Ka-Zar and Zabu. Artists: Jack Kirby and Chic Stone.


Original Medium: Pulp magazines
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1936
Creator: Bob Byrd
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Ka-Zar started out as just another 1930s Tarzan knock-off starring in a pulp magazine — and not, to all appearances, a particularly successful one. He debuted in a novel by Bob Byrd, entited King of Fang and Claw, which appeared in Ka-Zar #1, dated October, 1936. It came out under the imprint of Manvis Publishing Company, one of the many names used by …

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… Martin Goodman in his comics and pulp production ventures. Today, the company Goodman founded is known as Marvel Comics.

Ka-Zar appeared in only two more pulps, dated January and June, 1937, then was forgotten until 1939, when Goodman started scouting up material for his new anthology comic book, Marvel Mystery Comics. The character was pulled from oblivion to help fill the back pages, and appeared in the first 27 issues, where he was written and drawn by cartoonist Ben Thompson (The Masked Marvel) — and then he was forgotten again.

An attempt was made to "revive" a tree swinger who might as well be him, in 1954, but the name the company gave him was Lo-Zar. It was a couple more decades before Stan Lee (Stripperella) and Jack Kirby (Captein Victory) fully yanked him from oblivion once more, but this version had some revisions. The older Ka-Zar had a lion named Zar as his constant companion, but this one had a saber-tooth tiger named Zabu. The older version was raised in equatorial Africa, but this one grew up in The Savage Land, a volcano-heated valley in a remote part of Antarctica, where prehistoric creatures still roam (the exciting ones, anyway, like pterodactyls and wooly mammoths, congruent with any number of lost valleys in fantasy fiction, such as this one). The 1960s version also borrowed a Tarzan riff that had been missing from the original — this Ka-Zar was born Kevin Plunder, and was rightfully a member of the British aristocracy.

Another difference is — this one hasn't been forgotten.

The "new" Ka-Zar debuted in X-Men #10 (March, 1965). His back-story gradually filled in over the next couple of years, as he guest-starred with Daredevil, Spider-Man and others. He got two series of his own in 1970 — a slot in Astonishing Tales (where he started out sharing the title with Dr. Doom and later expanded to fill the whole book), and a three-issue set of reprints, reprising his adventures with the superheroes. In the years since, he's been published in fits and starts — not one of Marvel's superstars, but a property they've been able to sell a few comics with over the years. Along the way, he picked up with a Sheena knock-off named Shanna the She-Devil, and they were married in Ka-Zar the Savage #29 (May, 1984).

More than two-thirds of a century after his first appearance, Ka-Zar is probably the only one of those 1930s Tarzan knock-offs that is still appearing in new adventures. Pretty good for a guy who only managed three pulp magazines before sinking into oblivion.


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Text ©2000-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Marvel Comics.