X-Men #10 (last issue | next issue)

"The Coming of…Ka-Zar!"

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby
Inker: Chic Stone
Letterer: Sam Rosen
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Cover date: March 1965
Cover price: 12 cents

Cyclops is overseeing another X-Men training session, which includes the impressive sight of Jean Grey disassembling a rifle with her telekinetic powers. They finally notice that Angel is not training with the rest of the team and find him engrossed in a satellite broadcast. The television shows film of an Antarctic expedition encountering a man dressed only in a loincloth accompanied by a saber-tooth tiger. The expedition opens fire and the man and tiger wreak some non-lethal havoc before fleeing. The X-Men conclude that this under-dressed man is a mutant. Professor X, who has learned about jungle boy from the US government, disagrees, since his powers and his machine Cerebro would have detected it if he was a mutant. However, since he feels that the X-Men could blow off some steam by going on an adventure, the Professor sends them off to Antarctica to investigate anyway.

A few days later, Cyclops leads the heavily bundled team onto the ice. At the site of the expedition's encounter, they find a crevasse with a hidden tunnel. A few hours of digging and walking later, the tunnel opens into a vast jungle teeming with prehistoric life, including hungry Pterodactyls. Before they can fully enjoy this land that time forgot, they are attacked by primitive human warriors mounted on giant flightless birds. After all, every lost prehistoric world must have primitive human tribes. While these tribes many not have built skyscrapers, they've spent the last couple thousand years perfecting gadgets like multiple arrow launching bows and projectiles containing incapacitating volcanic gasses. With these weapons they fight off the X-Men and kidnap Jean Grey, because primitive tribesmen always kidnap modern day women. They are driven off by the battle cry of the loincloth man.

He introduces himself as Ka-Zar and his tiger as Zabu. Then they fight the X-Men as fighting seems to be the method of introduction in the Marvel Universe. The fight is interrupted by Maa-Gor, the "last of the man-ape tribe", and he looks the part. "Ka-Zar is smooth-skinned weakling! I crush Ka-Zar!!" But Maa-Gor is quickly driven off and Ka-Zar agrees to help the X-Men against the warriors, who turn out to be Swamp Men, because Ka-Zar is their enemy too. Ka-Zar is apparently everyone's enemy.

Ka-Zar and the X-Men strike out through the jungle, with the Angel scouting ahead. Entranced by the amazing sights, he is ambushed and captured by another of the Swamp Men's great technological innovations, a net. The Swamp Men take him into their city, a walled enclosure with a village and a small, primitive ziggurat. Jean is here as well, and the Swamp Men take their prisoners to the top of the ziggurat. A pair of stone doors open to reveal not King Kong, but a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

While the X-Men attack outside the city, Jean telekinetically pelts the dinosaur with rocks, distracting it long enough to untie Angel. They fly away, leaving the hungry carnivore behind. Ka-Zar lets out a ear-splitting roar to summon a herd of mastodon. Their combined forces are no match for even a city of Swamp Men, and the tribesmen are beaten into submission. Ka-Zar takes the X-Men back to the tunnel. "No talk! Your world..above! My world…jungle! Only Ka-Zar is lord of jungle! You go! No return!" And with that, the mastodons seal the tunnel with boulders, sealing off the lost jungle until the next time some superheroes showed up.

Ka-Zar (pronounced "Kay-Sar" according to the book, though I always have called him "Kah-Zar" for no apparent reason) is an obvious Tarzan clone, and while never a huge figure in the Marvel pantheon, has enjoyed enough of a mild popularity to make him the most long-lasting Tarzan clone in any medium. Ka-Zar is also the oldest Marvel hero. Waa? Ka-Zar first appeared in a trio of pulp novels in 1936 and 1937, published by one of many companies controlled by Marvin Goodman, the man who owned what would later be Marvel Comics. Thus he predates Captain America and other Marvel Golden Age heroes. Marvel Comics made a habit of recycling old characters owned by the company, and Ka-Zar was the first example. He was used in the first Marvel comic book, 1939's Marvel Comics #1 (later Marvel Mystery Comics), and appeared in the first 27 issues of that title. The original Ka-Zar, named David Rand, lived in Africa and had a lion named Zar.

Ka-Zar was one of many Golden Age characters recycled or reintroduced for the 1960s Marvel adventures. This Ka-Zar, who would turn out to be a British aristocrat named Kevin Plunder, headlined his own comic a couple of times for brief runs, but more often was relegated to guest star status. By the 80s, he had ditched the primitive Tarzan-speak and married another jungle hero clone, Shanna the She-Devil, a rip-off of Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. Ka-Zar lived in what would later be called the Savage Land, and later a neighboring primitive land called Pangea. Every superhero universe needs a prehistoric jungle land, and lots of Marvel characters would make the trek to Antarctica to hang with Ka-Zar and the dinosaurs. The X-Men visited the Savage Land a surprising number of times, and I can think of at least a half-dozen classic X-Men stories set there.

Random notes:

http://home.comcast.net/~cjh5801a/Ka-Zar.htm features the pulp adventures of Ka-Zar.

The cover of X-men #10 features a tiny ad reading "The M.M.M.S. wants you!" This was the Merry Marvel Marching Society, an early Marvel fanclub.

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