. In the U.S., special statutory definitions include murder committed with malice aforethought, characterized by deliberation or premeditation or occurring during the commission of another serious crime,as robbery or arson (first-degree murder), and murder by intent but without deliberation or premeditation (second-degree murder).
2. Slang . something extremely difficult or perilous: *That final exam was murder!*
3. a group or flock of crows.

Murder is when humans kill humans. The snake is just hungry, man. No need to demonize it. Or maybe the writer is implying that the snake was literally thinking about crows.

Anyway, Ka-Zar and Zabu defeat the snake, and we move on to another exposition filled introduction. A super-pissed off “Maa-Gor, The Man-Ape”, who we learn was defeated by Ka-Zaar and Shanna the She-Devil in the previous issue, digs himself out of the rubble of a collapsed wizard’s castle on Skull Island (just go with it). He swims from Skull Island to shore, beats up an alligator, and ventures into the Mystic Mists. These Mists gave Ka-Zar his powers, but no Man-Ape has ever entered them and lived. But, as Maa-Gor is the last of his kind, “what is left then, but to look death full in her face--and leap into her ravishing arms?” As corny as Silver Age narrative text bars are, I freaking loved that line. Maa-Gor mutates from a dull-witted neanderthal into a seven foot tall yellow Spock, and with his new-found intelligence and vaguely defined superpowers, he decrees both his vengeance on Ka-Zar and a desire to conquer to world of men. And now he calls himself Man-God. Aim high, Maa-Gor. Aim high.

It’s a haphazard story full of events that don’t really make sense, including a character appearance that makes no sense and is only there so that another character (the girl in the red shirt, who looks nothing in the book like she does on the cover) can find her way to the Savage Land.

As for the art, its hard to tell if the images are doing a good job of telling a story when each panel is accompanied with a text box describing the action. It like trying to enjoy a movie with a friend who keeps saying “Watch this part, it’s important.” Also, the fact that Ka-Zar has no nipples creeps me out. Was that a side effect of the Mystic Mists, or were artists not allowed to draw nipples under the Comics Code Authority?

The real treasure here is the book’s centrefold: a detailed map of the Savage Land, giving it a specific location on Antarctica and showing the divisions of dinosaur habitation. Apparently the dinosaurs of the Savage Land organize themselves in order of historical appearance. Check out the inserts, which include a detailed image of the Mystic Mists. You know, in case anyone wondered what mist look like. Minus the humans, I’m pretty sure I drew something exactly like this map when I was eight, dinosaur identification chart included (although I was dino-savvy enough to know that brontosaur [sic] wasn’t a real dinosaur).

Ka-Zar #3 is a Silver Age mess that ends with a giant yellow Spock in a pink and blue leotard fighting a guy with no nipples. There were not enough dinosaurs in this book to make me keep reading it.

And for the ladies, beefcake:

Ka-Zar posing sexfully with a decapitated anaconda.

You’re welcome.


  1. Ah, but in 1974, the Brontosaur *was* a real dinosaur. Crazy Paylio... Paeleo.. Pa... Dino-scientists.

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