Pulp Heroes





Ka-Zar
The Great


T

HREE-YEAR-OLD David Rand first took up residence in the jungle when his father had crashed his light plane into a small clearing bordering on a lake deep in the Belgian Congo. John Rand, David's father, was a young American adventurer with wide shoulders and muscles of whipcord and steel. He had been flying his wife, Constance, and their young son from their home in Johannesburg, South Africa, to Cario, where Connie's father had taken seriously ill.

John Rand had received a few scratches when his plane came down, and young David had a nasty bump on the head, but Constance had suffered a fractured leg. Connie's bad leg delayed any plans that Rand might have to hike the hundreds of miles of trackless jungle to the nearest civilized enclave. Forced to rely on rescue by search planes sent out to look for them, John and Connie watched in dismay as the few planes that flew into their area continued on their way without spotting the hapless Rands.

Although John Rand was concerned for the safety of his wife and child, and Constance feared for the safety of her son, young David Rand showed an early affinity for jungle life. An affinity that would serve him in good stead in the times to come.

Like that other jungle lord, Tarzan, young David soon lost his mother--Constance succumbed to a jungle fever early on in the Rand family's struggle for survival. Unlike Tarzan, however, David Rand was fortunate in having his father to watch out for him during his developing years--though in a somewhat dimished capacity. While preparing for the long journey that he and his son must take to make it back to civilization, John Rand had been struck a glancing blow by the limb of a falling tree and was never quite the same again. After his injury, John Rand lost all interest in returning to civilization--though luckily for David, his father retained enough of his faculties to well provide for the growing boy.


As he grew older, young David became more and more an inhabitant of the jungle--the only home that he could ever remember. On one of his solitary walks through the jungle, David came upon Zar, the lion, floundering in a patch of quicksand. David cut boughs and brush from the surrounding foliage and threw them out to Zar. Finding purchase on the debris, Zar was able to pull himself from the quicksand--never forgetting the kindness that David had shown him.

When he was thirteen, David lost his father, and found himself alone in the depths of the Belgian Congo. Remembering his friendship with Zar, David moved into the lion's cave--sharing it with his leonine friend and Sha, Zar's mate. With his last connection to civilzation lost, David adopted the name of Ka-Zar, brother to Zar the mighty.

K
a-Zar was one of many knock-offs created by the pulp magazines to capitalize on the popularity of Edgar Rice Burrough's Tarzan. Unlike many of the other imitators, however, Ka-Zar had his own eponymous pulp--albeit a short-lived one. The Ka-Zar pulp magazine was published by Manvis Publishing Company in 1936, and was dated for October of that year. Two further issues were published--though the last issue was retitled Ka-Zar the Great when it appeared in June of 1937.


After his three-issue run, Ka-Zar reappeared as a comic book character in the first issue of Marvel Comics, dated October 1939. This Golden Age version of Ka-Zar adhered closely to the character created in the pulps, and Marvel Comics, retitled Marvel Mystery Comics starting with the second issue, continued Ka-Zar's jungle adventures up through issue number 27.



Marvel Mystery Comics was published by Timely Comics, the ancestor of today's Marvel Comics. In 1965, Stan Lee introduced a Silver Age version of Ka-Zar, but this modern Ka-Zar was a changed man. Now a member of the British aristocracy, this Ka-Zar began life as Kevin Plunder. Young Kevin Plunder was brought by his father not to the Belgian Congo, but to the Savage Land, a volcanic region hidden deep in the Antarctic wastes--where dinosaurs, cave men, and a lost civilization awaited our young hero.

After his father was killed by the cave men, Kevin was rescued by Zabu, a saber-toothed tiger. Raised by Zabu, Kevin took the name of Ka-Zar and became lord of the Savage Land. Given the origins of the pulp character's name, one wonders why Kevin wasn't known as "Ka-Zabu". But since Marvel apparently owned the rights to the name "Ka-Zar", perhaps the oversight is understandable.

The Silver Age Ka-Zar has always been a second-string character, and despite his appearances in a number of comic book series, including a few in which he was the title character, he never attained the popularity of Marvel's more well-known superheroes. During the course of his Marvel career, this latest incarnation of Ka-Zar met and wed Shanna, a transplant from the jungles of Africa, and they had a son named Matthew. The contemporary Ka-Zar is currently without a series of his own, though he, Shanna, and Matthew made a brief appearance in the July 2000 issue of Captain America.


Ka-Zar's Pulp Appearances

Ka-Zar, October 1936: King of Fang and Claw

Ka-Zar, January 1937: Roar of the Jungle

Ka-Zar the Great, June 1937: The Lost Empire


Ka-Zar's Golden Age Comic Book Appearances

Marvel Comics #1, October 1939.

Marvel Mystery Comics #2 through #27, starting in December 1939.



F

ans of pulp jungle stories may be pleased to learn that Ka-Zar's origin story, King of Fang and Claw, by Bob Byrd, is now available online, with the original pulp illustrations by L. F. Bjorklund.

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The Holloway Pages Pulp Heroes
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© 2000 by Clark J. Holloway.

Picture Credits (from the top):
From the cover of the January 1937 issue of Ka-Zar.
Two black & white interior illustrations from the October 1936 issue of Ka-Zar
From the cover of Marvel Mystery Comics #11, September 1940.
From the cover of the second issue of Ka-Zar, March 1974, published by Marvel Comics Group.
Cover of the June 1937 issue of Ka-Zar the Great.
Cover of the October 1936 issue of Ka-Zar (as reproduced by Odyssey Publications in 1976).