Karate Kid Vol 1 #11
(November-December) December, 1977
"Disasters of Yesteryear"
Story: Jack C. Harris
Additional Material: David Michelinie (writing as Barry Jameson)
Penciller: Ric Estrada
Inker: Ric Estrada
Colourist: Carl Gafford
Cover: Al Milgrom (pencils) and Jack Abel (inks)
Editor: Dennis O'Neil
Hostile cavemen; Major Disaster
The issue opens with Karate Kid travelling in a time bubble back to the 20th Century from the 30th Century and his and Projectra’s encounter with Black Dragon on Orando. He’s somewhat peeved at the fact that King Voxv forced him to return to the 20th Century even after saving the planet to continue to prove himself worthy of Jeckie. His thoughts are jolted back to reality as the time bubble jerks, the controls going “zonkers”, and Karate Kid seems to manage to arrive back in 20th Century New York. Emerging from the time bubble, he can’t figure out where everyone is and why the streets are deserted, but has no time to think as he’s attacked by pre-historic cavemen! The Kid manages to fight them off, but barely, and takes off running down 51st Street to escape them - and runs smack into a wall! He realizes that the cars, buildings, everything are fake. Meanwhile, in a hidden control room, a shadowy figure is ecstatic that he’s got Karate Kid, and begins the first test.
The test in question turns out to be massive earthquake as Karate Kid stands in front of the Warner Communications building. Karate Kid has to dodge falling buildings and upended sidewalks. He sees that one of the cavemen has followed him and is in danger, and with no thought for himself rescues the caveman as the building collapses. He dubs the caveman “Ugly.” Karate Kid sees that the earthquake was being caused by some machinery under the sidewalk, so he destroys it. He sets off with Ugly in tow, and returns to where he left the time bubble, only to find it’s been pretty much wrecked by the other cavemen. The hidden figure, observing all this on a monitor, says there is no escape for Karate Kid yet - and there are more tests to come.
When Karate Kid asks Ugly where the cavemen came from, the primitive seems to understand him and leads Karate Kid to the outskirts of the fake city. They come upon a massive cable that seems to lead out of the city, but before they can act, the two face a deadly flash fire that turns the street and area into a raging inferno. Guessing this disaster is also man-made, Karate Kid cuts down a lamppost and uses it to smash his way into the wall behind to find the control, and then shuts off and blocks the gas supply. The two exit the city through the hole surrounding the massive cable, and Karate Kid emerges to a prehistoric swamp. He realizes the whole city is some sort of manufactured set, powered by a pipeline to molten lava. He tries to destroy the cable and pipeline, but is unable to do so and eventually gives up.
He and Ugly re-enter the staged city, in the hopes of tracking down and finding the person who created all of this. As they move down one city street, the two are attacked by an oncoming taxi cab. It knocks Ugly out of the way, but Karate Kid uses his acrobatic skills to leap above and over the car, and it crashes into a building. The villain of the piece is angered at Karate Kid’s destroying the place, and triggers the ultimate calamity - a massive earthquake. As it begins, Karate Kid realizes there have been a series of calamities or major disasters, and realizes who the villain is - Major Disaster! The villain admits as much to the hero, and says that he has learned what he can from this testing facility and now sets it to self-destruct. Karate Kid guesses that Major Disaster’s headquarters is the fake World Trade Centre buildings, so he races there, followed by Ugly, and starts to climb the structure, making hand- and foot-holds as he goes. Just as he gets to the roof, Major Disaster prepares to escape in his time flyer. Ugly, who has followed Karate Kid up the building, grabs him and throws him onto the roof and up at the escaping time flyer. Karate Kid hits the villain hard, and takes over the controls after Major Disaster is rendered unconscious.
Once Karate Kid arrives back in 20th Century New York, he hands Major Disaster over to the authorities, and the starts to make his way back to the apartment building he lives in. There, he is met by Iris Jacobs. She says they need to have a long talk, but when he calls Iris a “friend,” she realizes what’s happened with him and Projectra, and rushes off, crying.
The 11th issue of Karate Kid’s own comic is now come and gone, and to be honest, it’s a story that’s a bit lacklustre but does have its moments. With the departure of Barry Jameson (aka David Michelinie) as writer, this issue was a fill-in episode written by Jack C. Harris that was light-years above what had come before. The story has pop and sizzle to it, the action scenes are really good (more on that later) and there’s a reason and rhyme to the villain’s actions. The return of Major Disaster was somewhat of a surprise to me, but he worked well as the villain here, and the caveman, “Ugly”, was an interesting companion for Karate Kid for large chunks of the comic.
The biggest disappointment that I felt with this issue when I looked at it was the cover. The Al Milgrom/Jack Abel cover seemed far away from the quality of the Mike Grell covers and those inspired by him. I have to wonder if DC decided at this time that Legion fandom wasn’t buying this book, so there was no need to keep the Grell covers going. (He was still doing the Legion covers at the time.) Or perhaps DC felt that Legion fans would buy this even without Mike Grell's covers. The real problem with the cover is that the hero, Karate Kid, should be front and centre, but he’s not. That said, I like the cover of this issue as it reminded me for some reason of the covers for the Kamandi title.
The artwork this issue was much better than it’s been, as Ric Estrada inks his own pencils, so everything looked a bit less cartoony and rough. I will say that there were times when I could not figure out what was going on, as there were sequences such as when Karate Kid goes to rescue Ugly when the earthquake strikes. He’s heading straight into danger, but not actually getting out of it once he rescues the caveman. Umm, not sure here... Another example comes from the bit where he’s climbing the Trade Tower building. He’s making foot- and hand-holds in the rock, and the noises letterings make it sound like concrete. However, the colouring and appearance didn’t scream “skyscraper” to me. Perhaps this is just a matter of the writer’s directions to the artist, or perhaps it’s the same problem that plagued all of Barry Jameson’s work on the series to this point.
There is no letterer or colourist credited for this story. However, other sources revealed that the colourist this issue is Carl Gafford so I have noted that... This issue of Karate Kid is the last to feature a two-page opening spread... This issue also has another few lasts. It is the last issue with any plot or writing by Davie Michelinie (aka Barry Jameson). It is the last issue that features art by Ric Estrada. It is also the last issue with the current "Karate Kid" logo... This story follow the tale with Karate Kid (and Princess Projectra) helping the Legion fight the Fatal Five in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #231... When the earthquake strikes in the early part of the story, Karate Kid is standing in front of the corporate headquarters for DC Comics... This story marks the return of Major Disaster. He last appeared in the series in Karate Kid Vol 1 #2... The letter column this issue promises the return of Paul Levitz to Karate Kid writing duties. This, of course, does not happen.
Next Issue: Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #234