Marvel comic book from February 1983, script by Bruce Jones, pencils by Bob Hall and Armando Gil, inks by Armando Gil, colors by George Roussos, letters by Janice Chiang, editors Louise Jones and Danny Fingeroth, Jim Shooter editor in chief.
I can already hear the comments. Who is this guy named Ka-Zar who has been around since at least 1983 and why is he the focus of the article?
Ka-Zar originally debuted in 1936 as a pulp fiction hero. Obviously inspired by Tarzan and the rest of the jungle warriors that were popular. This Marvel Comics owned version is the second incarnation of the character debuting in 1965. Ka-Zar is Kevin Plunder, son of an English nobleman who died while discovering the Savage Land. (The Savage Land is a trapped prehistoric territory that exists in a hidden spot in Antarctica throughout Marvel’s history. Dinosaurs, tigers, monsters, all that good stuff.) Ka-Zar’s parents are killed and a human level intelligent saber tooth tiger named Zabu saves and rescues young Kevin. As he grows he becomes a strong, agile, skilled jungle warrior and savior of this land. Due to the interconnectivity of Marvel he has had many adventures with the X-Men, Spider-Man and more throughout the years.
In this comic from 1983 you’ll notice there is no “Approved by the Comics Code Authority” mark. This is one of Marvel’s direct market titles from the era. The direct market is a result of comic book stores starting up. Instead of selling family friendly titles to the grocery stores and convenience markets around the world, comic companies could now sell directly to adults and collectors through these specialized shops. This began the “comics aren’t just for kids” trope but it was very true at the time. Instead of being just a king of the jungle, Ka-Zar could now be an uncivilized warrior. A barbarian.
in 1983 the loincloths were seeing a Renaissance. Tarzan the Ape Man with the hyper sexualized Bo Derek came out in 1981. Greystroke was in 1984. Conan the Barbarian in 1982. Big strong guy in not much clothes, with a beautiful woman who will probably join lack of suit, fighting monsters and bad guys. Marvel would have been a fool to not jump on this with a character they already own.
When this adventure begins Ka-Zar is thought to be dead yet stands atop the city of Casablanca (yes, that’s where they got the name, and there are jokes) ready to take down someone. I would say bad guys, but his actions are not of his own choosing. Previously, Ka-Zar was abducted by evil scientists and his brain altered with not only an electric shock punishment but also a radio implant. Someone is giving Ka-Zar directions to attack people and retrieve a mysterious item. Ka-Zar knows he’s being used, he knows this isn’t his fight, but one moment of refusal or hesitation and he’s shocked to levels of pain never experienced in the Savage Land.
Ka-Zar completes his mission and demands to be let free. The ringleader of this outfit arrives and it is the woman who “killed” him in an earlier issue… Ramona. All is revealed, Ramona wants an explosive made from plants found in the Savage Land. A sample was in Casablanca which is why she ordered Ka-Zar to attack those men. She has an elaborate plan to obtain more and rule the world, but all of it ends up contingent on Ka-Zar. Thus she was left with no other option but to control him. Ramona reveals her diabolical plan but also reveals her lust for Ka-Zar. She reminds him that she still controls the electric shock, so he may as well go along with it and enjoy himself.
This in future issues is bound to upset Ka-Zar’s partner. No, not Zabu the tiger (although he is in the room during the intimacy and that’s a bit odd). No, it will upset Ka-Zar’s other partner, Shanna the She Devil.
Shanna came from the modern world but fell in love with Ka-Zar and adapted the Savage Land lifestyle and clothing. Shanna was left for dead in New York by Ramona but luckily it’s the New York of Marvel Comics and Spider-Man comes along for the rescue. His “friend” Peter Parker stays with Shanna until she’s healthy.
The issue ends with Ka-Zar and Ramona crossing the desert but unknown to them they are about to be attacked. Meanwhile, Peter Parker needs to console a beautiful confused girl in a loincloth.
Don’t worry, I have the next issue in my collection. I’m also looking for the rest of this series. Tune in tomorrow for how I found this book and what it means in this year long project.