L-o-Zar in action. Artist: Joe Maneely.

LO-ZAR

Medium: Comic books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1954
Creators: Don Rico (writer) and Joe Maneely (artist)
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With superheroes not having provided the main support of the U.S. comic book industry for the past decade or more, and with crime, horror and even romance comics increasingly under fire by do-gooders, publishers of the mid-1950s were turning to all sorts of genres in hopes of latching onto …

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… the next big thing. Westerns like The Rawhide Kid and The Black Rider were doing well for Marvel Comics, but the company was also reaching out in various directions with titles like Homer the Happy Ghost, Combat Kelly, Patsy Walker and Della Vision. The multi-genre extravaganza extended to two bimonthlies full of jungle heroes like Leopard Girl, Waku Prince of the Bantu, and Jann of the Jungle.

Marvel was no stranger to jungle heroes. Not quite. But it had been a dozen years since Ka-Zar had appeared in the back pages of Marvel Mystery Comics, and they'd scarcely visited the genre since then. To fill one of the series slots in the new titles, they simply made a clone of him — no big deal, since he'd been a clone of Tarzan in the first place, just like Kaanga, Jo-Jo and any number of others. But the company hadn't yet been seized by a compulsion to bring back everything they'd ever published, like they were starting to be a few years later, when they revived The Sub-Mariner, Red Raven and others.

Since practically any collection of syllables (e.g., Kalthar, Tegra, etc.) would suffice for a jungle hero's name, they simply changed one, and continued with a hero called Lo-Zar. He debuted in Jungle Action #1 (October, 1954), alongside Man-oo the Gorilla and a jungle boy named Jungle Boy. He swung on vines, wrestled dangerous beasts, talked to animals, and did all the other stuff a proper jungle hero should do.

The writer who created Lo-Zar, if "created" is the proper term for a jungle guy just like all the other jungle guys, was Don Rico, who had been working in the field since he'd created The Sorceress of Zoom in 1940, and whose other creations at the company included Lorna the Jungle Girl. The artist was Joe Maneely, Marvel's star artist before his untimely death in 1958. Maneely's other '50s credits include The Black Knight, The Ringo Kid, The Yellow Claw and Speed Carter, Spaceman. Later episodes were drawn by Syd Shores (The Two-Gun Kid).

But jungle heroes didn't turn out to be a viable direction at Marvel. Jungle Action lasted only six issues, the final one dated August, 1955. In the following decade, with the company once again fully (and this time, permanently) commited to superheroes, Ka-Zar was revived, with some modifications, under his own name.

In the 1970s, Marvel reprinted a lot of '50s comics. But with Ka-Zar now one of the minor stars of its burgeoning universe, there wasn't room for so similar a hero, with so similar a name and even a similar hair color. So the reprinted version was re-dubbed "Tharn the Magnificent" and, to stifle any suspicion of a connection, his hair was re-colored red. As Tharn, he debuted in a revived Jungle Action #1, this time dated October, 1972. But in the fifth issue (July, 1973), the '50s reprints were replaced by The Black Panther.

It's been many years since Lo-Zar has appeared under either name.

— DDM

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Text ©2009-11 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Marvel Comics.