KONA, MONARCH OF MONSTER ISLEMedium: Comic books
Published by: Dell Comics
First Appeared: 1962
Creators: Don Segall (probable writer) and Sam Glanzman (artist)
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For decades, Dell Comics was sustained by its partnership with Western Printing, which licensed the properties of Disney, Hanna-Barbera, Warner Bros. and many other producers, and farmed the comic book publishing out to Dell. In 1962, Western started its own comic book imprint,
Gold Key, leaving Dell high and dry — even its few home-grown properties, such as Brothers of the Spear and Turok, Son of Stone, belonged to Western.
In the months leading up to the split, Dell put a lot of effort into launching properties of its own, such as Brain Boy (a plainclothes superhero), The Frogmen (undersea adventure along the lines of DC's Sea Devils or Tower's U.N.D.E.R.S.E.A. Agent), Jack Davis's Yak Yak (a late-blooming Mad imitator) and the rather generically titled Space Man (near future astronaut adventure). The most successful of the 1961-62 Dell characters was Kona, Monarch of Monster Isle.
Kona debuted in Four Color Comics (the catch-all title that ran everything from Oswald the Rabbit to Steve Canyon) #1256, one of several issues dated February, 1962. It isn't known for sure who wrote the story, but it's likely to have been Don Segall (who co-created DC's Creeper). The artist was Sam Glanzman, who also drew Dell's adaptation of the Tales of the Green Berets newspaper strip, Charlton's version of Hercules, and a highly praised autobiographical series about World War II, U.S.S. Stevens.
Tho ostensibly the star, Kona didn't appear until the story was well under way. It started with Dr. Henry Dodd, his widowed daughter Mary, and Mary's two children, Mason and Lily. They were taking Dodd's U.S. Army surplus blimp to the Australian Outback, where Dodd intended to study strange petroglyphs and the rest mainly intended to have a good time. But the blimp got caught in a hurricane, and was wrecked on the shore of an uncharted island — one of those places where prehistoric creatures still roam, which turn up so frequently in fantasy fiction such as The War that Time Forgot. In fact, their first glimpse of Kona (a Neanderthal man distinguishable from the others of his species by his thick mane of white hair) was when he saved them from a Tyrannosaurus rex. In return, they helped him and his people keep a rival Pithecanthropus tribe in check.
The following issues (which came out quarterly starting with #2, dated June, 1962) saw Kona and the family face one gigantic menace after another — usually dinosaurs, but they also dealt with giant insects, man-eating plants, sea serpents once, in fact, they faced the deadly menace of an enormous, mutated kitten. The first ten issues, all believed to have been written by Segall, were connected by fantastic cliffhangers, which made enthusiastic fans of the youthful readers. Many of those readers, now somewhat more advanced in age, still remember Kona as one of the best comics of its time — high praise, considering that was also the time of The Flash, Spider-Man and a lot of other well-regarded comic book series. A couple of years later, Dell launched a couple of other loinskin-wearing heroes, Toka, Jungle King; and Naza, Stone Age Warrior, neither of which readers took to nearly as well.
At the end of #10 (June, 1964), the family finally got off the island. But they returned in #11 to pick up Kona for the first in a series of monster-fighting adventures that spanned the entire world. These later stories were mostly scripted by the extremely prolific Paul S. Newman, who wrote thousands of stories for practically every comic book publisher in the country. Glanzman remained the artist throughout Kona's run, and also drew the series in Kona's back pages, about a jungle boy named Anak.
The Kona title lasted 21 issues, far more than the majority of non-licensed Dells. The last was dated March, 1967. But like all Dell properties, it didn't spill over into other media, such as TV cartoons and Big Little Books. It has never been revived or reprinted, and remains today a little-seen cult classic.