KA-ZAR: LORD OF THE SAVAGE LAND is Marvel’s latest series starring Kevin Plunder, and Monkeys Fighting Robots’ Justin Munday spoke with writer Zac Thompson about the series. Also featured: an exclusive first look at issue #2 (out October 13th)!
About the series:
KA-ZAR IS BACK FROM THE DEAD — WITH A WHOLE NEW TERRIFYING SET OF POWERS! The alien Cotati murdered him. The Savage Land brought him back. Lord Plunder has returned — with a vastly new perspective! Now united with Shanna the She-Devil in a mystical merging of life energies, Ka-Zar has new abilities, new needs…and new enemies. An ancient evil has surfaced in the Savage Land — one that is rapidly reshaping the forgotten world and its inhabitants. Ka-Zar and Shanna must fight together to protect their home and family! But their son Matthew has plans of his own… Don’t miss this spectacular adventure through the lost lands by Zac Thompson and Germán García!
Read on for our interview with Thompson, and to get your first look at LORD OF THE SAVAGE LAND #2:
Monkeys Fighting Robots: How did you get involved in this project? Was it something you pitched or an idea someone at Marvel bounced off you?
Zac Thompson: I was approached by series editor Sarah Brunstad after she had read my solar-punk series No One’s Rose from Vault. Sarah had the wild idea to essentially resurrect Ka-Zar with “powers from the land” similar to what happened to Shanna in the Savage Wolverine series from 2013. We got talking and discussed the precarious nature of Ka-Zar’s legacy and a place like the Savage Land in 2021. Sarah was basically game to rework it from the ground up and wanted me to come on board to develop everything. Naturally, given my interests and voice in my own indie work – this was something I jumped at the chance to do.
MFR: What advantages and disadvantages do you think there are in terms of audience expectation when you go into writing a more niche Marvel book like Ka-Zar?
Thompson: The largest advantage you have with a character like Ka-Zar is a sense of surprise. There is still so much you can do with a niche character and so much you can reimagine without retreading any well-worn ground. There’s a huge legacy of additive storytelling in superhero comics and without hundreds of issues to a character’s name you can put more of a stamp on them in a way you just can’t with other characters. So you can take the basic DNA of someone like Ka-Zar and you can really expand upon it, reimagine it, and ask hard questions about who they are filtered through the lens of the right now.
The real disadvantage is visibility in the crowded market and asking readers (and retailers) to take a leap of faith with you. But I think there’s such a reward for those that do because you’re just going to see things in the pages of Ka-Zar that you won’t find anywhere else at Marvel right now. Like a T-Rex that explodes into a plant monster with an eye inside its head. 😀
MFR: What other stories, in any medium, do you think had the biggest influence on how you approach this book?
Thompson: It’s a big mix. Non-fiction novels like The Lost City of Z by David Grann – which documents British Explorer Percy Fawcett’s search for a fabled civilization that time forgot. The Secret Wisdom of Nature by Peter Wohlleben was a huge piece of this, it’s non-fiction but really focuses on the interiority of animals – which is the heart of this book, really. As well as some of my favorite novels like Ursula K. Le Guin’s The World For The World is Forest and Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation. Things with strong environmental themes. I do my best to read lots of current prose fiction too just to stay on top of the current conversation in a sub-genre like eco-horror. The Studio Ghibli film Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind in terms of tone and imagery. And Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I could go on… and send people a complete list if they are interested.
MFR: The Savage Land is obviously a pretty well-known fan favorite location in the Marvel Universe. Has the rest of the Marvel cast made an impact on how you’re plotting Ka-Zar?
Thompson: Not really, no. I tried to think about Ka-Zar, Shanna, Matthew and Zabu only while working on this. I wanted to make sure that all my time and attention was focused on telling a rich story with those characters who haven’t had the spotlight on them in so long. Well them and our brand-new villain The Flesh Weaver.
MFR: The visuals from German Garcia and Mat Lopes are just insanely good. How did you get started working with them and how has that experience been?
Thompson: In short, an absolute dream come true.
We had a rather long casting process on this book but I was fairly eager to work with German from the start. I was a massive fan of his lines in Immortal Hulk #25 and his miniseries Barberella and Dejah Thoris with Leah Williams over at Dynamite. His storytelling is just impeccable. You can take all my words off the page and completely understand the emotion and the intent of the page – which is masterful. I also knew he could do weird, cosmic level stuff that would allow us to push the limits of how we convey these strange new powers. So I really have to pinch myself working with German. He’s taken every page of script and elevated it into something beyond my wildest dreams. Same with Mat Lopes. I’ll have to be honest and say I nearly died when he joined the book because he does insanely gorgeous color work on literally everything he touches. There’s a softness to his palette and a desaturated effect that gives the book this time-worn pulp feel. It’s honestly better than I could have ever imagined.
MFR: Has Marvel let you craft your own ideas for Ka-Zar pretty freely, or do they have plans of their own that they want incorporated?
Thompson: I was given pretty much free reign to do whatever I wanted. Sarah really empowered me to take the initial pitch and run with it. So I wanted to do something in the spirit of House of X/Powers of X where we just go all out with big new ideas and present this radically new status quo for these characters but instead of building to that moment over several issues we just start the story with a lot of the worldbuilding already done. Readers are thrown into something new, additive, and exciting. They don’t need to read anything to jump in and if you’re a long time fan – there’s a lot there to reward you.
MFR: Some readers may know you best from your independent work, such as I Breathed A Body or Undone By Blood. How does your approach differ between Ka-Zar and your original comics work?
Thompson: To be honest, for Ka-Zar – not much. My independent work involves a lot of worldbuilding, research and long lead times. I had the luxury of using all of those things with Ka-Zar. Because a lot of what we’re doing is new, I’m pulling from the world around me to tell this story. Which is often how I approach my indie work. I feel incredibly fortunate to be trusted and empowered to build new powers, mythos, and characters within the Marvel U while still being able to use some of the themes that really interest me like bio-technology, eco-horror, body horror, restorative justice and reconciliation.
MFR: Outside of more Ka-Zar, what do you have coming out next that you can tell us about?
Thompson: I’m currently hard at work on a number of other indie titles that should be coming out in mid/late 2022. One at a publisher I’ve never worked with before that I’m SUPER excited to announce. As well as a few other things at Marvel that are a little too early to talk about just yet.
Thanks to Zac Thompson for taking the time to chat with us. Are you reading LORD OF THE SAVAGE LAND? What is your favorite Ka-Zar story? Sound off in the comments!