Friday, June 28, 2013

A look back with Swamp Thing: Careful! Scientists at work!

The Saga of the Swamp Thing #21 (February 1984), huh?  This is where our old pal Alan Moore made his American reputation by doing that Alan Moore thing of taking a previously existing character, picking it apart and figuring out what it's all about, then putting it back together in a startling new configuration.  Figuring out those implications previous writers either hadn't considered or considered and didn't know how to deal with.  Which character am I talking about?  General Avery Carlton Sunderland, CEO of the Sunderland Corporation.

Just joking.  Sunderland was a bastard before this issue and he continues being a bastard all through it.  But Moore had Sunderland make a little suggestion that got me to thinking about Alec and Linda Holland and just what kind of scientists they were.

Introduced by Martin Pasko and Tom Yeates way back in The Saga of the Swamp Thing #6 (October 1982), Sunderland bedevils the hell out of Swamp Thing and his friends.  Somewhere along the way, Sunderland became interested in the biorestorative formula Alec and Linda Holland were working on-- the one that led to their deaths and the creation of Swamp Thing.  Conventional wisdom at the time said Alec Holland's cells were saturated with the formula by a lab explosion and this is what transformed him into a plant creature when his burned body fell into the biologically-rich environment of the swamp.  Since Swamp Thing is a little difficult to come by in order to gain a sample of the formula, Sunderland goes to another source and has Linda Holland's body exhumed and examined.  His researchers find the formula "had collected in her body as well."

People's bodies pick up chemicals all the time from their environment.  If you work around toxins (for example, at an asbestos manufacturer or for the Kardashians), you take precautions, but there's always a risk you're going to introduce into your system dangerous chemicals.  And even if you don't, you may be highly exposed to substances you've never imagined right now simply due to your lifestyle.

Both Hollands knew the hazards of working with chemicals-- you treat any chemical as potentially dangerous and attempt to limit your exposure; I've had to read OSHA forms just to work with photocopiers-- and would have taken at least basic precautions.  And even if they considered the chemicals completely safe, they would be concerned about contaminating their work.  At the very least they would have worn goggles, smocks and gloves.  If the chemicals were toxic enough, they would have worn respirators or air-tight suits.  And if the substances were even more dangerous than that, the Hollands would have worked from behind protective glass of some kind.  But apparently, all of this was just not enough.



And it lead to tragedy.  That aforementioned conventional wisdom-- what Sunderland and associates are operating under as this story begins-- states the formula transformed Holland.  Moore quickly disposes of this by having Sunderland remark there was no reason the formula would have affected Linda or, by extension, Alec.   It doesn't matter that Alec underwent a violent chemical reaction involving large amounts of the formula or that Linda had some in her cells as well when she was merely shot, embalmed and buried.  Their magic formula wasn't designed to work on human or animal tissue, only plant.  This sets up a major revelation partway through this issue, one that changes almost everything about Swamp Thing.  However Swamp Thing emerged, the central tragedy of this doomed couple always comes back to the biorestorative formula they worked so hard to create in hopes of feeding a hungry world.

And because Sunderland's piqued my curiosity, I'm wondering just how much of the biorestorative formula Linda's body contained.  Can we find out?  Of course.  Maybe not the exact amount, but we can at least make a rough estimate by engaging in a little time travel, a power unfortunately denied all the poop heads working for King Hell Poophead General Sunderland.

So let's journey back to November 1972 and look at Swamp Thing #1 by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson.  Before we see what conditions the Hollands operated under, allow me to point out just how stupid it was of the government to put the two of them out in a swamp in the first place... for security purposes.  The government was so worried about the biorestorative formula falling into the wrong hands, they sent its creators to an easily-accessed farm house in a remote swamp and then protected them with a single police car.  In the DC universe, the Manhattan Project took place at a Mardi Gras party in New Orleans.


Okay, now lets see how these two genius smarty brain people carry out their research.  Wrightson probably drew a ton of cool-looking safet-- GOOD LORD!  Look at that!


They may have gotten results, but clearly the Hollands were an accident waiting to happen.  I'm surprised they didn't just eat or drink the stuff-- give it a grape flavor, add carbonation and throw themselves a Biorestorative Soda love-in on live television.  Now I'm thinking Linda Holland had LOTS of this junk in her system.  And when you think about all the fungi and microscopic plant life the human body contains--

It's probably just as well Alan Moore didn't put much thought into those gruesome possibilities!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A typical afternoon at Larkspur High...


There it is-- my old alma mater, Larkspur High!  Just as I remembered it.  And what about Ms. Thomas and Mr. Mason, the hardest working science teachers in the district, if not the entire state?  Do they still work there?


Hey, they do.  Look at them.  Busy as can be.  They're the reason Larkspur High leads the state in science scores and achievement awards.  But what about their favorite student, Cindy Lee?  What's she doing while these two teachers knock themselves out preparing lesson plans?


Cindy Lee loves bike races!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Superman? More like Superkiller!

Superman never kills, right?  That's what we've been led to believe. Let's see if Siegel and Shuster agree by reading Action Comics #23 (April 1940), featuring the first appearance of Lex Luthor-- although the story refers to him as simply "Luthor" and he flashes a full head of red hair.

 It starts in the far-flung nation of Galonia, where we find Clark Kent and Lois Lane working as war correspondants for the Daily Planet (finally!). There, on the streets of the war-torn border city of Belgaria, we watch as a Toranian (these names have a Hayao Miyazaki flavor!) artillery unit lobs shells on helpless civilians, and injure Lane. Surely Superman will use his super-speed and strength to disable the cannon without injuries to anyone else--


Nope.  Superman blows four ordinary soldiers-- possibly guilty of war crimes, but human beings nevertheless-- straight to hell.  Later, he finds Galonian General Lupo conspiring with an unknown intelligence via what can only be described as a hologram to stop the two countries from making peace.  This turns out to be our first glimpse of Luthor, but for now let's just see how paragon of fair play Superman handles a being by far his physical inferior...


Strangely enough, Superman doesn't kill Lupo.  Something even worse than having his brains dashed out happens to the poor guy, but not at Superman's hands.  Leaving Lupo's corpse in the cave, Superman spots a bomber stream on its way to attack a neutral nation and bring them into the conflict—neutrality and being drawn into wars a major 1930s/40s concern for Americans.  In the interests of peace, he uses his mighty breath to blow up such a headwind the pilots turn back.  Catastrophe averted through non-violent means!

Not really.  What Superman actually does is leap onto the lead bomber and throw its machine gunner out.  This guy gets off easy compared to what happens to the rest.  After all, he’s at least wearing a parachute.  Superman turns the machine gun on the other planes and mercilessly blows them from the sky.  A few airmen float down under silk canopies, but you have to imagine others are shredded by Superman’s flying lead.  Read Masters of the Air by Donald L. Miller for a taste  of the carnage the Man of Steel deals to these guys who don’t share his invulnerable Kryptonian physiology.  There’s no place to hide inside a bomber.


And as if shooting them to death wasn’t enough, when he runs out of ammo, Superman then smashes two bombers together in the air, no doubt killing both aircrews at once.  After that, it's a simple matter of ramming the final bomber with the one he's hijacked and by now Superman's kill-tally must be dozens-- if not hundreds-- of men.


He's not finished.  Because here Luthor makes the first of what will eventually be many, many mistakes in dealing with Superman-- he has Lois Lane abducted.  It's supposed to prevent reporter Clark Kent from investigating further, but all it does is amount to suicide by super-being.  Having wet his hands with blood for days now, Superman immediately sets out to confront the villain.

This early version of Lex Luthor possesses various powers than can only be described as magical.  He can hypnotize people—in fact, almost all of his personal army are under his mental control—and he projected that three-dimensional image of himself onto a screen hidden in a cave despite being miles away.  A far cry from the ruthless scientist or amoral business tycoon of later characterizations.  But one thing this proto-Luthor shares with the more familiar modern-day Luthor is the desire for power and a knack for manipulation from behind the scenes.


Plus a primitive green laser (premonitions of Kryptonite to come) capable of draining Superman’s powers.  Mistake number two-- Luthor stupidly sets the damned thing on low, which gives Superman time to smash it before it can incapacitate or even kill him.  

It's at this point our already emotionally over-taxed Superman goes completely ape.  He juggles halpless normals (how many of these men soiled themselves from sheer terror?)-- apparently smirking all the while-- and shreds dirigible’s inner workings, which sends untold numbers of Luthor’s hypnotized followers to their deaths.  And Luthor himself, as Superman callously observes, using some kind of casual inflection or drawl to emphasize to Lois Lane just how little he cares.


Well, you may not be scared, Ms. Lane, but I certainly am!  We won't argue whether or not Superman's aims are good.  After all, he's trying to stop a war and save many more lives than the number he takes.  But how could we stop this costumed mass killer should he decide the human species is too destructive to be allowed to continue?  What if he takes a cue from Luthor and tries to conquer the world?  It's almost as if Superman were one of those morally gray anti-heroes from DC's Vertigo line of adult comics.  But that's silly...

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Lois Lane is tough and smart... and completely amoral

We've talked about what a gutsy woman reporter Lois Lane is.  She takes no guff but freely gives it because she's hardcore.  She's also incredibly intelligent, able to see through complex ruses like a Sherlock Holmes in a luscious, backless red evening dress.  Where can we find a prime example of just how brainy a person she is?  Why, look no further than Action Comics #6 (November 1938), a fast-paced tale by Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster along with inker Leo O'Mealia.

It all starts one day at the Daily Star (yes, the Star, not the Planet-- and the nameless editor is definitely not his graying eminence Perry White, but a much younger brown-haired man), where Clark Kent, the "meek ace" reporter meets Nick Williams, who bills himself as Superman's personal manager.  This comes as a shock to Kent, because he's secretly Superman.  Then Kent receives another shock-- Williams is using Superman's good name to make money!  Suddenly there's a Superman radio show, a Superman brand gasoline and even a Superman automobile, plus.any number of other shoddy products bearing the familiar S-logo, all illegally licensed by Williams.  Most alarmingly, Williams openly threatens the world with what he claims is a deal for comic book appearances (and movies based on them, no doubt).  Kent quickly arranges a meeting with Williams's client Superman, but he doesn't count on Lois Lane, who soon finds out about it and makes a plan of her own.

The first step involves allowing Kent to take her on a date to what we're told is a "famous night spot," so hoity-toity Kent has to wear a top hat.  It's in the rarefied atmosphere of big city nightlife among the elite they witness this spectacle:


The second step involves this:


Yes, you just witnessed Lois Lane slip Clark Kent a mickey finn.  She doesn't even know his body weight or what other medications he might be taking (both Marilyn Monroe and Anna Nichole Smith had chloral hydrate, the traditional "knock out" drug, among others in their systems when they died and it was a component of the lethal Kool-Aid at Jonestown; Lane would have been familiar with chloral hydrate from her police reportage even in the 1930s), so there's a small but very real chance she's killed him with an accidental overdose.


Of course Superman is just pretending.  The drug doesn't work on his alien physiology (not that Lois knows this-- she's completely unconcerned she might succeed in her plan and still wind up facing a murder rap).  While Superman's understandably miffed at having been drugged, that's no excuse for his sexist generalization.  Unless in the 1930s all newspaper women actually did go around drugging their dates for reasons of professional gain and personal curiosity.  If so, this was a dark era in American journalism.

Once she meets Williams and his ersatz Superman, it takes Lois Lane about two seconds to see through their lies.  This woman is not only scary, she's scary-smart.


As unscrupulous as Lois is, Williams outdoes her with his willingness to commit outright murder.  She lacks morals, he's actively immoral.  Not for him Lois Lane's involuntary manslaughter.  She threatens his finances, so out the window she goes.  Well, we all know how this ends.  Not with Lois Lane pulped on the sidewalk, but with her safely enfolded in Superman's mighty arms.  And he treats her sneeringly.

Hmm.  I'm starting to believe it's not just Lois.  Despite its bright primary and secondary colors, Superman's world is in fact a noirish cesspool full of desperate, hateful people who would be right at home among the compromised denizens of James Ellroy's behaviorally miasmic Los Angeles.  It seems no one is to be trusted and everyone possesses suspect motives and moral relativism.  But that can't be true, right?  These are adults.  What of the young?  Can we look to them to restore our belief in humanity's basic goodness?  Let's go back to the story's beginning and find out.


Office boy Jimmy Olsen!*  You eavesdropping imp!  Behavior no doubt learned from his elders.  But these are reporters and con artists, society's lowest echelon, of like kind right down there with pirates and mimes.  What of its highest, our legal authorities?  Surely writer Siegel will portray them in a positive light and balance out all these depressingly sordid people.  As paragons of virtue, protectors of our mores and the angels of our better nature.  This was the Golden Age, a time where we placed unwavering trust in a government that so recently assured us the only thing we had to fear was fear itself and our adventure comics told simplistic tales of the stark dichotomy between good and evil...


*Comixology and a few other sources list Action Comics #6 as Olsen's first appearance, but as far as I can tell this little spying bastard is as nameless as the paper's editor.  Factor in his blonde hair, and he's more like Jammy Olson or Jackie Olaff than the more familiar cub reporter of Superman legend.  This punk isn't even wearing a checked jacket.  And he has a disturbingly infantile face.  I conclude this isn't Jimmy Olsen at all, just a prototype character used to get Lois into the story, then discarded.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

I just bought some old Superman comics for .99 each

Yeah, digital at Comixology.  They're running a Superman sale which I'm sure has a lot to do with a certain Time-Warner flick that's coming out this summer.  Or has already come out; I'm in Japan and our release schedule is different here.  For whatever reason-- call me foolish, call me irresponsible-- but it occurs to me I bought nothing but Action Comics.  Action Comics #1 (I'm relieved I didn't have to pay $175,000 for it, although I could have afforded it quite easily) plus one by Curt Swan and several by John Byrne.

It's fashionable these days to mock Byrne, but I won't hear a bad word said against Curt Swan.  And once I get some time to read these comics, I'm going to spend a little time exploring them here while giving Byrne a fair shake.  I don't mean the kind of shake a shark gives its prey.  I mean a truly fair reading of the four comics I bought, although that's surely too small a sample size to make any kind of accurate assessment of what he accomplished.

I may clown around a lot here but this is a pro-Superman blog.  I've got an incredibly expensive Hot Toys figure of Christopher Reeve back home to prove it.  Superman and Babe Ruth.  That's all I ever think about.

$175,000 buys you a soiled Action Comics #1

If you're the person or people who bid on it, that is.  That Action Comics #1 we talked about a few weeks ago-- the one found in wall insulation-- sold for a nice $175,000.  Not too shabby.  Who wouldn't love to come across one of these key comics in a trunk in an attic or inside a the stomach tiger shark you're cutting open hoping to find the Kintner kid so you can reopen the beaches and salvage the summer?

My mom was born a couple of years before Action Comics #1 hit the newsstands of a grateful nation in need of distraction from the bad news in Europe and the economic travails of the Great Depression.  Keep in mind they didn't have Facebook and Twitter for the endless self-aggrandizement of incredibly boring idiots.  There were no Kardashians.  Even Amanda Bynes had yet to walk the earth.  So what did people do back then besides listen to Little Orphan Annie on the radio or sit around waiting for the Kardasians and Amanda Bynes to arrive?

Well, I don't know.  But it probably had something to do with Action Comics #1 because even banged-up copies sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars.  That's how important they are.

Anyway, my mom grew up in a world where Superman existed (when my dad was born in 1929, there was no such thing-- imagine that!), but she wasn't much into comic books.  She read real books from an early age.  A precocious reader of real prose, mostly involving the Bobbsey Twins.  Her best friend, however, did read comics and she kept them all.  On one of our visits to her hometown (Kings Mountain, NC), my mom told me about her friend's collection.  They had been born too late to have the first issues of Action or Detective Comics, but there was a small chance she'd owned Batman #1, which came out in 1940 when they were both four years old.  A very small chance.  In my mind, this morphed into a vivid image of all the most desirable issues in early comics history lined up on a shelf in a sunlit room, each book in mint condition.

I may have drooled a little at the thought.  I tell you this because I definitely am right now as I picture it again.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Jack Davis retrospective Kickstarter thingy...

The Glynn Art Association is having a public art retrospective honoring the work of the legendary Jack Davis, right there in his current hometown of St. Simons Island, Georgia.  I learned about this via the Mark Schultz Facebook feed-- he's contributing a drawing and some prints, and there's involvement from Arnold Roth, Walt Simonson, Ella McBee Cart, Heidi Arhnold, Tracy Yardley, Brad Walker and many other talented artists.

Not only is Jack Davis one of the finest artists ever to grace the pages of a comic book-- or the cover of TV Guide, for that matter-- he also happens to be a warm and gracious human being who treated this particular fan much better than I deserved when I phone interviewed him for a class project way back in the mid-1990s.  So check it out, please!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Every month is Kamandi Month: A brief on Ben Boxer

Not long after his capture by Great Caesar's tiger troops in Kamandi #1 (October 1972), Kamandi meets and befriends Dr. Canus, a dog with an advanced degree of some kind and his good pal, the apparently human Ben Boxer.  Except Boxer has to wear an old NASA spacesuit to keep from going Chernobyl and killing thousands.  Kamandi decides beggars can't be choosers when they're looking for people to talk to and tags along with Boxer for an adventure among the rats who scavenge along the outskirts of the Tiger Empire.

Since Kamandi is subtitled "The Last Boy on Earth" rather than "The Last Boy Sidekick on Earth," his relationship with Boxer proves intermittent.  They're always finding themselves separated.  Kind of like Gene Wilder from the train in the movie Silver Streak.  You hope poor Wilder would just stay on the damned thing for once, and that Kamandi and Boxer would stick together for Kamandi's sake because this book is downright scary when he's alone against all kinds of talking animals and weird little rat-things that want to kill him just for having incredible hair.  I can't imagine any of their other adventures topping their second escapade, though.  It reduces Syd Barrett's post-Floyd lyrics to the banality of corporate sales reports by comparison.

Before that happens, Boxer and his companions Steve and Renzi take a powder in Kamandi #4 (March 1973).  They leave our hero to fend for himself (and read old Kirby comics he finds lying around outside Las Vegas) and for the next few issues we follow along as Kamandi finds a new friend in Prince Tuftan, falls in love, loses said love, battles apes, lives through Kirby's take on the classic 1933 film King Kong and then runs into Ben Boxer and buddies again in #8 (August 1973).  This time they take Kamandi along with them to their home and things become epic. Not Internet epic, but truly epic.  Behold:


We find out in Kamandi #9 (September 1973) Boxer, Steve and Renzi live in a floating sphere called simply Tracking Site, no definite article.  Like Boxer, Steve's a clean-cut guy who looks like he should be playing first base for the 1961 New York Yankees.  Renzi, however, resembles a refugee from Swingin' London with his Paul McCartney pudding bowl hair and George Harrison beard.  They don't live at Tracking Site alone, however.  They share the immediate neighborhood with a lot of rabid human-sized bats who wear clothes but otherwise appear to be completely feral.  And for some reason there's a freaky little homunculus called the Misfit (he gets a definite article) who rooms there with them, too.

About the Misfit.  His name recalls Flannery O'Connor's short story "A Good Man is Hard to Find," but in appearance and behavior he also seems related in some way to Phillip K. Dick's malignant mutant character Hoppy Harrington in his novel Dr. Bloodmoney, or How We Got Along After the Bomb (1965).  In a flashback from Kamandi #10 (October 1973), we see Boxer, Steve, Renzi and the Misfit (their brother?) as youngsters.  The Misfit lives inside some kind of artificial external womb and begs to be freed.  As an adult, with his stunted arms, his blue skin and stunted limbs hint at some oxygen-deprived gestation period-- but that doesn't explain his fuzzy orange cranium.


How does one get to Tracking Site?  By balloon.  Tracking Site hangs suspended over a cratered area that once was Central America.  The three amigos travel the world gathering info and plugging it into the NASA Mind, a huge computer charged with collating this data (for reasons Kirby never completely goes into) and they always come back by balloon.  Their return from these each of these missions invariably involves an elaborate recreation of an Apollo-era splashdown, complete with a replica aircraft carrier and an all-robot welcome from the Serviteks, humanoid robots who see to the daily operations of Tracking Site.  It's to honor their NASA ancestors, according to Boxer.

But all is not well at Tracking Site and we see Kamandi has picked the wrong time to visit.  The Misfit has reprogrammed the Serviteks into his personal army and sics them on Kamandi and chums.  He has the most adorable little baby-carrier strapped to Kamandi's neck and hops right in.  At the same time he hectors Kamandi with a sinister monologue and lasciviously paws his captive's luxuriant golden locks.  Obviously, with a name like the Misfit, he was predestined to create problems.  In fact, his plan is to make life not just difficult but literally impossible for everyone on earth by releasing the Morticoccus germ, a huge slimy organism responsible for wiping out all the NASA scientists who once lived at Tracking Site, including Boxer's father.  Then the bats break in and things degenerate into the comic book equivalent of the LSD-fueled (was there ever any other kind?) Hunter S. Thompson road trip to the Mint 400 from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

I wonder if Kirby hadn't meant Boxer, Steve and Renzi for a book of their own and decided to plug them into Kamandi.  You know, just some idea he'd been toying around with before putting it back in the pile of about ten thousand others.  Somehow it caught his attention again one day and he couldn't contain himself.  There's certainly more than enough set-up here for a series, yet Kirby confidently disposes with it in two issues before making up even more wild situations and talking critters.  Think about it-- three radioactive astronauts with technology so advanced it could almost pass for magic.  Plus they can turn themselves into metal.  They live in a floating super-science wonderland and spend their days searching the world for even more knowledge.  That's a solid concept with a lot of story potential.  Of course, Kirby had already done something with at least a passing similarity in New Gods, but with quasi-mythical/sci-fi demi-gods instead of astronauts.  Maybe Kirby felt astronauts were too prosaic to carry their own book even if they do have hearts that emit pure atomic energy.


Anyway, with the end of the Morticoccus story, Ben Boxer and Kamandi part ways for a while.  But we haven't seen the last of Boxer.  There's a little matter of Superman's underwear Kirby would have the two of them investigate in a later issue of Kamandi.

Jack Kirby versus Alex Toth!

We recently saw what happens when Jack Kirby and Alex Toth team up, but what about if they duked it out mano-a-mano?  The very idea makes me feel like one of Bill Swerski's Superfans contemplating the outcome of a match between the Chicago Bears and the Chicago Bulls-- I'm either about to have multiple heart attacks or else the result of such a contest would be a rending of the space-time continuum itself, with the United Nations putting a stop to it before we suffer total planetary annihilation.

Fortunately for the safety of the human race we can keep this on a strictly theoretical basis-- although I understand scientists at CERN are working on a multi-dimensional viewing device where you can enter any desired parameter in a computer controlling a super-gravity variable matrix which opens a type of worm hole at any point real or imagined where we can then observe the results of a given scenario no matter how improbable.  Until they complete their work, just read Hero Envy's piece pitting Jack Kirby versus Alex Toth for the title of True King of Comics.  It's loaded with eye-popping artwork from both men and turns out to be a heart-filled tribute to both Kirby and Toth and their lasting legacies.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Oh man, were my first impressions of "The Exorcist!" ever wrong!

That's fine.  I'm used to being wrong.  In my muzzy, sleep-deprived state I could have sworn Kamandi runs into a group of talking humans-- the first he's met since losing Flower and ditching Ben Boxer-- but now that I've taken the time to read it all the way through, what he meets are actually some kind of talking monkey and some mute kids.  Now things make a lot more sense.

Anyway, Kamandi #24 (December, 1974) is a breezy little story about a pre-Disaster ESP experiment wreaking havoc in the post-Disaster world just because he's a mean little bastard.  It doesn't involve Satanic possession, though Kirby teases the readers with that possibility early on before settling on the more prosaic explanation of science run amok... again.  Kamandi's shattered world is full of secret bases and laboratories where government-sponsored jerks did jerky things to other jerks it seems.  Not as epic as a Prohibition-era Chicago populated by robots or a war between gorillas and tigers, but it's good to focus on smaller stories every once in a while.  Leave it to Kirby to take something like pop culture's brief fascination with possession and demonic themes and put his own sci-fi spin on the concept while folding it neatly into his Kamandi narrative.

Here's that amazing double-page spread by Kirby and inker D. Bruce Berry.  Enjoy!


June is also Kamandi Month: Here Come the Tigers

If you'll get out your well-worn copy of Kamandi #1, you'll find a map of the post-Great Disaster western hemisphere, containing all of North and parts of South America.  Oh, here it is.


Pretty different from today, huh?  Now look at the east coast.  Notice how Kirby labels it not just the "Tiger Empire," but the "Expanding Tiger Empire."  Look out, Gorilla Communes!  Lead by the appropriately-named Great Caesar, the tigers aren't content just to consolidate their rule over everything from what was once the New England states to where New Orleans used to be.  They're aggressively expanding, waging war against the leopards and, eventually, the gorillas.  And the gorillas are communists? What gives, Kirby?

Kirby's feline warriors are all visually striking, but the tigers are the most impressive.  They're clad in Romanesque armor and the first time we see them, they're launching a huge cavalry charge against the leopards.  Their war sweeps Kamandi up in its wake and he ends up a prisoner of Great Caesar, then a pampered pet (for about a page).  Dr. Canus helps our hero and his glorious hair escape.  Great Caesar isn't through with Kamandi by any means.  I don't know about you, but the last thing I want is an entire Tiger Empire on my ass day and night.  I don't think I'd sleep a wink.

Great Caesar has a teenaged son named Prince Tuftan.  Tuftan, like many teenagers of all species, is a burr in his father's fur.  You know, one of the worst things about being a parent is when your kid starts hanging around with the wrong crowd.  My son got involved with certified public accountants, and the next thing my wife and I knew, he'd cut his hair, donned a suit and tie and started going all over the town with his gang auditing company accounts and offering sound financial advice.  Because his father is anti-Kamandi, Tuftan's youthful rebelliousness requires him to become pro.

They meet in the shattered remnants of Las Vegas (in Kamandi #4, March 1973).  It's the 60s-70s Vegas, so feel free to imagine the bones of the Rat Pack lying somewhere in the detritus of the American dream.  Tuftan takes a few pot-shots at Kamandi before they both end up captives of the gorillas.  Kamandi does his best Andy Defresne impression and ends up crawling directly into Tuftan's cell via the ventilation system.  The human seems about to lose his mind, but the young cat appears content to chill.  After a single conversation, Kamandi and Tuftan become good friends.  They still bicker and spar, but when Great Caesar shows up, Kirby shows us those 20th century problems between parents and kids are eternal.


Poor Great Caesar.

Kirby liked to throw generational conflict into his stories.  Remember "The Glory Boat" from New Gods #6 (January 1972)?  Of course you do.  It's only my single favorite issue of that title, so I'm assuming you hold it in similarly high regard.  Lots of father-son angst in that one.  For that matter, how about almost the entirety of the New Gods series?  The generation gap is a major theme, with the sins of the fathers being visited upon the children and all kinds of parental nightmares running throughout all the Fourth World books.  And that includes Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen.  On covers Jimmy was forever knocking the crap out of the older mentor-figure Superman, usually in the company of a bunch of drop-out culture types.  Hippies, motorcycle gangs, newsboys.  You can find age-based clashes in Fantastic Four and more than likely in at least one or two of those kid gang books Kirby did with Joe Simon.  So it's only natural Kirby would revisit this in a comic starring a teen and give the would-be conqueror Caesar a kid like Tuftan.

This helps give nuance to Kirby's animal characters.  Along with Dr. Canus, Tuftan proves Kamandi isn't going to be a book simply about a lone boy fighting against talking animals.  It's evidence of Kirby's humanism.  Even his exotic furred people are just that-- people.  Recognizable in their complexity, their strengths and frailties.  We can fault his expository dialogue and occasionally corny humor, but there can be no doubt of Kirby as a superior storyteller and observer of human behavior.  I'd argue these elements are often under-appreciated in his work in all the focus on the bombast and other elements that make Kirby so uniquely Kirby.