Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Ka-Zar, 2.0!

As we've already seen examples of, Marvel wasn't exactly reluctant when it came to using the Fantastic Four mag, its hot property in the '60s, to promote its growing stable of characters as well as other titles which could benefit from the exposure. In an FF issue from 1965, we would see both of those factors being met by a promotional blurb tucked away in a "special announcements section" appearing in the FF's letters page, which not only gave a shout-out to the X-Men title but also pitched a new Marvel character, who really turned out to be not so new on the scene after all.

Yes, Ka-Zar, who dates back all the way to the 1930s--first appearing in 1936 in a brief series of pulp magazines by Bob Byrd, and then adapted for Marvel Comics #1 in 1939.

Basically, the plane of the Rand family crashes in the Congo, with Constance Rand eventually dying from a jungle-born illness--followed much later by the father, John, which left their son, David, to grow up in the company of the animals he befriends and vice versa. One of these animals, a lion named Zar, has become particularly close to him and has watched over David since John and David began fending for themselves following the crash.

The 1939 tale essentially presents that story in comic book format:

Twenty-five years later, Ka-Zar is given new life as a grown man, with Zar being replaced with Zabu (a sabre-toothed tiger) and Ka-Zar's habitat moving from the Congo to the South Pole, thus giving us our first look at the Antarctic prehistoric preserve which would be later known as the Savage Land--discovered by the X-Men when they investigate reports of the two being encountered by members of an Antarctic expedition.

Yet it's only when the X-Men fall prey to a primitive group of marauders do they meet both Ka-Zar and the loyal beast at his side.

With (who else?) Marvel Girl being taken captive by the marauders (whom Ka-Zar calls the swamp men), Ka-Zar and the X-Men have a common foe, and Ka-Zar agrees to help with her rescue--though he mainly stays true to his character as written, someone who normally shuns outsiders and acts in accordance with his instincts. In the meantime, however, the Angel is taken captive as well, and it becomes clear that both of them need to gain their freedom before the swamp men put them in even greater danger.

Fortunately for the X-Men, it seems that Ka-Zar, in true Tarzan fashion, has unique resources to literally call upon, should the need arise.

But while the X-Men's contact with Ka-Zar has been tolerant, he doesn't share their desire for an extended friendship, even taking further steps to seal off his jungle domain upon their departure.

We would see more of Ka-Zar and the X-Men joining in common cause when Magneto ends up in the Savage Land and begins creating mutants from the the indigenous population there--with the story again taking advantage of the limited but perceptible chemistry between Ka-Zar and the X-Men, individuals who share the status of existing apart from the human race, whether out of caution or choice.


Big Murr said...

A comic I've missed all these years. Somehow, I've never thought about the "first" time Ka-Zar would have appeared!

It's great how these panels show the Savage Land to be mainly populated by the prehistoric Age of Mammals. Mammoths, eohippus, sabretooth, terror birds, etc. The t-rex is a Special Appearance. A pretty imaginative attempt to bust out of the trope-cliche that "Lost Worlds" were always dinosaur preserves.

Too bad that didn't last. Ever since then, I'm pretty sure the only mammals we see in the Savage Land are humans and Zabu.

Comicsfan said...

Well, I guess unless you count Sauron and Stegron, Murray. ;)

JungGRT said...

Looks like Kazar went to the Hulk school of referring to himself in the third person (or is that the Bob Dole school)?

George Chambers said...

I always thought Namor was the oldest character in the MU, but Ka-Zar had him beat by a wide margin. There's always something to learn. Thanks, Comicsfan!

Comicsfan said...

JungGRT, now you have me wondering just when Ka-Zar lost his savage persona in favor of a more conversational demeanor. Was it a gradual thing, or was the "me Ka-Zar" character we see here just dropped like a safe at some point?

George, I think Ka-Zar might have come second behind Doc Savage, another character who got his start in pulp mags in the '30s. (Anyone care to fact-check me on that?)

Big Murr said...

Ka-Zar's subsequent appearances in Hulk #110 and then X-Men #62 had him much more eloquent. Those are the only comics I have featuring the Lord of the Savage Land.

That's his speech. As to his "savage persona", I don't think he's ever lost that. Currently in comics, Ka-Zar is an Agent of Wakanda (the Black Panther's special ops crew). To the dismay of his teammates, Ka-Zar sees no need for any weapons gear other than his knife when going on missions. And so far, he's been right.

Anonymous said...

I've previously mentioned that Ka-Zar appeared in my first ever Marvel comic - Marvel UK's Planet Of The Apes #5 back in November 1974 - but by then Ka-Zar was being drawn by Barry Smith and his real name (Ka-Zar's not Barry Smith's) was Kevin Plunder, an English aristocrat (!!) - the British aristocracy do NOT have names like Kevin Plunder :D

lordjim6 said...

Both his speech and name were established in very early Daredevil comics.

Comicsfan said...

I haven't seen Smith's work on the character beyond the splendid cover he and Herb Trimpe created for Marvel Super-Heroes #19's Ka-Zar feature, Colin. I must admit to being curious to seek it out, one of these days.