Statue of Liberty: Kamandi

Fantastic Universe (1953) by Alex Shomberg

Here’s an email from John S. discussing Kamandi and Planet of the Apes. 

Hi Rob,
 
Just read your post on Kamandi and I’ve gotta say, in spite of its similarities to Planet of the Apes, I think Jack’s series was superior in one key area:  It had a strong, sympathetic human lead character–something which, in my opinion, Planet of the Apes did not have.  I don’t know about anyone else, but even though I was a huge Apes fan as a kid in the seventies, I never found the human characters in any of its various incarnations to be anywhere near as interesting as the monkeys!  Why not?  Because all those simians had better developed and more engaging, identifiable personalities than most of the humans! 
 
That problem, however, never existed in Jack’s stories.  Right from page one of the first issue we’re drawn directly into Kamandi’s world and immediately feel concern for his (and mankind’s) plight.  Jack’s writing and art were spot-on during the early issues of this mag (expertly abetted by the great Mike Royer, of course), and his human AND animal characters displayed all the emotional resonance that was always one of the hallmarks of his work.
 
By the way, even though Jack lifted the basic image of the forlorn Statue of Liberty from Planet of the Apes, you’ll notice that his camera angle on the statue was different and that Miss Liberty herself was submerged in water, not (quite implausibly) broken at the ribs and sitting upright on the beach.  As such, Kirby’s imagery was WAY more effective and believable.  He then parlayed the idea of a massive, city-wide flood into a riveting story sequence in the following issue!  So even when Jack was “swiping” something, he was usually still able to find a way to improve on it.  One MORE reason why he was the KING.
 
John S. 

 

Thanks for the email John. I agree with what you’ve written. In fact, “swiping” (the word I used in a previous post) was probably not the best word in this context. I actually think “homage” might be a better word. 

Based on what I’ve read, here’s what I think happened (in a nutshell). I think DC Editor Carmine Infantino cancelled 4W, partially because he wanted to give Jack a new direction. As Editor, Infantino probably thought that he had good ideas on what types of titles would sell. Infantino, like many SF fans, loved the Planet of the Apes film (1968), so he told Kirby to give him a story similar to Planet of the Apes — basically, a character living in a post-apocalyptic future. I think Jack took that basic kernel of an idea and ran with it. 

Obviously Infantino himself could have told Jack to use the Statue of Liberty to start the story; Jack may have unconsciously used that image; or maybe Jack was out of ideas that day, so he stole the image of the semi-destroyed Statue of Liberty from Planet of the Apes — but here are my best common sense guesses as to why Jack used that fairly famous film image to start his Kamandi series: 

  • Jack might have wanted to make it clear to Infantino that he was following Carmine’s instructions. The conflict between Lee/Kirby was probably well-known to Infantino, so this was a great way for Jack to show his new boss he was a team player: the Statue of Liberty clearly shows Jack is giving Infantino what he asked for — something similar to Planet of the Apes. This also gives Jack an ace in the hole if Infantino decides to cancel the series — Jack can always say, “…but it was your idea.” This might make Carmine more likely to give the series a shot if the sales were low.
  • I think Jack might have been symbolically picking up where Planet of the Apes left off. Carmine gave Jack a starting point, and Jack took it from there. But as John S. pointed out in his email, as soon as Kamandi sails past the Statue of Liberty, the storyline and dynamics are pure Kirby — aside from the talking Gorillas (which according to comics urban legend was something Carmine  felt would sell comics magazines) the characterizations and visuals are original Kirby creations and compositions.
  • Jack may have been paying homage to the 1953 Schomberg Fantastic Universe cover (at the top of the post). Notice Jack’s composition is almost identical to that painting. This pulp image may have been in Jack’s swipe files, or Jack may have known the Planet of the Apes film was influenced by this cover (I don’t know any details of the interior stories); and the Kamandi cover and interior double-splash might have been Jack’s way of doing his own version of that powerful image. I find it incredibly ironic that some of Kirby’s critics have accused Jack of plagiarizing Planet of the Apes when you can plainly see the Planet of the Apes filmmakers were obviously influenced by the Schomberg image. It may be that Jack was actually calling attention to this influence, pointing out this irony, as well as paying tribute to that iconic SF pulp cover in his own way.
  • I think Jack was might have been simply paying homage to the Planet of the Apes film; as a science-fiction buff, Jack must have been a fan of that motion picture — it’s notable on so many different levels, not the least of which is the symbolic master/slave relationship between the apes and humans. The twist with the Statue of Liberty buried in the sand is an all-time classic movie ending. Jack was probably just speaking the language of the common film buff: showing a post-apocalyptic image that most SF fans would recognize as a symbol of the destruction of the world as we know it today, and the beginning of a new future rising out of the ashes of the old.

Interestingly, the symbol of the battered Statue of Liberty continues to be a common symbol used by everyone from science-fiction filmmakers to online cartoonists. 

Escape from New York (1981) directed by John Carpenter

Cloverfield (2008) directed by Matt Reeves, produced by J. J. Abrams

Mitra Farmand (fuffer.wordpress.com)

www.chrismadden.co.uk

Here’s a photo I took of the Statue of Liberty last year, from New York Harbor. 

I wonder if this CGC-slabbed copy of Kamandi # 1 will survive a potential future apocalypse?