Ka-Zar: Where Do I Start?

Ka-Zar Vol 1Enough with the Tarzan jokes. And don’t try The Jungle Book either. There’s more than one type of loincloth-clad, vine-swinging jungle hero — just as there’s more than one type of costumed superhero. And Marvel’s Ka-Zar has a long and dynamic history inside comics that’s been hidden away — much like the Savage Land, Ka-Zar’s adtopedhome.

The man we know as Ka-Zar debuted in the pages of Marvel’s X-Men back in 1965’s 10th issue. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the name was taken from an earlier character their publisher Martin Goodman owned from his days as a pulp magazine publisher, but this hero was all new. This Ka-Zar was born Kevin Reginald Plunder, son of an English nobleman named Lord Plunder who was the first human to discover the Savage Land. The younger Plunder came to know Savage Land intimately when during a family expedition to the land his parents were killed. Raised amongst the a species of hyper-intelligent sabretooth cats (including Zabu) and given the name Ka-Zar, Plunder became one with the Savage Land. Ka-Zar learned how to hunt, fish, and — most importantly –work with the various races and species living on the hidden island. Ka-Zar is most commonly associated with Savage Land, and is a familiar face when various superheroes like the X-Men, Spider-Man or Avengers visit the throwback land. From time to time Ka-Zar has gone back to the civilized world, “concrete jungle” metaphors aplenty, but it’s the Savage Land he calls his home.

Although he hasn’t gotten a good track record of sustaining an ongoing series, Ka-Zar has had some solo series on different occasions, as well as numerous jaunts to guest star in other character’s books. In this week’s Where Do I Start?, we venture to the Savage Land and try to come back with the texts to better know your Lord of the Savage Land.

MasterworksKa-ZarMarvel Masterworks: Ka-Zar, Vol. 1: If you only want to buy one book to get to know Ka-Zar, then this is the one for you. This Masterworks edition captures much of Ka-Zar’s early Marvel stories, from his stories in Astonishing Tales to a one-off in the mature readers Savage Tales book and an overlooked story from Marvel Super-Heroes #19. In addition to outlining Ka-Zar, this also delves into the history of the Savage Land. But it’s not a history text — included here is a great story where Kevin Plunder battles the villainous poacher Kraven the Hunter, shell-shocked WW2 soldiers who were never told the war is over, and some monsters straight out of Marvel’s pre-hero days. The talent here is bursting at the seams, from a short by Stan Lee and  Jack Kirby, to works by John Buscema, Neal Adams and Barry Windsor-Smith — including BWS inked by comics legend Bill Everett.

Amazing Spider-Man #57 – 58: In the middle of Stan Lee and John Romita’s run on Amazing Spider-Man, our Savage Land hero Ka-Zar comes to town with his ever-faithful sabre-tooth tiger friend, Zabu. You’d think people in NYC would be  more scared of a sabre-tooth tiger in the city, but it’s NYC in the 70s. In this story, Ka-Zar is taunted into attacking Spider-Man at the behest of J. Jonah Jameson, who makes out the wall-crawler to be a public menace. As heroes tend to do, their fight soon turns to friendship with Ka-Zar naming Spider-Man his most valiant foe to date. Formulaic? Perhaps, but Romita and Lee really excel at it here giving us a great Ka-Zar and Spider-Man story.

What If 112What If? #112: I’ve stated above how hard it seems to be to sustain a Ka-Zar comic series… but what if Brian K. Vaughan wrote it? Well, actually he did. Way back when Vaughan was just breaking into comics, he wrote a one-off What If? issue where Thanos terraformed the island of Manhattan to become as prehistoric as Ka-Zar’s Savage Land. Fast-forward five years and that’ swhere the story begins. Although rough around the edges, you can see some of the key aspects of Vaughan’s later style in this early effort. Illustrated by an equally new artist Koi Turnbull, this story shows Ka-Zar mounting a rebellion/rescue for Manhattan, leading a group of Marvel heroes against his evil brother Parnival and Thanos.

Ka-Zar, Vol. 1: Mark Waid’s known for his skill in reviving and re-interpreting classic heroes in a new and refreshing way, and one of the earliest displays of this was in his work on a late 90s Ka-Zar series with Andy Kubert. Waid and Kubert were an inspired pairing, showing the roughness of Kubert’s work with the timeless heroism Waid writes and his attention to detail. This collection, containing the first seven issues plus a “-1” origin issue, show Ka-Zar and his long-time wife Shanna going through some marital strife while fending off the evil plans of Parnival. The action takes place both in the Savage Land and a visit to NYC, the latter of which includes a great face-off with Spider-man foe Rhino. A surprise bonus (whoops, spoiled it) is that the -1 issue contained here is illustrated by a then-young John Cassaday.




  1. I’ve always liked Ka-Zar, mainly because of the Waid/Kubert run that I read as a fledgling comic fan. The collection is well worth your time.

    • Yep, I remember being a wee lad and buying the Waid/Kubert issues off the news stand from the pizza shop/deli down the street from my house.

  2. I’ve read lots of Ka-Zar but it just now occurs to me that I may be pronouncing “Ka-Zar” incorrectly. I’ve always thought/said it as kay-zar, but it could also be kuh-zar. What’s the ruling?