We haven’t done an Anatomy of a Page for a splash yet, so what better time to start than on Jack Kirby’s birthday? And what better Kirby splash than this incredible page that kicks off Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth #1?
Kamandi may not be as well remembered as some of Kirby’s other creations, but it stood out during Kirby’s time at DC in the ’70s due to its epic, post-apocalyptic scope. The comic was more clearly separated from the DCU than Kirby’s other work at the company, though there are some connections here and there, including Superman worshiping apes and a more direct OMAC connection. But much of its appeal came from the freedom it granted Kirby to reconfigure real world icons like the Statue of Liberty for an irradiated future. Kirby established that destructive, fantastic mood right from the start with this splash from the second page, which mirrors the cover of the first issue and immediately makes it clear that Kamandi’s status as “the last boy on Earth” isn’t just standard comics hyperbole.
Much of what would make Kamandi so endearing to generations of readers is visible in this page, specifically Kamandi’s loner status. Here, Kamandi is shown as an isolated, tiny figure floating through a world of debris and chaos, the sky a beautifully unnatural mixture of pinks and purples and blacks while the sea appears to be populated by monstrous sea creatures that Kamandi can only ignore. Kirby’s aesthetic is perfectly matched for this kind of story, where his jagged, rocky linework effortlessly communicates the decay of the surroundings and the intrusion of nature upon the detritus of humanity. There are two caption boxes, but they’re completely unnecessary— Kirby’s art does all of the real narration, showing us the stakes of this terrifying future, leaving no doubt that the odds are stacked against the last boy.
Splashes can sometimes be unnecessary and lesser artists tend to rely on them too much when they don’t trust their work to make an impact, but Kirby utilizes the splash here in order to provide us with a quick, incredibly efficient establishing shot of the new status quo. It’s a gorgeous image, sure, one that could easily fill an entire wall like some kind of bleak, end world mural, but there is no wasted space or disruptive jarring of the story’s pace. Kirby was always a master of movement in comics and unlike so many other splashes, which freeze a moment in time, this splash signals movement, as the tiny figure of Kamandi, in his little raft, tries to make his way across the flooded wastes of New York.
This isn’t a frozen moment but a view from afar, not all that different from what we might see if we were looking at Kamandi’s sea travels from a distant shore or on top of a fallen skyscraper’s roof. As readers, we’re left with a need to follow Kamandi’s travels, to see what other discoveries we’ll make about this apocalyptic scene. Even though the splash is preceded by a more standard introductory page, this splash is the true start of the story, the reveal of the epic nature of Kirby’s narrative and the hook that entices us to go further and see what other dangers await.
Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Loser City as well as Ovrld, where he contributes music reviews and writes a column on undiscovered Austin bands. You can also flip through his archives at Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with Dylan Garsee on twitter: @Nick_Hanover