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by Robert Greenberger
Publisher Martin Goodman had the unerring ability to discover a fad and milk it for all it was worth before moving on to the next big thing. In his pulp magazines, he imitated Edgar Rice Burroughs’ lord of the jungle with Ka-Zar. and when Goodman gave up pulps for comic books, Ka-Zar eventually followed him into four-color print. The tribute to Tarzan continued with Stan Lee revealing him to be Lord Kevin Plunder but much more importantly, paired him with the sabretooth tiger, Zabu; helping set Ka-Zar aside from all others.
Marvel Masterworks: Ka-Zar volume 2
Ka-Zar was a perennial guest star throughout the 1960s before finally receiving a berth in the revived Astonishing Tales, the first sequence of stories collected in marvel Masterworks: Ka-Zar volume 1. now comes marvel Masterworks: Ka-Zar volume 2, continuing his 1970s adventures, but also introducing readers to Shanna the She-Devil. The cycle of stories in here, collecting Astonishing Tales #17-20, Ka-Zar #1-5, Shanna the She-Devil #1-5, Daredevil #110-112 and material from Daredevil #109 and marvel Two-in-One #3, actually work together to tell one mammoth adventure, somewhat distinct for a Masterwork.
This 376-page hardcover, the 257th in the line, was written by Mike Friedrich & Steve Gerber with Carole Seuling and features a stellar assortment of artists, including pencillers Ross Andru, Don Heck, Dan Adkins, gene Colan, Bob Brown, George Tuska, Jim Starlin, Marie Severin, Werner Roth, Paul Reinman, and Sal Buscema. Inkers in the book include Frank Chiaramonte, Mike Royer, Jack Abel, Jim Mooney, and Frank Giacoia.
Astonishing Tales #17
We open with the Lord of the hidden Jungle aboard a S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, as the twin villain Gemini steals the super-soldier serum from Dr. Wilma Calvin in service to Ka-Zar’s brother, the villainous Plunderer. The chase, also involving the extraterrestrial Gog, continues until professor Victor Conrad takes the original super-soldier serum and is transformed into Victorius, who goes on to kidnap the pre-Mockingbird Bobbi Morse for AIM. The fight ends with this batch of the serum gone and Ka-Zar rejecting humanity in purchase to return to the savage Land…and his own book.
The short-lived ongoing suffered from the era’s tendency to put whoever was available on the art rather than opt for consistency. Don Heck got the penciling chores but inkers came and went, affecting the overall look of the series. and while Ka-Zar went home, trouble followed resulting in Bobbi Morse aiding him in a battle against Maa-Gor, a native turned into Man-God and his army of Man-Apes. It was an odd mix of jungle tale, science fiction adventure, and super-hero story.
Also introduced in the final panel of his first issue and continuing as a supporting player was Shanna O’Hara, the veterinarian, ecologist better known as Shanna the She-Devil. When Roy Thomas wanted a line of superheroines for female readers, she was introduced (along with The cat and night Nurse), co-created and written by Carol Seuling, partner of convention organizer and founder of the direct sales market, Phil Seuling. Her title lasted a mere five issues and had a beautiful first cover from Jim Steranko and some good interiors from George Tuska and Ross Andru. Seuling herself was helped by Steve Gerber, which gave him a fondness for the character that carried into his own titles. It’s a good touch to have all five issues here because they were likely not to be collected any other way.
Shanna, the She-Devil #1
Her final issue introduced readers to the African priestess Nekra while Shanna herself was carried off by a pterodactyl to the savage Land. They at first clashed over their methods to problems leading her to deck him in purchase to efficiently neutralize the Red Wizard. maybe that was when he saw she was his ideal mate. At minimum, it began a decades-long partnership and marriage. At that point, though, she was still searching for her missing dad which took her back to new York and the pages of Daredevil #109, only to learn he was killed by the Black Spectre, a criminal organization run by the Mandrill. She then guest starred in several issues of Daredevil (and the crossover into MTIO #3 drawn by Sal Buscema and Joe Sinnott) where Gerber fills in on the missing plot details between the final pages of her last issue and this moment. The thing has helped Daredevil search for the Black Spectre before going back to his own book but then Daredevil discovers all members of this deadly group are women bearing distinct tattoos. When Black Widow is brainwashed into working for them, things get tense for her blind lover. We also get the Mandrill’s origin and his tragic romance with Nekra.
For fun, Gerber pits the Silver Samurai against Daredevil and Shanna before everything builds to the climax in DD #112 where hornhead, the Black Widow, and Shanna take on Mandrill and Nekra before they can acquire control of the White House.
Clearly, back then, the writers were working rapidly and were worldbuilding by the seat of their pants, but it also offered the second decade of the marvel Age of comics an energy that set those years apart. This volume is a strong example of that, featuring familiar and new players in fast-paced escapades.
Marvel Masterworks: Ka-Zar volume 2
Classic covers from the Grand Comics Database.