Super-Gorillas

Enlarge picture
DC Comics Presents Hawkman #1 © 2004 DC Comics. COVER ART BY JOSÉ LUIS GARCIA-LÓPEZ AND KEVIN NOWLAN.

Super-Gorillas

(pop culture)
Simians have frequently been characterized in the popular culture possessing a trait most human—malevolence—with four archetypes of evil super-gorillas emerging: super-sentient gorillas, mutant gorillas, colossal gorillas, and man-gorillas. Orang, “the ape that thinks like a man,” bowed in the September 1, 1940, installment of Will Eisner's newspaper comic-book supplement The Spirit. While not a gorilla, this orangutan used his scientifically enhanced intellect, afforded him by a Dr. Egel, to adopt humanlike mannerisms— including the worst of the lot, kidnapping and murder— paving the way for later supervillain gorillas like the Flash's foe Grodd and Monsieur Mallah of the Brotherhood of Evil. The Gorilla, an ape with a human brain, premiered shortly thereafter in 1941 in Fox Publications' Blue Beetle series, and another brainy primate, Gargantua (“the Phi Beta Gorilla”), fought Plastic Man in 1948. No publisher went ape over super-sentient gorillas more than DC Comics. “It was a question of trying to find something that sold,” long-time DC artist Sheldon Moldoff once reflected, “and if one issue came out and it happened to sell, then immediately they would follow that type of story.” Throughout the 1950s intelligent gorillas were staples of editor Julius Schwartz's science-fiction anthologies, particularly Strange Adventures, which cover-featured tales including “The Gorilla War Against Earth” and “The Gorilla Who Challenged the World.” Jack Schiff, the 1950s Batman editor, occasionally pitted the Dark Knight against primates, most notably “The Gorilla Boss of Gotham City” in Batman #75 (1953), featuring crimelord George “Boss” Dyke, whose brain was transplanted into an ape's body. Not to be outdone, Schwartz, who inherited the Batman franchise from Schiff in 1964, armed a gorilla with explosives— the “Living Beast Bomb”—to fight Batman in Detective Comics #339 (1965). Schiff, who took over Strange Adventures from Schwartz, volleyed in 1967 with Animal-Man's foe the Mod Gorilla Boss, a man mutated into a fashion-conscious gorilla; also that year, Wonder Woman tangled with bubble-helmeted talking gorillas that transformed her into an Amazonian monkey. Marvel Comics' criminal zoologist Dr. Arthur Nagan, known for Dr. Moreau–like interspecies experiments upon primates, had the tables turned on him in a 1950s horror comic when apes affixed his head onto a gorilla's body, making him the freakish Gorilla-Man (not to be confused with the 1950s Marvel hero of the same name); he was revived in 1975 as the leader of the supervillain team the Headmen (also consisting of Chondu the Mystic, Shrunken Bones, and Ruby Thursday), enemies of the superhero “non-team,” the Defenders. While intelligent gorillas were seldom seen after the early 1970s, with the exception of Gorilla Grodd and 1980s appearances of the Ultra-Humanite, the Golden Age mastermind prone to transferring his intellect into the fearsome form of a white gorilla, in 1995 two super-sentient gorillas were birthed in Image Comics series: BrainiApe, the Savage Dragon foe with a dome-encased super-brain, and the cyborg-simian enemy of Spawn, Cy-Gor (Cy- Gor was also manufactured as an action figure). Gorilla soldiers, a super-sentient gorilla offshoot, were popularized by Pierre Boulle's novel Planet of the Apes (1963) and the film/television franchise and comic-book continuations that followed. Sentient warrior apes were frequent nemeses in Jack Kirby's 1970s DC opus Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth. Mutant gorillas were also popular during comics' Golden (1938–1954) and Silver (1956–1969) ages. Superboy encountered “The Gorilla with X-Ray Eyes” in Adventure Comics #219 (1955), while Superman received a visitor from his homeworld in Action Comics #218 (1956): “The Super-Ape from Krypton.” An eight-limbed “Octi-Ape” clambered into the pages of Blackhawk #152 (1960), while Fantastic Four #13 (1963) introduced criminal Soviet scientist the Red Ghost, aided by a trio of irradiated Super-Apes including a superstrong gorilla. Hawkman #6 (1965) featured a flying warrior gorilla in a story later reimagined by twenty-first century creators in 2004's DC Comics Presents: Hawkman #1, part of a series of tributes to editor Schwartz upon his passing that year. Perhaps the oddest mutant gorilla was the saber-toothed ape/dinosaur hybrid in Gold Key Comics' Mighty Samson #10 (1967). Movie monster King Kong's 1933 theatrical debut spawned innumerable chest-thumping super-sized imitators, most notably Superman's kryptonite-visioned Titano the Super-Ape. Konga, a low-budget 1961 King Kong clone, inspired a Charlton comics series that ran for nearly two dozen issues. In the 1960s DC's waterlogged superteam the Sea Devils battled an aquatic ape called Monster Gorilla, a name also used by Archie Comics for an enemy of the Fly. Tomahawk, DC's Revolutionary War hero, battled two giant apes—King Colosso and the Gorilla Ranger, the latter of which wore a Native American feathered headband and fired enormous arrows—while the golden gorilla Gorr attacked the Fantastic Four in 1976. Humans disguised as apes constitute the final super-gorilla archetype. Daredevil #10 (1965) introduced the Ani-Men—Ape-Man, Bird-Man, Cat-Man, and Frog-Man—terrorists afforded super-abilities from their animal-inspired uniforms; the agility-enhanced Ape-Man later received Herculean might (Frog-Man eventually left the group, which was renamed the Unholy Three). Wakandan warrior M'Baku cloaked himself in an albino-ape pelt in 1969 and became the superstrong Man-Ape; abetted by his loyal White Gorilla Cult, Man-Ape warred against the Black Panther and his allies, the Avengers, and continued to fight the Avengers over the years as one of the Masters of Evil. The Gibbon, first seen in Amazing Spider-Man #110 (1972), was an incredibly nimble outcast named Martin Blank who donned a monkey suit he once wore as a circus performer and auditioned to be Spider-Man's partner; after he was spurned by wall-crawler the Gibbon hooked up with the equally vengeful Kraven the Hunter to complicate Spidey's life.
The Supervillain Book: The Evil Side of Comics and Hollywood © 2006 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
Mentioned in ?