Ka-Zar the Savage #9-12
Issue(s): Ka-Zar the Savage #9, Ka-Zar the Savage #10, Ka-Zar the Savage #11, Ka-Zar the Savage #12
Later, after Ka-Zar and Shanna have said goodbye to Dherk and left the outpost, they're woken up to Dherk in a frenzy, shouting "where is it?". It turns out that the little creatures were real, and just shrunk down to a minuscule size by the ancient Atlanteans. Shanna stole the griffin (!), and it's now escaped and growing in size.
They start to track it and find that it keeps getting bigger.
They follow it to the Aerians. Buth's girlfriend Dephine is badly injured.
Eventually the combined group manages to force the griffin into a volcano. In the resultant explosion, a man-made cavern is revealed in the side of the volcano.
It's got a message over it which reads "Abandon hope all ye who enter here", which is similar to, but not quite the same as the message in the poem Dante's Inferno (although Inferno would have been written in Italian...).
Ka-Zar, Shanna, Buth, Dherk and Ka-Zar start exploring the cavern, and run into a number of creatures and scenes from Inferno.
Some are mechanical...
...and the explorers begin to assume that the area was part of the Atlantean's ancient amusement park, but some of the creatures are flesh and blood.
So they're not sure what's going on.
They eventually find a diary written by Dante himself that explains that he traveled here in his youth (which would have been centuries after the demise of the Atlanteans) and found the Pangean amusement park. He was chasing a sorcerer from Florence named Belasco who had kidnapped Dante's girlfriend (Beatrice, who was mentioned in Inferno).
Belasco intended to use Beatrice to birth demon babies that would allow the Elder Gods to enter our world. Dante fought Belasco and Belasco wound up frozen when an Atlantean freon pipe burst.
With Beatrice dead, Dante returned home and wrote the Inferno based on his experience.
Soon afterward, the team encounters Belasco, having eventually defrosted and subsequently spent his time creating all of the flesh and blood monsters they were encountering. Belasco intends to use Shanna the way he was going to use Beatrice.
With the help of the mutated descendants of the sailors that accompanied Dante (called the Children of Dis; they look like moloids but shoot lasers out of their eyes)...
...Ka-Zar finds a way to disrupt his plans...
...and Belasco is instead burned to cinders by the Elder Gods.
Starting with issue #10, Ka-Zar is a direct-market only book, resulting in a higher price (75 cents vs. 60 for news stand books) and a few back-up features, including little comic bios of the creatures, pin-ups, and, beginning with issue #11, a Tales of Zabu back-up feature by Bruce Jones and drawn by Gil Kane.
The lettercols for these issues are showing a very positive reaction, but the fact that the book was moved to the direct market means that the book wasn't reaching a mass audience and Marvel was trying to find a way to keep it (and other critically successful books like Moon Knight and Micronauts) alive. These issues are pretty squarely in the swords & sorcery genre, but they're done with great humor and characterization...
..and of course the literary angle. Brent Anderson's art is superb as well.
Here is the panel Andrew mentions in the comments.
Quality Rating: A+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Moved back in publication time to allow for an X-Men/Ka-Zar appearance in Marvel Fanfare #3-4.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
According to a 1981 Amazing Heroes cover, Belasco originally had a beard.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | January 6, 2013 4:04 PM
I'd be very surprised if this story arc wasn't inspired by Larry Niven's entertaining novel, Inferno.
Posted by: Andrew | January 4, 2015 8:57 PM
In addition to the Niven novel this story riffs on, Belasco also seems to be reference to either David Belasco, the famous theater producer and playwright who created elaborate "special effects" sets in the early 20th century, and to the real Belasco's supernatural namesake Emeric Belasco from Richard Matheson's novel Hell House. (Doug Moench lifted Matheson's novel wholesale for his haunted house story in Werewolf by Night, as some mentioned in the comments here when that story was written up.) And there's definitely some Niven in there too, probably as the primary influence.
Both references connect with the character here, and perhaps hint that the historically impossible material with Dante and Beatrice is Belasco embellishing his past. Notably, when Belasco narrates his origin he never explains why he only has one arm in his present-day appearances. I suppose that makes sense; why tell anyone how to harm you?
Posted by: Omar Karindu | October 2, 2015 10:59 AM
To clarify, Dante and Beatrice were never lovers in real life: Dante met her once when she was nine and again when she was eighteen, mostly in a "just passing through" way. She and Dante both married other people and had kids of their own as a matter of historical record. The Marvel Handbook Deluxe Edition brings all of this up and suggests that Belasco is probably lying about his origins here.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | October 2, 2015 11:02 AM
There's a semi-notorious blank panel on page 10 of issue 12, at least in my copy. (There are about 1600 "correct" versions out of 80000 issues printed, according to Mile High Comics.) Jim Shooter says it was a red ink drawing of Dante, a color-hold that got dropped out. But the very next panel is already a drawing of Dante, and the caption of the blank panel says "...Beatrice began to give birth -- and my lovely 'children' burst from her rent womb..." so censorship at the printing stage seems more likely. I've never seen the censored panel, but there's a comparably grotesque panel on page 12 of issue 11 (the first issue without a CCA seal), with a demon clawing its way past a bloody leg.
Posted by: Andrew | January 18, 2017 8:55 AM
I've added a scan at the bottom of this entry.
Posted by: fnord12 | January 18, 2017 9:09 AM
Here's some more information on that issue -
Posted by: clyde | January 18, 2017 11:34 AM
It's available for sale on MyComicshop at $5.60.!
Posted by: clyde | January 18, 2017 11:39 AM
More literate than a mastadon! Better informed than a giant boar! Well-read is Ka-Zar, Lord of the Jungle!
Posted by: Holt | May 10, 2018 7:38 PM
Comments are now closed.
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