Saturday, May 30, 2009

Marvels of Gil Kane: Ka-Zar and Zabu, too

I’ve always had a fondness for Marvel’s Lord of the Savage Land: Ka-Zar!  He just wouldn’t be so darn lovable without Zabu, his sabretooth tiger.  Gil Kane drew a number of covers featuring them, from Astonishing Tales and the first Ka-Zar series.

Astonishing Tales 15 by Gil Kane

In every Ka-Zar series (and there have been many), the writers always bring Ka-Zar and Zabu to New York City for a spell.  It makes for a great fish out of water story, just like the first Crocodile Dundee movie.  I like this cover that Kane did for one of these stories.  The hand holding the pipe in the foreground really drives your attention toward Ka-Zar, who looks like he’s ready to pounce on these guys and rip them a new one.  These dudes are high on something.  Really, I mean Ka-Zar fights pterodactyls and t-rexs almost daily in the Savage Land, these street punks are a threat?  But it’s a great kitschy cover nonetheless.  The balloon “You’ve come a long way, baby—and you’re never goin’ back again!” and the caption They Stalk The Concrete Jungle are just the epitome of 70s style.

Ka-Zar 15 cover by Gil Kane

Ka-Zar leaped into his own series after Astonishing Tales #20.  Kane’s cover to issue #15 is really striking, with the Jungle Lord riding the back of a winged “Hellbird”—a construct of the villain Klaw.  The perspective of these guys attacking this beast over London is spectacular, but what’s really crazy is Zabu clawing at this thing with no regard for his own life!  He’s about to fall to his death at any moment.  Another thing about this Kane cover—it looks to me like Klaus Janson inked it.

Amazing Spider-Man 104 cover by Gil Kane

Another hallmark of Ka-Zar—he teams up with Spider-Man every few years!  Usually Peter Parker makes a trip to the Savage Land for a little vacation and Ka-Zar plays the host.  In Amazing Spider-Man #103-104, Parker is sent by the Daily Bugle to take pictures of Ka-Zar’s homeland.  Gwen Stacy even tags along.  But wouldn’t you know it, Kraven the Hunter shows up and spoils everything!  This cover really makes Kraven seem like a real threat—he’s just taken down Spidey, Ka-Zar, and Zabu!  Probably his greatest moment until his Last Hunt.  Nuff said.

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