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Kamandi: The Last Boy On Earth! Writer Sheds Light On Those Superman References In The DC Showcase Short

Kamandi trapped under rubble in DC Showcase short
(Image credit: Warner Bros. Animation)

Warning: SPOILERS for Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth! are ahead!

Up until last year, besides a few appearances in Batman: The Brave and the Bold (which can be streamed with an HBO Max subscription), Jack Kirby creation Kamandi has never appeared outside the comics. Thanks to the DC Showcase label though, the Earth A.D. continuity’s Last Boy on Earth now has a story to call his own, as Batman and no other major DC Comics superheroes share the spotlight with him. That being said, Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth! did include some major Superman references, and writer Paul Giacoppo shed light on how those were thrown into the animated short.

After originally being attached to the release of the animated DC movie Justice Society: World War II, Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth! is now included in the DC Showcase — Constantine: The House of Mystery compilation, alongside the title extended short, Blue Beetle and The Losers. During my conversation with Paul Giacoppo about his work on Kamandi, I inquired about why he highlighted Superman in the animated short, and the writer revealed that while the comic book story this short adapted also included a Superman reference, he came up with some ways to tweak how the Man of Steel factored into the narrative equation. In his words:

There is an original story called “The Mighty One.” So we decided after trying to tell a unique story to pull all these [pieces] together, we actually found one that’s exactly the kind of story that we wanted. It’s one of the more famous ones, in the story, Kamandi gets in a battle for the ownership of this cape from Superman, and it’s obvious that it’s Superman to the reader, and it’s one of the first times in the comic that people realized how more directly Kamandi’s future, Earth AD, is connected to the DC universe at the time it came out. So we thought if we take that story and make it a little bit more cinematic and make it a series of tests and trials for Kamandi himself, put him on that journey, then we can maybe hold out the reveal that it’s Superman until the very end…  You watch it going, ‘Why am I watching this? I’m watching a DC thing, but it’s more Planet of the Apes and Indiana Jones’ or something. When that suit’s revealed, you realize, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s who he is, that’s who he was.’ It’s much more about Kamandi portraying the traits of a hero that are not superpowers, but superhuman inner qualities. The things that are hardest to do, to sacrifice, to be kind to people that don’t like you… it’s really hard, so that kind of story was what we were trying to get at.

The events of the original “The Mighty One” unfolded in 1975’s Kamandi #29, with the super intelligent apes in that story initially believing that the cybernetic Ben Boxer could have been the reincarnated hero, revealed to be Superman. Within Paul Giacoppo’s adaptation, Kamandi (voiced by Gotham’s Cameron Monaghan), Ben, the tiger Prince Tuftan and various others are put through a series of trials by the gorilla cult led by Golgan in an effort to determine if any of them are the Mighty One in a new form. Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth! viewers only learn the Mighty One was Superman when Kamandi emerges victorious and opens a box given to him by Golgan, and inside is Superman’s cape. That’s the big tipoff that the apocalyptic reality where Kamandi fights for survival on a daily basis is the future of the original DC universe, at least as far as this short is concerned.

But the Superman cape wasn’t the only reference the the Kryptonian hero’s larger mythology included within Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth!. Paul Giacoppo also revealed a distinctive object that can be noticed towards the end of the short, but was originally intended to be a part of Kamandi’s trials. Giacoppo explained:

There was one more test that we tried to include, which was this rolling ball that was going in and out of channels, and they had to get through it and work together. And there just wasn’t time, and when it crashes at the end, there’s a thing that he reads on the side that we don’t see, but Kamandi does, and he goes ‘Oh my gosh!’ He knew at that time what it was. It’s still there at the end of the short, it’s the ball of the Daily Planet building… This movie has a ‘You blew it up, you maniac!’ moment from Planet of the Apes. We start with that scene of the fallen Statue of Liberty, but in this one, it’s ‘Oh wow, it’s DC!’ I would’ve loved to have seen that in there, it was one more time to show another trait and a cool test, but they did show it, and that whole scene does take place at the Daily Planet building. If we showed that at the beginning, that would’ve given away the trick, so this is our time to hide the cards a bit.

The Daily Planet is an integral element of Superman lore, and in most depictions, the newspaper’s headquarters is easily spotted in Metropolis by that distinctive globe atop the building. While it’s unclear how much time has passed in this DC Showcase short’s continuity between the original DC universe dying and the Earth A.D. reality coming into existence, thanks to documents and other information that survived, Kamandi knew about the Daily Planet, and thus realized what he went through took place within the building’s wreckage. It’s a shame the globe didn’t end up being used in the final version of the trials, but keep an eye out for it nonetheless the next time you’re watching Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth!.

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment’s DC Showcase — Constantine: The House of Mystery compilation is available to buy on Blu-ray and Digital, and CinemaBlend will share more coverage on these animated shorts in the coming days. For now, you’re welcome to read about why Blue Beetle spotlighted other Charlton-era characters, the DC character who almost appeared in The Losers and how Constantine: The House of Mystery was inspired by Doctor Who.

Adam Holmes
Adam Holmes

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.