Astonishing Tales #4 (Feb. 1970) "The Sun God!" Writer: Gerry Conway Artist: Barry Smith Inker: Sam Grainger Karen: Way back in February of last year, I reviewed Astonishing Tales 3 (see it here). I've finally acquired the following issues and decided to read and review them. I'll just be looking at the Ka-Zar portion of this split comic. Not that I don't like Dr. Doom, but I find the Ka-Zar tale more interesting. It would be great if Marvel would collect these stories in a TPB. It would be worth it for the early Barry Smith art alone. Karen: The mad priestess Zaladane has brought war to the Savage Land. Flying in on pterodactyls, she and her people reign fire on the peaceful green-skinned Vala-Kuri people. Ka-Zar is miles away and needs some speedy transportation. He wrestles down a unicorn(!!) and heads off for the city, leaving behind his buddy Tongah and Garokk, the petrified man, who appears to be made of stone; unlike Stone Boy of the Legion of Substitute Heroes, Garokk is quite mobile. In turn, Tongah leaves Garokk, who is left to muse about youth abandoning age and age burying youth. He's that kinda guy.
Karen: Zaladane and her forces are wreaking havoc on the poor Vala Kuri, who have neither the means nor desire to fight back. But along comes an enraged Ka-Zar, who launches himself at one of the pterodactyl riders, bringing man and beast down to the ground. He quickly punches out the rider and takes his flaming device, while Zabu works on the dinosaur. Ka-Zar also waxes a little philosophical here - surely the very young Gerry Conway expressing himself. I've noticed that his early stories seem much more like he's writing a novel rather than a comic.
Karen: In the meantime Garokk has reached the Sun God shrine where he was first transformed. He reaches out to touch it and there is a strange energy enveloping him. A very bizarre-looking Tyrannosaurus Rex comes lurching towards him, and he blasts it away. This was a well-composed sequence by Smith. While Ka-Zar and newly arrived friend Tongah face down Zaladane, a giant fiery head appears in the sky -it is Garokk, now completely changed into the Sun God. He demands an end to the fighting and uses his powers (apparently pretty god-like ones) to destroy all the fire-blasting weapons. The invaders stop attacking -all that is but Zaladane, who is infuriated by this development. She sweeps down and grabs Ka-Zar in her mount's talons and flies off with him! Can you say, to be continued?
Karen: This was a real rip-snorting yarn. I've always liked the Savage Land. It has so many possibilities. Gerry Conway does a nice job here of pacing the story. Although the unicorn seemed fairly out of place, I have to say. I wonder if that was his idea, or Smith's? But otherwise, we have all the elements -the hero, the evil queen, the wizard/god -that make this a classic tale of fantasy- adventure.
Karen: It's really fun to look at this early work of Barry Smith. It's instantly recognizable, but it's also clearly still Smith learning his craft. He has a gift for portraying the fantastic, but at times his figures and especially faces are a bit off. The T-Rex mentioned earlier is a good example of this; it looks almost more-bug-like than reptilian. But Smith still has a very appealing style which shows wonderful flashes of the brilliance he would eventually achieve.
Karen has joined the ranks of podcasters along with her friends Larry and Bob on the Planet 8 podcast. Click on the image to hear them explore all things geek!
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Karen and Doug
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On Sunday, 4/23/17, Martinex1, Doug, and Redartz gathered for a day of fun at C2E2 in Chicago. It was great to finally meet in person after years of online cameraderie.
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Karen and Doug met on the Avengers Assemble! message board back in September 2006. On June 16 2009 they went live with the Bronze Age Babies blog, sharing their love for 1970s and '80s pop culture with readers who happen by each day. You'll find conversations on comics, TV, music, movies, toys, food... just about anything that evokes memories of our beloved pasts!
Doug is a high school social science teacher and department chairman living south of Chicago; he also does contract work for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. He is married with two adult sons, also both married.
Karen originally hails from California and now works in scientific research/writing in the Phoenix area. She often contributes articles to Back Issue magazine. She is married. She hangs out with Joe Biden occasionally.
Believe it or not, the Bronze Age Babies have never spoken to each other...
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Dig Karen's Work Here? Then You Should Check Her Out in Back Issue!
BI #44 is available for digital download and in print. I've read Karen's article on reader reaction to Gerry Conway's ASM #121-122, and it's excellent. This entire magazine was fun! -- Doug
Back Issue #45
As if Karen's work on Spidey in the Bronze Age wasn't awesome enough, she's at it again with a look at the romance of the Vision and the Scarlet Witch in Back Issue's "Odd Couples" issue -- from TwoMorrows!
Karen's talking the Mighty Thor in the Bronze Age!
Click the cover to order a print or digital copy of Back Issue! #53