Thursday, January 26, 2012

If You Blinked You Missed; Kong the Untamed

Greetings, Groove-ophiles! If you were a kid who was a fan of cavemen and dinosaurs in 1974, you were having a pretty good year. Saturday mornings were filled with 'em: Valley of the Dinosaurs (CBS); Korg, 70,000 B.C. (ABC); and of course Land of the Lost (NBC). I s'pose this came about due to the heavy influence of parent educator groups on the networks to make Saturday mornings more (blech) educational. The caveman/dinosaur shows looked educational enough to satisfy the establishment, but had enough action and sci-fi to hold the kids attention.

Comicbooks are always late to the party when picking up on trends, but they always get in the door. DC made a few attempts to cash in on this short-lived craze. They greenlit Warlord which would almost completely miss the party, but showed 'em all by hanging around for a decade after the party was over. They reprinted Joe Kubert's classic 1950s caveman strip Tor (with new covers and some new material by Kubert). You'd have thought they would have brought back Anthro, created by Howie Post in 1967, but they didn't. They created a brand new character, Kong the Untamed, who bore quite a bit of resemblance...to Anthro (both were aided in their creation by editor Joe Orlando, just so ya know). In today's market, Kong the Untamed would have been a "reboot of the Anthro franchise", but in those days--nope.

Although Kong sported the same basic story as Anthro (young  Cro-Magnon destined to become his tribe's chief during the waning days of the Neanderthal) and a less cool and highly derivative name (King Kong? Konga? Korg, 70,000 B.C.? ), it was still kinda neat. The first two issues (March-May 1975) with their Bernie Wrightson covers, Jack Oleck stories, and Alfredo Alcala interior art were all kinds of far-out. With ish #3 (July 1975), Gerry Conway took over scripting and the cover was by Bill Draut, who's a fine artist, but no Bernie Wrightson. Conway took total control of the writing with #4 (September 1975) while Alcala associates Tony Caravana and Jo Igente provide the art, blending Alcala's style with a style similar to Nestor Redondo's. Surprisingly, Conway doesn't upset the ship, story-wise, but keeps things moving along at an even keel. Unsurprisingly, ish 5 begins to usher in the inevitable "change of direction" that signals a sales slump. The art style has already completely changed as  artist David T. Wenzel makes his pro comicbook debut as penciler (he would soon become one of the top sci-fi/fantasy illustrators ever, natch). Wenzel does a nice job, the storytelling is very exciting, but the inks of cover artist Bill Draut lack the luster and organic feel of the previous issues under Alcala and friends. Kong the Untamed #5 (November 1975) also turned out to be the series' final issue. Oh, well, it was a nice run, and it did, at least, outlive Valley of the Dinosaurs and Korg 70,000 B.C. Small victories are better than none!

Here's the far-out first ish by Oleck and Alcala (complete with Wrightson cover and behind-the-scenes info from the letters page. Who loves ya, baby?)!



















6 comments:

  1. I didn't run across this book until well after it had ended. Bought all 5 issues, bit by bit, via the secondary market, even at flea markets.

    Good stories, decent artwork, but back in those days, distribution was hit or miss in a lot of areas, and where I grew up, the two markets that bothered to carry comics were only getting what the distributor sent them on a weekly basis.

    Contrary to your theory, Groove, Kong would NOT be a reboot of Anthro in this day and age. They'd remake him as, like, his third cousin twice removed, or something......

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    Replies
    1. I thought that kind of rebooting only happened to sidekicks--or Golden Age characters... ;D

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  2. I had that comic when I was a kid. It was a happy "hey I remember that" when I saw this post.

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  3. The title on the cover looks like the same hand-drawn font as Plop. (That was the name, right?)

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  4. PLOP!'s logo had rounded letters with stippling towards the bottom. Groove's site has scans, so have a look.

    I purchased KONG #1 and #2 solely on the strength of Berni Wrightson's cover art, but was pleased at the Alfredo Alcala interiors. Wrightson had left SWAMP THING (and DC in general) in late 1973 to work for Warren (CREEPY, EERIE, & VAMPIRELLA), but, as evidenced in these KONG covers, as well as a cover for WEIRD MYSTERY TALES #21, he returned to do the odd cover assignment in 1974. Never understand why he abandoned doing covers and splash pages for HOUSE OF MYSTERY and HOUSE OF SECRETS in 1973---seems like easy money to me, and, with such tremendous talent, a visual feast for the fans. Still, I enjoyed his Warren splashes and short stories, but even those largely came to a halt by the end of 1975 when he began to concentrate on a painted poster series for Christopher Enterprises from 1976-78.

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