DC Special #16 : Super-Heroes Battle Super-Gorillas

Publisher: DC Comics
Cover date: Spring 1975
Cover price: 50 cents

Let me tell you something: kids love gorillas. Or at least they did back when kids and not just fanboys read comics. Nowadays, gorillas are on the “out” list; witness the lackluster reception given to the JLApe crossover a few years back. But in the days when kids watched stuff like King Kong and Mighty Joe Young on TV Saturday afternoons, back in the Silver Age of comics, DC discovered a formula for sales gold. Gorillas = sales. Slap a gorilla on the cover, and the book flew off the stands. DC used that formula so often that a rule was passed limiting the line to one gorilla cover a month (though this may be an urban legend, it’s an oft repeated one).

So when you’re sitting a thirty-year inventory chock full of gorilla tales, it seems like an obvious move to create a reprint title devoted to our evolutionary ancestors. It’s obvious that they were testing the waters, as the text page in the book asks: “Would you like to see a regular magazine devoted to DC’s Super-Gorillas? If so, write and tell us.” For some reason, kids didn’t take the bait, though, and unfortunately no regular gorilla book was launched.

I don’t understand it. I think gorillas fighting super-heroes is the coolest thing ever, and I think I let out a squeal of glee when I saw this in the comic book store. My girlfriend just rolled her eyes, and you all probably think I’m nuts too. And yeah, I was the kind of “serious reader” who sneered at this kind of fun when I was a kid. Sure, it’s incredibly hokey and ridiculous, but it’s representative of the wild, inventive fun of pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths, Silver Age DC. Heroes broke the barriers of time and space with ease. They fought animals and robots and robot animals and … Oh, hell with it, let’s get to the gorillas. Ape sized spoilers ahead!

“Batman Battles the Living Beast-Bomb!”

from Detective Comics #339, May 1965, 16 pg.

Writer: Gardner Fox
Artist: Carmine Infantino
Inker: Joe Giella

A meek little guy with a big forehead named Walter Hewitt enters a Gotham City police station, begs to be arrested for a string of recent bank robberies, and pleads with them to summon Batman. Since the criminal who committed these bank robberies ripped the vault doors off their hinges, the cops don’t believe him, but they lock him up anyway. Walter tells them the story of a boy who got picked on in school and never excelled at sports. So he studied bionics and created a “bioniformer” which he used to gain great powers from animals: super hearing, sight, speed, etc. Then something went wrong, because something always goes wrong with weird scientific experiments. Walter procured a gorilla and stuck it in the bioniformer. Walter got gorilla strength, but a “phase reversal” caused the gorilla to gain Walter’s intelligence, along with the ability to mentally boss Walter around. When the gorilla is awake, he makes Walter commit crimes, but Walter can shake his influence when the gorilla sleeps. But now the gorilla is awake, and Walter rips off his cell door and busts out of jail, just in time to meet Batman and Robin outside.

Walter’s bionic animal powers are no match for Batman’s skill, and Batman incapacitates Walter by tossing him headfirst into the side of a building. Ouch! Back at Walter’s lab, Karmak the gorilla launches a new plan. Karmak will capture Batman and toss him in the bioniformer to absorb Batman’s skills and experience. (Or, Batman could use those skills and experience to kick your ass, Karmak.) He lures Batman into a trap by busting into a jewelry store. When the caped crusader comes running, Karmak hits him with a bioniformer ray, swiping Batman’s fighting skills. The gorilla escapes, but the good news is that the ray’s effects wear off in a few days.

While Karmak goes on a crime spree, Batman is preparing for him by preparing special gloves soaked with anesthetic. But the gorilla has a secret weapon of his own, a bomb big enough to destroy Gotham City strapped to his chest. Batman knocks Karmak out with an anesthetic-flavored slap to the face and notices that the bomb stops clicking when Karmak is off the ground. So Batman has to keep this 700 pound gorilla off the ground until the bomb deactivates. Sure, it’s an impressive and dramatic display of strength, but what kind of lame ass bomb is this? Never let a gorilla do a man’s job, I tell ya. Gotham City is saved, Karmak gets sent back to the jungle, and Walter gets a job at the “Alfred Foundation for Scientific Advancement”. Do rich people usually name scientific foundations after their butlers?

“Wonder Woman – Gorilla!”

from Wonder Woman #170, May 1967, 9 pg.

Writer: Robert Kanigher
Artist: Ross Andru
Inker: Mike Esposito

On Paradise Island, home of the Amazons, things are getting hot and heavy. The women are playfully wrestling and sparring and Wonder Woman joins the fray. Soon, Diana has all the woman tied up with her magic lasso. Then she brings out the hot oil and… Oh, wait, never mind. It just cuts to “later, at the other side of the island”. Now alone, WW is about to take a cool refreshing swim after all that… wrestling and sparring. Before she can jump in the water, she notices a flying saucer land on the island. Emerging from the spacecraft are three gorillas in space suits. The leader of the gorillanauts announces that he’s come to take capture the women of Paradise Island to serve as wives for the space gorillas.

There are about three or four things that just happened that would totally blow my mind, but none of this fazes Wonder Woman. What she’s concerned about is “Aphrodite’s Law”, which states that no men (presumably including gorilla men from outer space) can set foot on Paradise Island or else the Amazons will lose their powers. She pleads with them to leave, but the gorillas laugh. She tries to beat them senseless but she can’t defeat them, and the gorillas are immune to her magic lasso. “Suffering Sappho!”

Then one of the gorillas fires a ray at her which turns her into a gorilla. But the gorillas are disappointed. They crossed vast distances of outer space to fetch human hotties, not gorilla women who look like the women back home. WW convinces the apes to restore her and turn themselves into humans, so they will be compatible, wink wink, nugde nudge. But now that they are human, the gorillas are susceptible to the magic lasso, so WW commands them to go home without their planned cargo of Amazon women.

"The Reign of the Super-Gorilla"

from Flash #127, May 1962, 15 pg.

Writer: John Broome
Artist: Carmine Infantino
Inker: Joe Giella

The Flash’s old enemy, Gorilla Grodd, was thought to have died in Flash #115 in prison in Gorilla City, the advanced civilization of gorillas run by Solovar hidden away somewhere in Africa. But Grodd transferred his mind into a convict named Dawson, and here Dawson is being released from prison before anyone can notice he’s getting really, really hairy. Dawson makes his way to Gorilla City, where he completes his transformation into Grodd. On his way back to his hidden laboratory, Grodd spies a gorilla hottie name Boka. Grodd instantly falls in love, but Boka is engaged to Solovar. Damn you, Solovar! So Grodd whips up a machine to bombard him with “neo-magnetic radiation” which will make everyone swoon over him. Before Boka can get hitched, she falls head over heels for Grodd, and so does everyone else in Gorilla City. (Say, where is Solovar anyway?)

So Grodd decides to bite off more than he can chew and test his newfound charisma on the humans in Central City, home of his nemesis the Flash. Central City quickly falls into Grodd’s hands, and even the Flash isn’t immune. He can fight off the effects long enough to escape, but not long enough to whip Grodd’s ass. The Grodd love effect spans for a hundred miles in every direction. Unstoppable, Grodd even decides to run for governor. “The People’s Choice,” reads the hilarious billboard. So what does Barry Allen do? Does he run to Metropolis to get Superman? Does he call in the Justice League of America? No, he camps out in a hunting lodge just out of range of Grodd and reads the newspaper!

Finally, many days later, the Flash comes up with a plan. Noticing that Grodd’s power is weaker on days with strong solar flares, he vibrates himself so he can emit similar radiation. Soon, Grodd’s ass is righteously kicked and he’s off to prison, and the citizens of Central City are embarrassed to have supported a gorilla – an evil gorilla at that – for governor.

“Titano the Super-Ape!”

from Superman #138, July 1960, 10 pg.

Writer: Otto Binder
Artist: Wayne Boring

Chilling in the Fortress of Solitude, Superman examines an alien device he found. It seems to be a time viewer, and he peeks in on some dinosaurs. But why is there a giant ape there? Why, it’s Titano, sent back in time in Superman #127. Flashback: Toto was a poor stage chimp sent into space in a rocket as a publicity stunt. Poor Toto’s rocket passed near the collision of two meteors, one made of uranium, the other of kryptonite. Back on Earth, little Toto grew into a gigantic ape with Kryptonite vision! But Titano didn’t get super-intelligence, and Lois Lane fooled Titano into putting on lead glasses to block his deadly kryptonite beams. Superman tossed (literally) Titano back to the age of the dinosaurs, where Titano would have similarly sized pals to befriend and maim.

But it turns out that the alien device wasn’t just a time viewer, it was a time transporter, and a wrong button sends Titano back to 1960. Superman can’t send his robot duplicates into action because the painters are working on his apartment that day, and I guess he doesn’t have any spares in the Fortress of Solitude. What’s a Kryptonian to do? Everyone suffers an indignity this day: Superman has to charge into battle in a clunky lead suit, while Lois is captured by Titano, who wears her cage around his neck like so much bling bling. Superman has to protect Lois from the army trying to stop Titano while saving people from Titano’s wrath.

Then Superman notices that Titano has a fetish for balls. (No jokes please.) Bowling balls, the Daily Planet globe, a hot air balloon, a bathysphere with some poor divers stuck in it. Superman goes back in time and notices a pile of giant prehistoric sized coconuts. See, poor Titano was just hungry and wanted his lunch. TITANO WANT COCONUTS! So Superman distracts him with coconuts, then knocks him out and returns him to the past.

Clark: Lois, I have a great title for a scoop you can write. “I was the first human being to be the pet of an animal!”

Lois: Do you think I’d write up that humiliating story you... you ape!

For more information about gorilla comics, see http://www.lethargiclad.com/gorilla/ or visit your local library

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