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DC COMICS GOES APE!!! – DC Special #16

November 21, 2013


A right of passage for movie stars is to make a movie with a lesser primate. The legendary Clint Eastwood, who’s become over the years one of the great auteurs of American cinema both in front of and behind the camera, has starred in not one, but two movies with an orangutan: Every Which Way but Loose and its senses-shattering sequel, Any Which Way You Can. People love monkeys, gorillas, chimps, what have you. Monkeys in suits. Apes in coonskin caps. It doesn’t matter to the viewing/reading public — it’s all good.

In that vein, here’s a treasury of some of DC Comics’ finest ape-themed hijinks. For your consideration.  

Echoing Mr. Eastwood’s wattage, it’s not the DC B-squad that’s in this reprint trove, but the holy trinity of their pantheon: Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman — oddly enough, the same three who had the good sense to high-tail it out of the Justice League “Brotherhood” comic while the gettin’ was good. Oh, and the Flash, too, because he has the most famous ape foe of them all: the nefarious, megalomaniacal, poorly table-mannered Gorilla Grodd. This 1975 book reprints four stories from the 1960s Silver Age of DC, from Detective Comics #339, Wonder Woman #170, The Flash#127 and Superman #138. All are spectacular. (Note: The cover here advertises this comic as a “1st DC Issue,” yet it’s #16 according to the indicia, a Borg-killing paradox if there ever was. The solution here is that this was a reboot of the previous fifteen issue DC Special run.)

The Batman tale has one of the dumbest climaxes in Caped Crusader history. After a dopey scientist subjects himself to an energy ray to transfer to himself a gorilla’s strength, it turns out the gorilla gains his smarts. And this experimental subject is apparently an evil gorilla, because he promptly embarks on a crime spree. Eventually he straps bombs to his body, bombs that will explode when the gorilla touches the ground (or something), making him an erstwhile ape Antaeus. So begins two pages of the Dark Knight doing his powerlifting routine (Gardner Fox, Carmine Infantino, Joe Giella):


It’s mentioned that this is 700 pounds of dead weight that Batman is hoisting into the air. That’s a lot. Probably too much, straining the already tattered credibility of this plot to the breaking point. But a gorilla! Infantino!

The Wonder Woman story might be the goofiest of the bunch — and that’s really saying something. It opens, as many an old-timey WW story does, with the never-ending Amazonian Sappho Diaphanous Lesbian Olympiad in full swing (Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru, Mike Esposito):


Soon Earth is invaded by ugly ape-men from outer space, who have a ray that can make Diana just as ugly as they are (I’m sure there’s a reference to an old Twilight Zone episode in here somewhere):


Now those are some big granny bloomers.

The Flash story of course features the most famous comic primate of them all. Gorilla Grodd, the simian member of the Scarlet Speedster’s superb rogue’s gallery, is doing his normal evil thing, wreaking havoc on humanity and Gorilla City alike. But have you ever seen the big guy in love? (John Broome, Infantino, Giella):


Yes, even Grodd’s amour has a dark side.

The biggest is saved for last. Titano, DC’s in-house King Kong rip-off, is at his rip-offiest in this early appearance. Not only does he scale the Daily Planet like it’s an erstwhile Empire State Building, he also develops some love for Lois Lane — our brunette Fay Wray stand-in (Otto Binder, Wayne Boring, Stan Kaye):


All of these stories have been reprinted multiple times, an enduring testament to the power of our closest evolutionary cousins to delight and amuse, even when on the opposing side. These four and many others were most recently collected in 2008’s — you guessed — DC Goes Ape. Track it down this Christmas for the person in your life who goes ape for comics going ape about apes that go ape. Ape ape ape.

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