Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Guest Review - The Classics - Ka-Zar #12

   My pal Lyle Tucker is back with another guest review! This time he looks at the adventure's of Marvel's version of the jungle hero - Ka-Zar!

KA-ZAR #12, cover date November 1975
“Wizard of Forgotten Flesh” by Doug Moench and Russ Heath.

   This issue's cover sports a team effort by J.K. and J.R. - Jack Kirby and John Romita. And I don't think either man's strengths really comes through. Romita's inks just don't work that well on The King, and the poses Ka-zar and Zabu strike are pretty generic. I could just about swear I've seen this cover somewhere else.

   The story is nothing to write home about, either – a pair of black and white zebra-men from the Swamp Tribe enlist the aid of Ka-Zar and his companion, Tongah, to overthrow the evil shaman, Zuriah, who has divided the village into two warring factions. Along the way to aid the Swamp Tribe, Ka-zar and Tongah tame a triceratops and battle lizard-men. Once at the village the two have to contend with Zuriah and his evil concubine, Sheesa. The issue ends with the two baddies conjuring up an army of earthen zombies to be battled in the next installment.

 The real beauty of the comic lies with Russ Heath's interior artwork. It's a real shame Heath couldn't have inhabited the role of this title's main artist for a good spell, as he does a wonderful job of it. Heath is an artist who has always had a clean line and a sharp compositional sense that I would think had a clear influence on Brian Bolland's development. Known primarily for the war comics he drew at DC during the '60s, Heath has been in the business since 1948 and like many journeyman from his era has drawn practically every type of comic you could name.

   Heath also worked on Playboy's seminal sexy cartoon strip, Little Anny Fannie. Mark Evanier recounts an amusing anecdote concerning Heath:

   “One time when deadlines were nearing meltdown, Harvey Kurtzman called Heath in to assist in a marathon work session at the Playboy Mansion in Chicago. Russ flew in and was given a room there, and spent many days aiding Kurtzman and artist Will Elder in getting one installment done of the strip. When it was completed, Kurtzman and Elder left... but Heath just stayed. And stayed. And stayed some more. He had a free room as well as free meals whenever he wanted them from Hef's 24-hour kitchen. He also had access to whatever young ladies were lounging about... so he thought, 'Why leave?' He decided to live there until someone told him to get out... and for months, no one did. Everyone just kind of assumed he belonged there. It took quite a while before someone realized he didn't and threw him and his drawing table out.”

   The character of Ka-Zar first appeared as a Tarzan clone in a Martin Goodman pulp, Ka-Zar #1, in 1936. He only lasted in the pulps for three issues, but showed up again in Martin Goodman's first try at comics, Marvel Comics #1, in 1939. The more modern Ka-Zar that we're familiar with debuted in X-Men #10, by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

Grade: Story B-  ;  Artwork: A


1 comment:

Peter Wallace said...

Nice review, Tuck! Love that Russ Heath story! What a great, under appreciated artist.