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Pioneer apes in coonskin caps. THIS IS THE APEX OF ART. – Planet of the Apes #4

January 13, 2012

There are moments in human history when a corner of mankind is briefly blessed with divine inspiration. Mozart. Beethoven. Da Vinci. Tolstoy. Faulkner. This is one of those moments. It’s as if the squirrel on water-skis was combined with the monkey riding a dog. Hell, throw dogs playing poker into the mix. THE ABOVE COVER SERIOUSLY RANKS AS ONE OF THE MORE SPLENDIFEROUS THINGS I’VE SEEN IN YEARS. It should be in the National Gallery of Art. The French should jealously maintain that it belongs in the Louvre. C’est magnifique.

Thank you, Bob Larkin, for crafting this gem. Thank you very much.

When my father bought a pool table years ago, the very first accoutrement that he equipped our basement with was a framed picture of dogs playing pool (to my mother’s eye-rolling chagrin). It was requisite schlock, but it was glorious. BIG TIME. It was my father’s leg lamp. In a similar vein, if that cover were to be offered as a large-scale print, I’d give serious thought to hanging it in my living room. I’m single. These are the privileges afforded to a man who is single. And I would not shack up with any woman who would make me get rid of it. “What kind of vicious harpy are you?”

Sometimes as I was chalking my cue next to that old basement Olhausen, I’d pause and stare at the dogs shooting pool. It was pointless and dumb “art,” but someone had clearly put a lot of effort into its composition. Someone labored over it. And Apes in Coonskin Caps? Did Mr. Larkin take a step back after his final stroke, put his hands triumphantly on his hips, and think to himself God damn I have outdone myself this time? One hopes.

Just look at it. Flaming metal dart arrow things. Man and ape poling and blasting away side by side. Snowy mountains and verdant foliage rising behind our beleaguered primates. An unseen menace. The faces. They eyes. You can almost hear the rapids.

My oh my.

This magazine-sized series ran concurrently with the underwhelming and mostly forgotten Planet of the Apes TV show. In addition to the cover story and part 4 of the adaptation of the first Charlton Heston-infused film, there are some features within, like “Ape Fashions” (!) and an interview with a star of the show (Ron Harper, and not the one that played for the Chicago Bulls. Heard of him? Neither have I.). Said interview is conducted by none other than Chris Claremont, still in the “paying dues” phase of his career.

When I was buying this book, the owner of the store saw it on the top of my pile and called it, without sarcasm, “the greatest series ever.” I can’t speak to that. “It’s the Davy Crockett apes that got my attention” was my reply. And that’s where the conversation ended. It’s hard to process that word sequence, much less argue with it.

And what about those Davy Crockett apes? The accompanying story is called “A Riverboat Named Simian.” There are times when I’d want to scissor kick a title like that. Not here. The cover scene bears little relation to the events inside. To make a long story (Script: Doug Moench, Pencils: Mike Ploog, Inks: Frank Chiaramonte) short, human and ape companions escape gorilla pursuers only to find themselves in a strange frontier-style town, one with, well:

When I first saw that marvelous cover, a blog post flashed before my eyes, fueled by a primal need to share something so delightful with those who’ve yet to experience it. I thought of some Yosemite Sam language that I could incorporate in a (lame) attempt at humor. Dagnab it. Consarn it. The rootinest tootinest. You get the picture. BUT THE COMIC BEAT ME TO IT:

Gunpowder Julius. We have a new hero, America.

You know how it seemed that in every John Wayne movie his character would fight another character and then they’d become better friends for it?:

THIS THING HAS EVERYTHING. Wait, it lacks is an ape using a spittoon. So there’s that. And yes, I went back and double-checked.

I can’t offer much in the way of criticism on the story. My familiarity with the Apes mags is just short of nonexistent, and I can’t speak intelligently about mutants, Inheritors and Lawgivers. I will say that the content offered inside, despite the Gunpowder Julius grandiosity, fails to live up to that cover. After its vibrant colors, the black and white feels like Dorothy going back to that crappy little Kansas farmhouse after her Oz adventure. This is a dumb criticism that I have of most black and white books, one that’s doubled here.

But then, what could match the cover? Really — what?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 14, 2012 8:23 pm

    Awesome post. I laughed, I cried, I smiled. And I couldn’t have written this better myself.

    Thanks,

    Doug

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